A CARDINAL EXPERIENCE
A THANKFUL CARDINAL
by Jennifer Caro Barr
My dad died on April 27th seven years ago; exactly one week after we celebrated his 75th birthday, so I think about him often during the month of April.
One of my favorite memories of my dad is the Thanksgiving he spent with my family at our home. He and I were going to prepare the traditional feast for everyone. I remember he did almost everything, only stopping to ask me for a sharp knife, a big bowl, a cutting board….
He shared his (from-his-head) recipe for stuffing as he made it. (It really was the best stuffing.) And then he went outside and returned with a pumpkin he had brought with him from his home. He noticed my puzzled look and said with humor, “Just wait and see what I’m going to do. This is going to be soooo good!” He took a carving knife and cut the top off the pumpkin, just as one would do when carving a pumpkin at Halloween. Then he cleaned out the inside of the pumpkin, wiped it out, and put his stuffing into the pumpkin! His stuffing-filled pumpkin went into the oven to heat through. The stuffing was delicious; its presentation unique and perfect. I still smile when I think about my dad and me cooking together on my very favorite holiday.
The first Thanksgiving after my dad died, I was excited and proud to remember his famous stuffing and the “pumpkin bowl” he invented. I decided to repeat his tradition. I stood at my kitchen counter, cleaning out the seeds and pulp from the pumpkin I had carefully selected for this purpose. So many thoughts and memories of my dad were going through my head. At one point I looked up from my task and glanced out my kitchen window. At once, a beautiful red cardinal landed on my bird feeder, stood there majestically, and just stared at me. I began to cry. I knew the spiritual significance of red cardinals, and I was emotionally in awe of the fact that this magnificent creature appeared at the very moment I was thinking about my dad and continuing his stuffing-in-a-pumpkin bowl tradition. I continued to cry, and then smiled.
Thanksgiving is still my favorite holiday. I will continue to make my dad’s stuffing, serve it in a pumpkin bowl and I will look for a red cardinal….