Surviving Thanksgiving Dinner
by J Gardener
When you were a child, this was the time of year you couldn't wait for. The holiday season, from Halloween all the way through New Year's Day, seemed like one long feast for your eyes and taste-buds. And, of course, the anticipation of Santa's visit was the fuel that kept you giddy, the whole time.
Now, you're grown, with small children of your own, and the season seems more like one long military operation: "OK, we survived Halloween. Now, let's plan our assault on Thanksgiving."
You hope your mother will offer to handle Turkey Day; you try dropping not-so-subtle hints, but she's unsympathetic and doesn't take the bait.
"I'm the grandmother, now," she points out, "I did my time. We're coming to your house, this year." Meaning, of course, "We're coming to your house, from now on, forever."
Like you don't have enough to do, preparing for your childrens' Christmas, now the family Thanksgiving traditions have been dropped into your lap, and it's an awesome responsibility.
As long as you can remember, every Thanksgiving has been conducted in exactly the same manner, down to the particular ingredients in the turkey stuffing. You remember the time your mother spent-days and days-putting together the perfect meal. She did all the shopping and baked pies the weekend before, she made the fruit salads and Jellos early in the week, she spent the day before Thanksgiving carefully preparing the bird-and you can't even remember when she had time to clean the house, in anticipation of all the relatives who'd join the feast (and Lord knows, in those days, Dad was no help).
How are you supposed to follow her example, with a working husband, two small kids, and a career that requires your presence in the office the day before Thanksgiving? Simple. You cheat.
You can't possibly replicate your mother's efforts. First of all, she was operating in a different time, when two-income households were the exception, rather than the rule. She had the time to carefully and lovingly prepare every dish that went onto the table. And you weren't taking ballet and soccer, requiring her to drive you all over town in her free time. Your mother also knew that, in those days, if she wanted her family to have a delicious Thanksgiving meal, she had to make it, herself.
That's not the case, anymore. Today, most large grocery chains and many restaurants have turkey dinners that you can purchase, which are complete and delicious. Usually, you're required to order such a meal at least a week in advance. Most chains offer a choice of turkey size (some even offer breast-only meals), side-dishes, and desserts. Then, the night before Thanksgiving, you just pick up your dinner at the store, and on the big day you just pop your turkey in the oven-it comes complete with cooking instructions-pop your pumpkin pie in the microwave, and when Mom and Dad arrive, the house smells like you've been cooking for days.
The stuffing may not be exactly full of Mom's specific ingredients, the beans may not be cooked with exactly the same spices, but you can just tell Mom that things have changed-you're the Mom, now, and you're starting new traditions.
You don't have to tell her you cheated. Do you really think that she wouldn't have done the same thing, if it had been available, when you were little? And, besides, who cares? Thanksgiving will still be about good food and family fellowship, just like when Mom did it all, herself.
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