Imperfection

Everything should be all set, I thought, looking at the kitchen.  They should be here any minute.

It was our first big holiday since moving back to the Midwest.  Thanksgiving had never been a big holiday in R’s family because of their split locations; sometimes they were in the States, and sometimes they were in Canada.  Since each country celebrated the holiday at vastly different times, Thanksgiving was reduced to a day off for some but not always for all.

Meanwhile, I was eager to celebrate a big, family holiday.  It was what I’d missed most the previous year; we’d spent Thanksgiving at the local Holiday Inn buffet.  Perhaps some people liked not having to cook and clean, but my mind always wandered back to my mother and her family bustling in the kitchen.  I was going to make my mother’s cranberry sherbet as an appetizer, her stuffing, my aunt’s broccoli casserole.  Of course there would be crescent rolls and a salad.  R’s parents and sister were supposed to be bringing pies.

There was something else, too.  R had been particularly terse over the last few months as he’d seen more and more of my time devoted to the Rick Springfield website and CD sale.  While orders were still coming in, it was a slow trickle; most of the boxes were empty and gone from the living room.  I’d managed to move 2,000 CDs out while juggling the family and the work, but it hadn’t been pleasant or easy for any of us.  It was time for me to refocus on what was really important in my life: my family.  I wanted a lovely, perfect dinner to help prove to R that my priorities weren’t as out of whack as they had been recently.

“Do you think the turkey is going to be done in time?” R asked, coming into the kitchen, fresh from the shower.  He had dressed nicely in corduroy pants and a button down shirt.

I rolled my eyes at him.  “Way to butt in after you’ve not been even in the kitchen all morning.”

“Hey, I was dealing with the kids, keeping them out of your hair.”

“While you lounged on the sofa watching TV?” I accused, but trying to keep my tone light.

“Whatever does the job,” he said, turning his attention to the table.  “It looks nice,” he offered.

“It does,” I answered, a little wistfully.  I’d set the table with my grandmother’s china; I’d never had an opportunity to host a holiday before, and thus this was the first time I’d ever used it since my mother had passed seven years prior.  Before I could get too maudlin, I heard the doorbell ringing and then the thump of steps as Z ran to get the door.  I glanced at the clock, noting that the turkey should be done in about forty minutes, before walking down the hall to greet R’s parents, sister and brother in law.

“Everything looks beautiful,” gushed my mother in law, eager to bolster my confidence.  She and my father in law were amazing cooks, and I always felt somehow inadequate trying to cook for them.

A flurry of activity ensued in the kitchen as I finished off the side dishes, put the rolls in the oven to brown while R and the kids visited with the family and enjoyed a cocktail.  I proudly scooped out the tart sherbet, it’s brilliant dark pink color festive and beautiful in my mother’s glass dishes.

“Wonderful idea, to cleanse your palate before your meal,” R’s father complimented.  I was relieved as I cleared the dishes to start the next course.

I peeked in the oven.  The turkey didn’t look as brown as I had hoped, but then I’d never cooked a turkey before.  I didn’t want to ask R’s parents for help, but I had no choice.  “Can one of you come here and tell me what you think about the turkey?” I asked quietly as everyone waited in anticipation around the table.

R’s father folded his napkin and strode over to the open oven door.  “Oh, it’s not even close to done,” he said after a quick glance.  “Another hour at least.”  I felt my face redden and closed the door, mortified that I’d managed to screw up something as basic as a turkey.

“Don’t worry,” R’s sister said, her tone easy and casual.  “Remember the time this happened to you when we were kids?  We ate all of the side dishes first and then had the turkey later, like a whole different course.  It was actually kind of good that way, because we didn’t get overstuffed.”

“We should do that today,” R’s mother replied, trying to help me feel better about my obvious faux pas.  “Everything else is done, and we don’t want it to be ruined by waiting for the turkey.  We’re all hungry, right?  Let’s eat!”

I wanted to run from the room and burst into tears.  Not only wasn’t the meal perfect, it was wrong in just the way R had predicted.  R’s family was so painfully nice about the whole thing to boot.

“Don’t feel badly,” R’s mother said as I sat down, trying to mask my distress.  “This is your first Thanksgiving meal.  You’ll learn.  We all had to learn.”

I supposed that was true, but I just hated making mistakes in front of everyone.  “Thank you,” I said, eagerly accepting the glass of wine R’s father was pouring for me.  “At least we have a good story to tell in later years, right?”

 

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