By Kelly Hines
My husband and I started dating two weeks before Thanksgiving, and this year marks the twenty-ninth time we have celebrated the holiday together. Twenty-nine years of blended families and arguments over whether it’s called stuffing or dressing (it’s dressing, by way), of monumental feasts and epic disasters. In this time I’ve learned a few things about family dynamics, and about how this holiday brings us together like a big, warm bowl of mashed potatoes. With gravy, of course.
Here are my tips on making this Thanksgiving one to remember:
1. Bring your big pants. If there is one day of the year when you can get up and have a huge breakfast at 8, followed by a brunch at 9, a ‘sample’ of everything you’re cooking every hour on the hour, an early lunch at 11, appetizers at 1, a snack at 3, a full turkey dinner at 4, pie at 5, leftovers at 7, leftover pie at 9 – THIS IS THAT DAY. Come prepared.
2. Try a little of everything. Even your Aunt Myrtle’s weird green bean thing. Barring allergy or moral objections, put a spoonful on your plate and tell your Aunt Myrtle it’s fabulous.
3. It’s okay to buy something. I am notorious for wanting everything to be the result of my culinary wizardry, mostly because I have an ego that requires constant reassurance from outside sources. But what I end up doing is absolutely killing myself in the kitchen and then getting resentful because I’ve had to do it all, after insisting that I do it all. Buy your bread or a pie or a side. No one is going to go home talking smack about you if you didn’t grow the pumpkin yourself.
4. Delegate. I do most of the cooking, so when dinner is done I march my well-stuffed self to my well-stuffed couch and put my feet up. Magically, other people get up and clean my kitchen. They put things in the wrong containers and in the wrong cabinets and I absolutely do not care. I am happy they’re doing it, and I let them. When someone is kind enough to offer to bring something, I take them up on the offer. Even if it’s Aunt Myrtle and her weird green bean thing.
5. Don’t expect your kids to act like anyone other than your kids. They are not suddenly going to stop fighting, or running in the house, or hiding cheese in the bathroom (what? like my kids are the only ones?), or insisting they won’t eat anything you spent the last four days preparing because IT’S GROSS and WHERE ARE THE CHICKEN NUGGETS? because you have company. Let them enjoy the day, too.
6. Create a drama free zone. Look, I don’t like your Aunt Myrtle, either. Everyone knows the only reason we still invite her is because she’s old and will probably be dead next year and we’d all feel guilty if we didn’t. She will complain that the turkey is dry and that’s not the way she makes the stuffing and you’re serving the pie too early. She will remind you that you’re part of the family through marriage, and criticize your housekeeping and weight, and suggest that maybe your children would be more polite if you wouldn’t coddle them. And then you could punch her in the face. OR, you could smile and nod and say horrible, horrible things about her in your head. It’s not the more satisfying route, but it’s the more charitable one.
7. Give thanks. No, really. Don’t make it a Pinterest event and make everyone write down their blessings and put them in a mason jar. Take a small moment with each person that you are fortunate to have around your table and let them know you’re thankful for them. A squeeze of the hand, a thank you for being here, a thumbs up to Auntie M over a mouthful of green beans – be thankful because you are. Because you have the good fortune to be in a warm place with a full belly and someone who loves you. What a gift.
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