I have this theory that maybe once every three years or so, everything goes right or at least pretty smoothly.
If I'd stop to think of it before Thanksgiving hit, I would have realized that was last year for us. I tend to be the eternal optimist though, which yes at times can even get on my own nerves, but I didn't see this one coming.
I think it all started when Bart announced he would not be sharing Thanksgiving with us. Of course we understood, unexpected family wanting to have him all to themselves this year, but I can't pretend — we were disappointed. Happy for him, but tradition is tradition in my book.
Anyway, I was really looking forward to this Thanksgiving because not only did we finally have a new kitchen floor that wasn't stained yellow, we have a new double oven, too! Let's face it; double ovens are, to a home economics teacher, what a Porsche is to a race car driver. Top of your wish list and the very best!
Much of the preparation and food I now make the day ahead. The stuffing, mashed potatoes, squash, just about everything...I thought, except the turkey and the dreaded gravy. This year I had that covered too. My sister-in-law Chris always prepares the turkey and I even bought a new gadget that would make perfect gravy easy, supposedly.
By midday on Thanksgiving we had a false sense of security. Everything was going too well. So well that we decided to leave the house and head to the Zoo Workout Club in Derry. We had this one beat.
We got back home still in plenty of time we thought to finish everything up but somehow it jumped to 4 p.m. and at 4:30 p.m. the house would be filled with family and friends. It was just about then when Chris and I started to remember things we still had to do. Those things you leave to the last minute because, after all, they should only take a minute.
At 4:30 p.m. the doorbell started to ring and I don't think Chris and I looked up again until well after 5 p.m. Everyone was great and patient and did their best to jump in. We all know how that can help but sometimes also it can make things more chaotic in a very loving way. Of course, with more people and a beautiful warm day outside, the house got very warm quickly. At 5:10 p.m. I grabbed Christine and we stepped outside on the deck just to take a breath and cool down a little. Honestly, we joked about making a run for it to the beach! The turkey in the oven had nothing on us!
Long story short, by 5:30 p.m. we were all seated at the table that always takes my breath away. Our table is far from perfect. I never have enough cloth napkins that match and if you look closely at many of them they still have stains from years past. Plates and silverware are a mix match, too. The perfect long, thin candles that I bought on sale last year to put in my cute little glass turkeys melted up in my attic, again. I gave Matt the job of making those darn misshapen candles fit, and he did. One thing I can always count on is that napkins are folded perfectly in a fan shape because John learned that working his way through college in the restaurant business.
What really takes my breath away though is looking at the people I love and thinking about the ones that are missing. What usually happens next is John does a little toast and blessing. He did, but for some reason I got a little caught up in how grateful I was to be able to look around the table at each of these people I love. I jumped in to thank each and everyone one of them — Oh yes I did! You must be thinking, isn't that nice Sherry?
Remember last week I added a special little thanks in my story for John. Thank goodness I did then, because I went pretty much around the table, didn't miss a beat, but wait for it — I completely forgot to thank John. As I learned later, he was by my side, as I was so caught up in the moment, waving his arms and pointing his index fingers at himself while mouthing, "What about me?" I could see everyone was smiling and I thought looking at me, but they were getting a kick out of John. Did I mention he does all the setup and prep work and was five visits into Market Basket at this point?
On to the meal, some things were really warm and others not so much. I still have to learn a lot about properly using my double oven. Oh, the gravy...If Chris and I didn't have bad luck with it we would have no luck at all. Thank goodness, John had a gut instinct and bought three jars of Heinz gravy just in case.
We all shared plenty of food, wine and sparkling cider, too. Things were going pretty good and Chris and I were grateful...and then it happened. The cornucopia floral arrangement I had to have from Market Basket for $17.95 caught on fire.
During dessert, people were up and moving and I was sitting at the table relaxing with Amy and Bob. Next think I knew, Amy said something like "The cornucopia is on fire!" I looked over at it and I think I was praying it was a mistake. It wasn't. I just sat there looking at it in disbelief. Yup, it sure was on fire. The leaves were ablaze. Amy and Bob both had their water ready and in position to throw at the flame and then next thing I knew Amy started whacking at it with the bottom of her water bottle just in time. In one swipe she put out the flame and saved the table.
Can you imagine I've never heard of a cornucopia catching on fire on Thanksgiving Day table, but it sure did. 'Tis the season and I am grateful for each and every minute of it.
By the way, during cleanup Christine took that perfect gravy thing and threw it in the garbage!
Sherry Farrell is Londonderry town clerk and a lifelong resident of New Hampshire.