Fiction. The story of a gal that takes Thanksgiving way too seriously.
Thanksgiving is usually one of my favorite holidays of the year. Yeah, I love giving thanks for everything that I have and spending time with my family, but the real reason is the food. I really can’t deny my love for Thanksgiving food and my mother makes it just the way I like it.
About a month before the big day, she’d ask me to help her plan out the menu. Each year I sat at my computer and typed up the same dishes. Turkey, glazed ham, barbecued ribs, collard greens, stuffing, homemade mac and cheese, sweet potatoes, deviled eggs, cranberry sauce from scratch, cornbread, raspberry soda, pumpkin pie and banana pudding. And each year I would print out that menu and proudly stick it on the front of the fridge for her to see. She’d smile and say, “Nothing different this year, huh?”
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” I’d say.
This year seemed to be different. My mother hadn’t asked me to make the menu, and Thanksgiving was creeping up on us. She was lying on the couch relaxing one afternoon and I decided this was my chance to find out what was really going on.
“Hey ma,” I said, leaning up against the wall. “So, are you ready for me to make the Thanksgiving menu?”
“Oh,” she said, sitting up a little. “About that….”
Before she could even get it out, I imagined all the awful things that could fall from her mouth. Maybe she didn’t want my input this year. Could she be tired of my favorite dishes? Maybe she wanted to have chicken instead of turkey. What if we didn’t have money for all that food? Was the oven broken? Worst of all, maybe Uncle Sam had canceled Thanksgiving altogether!
“We are going to Sara’s potluck Thanksgiving this year. Thought we’d try something new. Just this once.”
Did she say POTLUCK? Potluck? Wasn’t potluck German for “you’ll be lucky if you don’t die?” Wasn’t a potluck the meal where various people bring various dishes? People I may or may not know? Food I may or may not like? No glazed ham? No sweet cornbread or homemade mac & cheese? I felt like I was suffocating.
“Don’t worry. It’ll be exciting!” she said, coming to put her arm around me.
She knew the seriousness of it all. Her arm was not comforting, but it did keep me from passing out on the floor.
After I got past my initial drama-filled moment of realizing I would be eating something different for Thanksgiving, I decided to try and embrace the idea. Maybe I’d find a new dish to add to our menu next year. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. I knew I was lying to myself. I was a dirty rotten liar.
On Thanksgiving morning, there wasn’t the usual excitement that I felt. There were no smells coming from my kitchen. I didn’t hear my mother clanging pots and pans around. Instead she had made deviled eggs the night before, and those sat wrapped in the refrigerator. Cold and sad.
“At least I’ll have one food I can trust today,” I sighed.
At my aunt Sara’s house, there were a lot of people, but the only thing I cared about, was what was in their dishes. Uncle John said, “Hi” and tried to wave me over. My cousin Crystal tried to kiss my cheek. Some random guy tried to tell me how much I’d grown since the last time he’d seen me. I brushed past them all to stand in front of THE TABLE. It was covered in many different dishes. Some red. Some white. Yellow dishes with flowers. Blue bowls with lids. Tin pans that would be tossed when the day was over. The smell was overpowering, and I couldn’t pinpoint any one scent that I recognized. I turned up my nose when I saw the turkey sitting on one end of the table. It was already sliced. No handsome bird to take a picture of. What kind of sick event was this? My little cousin, Mike came up behind me, “This is gonna be the best Thanksgiving everrrrr!” he grinned. Children. They are so naive.
When it was time to eat, I managed to grab a paper plate and lined up at the back of the food line. We were getting our food buffet-style. The line moved slowly as people picked over the dishes deciding what they wanted to pile onto their plates. I shifted my weight to my other foot and wondered if Sara had any cereal. At last I stood in front of the table. Luckily, there weren’t many people left behind me, so I could take a little time deciding if there was anything worthy of a place on my plate. I skipped the turkey. There was no ham. The cranberry sauce looked as if it had come from a can.
“Let me help you.”
It was mom. She grabbed the plate from my hand and started scooping spoonfuls of food onto my plate. Ugh! She really didn’t love me, did she? I didn’t have the energy to stop her. When she was done, she grabbed a fork and napkin from the end of the table, smiled, and handed it all back to me.
