Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - Nov. 30, 2012

Cranberries and chaos – just a typical Thanksgiving Day

In 1992, daughter Katie was born two days before Thanksgiving Day. In previous years, we had gone to my folks’ home for the holiday. But since I was discharged on Thanksgiving morning, I had no inclination to go anywhere but home.

Husband Art has always enjoyed springing a surprise. Since he didn’t want me to miss the big home-cooked meal, he prepared a traditional family feast, complete with a 20+ pound bird for the four of us ... well, three of us really. Since older daughter Mariya had done her part by not saying a word, I was completely surprised when the front door opened and the smell of roasting turkey greeted me.

But since we had so much food, we decided to invite all our relatives to join us the next couple of days and most did – to eat and to meet the newest member of the family.

This year’s Thanksgiving marked the 20th anniversary of that holiday feast, and Art has made them all with me helping on the fringes. This one proved to be the biggest so far.

Art says he doesn’t care whether two or 20 people show up. His job is to make the food and get it to the table.

For that, I am extremely grateful. Still, being a die-hard worry-wart, I can’t help but wonder whether the house is clean enough or whether we have enough dishes for everyone. I tend to go into over-drive - dusting, vacuuming, scrubbing, removing clutter and just generally “fussing” about this and that.

I learned shortly before Thanksgiving that we’d have 18, and I panicked ... for about 10 seconds. Then I just started cleaning and counting. I counted plates, forks, glasses, chairs, serving dishes and leftover containers. I borrowed folding chairs, a card table and silverware from Mom, four chairs from Katie and a fold-up table from Mariya.

Our guests were to include Mariya and Katie; daughter-in-law Lacey; Mom and her friend Stan; nieces Gabriela and Larisa; brother Dave, his wife Linda, their son Paul and wife Rachel and their three children, Sydney, Chase and Erynn; Lacey’s sister Amber and Amber’s daughter Lilyana. The youngest was 2 and the oldest 88.

Art cooked the cranberries and started thawing the turkey the night before the feast. By the time we went to bed, the 23-pound bird was in the refrigerator, covered with foil. The giblets were cooking so they could be added to the stuffing the next morning.

Art awoke at 6:15 a.m. and had the stuffed turkey in the oven by 7. He peeled potatoes, started putting together his green bean casserole with cashews and basted the turkey. He’s done this often enough that he has it down to a science. He even went back to bed and slept for another hour! I did last-minute clean-up jobs and set the big table.

When Katie and Larisa arrived with the four borrowed chairs, Art discovered that the rungs were loose because the wood glue had dried. I almost came unglued myself. But, totally unruffled, he fixed the chairs temporarily by winding yellow nylon cord around the rungs. Once that was done, the girls moved living room furniture out of the way and set up extra tables while I went to town to get Mom, Stan and Gabriela.

My brother and his gang arrived from Salina at about 12:30. Within one minute of their arrival, bedlam broke out. Sydney, 7, ran onto our neighbor’s limestone wall to try to pet one of their cats. A block slipped off and landed on her foot. She immediately started crying and her dad and grandpa ran over to pick her up and brought her into the house. It wasn’t clear whether her foot was bruised or broken. As mother Rachel put it, “When you have a drama queen in the family, you never know if an injury is serious or not.”

I put some ice in a bag and gave it to Rachel to apply to Sydney’s foot. It seemed to help, although Sydney spent most of the day on a bed or on one of the couches with her foot up.

The hubbub grew as Art barked last-minute orders and Katie took drink requests - milk, Pepsi, Coke, cranberry juice, water, wine.

Uh-oh, another crisis! When Erynn took a gulp of what she thought would be Pepsi, she instead downed some of Rachel’s wine. That mix-up first produced tears from Erynn, then laughter from us, and finally a giggle from the victim followed by a somber, “Wine’s not for kids!”

Soon we were eating. Outside, it was a beautiful day with a high in the 60s and lots of sunshine. We caught up on family news and talked about Paul’s recent trip to China, Katie’s 20th birthday, which was two days after Thanksgiving this year, and Dave turning 65 just the day before.

“I couldn’t believe it until I got my Medicare card in the mail,” he said, pulling it from his wallet for all of us to examine.

After dessert, the older “kids” cleared the tables and played “Speed Scrabble.” Chase and Erynn played quietly with their toys. Lilyana was greatly amused by the crunchy leaves piled on the deck. In between, people took turns washing and drying the stacks of dishes. Sydney ventured out with the rest of us a couple of times. She even sat with her dad on the deck to feed leftover pieces of turkey to the neighbors’ cats. One of them was probably the culprit that had lured her to the wall.

As night-time approached, people began to scatter. It had been a Thanksgiving holiday not unlike the one of 20 years ago. There was great food, much talk, a few surprises and, of course, even a touch of chaos.

Left: Dave holding his Blue Cross Blue Shield and Medicare cards; right: Erynn is consoled by mom Rachel while Katie, Mariya, Lacey and Amber, holding Lilyana, are amused by the youngster's reaction to accidentally taking a drink of her mother's wine. Chase, back to the camera, wonders what all the hubbub is about.

Top-left: sister pairs Gabriela and Larisa, Mariya and Katie and Lacey and Amber; right: Mom, the oldest, and Lilyana, the youngest, wait patiently for the food; bottom-left: the rock that fell on Sydney's foot. Rachel asked that a picture be taken to avoid its growing larger every time the story is retold.

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