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Linda Hilton

Reader, Writer, Merciless Reviewer and Incurable Romantic


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Currently reading

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My First Thanksgiving, or another story of why I hate holidays

In the fall of 1975, when I was pregnant with my first child, we bought out first house.


It was a huge barn of a thing, 3200 square feet with five bedrooms . . . and one bathroom.  Though the house was less than three years old, we were the third owners, and it wasn't really quite complete.  The builder and first owner had gone bankrupt before he could finish it; the second owner ended up in a very messy divorce.  So despite the various, um, deficiencies, we bought it.  After all, we got it at a remarkably low price, and we were young enough to have faith in our ability to fix those, um, deficiencies.




By Thanksgiving, when I was six months pregnant, I wanted to welcome the family -- my husband's relatives, that is -- to my new home.  That's how we had always done holidays in my family: we rotated amongst the various grandparents and aunts and uncles so no one was always stuck with the cleaning and massive meal prep and clean-up.afterward.  But my invitation was rebuffed by my mother-in-law with a simple "No."


This made no sense, so I kept insisting.  I used the logic of saving the other, older members of the family all the hard work.  Somehow I prevailed, though now I'm not exactly sure how that came about.


Then I made the second mistake:  I scheduled dinner for 4:00 p.m. 


This was blasphemy!  Dinner was always at 1:00, never later!  What kind of barbarians ate at 4:00 in the afternoon?


My third mistake was falling back on logic again:  See, if everyone slept in and rested and had a nice big late breakfast, they wouldn't be hungry until later in the afternoon anyway.  And the person doing to big cooking -- that would be me -- wouldn't have to get up at the crack of dawn to "do" the turkey and stuffing and so on.  Those who had to travel any distance could avoid the early morning traffic.  There'd be time for appetizers beforehand, too.


To which I was asked, "What are appetizers?"


Okay. skip that.


The most important part of the logic, of course, was that a later dinner meant everyone could enjoy football on a full tummy and not be clamoring for snacks at 6:00 p.m., when the dinner dishes were barely dry and the dish washers -- none of this was done by machine! -- had barely had time to sit down.


Despite there being no logical debate on this issue, I consented to a compromise: Dinner would be at 3:00 p.m.  But I knew there were hard feelings, though I wasn't quite sure why.


The day arrived and I roasted my turkey and mashed my potatoes and made the gravy and stuffing and bought extra plates and silverware and glasses.  I'm not sure where we found enough tables and chairs, but we did, and all the family members arrived and no one complained too much.


My mother-in-law groused a little, but not much.  There was plenty of food, and my turkey earned lots of compliments.  By 4:00, everyone was full and the football games were on the TV, and all the dirty dishes were left on the table.  And on the stove.  And all over the counters.


I was tired.  Satisfied, but tired.  My husband's cousin Kathy had a new baby to take care of, as well as a six-year-old, so she couldn't help.  Another cousin's wife, Terri, who was only about six weeks less pregnant than I, offered to help gather up the dishes.  If you thought that was enough of a hint for others to pitch in, you're totally wrong.


Terri and I did all the dishes.  Scraped, washed, dried, put away. 


No one helped.  No one thanked me for the dinner.  Oh, one uncle did mention that he though the later dinner time was actually a good idea, but he was the sort who never got up before 10:00 a.m. anyway.


I didn't host another family holiday until 1980, in another not-quite-competed house.  But that time it wasn't entirely voluntary, and the repercussions were far worse than a mere lack of thanks.  Christmas 1980 was the holiday from hell.


By 1985, we had moved to Arizona, in part to get away from just that kind of crap.  Our first Thanksgiving in our new "home" was a whole chicken roasted in the tiny little oven of our motorhome.  Everything was cramped and crowded and inconvenient, but at least we didn't have to put up with rotten family.


I wish I could say all our subsequent holidays were peaceful and happy and bright; they weren't.  And I know there are folks who just can't wait for the holidays, who are already putting up the Christmas decorations, who will go to bed early tonight so they can hit the Black Friday sales.  Not me!  I enjoy the peace and quiet of sitting on the couch in my comfy clothes, fixing a sandwich for lunch and some leftover teriyaki chicken for dinner.  BF is off to visit his friends and watch more football.  Good for him.