Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

When someone smiles and tells me to have a Happy Thanksgiving I am reminded of our family Thanksgiving dinners when I was a young child. I would be sitting at the table, lower lip quivering, as my mother dished small portions of the traditional food onto my plate, assuring me that I would ‘like’ it. I knew better than to be vocal about my dislike of the food since we always had guests for Thanksgiving Dinner. How I wished for a dog that would sit under the table eating food I would slip its way. No such luck. It seemed everyone would be gushing over how delicious everything was as I tried to choke down each bite. What made it worse was that the dessert was even worst! At least I would not be forced to eat that.
Now, I am the adult and I have been more adventurous in my eating Thanksgiving food. It helps that we have a ham as well as turkey. I try to sit close to my nephew, Nathan, because he must have the same genetic code in food as his aunt. They call us picky eaters, but I say we must have more sensitive taste buds.
This brings me to the story of a Thanksgiving a few years ago that was at my place. Maxine, my mother, lived with me and we had my sister’s family for the holiday. (Linda and her husband Geoff, my nephew, Nathan and his wife Leeanne and their bulldog, Spike, my niece, Maggie and her puggle, Poppy, my niece Becky and her children, Audrey age four and Cooper who was a baby) We also had Geoff’s Aunt Janet come for dinner. She lived close to us (Columbus, OH) and helped house the rest of the family that had to travel from Hammond, IN. They arrived Wednesday and would leave Saturday.

My father always prepared our Thanksgiving feasts and after his death people might assume that Maxine would take over. But we knew that would be a disaster. My father would always send mother out of the kitchen to entertain the guests. The few times she had ‘helped’ with dinner resulted in something getting burned. Linda is now the cook of our family. She followed in my grandmother’s footsteps in that she loves to cook and enjoys having people over for a good meal. I am a survival cook…willing to volunteer my “talents” but not much experience with cooking a feast.
So, here we were, Maxine and I, standing in the kitchen Thanksgiving morning, looking at the turkey, arguing over who would be the one to stick a hand into that bird to pull out the package of gizzard, heart, liver and whatever else is inside. (We learned that from accidently cooking it in the turkey the year before.) I did not want to touch the turkey. The slick cold skin gave me chills. Linda was not surprised when she came into the kitchen to find Mother and me wrestling with the slippery turkey.  It’s difficult to wash something if you can’t touch it. We were saved from this ordeal when Linda moved us aside, took that turkey in her hands and had it ready to roast by the time I had the ingredients out for the rest of the meal.
It was also nice that my kitchen was small and two people trying to prepare dinner made it too crowded to work efficiently….so Linda did the majority of the work with me setting the table and being referee when Spike, Poppy and my two cats had territorial wars. Actually, that is an exaggeration, the dogs were good most of the time, and the cats stayed hidden in my bedroom.
Dinner was uneventful. The only snafu was when mother tried to superglue a broken cup and managed to superglue a fork to her fingers. Becky took charge and had the fingers free from the fork by the time dinner was served. The rest of the day went smoothly.
Leeanne and Becky were off to the mall Friday morning. Maggie and I decided to take Audrey to see Santa later that day. I like to shop about as much as I like preparing a turkey, but I thought visiting Santa would not be too bad. I think Audrey was five…maybe she was four…whatever the age, she was excited, and that put me in a good mood. We drove to the mall and found a parking space not far from the door. Things were looking good. Once through the mall doors I felt the crush of the crowds and wondered if I had made a mistake. Fortunately I knew where Santa was, so we walked directly there only to find a sign, “Santa is feeding his reindeer,” hanging by the gate into Santa’s North Pole. My plans to have this be a quick trip to see Santa were dashed. The line of excited children waiting to see Santa was long. I looked around to see if there was something else we could do until the reindeer were fed.
Maggie saved the day when she pointed out a Build a Bear store. Great diversion! If you have ever been to a Build a Bear, you already know the routine. First, pick out a bear! That’s not as easy as it sounds. The wall was covered with all types of bears…pirate bears, peace bears, pink bears and polar bears. Plus, there are not only bears. There are cats, dogs, birds and numerous cartoon characters. Audrey chose a brown bear in a reasonable amount of time. Now to get it stuffed. She was given a little heart to put inside the bear, and then told to spin around three times while making a wish…and then the bear was put on a stuffing machine…and soon we had a puffy, cuddly brown bear that Audrey named Rosie.

Another Picture of Audrey (I don't have a picture of Rosie.)
I thought we were finished, but found we were guided to displays of clothing, shoes, headbands, purses, backpacks, etc. Of course, Rosie must have an outfit. There were way too many choices and this was too much like shopping. I was willing to buy the three outfits Audrey was looking at, just to escape from the store…but fortunately for me, Maggie convinced Audrey that Rosie would be happy with one outfit and probably did not need the sunglasses. She must have been looking at the price tags because by the time we left the store with a fully clothed Rosie and I was less $68. The look on Audrey’s face was worth it though, but I was glad to exit the store and head for Santa Land.
The line was not bad and Audrey was soon on Santa’s lap. Her picture was taken and then she ran to us with a beautiful smile and eyes shining as she hugged Rosie. I bought the picture, and we were soon on our way. I was feeling happy and satisfied. When we got home Audrey showed off Rosie and told Nana (Maxine) and Linda about Santa. I checked the bag for the picture, but it was not there. I searched the car and garage and realized that I must have lost the picture in the mall. Panic surged through my body at the thought of going back to the mall. By that time Becky and Leeanne were back from shopping. Becky told Audrey that they would get a picture in Hammond. Audrey was fine with that. What a great child…no crying, no whining…she dealt with it much better than I did.
Saturday morning found everyone packing and getting ready to return to Hammond. Out of the quiet there came a loud cry, “ROSIE!!! ROSIE!!! He’s killing Rosie!!!” I ran into the living room to find Spike holding Rosie in his massive jaws with a look of delight in his eyes.

I’m sure he thought someone had gotten him a new toy as he tossed Rosie in the air, grabbing her stomach and shaking his head. Bull dog drool was not only washing Rosie’s new outfit but was flying through the room. Spike was ecstatic. It became a game, and he was fast and clever as I tried to rescue Rosie. Nathan finally pried Rosie from Spikes jaws and we assessed the damage. Fortunately it was minimal, and only needed a few minutes in the dryer to bring back Rosie’s fluff.
The cars were packed and we were saying our good-byes. We walk out the door and find the patio gate is open….and Poppy is gone. I’m not sure how Poppy was found; I just know that I feared she had gone into the ravine to explore. Poppy returned and put into the car….and everyone drove off to Hammond. Mother and I went inside, sat down, sighed and smiled. We had survived another Thanksgiving!
That was a few years ago. Audrey is a teenager and is a member of a swim team. Cooper is a Boy Scout. Our family has grown. Nathan and Leeanne have two lovely children, Abby and Jackson.

Jackson and Abby at Maggie and Mike's wedding.
I have gotten married to Ray...and in August, Maggie and Mike were married.  We are going to celebrate Thanksgiving in Hammond this year. There will always be a bit of sadness knowing that Maxine and I will no longer spend Thanksgiving morning waiting for Linda to save us from the cold slippery turkey…but we still have the memories. We miss you, Maxine, Geoff and Rae, but are so thankful to have had you in our lives for as long as we all did.

Leeanne and Spike

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