“Enjoy it,” she said. It sounded like a demand.
I slowly lifted my arms, which seemed to have lead weights attached to them, and took the plate from her hands. I shuffled to my seat without looking down. Since this seemed to be a casual event, there was no group blessing over the food. I glanced around and everyone seemed to be talking and chewing away. I exhaled, closed my eyes, and began my silent grace.
“Dear God, I am thankful that you allowed me to see another day. Even if it’s a sad day. Because what’s a Thanksgiving without all the food that I’m thankful for? I would have really been thankful if I could have just stayed home and had a sandwich. Anyway, I’m thankful for my parents. Even though my mother didn’t cook today. A day she’s been cooking for as long as I can remember. I mean, would another year have killed her? Maybe she’s thankful for that. My dad’s probably just thankful he doesn’t have to help her with the dishes. And I’m sure I shouldn’t have thought any of that. Hm, let’s start over here. Can I start over?”
I opened one eye and looked around. No one was paying me any attention.
“Dear God, I am very thankful for everything that you have blessed me with. I pray that when I open my eyes, there is something on this plate that I can eat without vomiting. Amen!”
Obviously, saying grace was not one of my talents. That was probably the worst blessing to ever come across His answering machine. I’m sure He’s marked BRAT in my spiritual chart.
I opened my eyes and looked down at my plate. I recognized some of the food and decided to be a good sport. My mom would probably make an amazing meal on Christmas to make up for this poor day. That was something to look forward to. I dug my fork into the cranberry sauce. Yup. Straight from the can. Now who made this? I frowned and looked around as if they’d be wearing a “I made the crap cranberry sauce” shirt. My mom’s deviled egg sat in the middle of the plate. Like a little beacon of light. I’d save that for last. Next I tried what looked like bake chicken. Just as I expected. Dry and chewy. I concluded that the people in my family were awful cooks. There was stuffing smushed on the edge of my plate. I like stuffing, so I placed my fork in my mouth and quickly realized I didn’t like THIS stuffing. I gagged. I literally gagged. Stuffing spit out onto my plate. My cousin Crystal looked at me and frowned. I gave her a crooked grin.
“Did she make this?” I thought.
“Food good?” She asked inspecting my plate.
“Oh…yeah. I just…uh…I think some of it went down wrong. I’m a total klutz, you know.” I laughed nervously.
“Try my stuffing.” She said nodding towards my plate.
“Huh?” I said caught off guard. Why me?
“My stuffing. Try it. It’s good.”
“Oh…uh…I’m not really a fan of stuffing…so….”
“No, no, you will love this one. I got the recipe from my boyfriend’s grandmother. She’s an amazing cook. I couldn’t mess up her recipe if I tried. You wouldn’t even be able to guess what’s in it.”
Shoe leather and paint? I thought to myself. “I have no idea,” I said, trying to think of a way out.
“Well, Let’s see. I can’t remember the details off the top of my head, but the main ingredients are veal, pork, bread, goose liver, raisins, cranberries, orange juice….” she kept rambling on.
Did she say goose liver? Shoe leather and paint sounded like an upgrade. I nodded my head as she went on about how long it took her to get it right and how everyone that had tried it loved it right away. I glanced up and saw my mother motioning for me to come over. Oh, God bless her! She does love me!
“Hey Crystal, my mom is calling me. Let me go and see what she wants. I’ll make sure to have some of your yummy stuffing though,” I assured her. I grinned like a goof and tripped over my own feet rushing to where my mom was standing.
“You looked absolutely panicked,” she said. “What was wrong?”
I explained about the poison stuffing, my inability to keep it down and the corner and attack by Crystal. She laughed.
“It can’t be that bad.”
She took a taste and immediately motioned to me for a napkin. She spit the stuffing inside and quickly grabbed her can of soda.
“Wow! That’s the worse dish I’ve ever tried! I think next year, we’ll have our Thanksgiving dinner in the safety of our home.”
I tossed my plate in a trash can as she slipped her arm around me. This time, I didn’t even think of passing out.
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