This is a Thanksgiving story and while I could change it to Christmas… just go with it.
So a couple of years ago I was in the big LA (that would be Louisiana) for Thanksgiving with my family. My little sister made dinner (with a little help from others) and I made desserts. I must say it was nice to have a perfect pecan pie right out of the gate, although my brother thinks I’ve gone and shot myself in the foot and set the bar way too high. We shall see.
Anyways. Somehow at dinner the topic came up of an incident I had been part of a few years prior. It is a true classic and I made the comment that it was probably one of the most awkward moments of my entire life. And as my baby sister pointed out, coming from a person who makes a habit of making an ass of themselves, that is a pretty bold statement.
So I figured I should share the story with the world- you’re welcome.
It was my first Thanksgiving away from home. I was something like 16 hours away, would be going home at Christmas (actually flew out at the crack of dawn on Christmas morning thanks to some very kindhearted parishioners who took me to the airport.), and really didn’t have the time to get away so I stayed. Thankfully there were a few families in the parish that offered to have me over for dinner that day. I ended up accepting two of the invitations.
Now before I delve in here, it should be noted that I am the worst at wanting a pretty picture. Norman Rockwell and I are tight. I love the family at the table all gazing upon the recently thawed and perfectly roasted turkey. With dad in the background, carving knives at the ready. Throw in some candles and I am salivating. And that’s just Thanksgiving. Don’t get me started on Christmas! I’m so bad that one year when I was not at home for Christmas my family took that opportunity to use paper plates. Communists.
Also- there is very little in my family’s holiday dinners that comes from a box or can. Actually I think it might be only the cranberry sauce that comes from a can- and even that gets mashed up to get rid of the ridges.
So imagine my slight disappointment when I show up that afternoon at the first family’s house and there is canned green beans, instant mashed potatoes, and a sad little turkey breast. Paper plates and plastic cups. I was crushed. But I had a great time. I absolutely loved the family and it really is one of my favorite memories of my time there. Still there was a tiny part of me that missed home and all the pomp and circumstance that comes with a holiday meal.
Which brings me to the second meal. It was later that evening. I showed up and I swear I could hear the angels sing as I gazed upon the wonderful setting before me. A table, splendidly set; a crisp note in the air of roasted turkey mingled with apples simmering in cinnamon. And the candles! Oh the candles! They were everywhere. The family was dressed in their holiday best and there was an electricity in the air.
This was what I had been missing. It was all I had hoped for and more! The family- minus the mother in law and the hostess (who had invited me)- and I sat down to the table and awaited the arrival of what was sure to be a beautiful meal. The host stood ready with his carving knife and the rolls had the faintest wisp of steam rising from their basket. It was perfect.
Until a voice came from the kitchen.
Now it has been quite a number of years since this occurred and frankly, I think my subconscious has been trying to block this memory out for some time now, so I don’t remember exactly how it went but the first thing I heard was the hostess screaming that “nothing is ever good enough!” at her mother in law.
The mother in law responded with some witty quip about how the hostess was in no way “good enough” for her son and you can only imagine how it went from there. It just got louder and louder as the family and I got quieter and quieter.
To say it was awkward is like saying Atilla the Hun was a bully. No one looked at each other. We just sat there in tortured silence. Occasionally someone would wince or take in a sharp inhalation of shock over what had been said.
This went on for an agonizing amount of time. I want to say that it was at the very least ten to fifteen minutes but truthfully, I was too afraid to look at my watch so I’m not sure.
Finally, I couldn’t handle it any more. I nervously cleared my throat and slowly stood up as I told my fellow sufferers that I thought it would be best to just go on and leave. The looks of desire, longing, and helplessness I received will haunt me until my dying day.
So I folded my beautiful linen napkin and placed it back on the plate.
Pushed my chair back under the table.
Took one last longing look upon a picture that would make Norman proud and I got the hell out of there!
I never mentioned it to the hostess and she never breathed a word of it to me. I don’t even know if they ever got to eat that night. I just know I’m glad I wasn’t there for the aftermath. I don’t do well with awkward. I talk a lot to begin with and when awkward hits- so does the verbal diarrhea.
I learned a valuable lesson that day. I would take paper plates and a happy family over a beautiful table and a screaming mother in law in the kitchen every day of the year!
I hope everyone has a fantastic Christmas/holiday/whatever and it is relatively peaceful… instant mashed potatoes and all. But if you happen to use Stove Top- forget everything I’ve said. That is an unforgivable abomination.