A Memorable Feast
For my first Thanksgiving as host, I bought the biggest turkey they had in the store. A 25 lb beast I nicknamed Bubba as I laid him in the backseat of my Jeep Cherokee. On the drive home, I smiled as I thought about enjoying a great feast with family in our new home, feeling very much like a grown-up as I checked on my frozen passenger through the rear view mirror.
As newlyweds, Carol and I wanted to start our own traditions and customs as neither of us had spectacular memories from our own childhoods. With high hopes and low expectations, we decided to call up the family and try to persuade our parents to join us for the big day. Carol phoned her mother, while I had the unenviable task of calling my dad, who I hadn't seen since our wedding in the spring. After asking a few questions, he surprised me by accepted the offer. Even in our budding marriage, we both knew the art of mixing families is never an easy task, as most families have a hard enough time getting along on their own.
Nevertheless, we were both excited about hosting Thanksgiving. After a week of preparation, the day reared its dreary head on that fourth Thursday in November, as a cold rain started in the morning and the grey skies showed no signs of letting up. Our guests showed up on time, hungry and wet. I set the table, shut off the television and we gathered in the dining room.
We settled at the table, or tables that we had fitted together and covered in our best attempt to be festive. The room became crowded as we scooted and settled into our unmatching chairs, the delicious smells hovering overhead, dancing in the air as they enchanted my craving stomach. I offered my father the honors of the blessing, which he declined, so I put a few words together and quickly completed my first Thanksgiving blessing without much fanfare.
It wasn't until I sat down that I noticed the subtle yet discernible smile sent from my wife’s mother,Glenda, in the direction of my father. A gasp escaped my mouth, and I glanced around the table as I attempted to assuage the growing lump forming in the back of my throat and focus on the task at hand, the golden turkey sitting in the center of our makeshift table.
The small talk began in earnest as napkins were placed in laps and compliments were made to the chef. I was still a bit shaken from the smile as I dropped my napkin on the floor. I bent down to pick it up before our chocolate labs, Cosmo and Kramer, could snatch it and made the second unsettling discovery in as many minutes. My father, a Vietnam war vet, a strict disciplinarian of very few words who I haven’t seen smile since 1999, the very man my mother once referred to as “a heartless ass” was playing footsie, with—I surfaced above the table to double check and then swallowed hard—my mother in law.
On the worst of all days, my appetite had vanished. I coughed awkwardly, garnering my wife’s attention. I motioned towards the kitchen, mumbling a brief announcement to our guests.
“Uh, could you uh, excuse us for just one moment?” I whispered to my wife before grabbing her arm--perhaps too excitedly--and led her to the kitchen.
“What is it?” she asked, perturbed by my strange behavior.
“It’s our parents, they’re-“ I couldn't say it. I couldn't bring myself to utter the words.
“They’re getting along quite well, aren't they?” she answered, and I envied her naivety. For some reason, at that moment I fully appreciated her beautiful, albeit, annoyed face. I waited a moment, took a deep breath, and then told her what I had seen.
"What!” She shrieked. And I jumped back, glancing towards the dining room and debating whether to cover her mouth with my hand.
“What’s going on in here?”
It was none other than my sister in law, a shameless busybody who loved nothing more than other people's problems. She was followed in the room by her large husband, Darryl, who was dressed from head to toe in camouflage, which, even at that moment I found amusing. The two children followed behind, and behind them I heard my father's deep voice.
“Everybody just calm down, we have an announcement to make."
Oh no, please no.
“Glenda and I, well, we've been seeing each other since the wedding and…”
I could clearly hear the theme from the Twilight Zone playing in the background.
“I know this may be uncomfortable for you all….”
Uncomfortable? A prostate exam would be preferable to this.
"...but we’re very much in love..."
There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man.
“...we're getting married.”
Someone moaned and my sister-in-law fainted. The kids began to cry and I looked over at my wife/step-sister in complete anguish. The lovebirds attended to the sister and no one noticed the dogs in the dining room, on the table, devouring Bubba and lapping up the gravy that was dripping down the side of the table.
Later, as Carol’s sister came to and the shock of the announcement settled, we attempted to salvage what was left of Thanksgiving dinner, but it was a lost cause, the mood turned sour and suddenly everyone had somewhere to be. Darryl mentioned something about getting a jump on the big sale at Walmart. I looked over at my beautiful wife as our guest drove off in the rain. She had great plans of hosting our families and beginning new customs and memories, the latter of which was soundly achieved.
We began cleaning up the aftermath of our dogs' feast, as they were both tuckered out and stretched out on the rug. I guess I would never be the disciplinarian my father had been. I looked over at my wife and asked if she was okay. She looked up, a sad smile escaped her lips.
"Well, at least everyone got along."
We laughed until the tears streamed down our cheeks, both of which were much needed remedies after our disastrous afternoon. Later, we opened a bottle of wine, and enjoyed what was left of the butternut squash, thankful that the dogs had never been big fans of squash.