"It is not Thanksgiving" by Melanie Harless + Chocolate Chess Pie

chocolate chess pie5.jpg

During the second half of my college career, I worked for my university's Orientation Program, helping new students and their parents navigate the world of academic requirements, signing up for courses, and leading campus tours. It was one of the best jobs I've ever had. Although I spent a majority of my time working with students and giving academic requirement presentations, another portion of my role (and the part I secretly loved most) was spent reassuring parents that their fledgling freshmen would be fine. Better than fine, in fact.

They would ask about parties, about campus clubs, about safety, about living in the dorms. But what they were really asking was if their relationship would hold steady. They wanted to know their sons and daughters wouldn't be lost forever. I often shared stories about how my own relationship with my parents changed since arriving, and when a look over concern washed over their face during the parents-only cocktail hour, I always told them the same thing: Trust the job you've done.

The college years are a time when everything changes. Not only do relationships with old friends fade away as you navigate the waters with new ones, but the relationship with your parents changes, too. It's a very good thing when this happens, but the transition takes time. The shift from becoming a parent to becoming a friend is not always swift, and this is the narrative we enter when reading today's poem. 

It is not Thanksgiving

by Melanie Harless

She is coming home.
I’ll make her favorite foods,
turkey croquettes,
hash brown casserole,
homemade rolls, and
two chocolate pies,
an extra for the next day.
Croquettes are for leftover turkey
but it is not Thanksgiving,
so there are no leftovers.
Hard to find fresh turkey in July
but I buy a breast to cook
so that I have turkey to grind
and shape into little balls.
With flour on my clothes
and on my nose,
I set the rolls
on the counter to rise.
I assemble the casserole
to be oven ready.
It is a hot day
for stirring chocolate
at the stove, but soon
it will be thick and bubbly
ready to fill the waiting crusts.
Her flight gets in at five
I will finish the meal
after I pick her up.
It is not Thanksgiving
but time to give thanks.
My daughter is coming home.

Poem printed with permission from the author. Find a sampling of Melanie's nonfiction here and here

The first summer home from college is usually a challenging one. There are mixed emotions brought on by the pull to spend time with family yet also appear independent, and the desire to reconnect with high school friends amidst fears we've already changed too much to keep our relationships in tact through graduation. (Or maybe that was just me.)

But it is July, clearly not the ideal time to be basting a turkey, but a mother is preparing a feast anyway. The details are touching. We vividly see her rushing from counter to stove, stirring chocolate and setting rolls on the counter to rise. The imagery serves as a great reminder that although Thanksgiving only occurs once per year, every day is an opportunity to be thankful and reflect on what we're grateful for. In this case, a daughter's homecoming. In the spirit of the season, and with Christmas and New Year's around the corner, I hope you'll do what the mother in this poem does, and celebrate with your favorite foods, surrounded by those you love.


I've always been hesitant to make pie dough. Work quickly! Be sure your water is ice cold! Chill the flour! Use your hands! Use a food processor! It's enough to make a reluctant baker nervous and pale. But then I sat down and read and reread Deb's instructions over at Smitten Kitchen. I felt my confidence boost, and this time around, my dough was soft and supple, translucent with butter. I have a feeling this might become more of a habit.

Adapted from Add a Pinch

1 1/4 granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 9-inch unbaked pie crust (for crust, see Smitten Kitchen's all-butter recipe, and her tips for rolling out the dough)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Add the sugar and cocoa to the bowl of a KitchenAid mixer and whisk on low speed to combine. Pour melted butter into the bowl and beat on high speed. Lightly beat the eggs, then add them, along with the vanilla, and mix on high speed for 2-3 minutes until the filling is whipped and has lightened in color (it will also double in size). 

Pour the filling into your pie shell and bake for 35-40 minutes. The pie is done when the center is a bit soft (it will continue to set as it cools). Let sit on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before serving.