So I’ll start with the fact that I love Thanksgiving. I love it so much that I can remember every Thanksgiving I’ve had (even the bad ones) since 1988. (I can’t even do that with birthdays.) Go ahead. Try me.
1993? Lived in a condo in Atlanta with my roommate Ericka and my boxer puppy Otis; Ericka went out of town, and I was looking forward to a long weekend alone with Otis. Instead, our neighbor’s semi-creepy brother, who was visiting from out of town, kept coming over to invite me to Thanksgiving dinner with his family. When I kept refusing, he grew desperate and, lacking any other means of enticement, grabbed my puppy and ran back to my neighbor’s place with her, forcing me to follow. When he got us both inside, Otis promptly peed on the carpet. GOOOOOD GIRRRRRRL!
2001? Spent Thanksgiving at my mom’s place, where my sister had brought her 5-month-old twins for a month-long visit. My mother kept trying to feed the babies mashed potatoes and gravy. And kept trying to get them to drink Pepsi. AT FIVE MONTHS OLD. Why do people do these things to babies who have not yet developed the motor skills to defend themselves or even give you the finger?
But I digress.
So yesterday goes down in the books as A Good Thanksgiving With A Rocky Start. You see, my mother had come up (from roughly an hour away) to spend Thanksgiving with me and my husband, and where there are mothers, there is always a little bit of twirliness, no? (She has this thing, see, where the older she gets, the more and more she becomes like a toddler in one particularly annoying way: when she wants something, she pays no mind to whatever else you might be doing before interrupting you to demand attention to her (comparatively minor) need. Trying to extract your leg from the jaws of a hungry lion? Well, you’ll just have to finish that later, because she needs you to come cut the tag off of her new blouse, because she forgot to remove it before putting the blouse on, and it’s much easier, you see, if you and the lion cool your jets a moment and tend to this problem than it would be for her to have to go to the trouble of removing the blouse, cutting the tag off herself, and putting it back on. Giving birth to alien triplets? Well, that will just have to wait, because she can’t figure out how to get Maury Povich on your TV. But I digress again.)
My husband escaped early in the day to pick up a friend at the airport; my mother and I would meet him later and we’d all share Thanksgiving with the friend’s family, whom I adore.
But first my mother would make sweet potatoes, I’d make a rhubarb tart and cookie mix (to put inside of cute Santa Claus cookie jars I’d bought for each of the women in the friend’s family), and we would try to kill one of the dogs.
Or, rather, would stand idly by while she tried to kill herself, because we’re all “Live and Let Die” like that.
You see, before he left for the airport, my husband had prepared a lovely chocolate bundt cake and left it in the oven for me to remove from the oven when the timer went off, dump out of the pan, and plate up to bring to our Turkey Day festivities. Thing is, he chose yesterday to test the truth of the “non-stick” label on the bundt pan (which was brand new) by not putting any sort of grease in the pan before dumping the cake batter in.
And guess what?
The pan LIED.
So only half of the cake (the half closest to the Exit) came out of the pan. There remained a roughly 2-inch-thick ring of cake clingling stubbornly to the bottom of the pan. I swear I heard it laugh at me. My mother, ever the trooper, insisted that we could fix it, and began scraping out the stubborn, bottom-clinging cake in large chunks, and fitting them onto the rest of the cake like a spongy chocolate 3-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. All we’d have to do, then, she insisted, was concoct some sort of sauce or glaze to drizzle over the cake to hide its rather Frankensteinian qualities. Since I needed to go to the store anyway, to get the ingredients for the rhubarb tart I’d promised to bring to Thanksgiving dinner, I happily agreed to pick up some chocolate chips and light corn syrup while I was at it, in order to concoct the Concealer Glaze.
Only then I couldn’t find any damn rhubarb. (What IS rhubarb, anyway? It’s like someone soaked celery in pink food coloring and convinced their gullible younger cousin to make pie out of it. Only the gullible younger cousin grew up to be, like, Julia Childs or something and so managed to convince everyone else that it was a good idea, so it never went down as the forgettable childhood prank it was meant to be. But oh, the digression.) So I went to another store. And then another. FINALLY I found some in the frozen food section of the grocery store that I should have tried in the first place. It’s dingy and cheap-looking and has crappy-looking produce, but is THE place to go around here for extra-thin pork chops, Coke made with real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup, and obscure ingredients.
