My mother was a very patient woman - a trait that was probably key to my parents’ seventy-two year long marriage. She was a planner and a worrier which motherhood forces many of us females types to be, and Thanksgiving turned out to be one of her biggest trials.
Yes, there was an overabundant dinner featuring turkey and ham, plus a surfeit of sugar: Aunt Catherine’s cheesecake, Aunt Elaine’s rum cake, and Cousin Anne, who was from Louisiana, always brought pecan pie. It was a swell party - especially for the blissfully unaware kids running amok confined to the basement as much as possible with the eldest child “in charge.” But as our numbers grew so did the anxiety.
It started in August when my mother pulled her notes from last year fretting over the seating chart while crunching algebraic numbers on just how many pounds of mashed potatoes were consumed versus how many men were attending. She and my sister set the tables the Sunday before and troubleshooted. (What about that pesky table in the family room? It'll block the football game. How many kids are old enough to sit in a real chair?)
On Thanksgiving morning, my father would attach a rake to my brother Peter and strap himself to a leaf blower, and both would spend the entire day chasing autumn detritus from the yard even though it was dark by 5:00 which was party time.
Much to my mother's dismay, Dad was often in the shower when the first guest arrived -usually his brother Nick. (We could count on his car gliding up the leaf bare driveway at 4:55.) Fortunately, Peter would already be manning the bar set up near the front door. Uncle Nick would demand his vodka and tonic, and the party would begin with my mother hiding in the kitchen.
Not a fan of crowds, she was in no hurry to greet her guests which tipped fifty to one in favor of my dad's Greek side of the family. But Mom was always ready. She started cooking in September and finished just before 6 p.m. which was dinner time. What drove her crazy was my father still buzzing around the patio at sundown, or that little incident one year when there was no hot water at zero hour. (Dad kept everyone on a strict schedule to save on fuel costs, and he forgot to over ride the timer on the water heater.)
We knew the party was over when my sister corralled her sons to break down the tables and take the folding chairs to the basement which now resembled an abandoned battle field of cake crumbs and scattered toys. This usually happened around 8:00, but it felt like midnight.
This year if things get too weird or volatile at dinner (or if Thanksgiving just isn't your bag) here's an out. Dave Chappell, DC's own overlord of the Telecaster, will be holding forth with his band at JV's in Falls Church. Dave's talent is something we can all agree on, and there's plenty of common ground in beer. Show starts at 8:00 which may feel like midnight, but there'll be plenty of good sounds to wake you up.