There's an old saying, "The road to a holiday is paved with good intentions”, or something like that. I don't know who said it (my guess would be Benjamin Franklin. He said that kind of stuff a lot) but in this case I happen to know it's true.
I can prove it, too, because I have my list. Which list? The list I made about a month ago, when I found out I would be hosting my entire family for Thanksgiving. And today, while shoveling out from under the post-Thanksgiving mess, I ran across that list, buried under a pile of unpaid bills and Land's End catalogs. There, written in my own handwriting, was everything I intended to do for the holiday. Notice that I said intended. What I actually did was quite another matter. Here's what I mean.
For starters, I had listed the things that definitely needed doing around the house before out-of-town guests arrived. These included, but were not limited to: having the carpet cleaned, repainting and re-wallpapering the bathrooms, and planting pansies in all my flowerbeds. Actually, all I managed to do was change the sheets in the guest bedroom.
Next on the list was my menu. I was determined to bust out of the rut of having the same old things year after year. I once watched Martha Stewart wrap her entire turkey in a puff pastry, so I planned to serve a puff-pastry turkey, too – along with watercress stuffing, and cranberry-corn pudding baked in tiny pumpkin shells, and spiced peach crepes for dessert. My family got wind of the changes though, and I thought we were going to have a riot. "Gross, Mom, you're not going to make us eat that slop are you?” I guess not.
According to my list, this year I was going to go all out on decorations. I envisioned my centerpiece to be a large pumpkin with a paper-mache head and real turkey feathers fanning out the back. I planned some darling little place cards, too. Pilgrim men and women bearing names on their big white collars. Unfortunately, all the pumpkins were rotten and I couldn't find any turkey feathers. I never got around to the Pilgrim place cards either. Nobody seemed to notice.
I fully intended to do a lot of the cooking ahead, so things wouldn't be so hectic on Thanksgiving morning. I imagined how relaxing it would be to simply pull desserts out of the freezer, and have the salads made and the relish tray assembled. Alas, it didn't happen. So all seven of us women ended up doing everything at the last minute in the kitchen at the same time, bumping bottoms and dropping flour in the fruit salad. But the laughter of that morning was richer than the turkey drippings, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.
I'm constantly reading about families who take a moment before the meal is served to go around the table and share what they're thankful for. There's even a little ritual involving corn kernels (or is it corn flakes?) Anyway I thought it would be nice to do something like that. But there was a big third-down play coming up on the football game, and my Jell-O mold was beginning to unmold, so we opted for a quick prayer and a mad dash through the serving line instead.
This year I was going to engage everyone in sparking dinner conversation. I ended up harping about our next-door neighbors and their cheesy inflatable Christmas yard decorations. This year I was going to read a delightful story about the very first Thanksgiving. Nobody wanted me to.
This year I wasn't going to eat a lot. I did anyway. This year I wasn't going to watch football all day. I did anyway. I swore that this year I wasn't going to bore everybody by telling them how I left the giblets in the plastic bag the first time I cooked a turkey. You guessed it. I did anyway.
It was my plan to be creative with leftovers – something like turkey with basil pesto, or turkey and avocado salad. But as usual, everyone scarfed up the good white meat, and all I had left were cold, greasy, rubber-skinned wings. Yuck.
This was also going to be the year I just relaxed and enjoyed my Thanksgiving.
Well, at least I succeeded at something!