Rotation of Thanksgiving guest list brings joy

NOVEMBER 23, 2017 (previously printed in The Kansas City Star)

Tom Turkey defrosting with Buds

Happy belated Thanksgiving. Are you still wearing your favorite elastic waist-banded garment? It’s amazing I used to only own one stretchy pair of poultry pants, saved for the last two months of every year, because now the majority of my closet is filled with various shades and fabrics of turkey trousers.

Normal Thanksgiving dinners growing up consisted of thawing the biggest turkey in the shop for days, waking up at an ungodly hour to turn on the oven and ensure the stuffing hadn’t fallen out of the bird overnight.

For years, it was an intimate affair with our immediate family and one set of grandparents. Never were my parents plucky enough to have the in-laws breaking bread on the same day and at the same location.

Everyone brought a side dish or five, praying that hers would be a success. However, you wouldn’t know if your dish received the four-star rating until the next year, when, and if, you were invited for Thanksgiving and asked to bring it again.

Back then, many of the same family members would join my small family of four, but all it took was one slight change of the guest list to start our annual Thanksgiving “guest swap” rolling. That’s when the holiday became a competitive sport with no holds barred.

The Thanksgiving that changed our polite formal dinner was when I was 9 or 10 years old. The past dining room table had always been covered with a table cloth, our family’s best china, the real silver, and the crystal glasses that only my mother could transport in and out of the kitchen and hand wash.

We didn’t mind, though, because no one wanted to see her break down and cry; plus, our normal chore of drying the dishes was held off that one day of the year.

As a fourth-grader, I remember when my mother, who is the queen of thinking outside the box, was trying to place enough chairs around our table. Her brother’s wife, her large family, and a priest were to caravan from Nebraska.

None of us were Catholic, but we knew deep down we should step up our formal dinner. I mean, how often do you get to have your first supper with clergy?

If we were entertaining a priest just once, my mother was classy enough to know cramped seating would be a sin. It was time to remove the net and cover the ping-pong table with butcher paper. Fancy living was about to commence.

Everyone had a fabulous time at that Thanksgiving, leaving a big impression on us all. Why should such a creative and giving family be thankful for our typical small family guest list? Since our population wasn’t increasing anytime soon, my parents pulled out the old address book and searched for friends who were alone on that holiday.

If they had impressive culinary skills, they were a shoo-in. “Let’s invite people we work with! I know short Margy makes a mean Jell-O mold.”

One year while I was in college, my parents wanted to shake up the list even more. They invited my brother and me into a room nonchalantly to mention they were crossing themselves off the list. We thumped both sides of our heads to dislodge the object, which had blocked our hearing.

Why on earth would our parents, who treasured family Thanksgivings, say they were deserting us? … The Maui Classic.

Yes, college basketball finally destroyed our family. OK, it could have happened, but instead my brother and I pretended we weren’t devastated by the news.

Over a few hoppy beverages on the back porch, we engineered a solid plan that would make the parents jealous. It’s funny thinking back that they would have wanted to choose our silly dinner over Hawaii, but we were young and pretty full of ourselves.

That Thanksgiving, we woke up to a quiet house, and before the crack of dawn I prepped a smallish bird with all the fixings for two. This was the beginning of our family-themed holidays. My brother and I enjoyed a fine dinner complete with crazy costumes, props, and framed photos of our parents placed in front of their empty seats.

If only we had thought to open the old address book, we could have thrown quite a bash while the folks were gone.


Forgetting something off Thanksgiving shopping list

Every year it is such a chore trying to remember everything at the grocery store in one trip. I don’t know if Martha Stewart can even make it happen without sending some of her paid lackeys to get those few items she forgot for the big Thanksgiving feast.

Even if I have my list, cross off each item as I toss it in the cart, don’t take the chillens with me, and try not to be distracted by anything shiny or the new coffee creamers – I just. can’t. do. it.

Adult ADD?

A case of the blondies? Perhaps.

No, I believe it is just the way the frozen turkey bounces. It’s the preoccupation with my sasquatch 22 pound turkey I purchased this last Saturday morning. By all mathematical equations, poking and prodding and altering of our second fridge temps, it SHOULD be defrosted by Thanksgiving morn. However, how many years does this actually work for me? I’ll let you know when it does.

Past history: Thursday morning – I am awakened by my anxiety medication bottoming out at 5:00 and sprinting to the fridge with high hopes of a squishy turkey. As previously mentioned…this has never happened. But a girl can always dream.

Then the early bird Jacuzzi party begins. Not as glamorous as it sounds and it often creates some gag reflexes, but no one else is awake in the house and this is MY time! I don’t do anything clever or interesting, but just get that damn bird to thaw out before the first guest arrives. It’s a long, laborious process; but usually there is an overabundance of snacks and cocktails available to entertain during this time. I won’t bore with the monotony of this process. You have imaginations.

Only one year did the meal get on the table an hour later than planned. This was last year. We had moved into a new house and invited everyone over early to chat. Initially a nice idea, but listen to me…DON’T do this. Everyone who brought food, wanted to cook it at our house. One oven and 5 cooks makes for one very cranky hostess who has been up since 5:00AM and hitting the cocktails early.

This year, I have it under control. The family is coming right before the meal with their heated dishes prepared, I’m SURE my turkey will obey and desist and if not…

I have everything else under control!

Tom Turkey defrosting with Buds

**Please follow the turkey manufacturers directions on how to properly defrost a turkey. This is not to replace their advice on how to prepare. Salmonella contamination is not a laughing matter. Please use caution this holiday.

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So do you have your turkey in the bag? Or are you running around like a turkey with its head cut off like me?

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