Thanksgiving is my absolute most favorite holiday. Christmas is a close second but Thanksgiving has to take the top prize because it is all about spending time with family and friends and there isn’t the pressure of racing to find the perfect gift.
(That's what the day after Thanksgiving is for!)
Richard and I love hosting Thanksgiving dinner and we have done so for years. Sometimes we have a small group but some years we have 20+! This year we had 19 and that was without two of the kids (Christopher is stationed in North Dakota and Caty and her mom were visiting him).
I had a few moments of panic since we haven’t hosted that many in our new house but I felt much better once I did a trial run of how to set up the tables. Not all the tables could fit in one room and I was down one chair but it was doable. (Although I do have to remember to buy another folding chair for next year!)
My two biggest worries were that Puppy would be stressed out and bark at all the new people all day long and that the food wouldn’t be done (or hot) all at the same time.
Thankfully, a few cut up hot dogs to make Puppy happy kept the barking to a minimum. He had to tell us when new people came through the door, of course, but once he realized new people equaled hot dogs he was happy to see more people streaming through. The more the merrier!
My planning for a beautiful table started well in advance but I realized I was still a little stressed when I couldn’t decide on what tablecloths to use. I wanted to use new sheets so people could use markers to write on them during dinner. We’ve done this at past dinners and had such fun playing tic-tac-toe or writing humorous sayings or drawing goofy pictures.
The tablecloths are a cherished tradition of our family Thanksgivings.
However, after buying, washing and drying three sets of white sheets (why in the world can you not buy just a top sheet?!), I realized white didn’t really go with my gold décor.
So, after buying, washing and drying three sets of tan sheets and setting them up on the table I realized the sheets weren’t a sturdy cotton but more of a microfiber. HOW ARE WE GOING TO WRITE ON THESE SHEETS???
After running to the store the night before Thanksgiving to buy yet another three sets of thick cotton, tan sheets I realized – in the middle of the store – that I was perhaps being a little obsessive about the damn sheets. I left a basket full of sheets in the middle of the store and went home to finish baking pies.
The tan, microfiber sheets were going to be good enough. (I had to repeat this a hundred times but, eventually, I believed it.)
I set the table: I used my mom’s china plates as well as a mix of china plates that my dad sold door-to-door. The silverware was pulled out of a felt-lined box that is only used for Thanksgiving. Salt and Pepper shakers were filled (one set given to us by Carol, Richard’s mom) and the new, fancy candle holders from Carol were set on the table with brand new gold taper candles.
Everyone got a permanent marker to write on the sheets-turned-tablecloths.
Thanksgiving morning was full of turkey prep (by Richard) and me peeling potatoes and yams. The weather cooperated so Richard could barbecue the turkey in the sunshine instead of under a tarp in the rain.
It was chaos in the kitchen once everyone started arriving with their specialties but it was that fun kind of chaos with lots of laughter and jostling with hugs and, occasionally, me running to get Puppy chopped up hot dogs when someone new arrived.
I remember saying “no, thank you” to each offer of help as each new person arrived. Thankfully my default answer of all offers of help was ignored or the food would not have been done and warm by the time it was time to eat. It was busy and crowded in the kitchen but the dinner was a team effort and I was grateful my refusal to accept help was ignored.
My one regret of the day was telling Carol “no, thank you” when she offered to come into the kitchen to help. She was the one person who took me at my word and turned to sit down and visit as I asked. I didn’t realize until the following day that her feelings had been hurt that I didn’t invite her into the chaos and laughter of the kitchen.
As the matriarch of the family, Carol felt marginalized, minimized and disrespected. And I did that.
Of course, it was unintentional but to know my actions caused hurt feelings to a woman I adore and love was devastating. I love participating in making memorable moments and this was a moment that I completely missed.
My reasons for suggesting she sit and visit were practical enough (she has trouble staying steady without a walker and the kitchen is small and was already over-crowded with all kinds of boiling and hot foods on the stove and in the oven) but I could have found a way to include her. I know better! I know that it is upsetting to her to know she cannot get around as well as she used to.
As a caregiver, I know how hard it is for people to not easily do things they used to do without missing a beat. I know better and will do better next time.
Thankfully, Carol did have a fun day in spite of this misstep on my part.
Everyone did have a great time, we enjoyed the dinner and had way too many delicious desserts (so much for the “wedding diet!”) and politics were not even a part of the conversation (for the most part)! There were some clever drawings on the tablecloths, lots of tic-tac-toe and word games to remember for years.
Next year, I will be sure to say yes to all offers of help. I will try to not obsess about the tablecloths and I will let Carol help in the kitchen. Oh, and I will have enough chairs for everyone (sorry, Other Brother)!
I will remind myself there will never be a perfect day but that almost perfect is definitely good enough.