25 November 2022

A Thanksgiving Miracle

 Because the universe and 2022 have conspired to just mess with me, I am "making" Thanksgiving dinner this year.  People who know me in real life just gasped/guffawed right out loud.  If you don't know me in reals, picture Phoebe from Friends being asked to sub in for Monica cooking the holiday meal.

What had happened was Kevin phoned me about 8:30 Wednesday morning, waking me because it was my DAY OFF and I can have No Peace, to let me know that the siblings-in-law are sick.  Meaning that they were not cooking or hosting dinner on Thanksgiving.

The plan was already set for Kevin and I to eat with the parents so they weren't left alone for the holiday.  Now I just had to figure out how or what to feed them. And us.

Now remember, I am Chandler Bing when it comes to this holiday.  It rates second to Mother's Day. Sure, I enjoy spending time with the kids and the food but the process to get there is exhausting.  Also, for years Kevin and I had two dinners that day because both families required our attendance.  As a kid it was one of those pretend we're a happy family holidays and it never included grandparents, aunts & uncles or cousins.

Anyway.  Not a fan.

I got up and flipped into combat mode.

A panicked search on the interwebs seem to generate a laugh, being as it was less than 24-hours until the actual holiday.  While the grocery store was out of fully-prepared dinners, they did have turkey dinners available in the deli.  FOUR OF THOSE PLEASE. STAT.

The universe must have felt badly for me because this particular store recently began having grocery pick-up.  I registered and added those dinners to the cart.  

Then, I had to sit there and literally imagine what we eat on holidays.  I never ever cook for these days so it's just not in the realm of my knowledge.  I made a generalized list then realized: so many people are going to be shopping today. 

I tried to guess what items were likely to be sold out first.  I decided rolls and pies and quickly added those to the cart.  Anything else, I can make do or we just didn't need it.

Oh, the dinners include slabs of turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, and what I believe are green beans.  (could be asparagus)  After I had purchased them, I spotted the tiny detail that they are Dinners For FOUR.  I ordered enough for sixteen people.  Well done me. This could also be karma for my sass about the whole mother-in-law's $600 worth of socks order.

Then I realized that this would now provide dinner for the sick siblings and now I am a winner again.

I phoned Kevin and let him know that I had a plan and we had at least the basics for dinner. I was headed into town in a few minutes.  This is where he reminded me that he was taking my new truck for some suspension work; meaning that I would have to take the old truck.  This is totally fine, a little disappointing but fine BUT I couldn't take Lucy for walkies.  Sigh.

To the store I go.  It was very busy, no surprise, which just added to the urgency of the adventure.  I had a list on my phone of what else was needed: salad, stuff to make ambrosia, extra gravy, olives, pickles, butter.  It took two tries to get everything for the ambrosia and I also picked up a set of bowls that I "needed". (meaning: I've wanted them but had no justification for buying. Until now.)

Right before I went to check out, I spotted platter sized, Thanksgiving themed paper plates and thanked the universe for that little cosmic nudge.  Tossed them in the cart and then did a quick review of what I could possibly need.  But I was at the point of being done.  Too many people, feeling way out of my depth, and an impatient dog at home who just suffered being left behind TWICE as Kevin had already returned home to take my truck and had to leave her as well.

When I got home, the parents were gone. I momentarily worried that they were also going to the grocery store but decided that I just can't worry about it. I took everything and unpacked it.  If nothing else, I had overbought.  Again, this is just a good thing. 

Kevin returned home and to his credit, looked impressed at what I had pulled off in just a few hours.  We have had a long running joke about A Thanksgiving Miracle and he mentioned just that. (story not worth telling: a long missing, beloved sweatshirt reappeared)

The only salad, beyond green or garden salad, that I can make is ambrosia.  However, it's been years since I have had to make it.  I did remember that it's best to make it the day before so I began to do just that.  

This salad is something that every family makes differently.  Kevin's mom makes the inexpensive version with whipped cream and fruit cocktail.  She also puts bananas in it but always makes a small bowl for me because I hate bananas.  

Side note: one year she made it was chopped up SNICKERS CANDY BARS because her sister made it that way and claimed it was the best thing ever.  I am here to tell you: IT WAS NOT.  It was as horrifying as you just imagined.

Oh, and I make it with sour cream, mandarin oranges, crushed pineapple, and mini-marshmallows. I used to make it with coconut but Kevin wasn't a fan.

After all that, I called it a day.  I wasn't going back into town for anything at this point. We would just do without.  

Today, this morning, Kevin let me sleep in; much like he does on Mother's Day.  Other than dinner, I had no plans other than watching Friends Thanksgiving episodes, which has been my tradition since I spent Thanksgiving on the couch with bronchitis pre-Pandemic.

Then Kevin came in the house, looking  like he'd rather pull his own teeth than ask me for help.  His plan was to put up the Christmas lights as a surprise for me but he needed help.  I suited up and went outside to help him. This is a good way to spend the day.

By the time that was finished, it was show time.  Time to cook dinner and get everything ready.  It was all relatively easy: put the dinners in the oven, warm up the rolls, soften the butter, heat the gravy and put the sides into bowls.

Oh wait, this has always been a household of TWO.  We don't have parties. I don't have a gravy bowl, divided dishes, or any dishes that would be considered special holiday dishes.  The gravy was easily handled, it was just going to be in a pyrex measuring cup.  The bowls I bought the day before were for the rolls and the ambrosia.

Then I remembered that I had kept some of the bowls that the m-i-l had given me.  They were in the hard to reach cupboard above the refrigerator.  I got out the stool and began to rummage around; finding a crystal bowl, an antique candy dish, one of those crystal salad bowls from the 90's that I believe everyone has at least one of, and a second-hand bowl that I used for a bird bath/water dish during this summer.  

So that problem was solved, everything was dished and ready.  Now how to get it all next door all the while keeping it hot and unspilled.  Everything was covered in either plastic wrap or tinfoil.  Luckily, I had just taken a flat out of my old truck that I used to transport plants. I put a towel across it and now we're in business.  I took out two cookie trays, loaded them up with towels, stacked them, and two trips later: dinner was served.

The parents were like little kids they were so excited for dinner.  Not only a holiday dinner but one that was prepared by the daughter-in-law who pulled off this magical dinner out of nothing. (their perception, not mine)  Also, visits in their tiny house are rare so just having company was a treat. 

All in all, I had fun. I enjoyed the holiday for once. It turns out the key to a happy Thanksgiving for me is Total Control.  

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