Thanksgiving, Interrupted

For my first Thanksgiving as host, I bought the biggest turkey they had in the store. My plan was to torch the turkey, burn the potatoes and undercook the green beans.

I was sick of my family trying to have the perfect Thanksgiving. It always devolved into fighting. There was no thanks, though there still remained a whole lot of giving – of grief.

I had a backup plan: a full, catered Thanksgiving dinner would be arriving at 1pm to save the day. I wanted to prove how a slight change in tradition could be easy and pleasant, allowing for the much-needed vacation day everyone truly needed.

What I wasn’t counting on was a freakishly early ice storm wreaking havoc on the southeast three days prior to the big feast. It quickly became clear that it was going to be days, not hours before the power would be restored. All the frozen and refrigerated food would spoil. My Thanksgiving revolution would have to wait. I made arrangements to donate my huge turkey to the local homeless shelter, which was running on a generator.

On Tuesday night, in the midst of defeat, it finally hit me: Mother Nature was working for me and not against me. Now I could serve up a catered Thanksgiving dinner without all the chaos of a messed up meal. This was a much better plan than the one I had come up with. I cracked open a bottle of red wine and drank in my good fortune. I fell asleep reading Game of Thrones by flashlight.

I spent most of Wednesday morning on the phone, assuring my family that I had Thanksgiving under control. My Aunt Maggie was not pleased. She had begrudgingly handed over Thanksgiving duties to me, but only because she was recovering from knee replacement surgery. Still, she insisted that if electricity returned before 6pm, that I should rush out to the store and recover our lost Thanksgiving tradition, as if the very existence of our family tree was on the line. And it was at that exact moment that the power came back on.

This only fueled Aunt Maggie’s fire. Thankfully, another call was coming in and I just had to take it. It was the caterer with the day-before confirmation call. Couldn’t miss it.

Unfortunately, it was a confirmation that the caterer, too, had been without power and without a generator. All of their customer records were stored on their computer, which they had only just gained access to now that their power was restored. The food, of course, was destroyed, not to mention the deliveries that had been delayed because of poor road conditions across storm-affected states.

I got off the phone, grabbed my purse and drove to the grocery store. It was madness. All the turkeys were gone. Heck, even frozen turkey dinners were gone. The store’s deli had resorted to reframing Thanksgiving with Italian, Mexican and other ethnic themes. Defeated, I grabbed a couple of boxes of spaghetti, a few jars of sauce and some rolls. I took my place in a line that looked to be 45 minutes to an hour long.

Behind me, I heard a couple of college kids joking about how Chinese places are always open for Thanksgiving. I chuckled. Then I whipped out my smartphone and made a reservation. I got out of line.

My revolution had a realization. Being host meant being a leader. I had set out with a mission this Thanksgiving, and I wasn’t going to let the inevitable indecisiveness between spaghetti and kung pao chicken rule the day.

I messaged everyone the reservation details and turned my phone off. Once again, I fell asleep that night reading Game of Thrones.

The next day was one of reckoning. I got dressed in a decidedly casual outfit and headed to the Chinese restaurant. I’m glad I made reservations because there was a line out the door, wrapping halfway around the restaurant. The storm had so disrupted travel and refrigerators that many other families were also forced to make ad hoc Thanksgiving plans.

I found various of my own family members scattered throughout the crowd. These usually smart, capable people had suddenly descended into outright helplessness without the crutch of dry turkey on the fourth Thursday of November.
We made our way to the front, somehow surviving the ravenous glares darting from people who clearly misunderstood the historical meaning of the day. (Or completely comprehended it, depending on the interpretation of your favorite history pundit.)

As we were being seated, the waiter gave us a “special” menu. Upon first glance, I didn’t think anything of it. A special menu on Thanksgiving? Sounds about right.

Then I started reading it. American fare. The waiter noticed our confused faces.

“No power. Food gone. We shop at Costco.”

And that’s why we all ate hamburgers.