At any rate, by the time I found the rhubarb, I was a little behind schedule, especially with the whole FrankenCake debacle, so I arrived home, huffing and puffing and all stressy-poo . . .
. . . only to find that my mother seemed to have disappeared . . .
. . . and so had nearly HALF of the FrankenCake!
What the hell has gotten into that old woman? I thought. But then I remembered . . .
You see, when I entered the blissful state of matrimony (in the blissful state of Nevada), I had two (perfect) dogs, and my husband had one. One bad-ass little mutha who’s got about a 180 IQ and an attitude that could reduce Martha Stewart to a crumbling heap. You know, if they spoke the same language and the dog had opposable thumbs that would allow HER to make centerpieces out of pine cones and cud. But since neither of those things is actually the case, the dog is satisfied just to be a bitch to pretty much everyone except my husband and, occasionally, me. So she and my mom don’t get along so well. However, yesterday, they seemed to have made amends in the name of Pilgrims and Native Americans everywhere . . . OK, actually, the dog was only being nice to my mom in hopes that my mom would give her a piece of sweet potato, but a gal can dream, can’t she?
Anyway, because the dog and my mom seemed to be getting along, and because I wanted to foster this new friendship, I let the dog hang out in the kitchen with us, while my two (amazingly-perfect-sweetie) dogs retired to (read: were cajoled, with the help of dog treats, into) the basement for the duration of the cooking. And when I left for the Rhubarb Hunt, I left the dog alone in the kitchen with my mother, figuring it would give my mom and the little Martha-Menacing-Mutha a chance to bond further.
Apparently I was wrong.
It seems that as soon as I pulled out of the driveway, Little Mutha turned on MY Mutha, and started barking and growling at her! So my mom shut herself in the guest room, leaving Little Mutha to her own devices.
And that’s when Little Mutha found FrankenCake.
And for any of you out there who don’t have dogs, there are three cardinal rules of dog ownership:
1. Dogs should be given food and water if you want them to live.
2. You also shouldn’t let them play, like, on the highway and stuff. If you want them to live.
3. Chocolate is lethal to dogs. So don’t feed it to them if you want them to live.
So you can imagine my concern at arriving home to find FrankenCake half missing. As I mentioned, I did, for an instant, suspect my mother, but I knew that if she were going to go face first into the cake, she’d have waited for the glaze first. So it had to be the dog. The dog who would probably die now.
And in my anguish, I issued forth a plaintive cry not unlike the one I uttered earlier this year when the ONE tomato I managed to grow this summer (I loved him and watered him and named him Nate and visited him daily; we were considering starting a bridge club, he and I) was viciously slaughtered and brought, riddled with toothmarks and oozing pulp, to my feet one sunny afternoon by THIS SAME DAMN DOG.
Only as much as I might have wanted to kill the dog over Nate’s murder, the idea that she might REALLY die from the dismemberment of FrankenCake had me totally flipping out. And making rhubarb tart. And flipping out. And making cookie mix. And flipping out. And catering to my mother’s demands. And flipping out.
Luckily, the dog doesn’t even seem to have gotten sick from the chocolate cake, which proves that she is made of pure, indestructable evil. And since she seemed to be holding up like a champ, my mom and I went ahead with our plans and made our way to Thanksgiving Dinner, which was wonderful and filling and full of grace. Especially after all of the wine I consumed upon my arrival.
After my dinner, my husband and I took a lovely walk, hand in hand, replete with crunching leaves underfoot and petting of horses and scenic ponds (oh, yeah – this family got some PROP-uh-teh!), and I had one of those moments where you step outside yourself for a minute and think, “If this moment weren’t my life, I’d be so jealous of it.” And then you step back into yourself and keep on walking. And you suddenly realize that life ain’t so bad after all.