By all accounts, the day was amazing.
I woke up at 6:00 AM and lay in bed until about 9:00 AM, just reading news, following Google rabbit trails, and generally trying not to do anything of consequence. I knew that would come later.
I finally crawled out of bed and threw on some lounging clothes and skipped down to the kitchen to brew some coffee and begin peeling potatoes. I checked the cherry Jello, with cherry pie filling, in the fridge and smiled, seeing that it had set perfectly. I hadn’t had this childhood concoction pass my lips since…well…my childhood. I drooled and imagined the cries of joy as my children gobbled it up, saving no room for real food.
I had a time limit. My cousin had generously offered to bring over a turkey for us that her husband had cooked and she had promised it between ten and eleven in the morning. This meant that I had to have the oven empty, giving the turkey enough space to maintain it’s warmth. I had a green bean casserole and Hawaiian dinner rolls to bake.
By 10:14 AM, I had the potatoes and a pot of baby carrots boiling, the casserole in the oven, and the buns on a tray, ready to go in. I was stressing out over being too efficient, some of the kids having woken up and filled their stomachs with cereal and muffins and some “old tyme” candy mix I had gotten at Candyland in St. Paul, Minnesota the night before. I would be ready too early. But I couldn’t stop.
I whipped the potatoes by hand, adding two sticks of butter, salt, and a pile of milk until they were creamy. I drained the carrots and melted two cups of brown sugar and a stick of butter into them. I took out the piping hot casserole and tossed the buns into the oven, and grabbed the egg nog, sparkling cider, and Malbec wine, putting it into one place in the kitchen.
The dog barked, letting me know my cousin had arrived.
A knock at the door and a creak of the hinge.
“Hello!” my cousin called into the cavernous house.
“Hi!” I responded, coming around the corner and seeing no turkey in her hands.
“You’ll have to get the turkey out of the car. It’s still in the brine. Here are the spices, onion, and apple to stuff it with, and I sent you the cooking directions on Facebook.”
I made a mental trip back down memory lane to that message she had sent me, showing me the directions to cook the turkey. The message I had ignored, because my mind told me to ignore it. After all, her husband was cooking the turkey and I was going to serve it right away. Why would I ever need the cooking directions!? I began to laugh at myself, thanked my cousin profusely, and then right then and there, decided that Thanksgiving dinner would be in three course over six hours.
The first course consisted of all the sides I had prepared, including the Jello with pie filling. I made a grand gesture of getting a bowl and filling it brim full of the stuff, then shoving spoonfuls of it in my mouth, rolling my eyes back in my head, reciting memories from my younger days. When I brought myself back down to earth, I looked into the sallow and disgusted faces of six children and teenagers, followed by a chorus of how they both hated Jello and cherry pie filling. I stared in sadness at the large serving bowl, now waiting for me to eat all of its contents. My eldest daughter, the sweet human that she is, offered to eat a spoonful, just so I wouldn’t be disappointed, but only managed to get her spoon a few inches from the bowl before shuddering and calling her own bluff. Jello really is as old as those Jello cookbooks where you can cover everything from a basket of fruit to a dead body.
The second course was pie, ice cream, and hot chocolate. Then we had the turkey, which was literally the best damn turkey we’ve ever eaten.
I loved every minute of today.
Next year, I will be alone for Thanksgiving and I’m thinking I may travel for it. I want to haunt someone else’s table and tell stories.