In honor of American Thanksgiving though I am Canadian and live in Canada and because I will be having a dinner served to me while on vacation in Arizona I thought it was the perfect opportunity to share a story from several years ago…
At my house the experience of Thanksgiving Dinner is similar to an approaching hurricane ending with the aftermath of destruction – my imagined comparison, seeing as I’ve never really experienced a real hurricane.
It begins with the slow build up of whirlwind activity, the planning, writing lists, shopping, then shopping some more with frenzy and panic building as the day comes closer. There are recipes to prepare and store away, either in cupboards, fridge or freezer.
The decision of what kind of turkey to buy rests with me – should it be one shot full of grease or a fresh one from the local store which would be faster and easier for me. Perhaps I ought to go all out and buy an organic recently killed beast from the farm too many miles away.
As the hurricane air stirs up I forget all about the turkey decision and send the hubby to buy it. As the mounting tension rises I think about who will attend dinner, who will not and how many to invite. Pondering how long one should wait to call I also consider how long they will stay and where I will put everyone in our small dining area.
The day arrives, the people come, the noise increases and the children run and screech. The house is filled with the roar and the pace in the kitchen picks up as food flies from storage containers to the stove, from pot to bowl and the countertops disappear under the mountain of colorful platters.
The crowd plays musical chairs while one child wants to be near another and I quickly arrange a separation between two young adult siblings who chose this day to have a fight.
The legs of the table groan under stacks of mashed potatoes, a pile of healthy vegetables several children will not touch, a dead bird full of bread and twenty elbows plopped on top.
There are not really any full conversations to be heard, only sounds of whish, plunk, “pass the…” “thanks, “more please,” cranberry,” “mm mm good,” and “what, no more gravy” as the serving bowls and platters whisk by.
Then all becomes quiet except for the sounds of forks scraping plates, of slurp, munch and crunch as the food disappears down the human vacuums.
Once done eating, all the participants leave the table except one. Mom. Me. I push my plate out of the way and lay my head on the table and out of one eye I survey the latest storm.
Instead of mountains of food it is now foothills of slop, with dark gravy stains on the white cloth, cranberry on the chairs, cloth napkins tossed into the empty stuffing bowl and the high chair needing to be hosed down.
I let out a long slow breath.
Lifting my head I take my napkin and fold it into a square then lay it on the table claiming it as my spot – the only clean one. I’ll come back here later with a cup of coffee and a piece of pie.
I tune into the sounds around me and realize I have to go and stop the streams of rippled white goo spraying across the kitchen from an over enthused teenager who is using our canned whipped cream to stir up some excitement from a sibling.
With another long sigh, I recognize I wouldn’t have it any other way.