This holiday season my relatives and I are locked in a heated game of holiday-hosting chicken and so far, no one is flinching.
With one week to go, you’d think someone would have caved by now but as my sweet potato and marshmallow casserole-loving grandmother would say, “Nothin’ doin’.”
Now to clear my name, let me say that my husband and I have hosted this labor-intense holiday for more than a decade, opening our doors to strangers and stragglers, vegetarians and vegans, and everyone in between.
It’s not that I mind the cleaning, the shopping, the cooking, the dirty dishes piled up to the recessed lights, nor wrestling the remote control out of my children’s hands so their uncles can watch football instead of Spongebob, but I’m tired. Very tired.
I have toiled while pregnant and unable to partake in the spiked apple cider that might’ve taken the edge off. I have dragged in porch furniture to seat the masses and rollantini-ed eggplant to satisfy my non-meat-eating guests. I tried new recipes in an attempt to keep things fresh, usually to the dismay of those who were banking on the traditional favorites.
I have kept the complaining to a minimum when Emeril grossly underestimated his recipes’ prep time. And I have done it wearing a smile on my face, a clingy toddler on my hip and bits of stuffing in my hair.
This year’s dilemma has given me a greater appreciation for my other grandmother who, for most of my childhood, hosted nearly 20 guests without breaking a nail, a sweat or any family ties. Not only did she cook a turkey the size of a monster truck, but she made multiple lasagnas as well. And a pork stuffing. From scratch. Plus, she baked what seemed like 1,000 biscuits that my cousins and I would juggle and hurl at each other across the kids’ table and laugh until milk trickled out our noses.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy being surrounded by family but this is a big deal and someone always has a complaint. No matter how many pies are made with various and sundry obscure fruits, the one my father was really hoping for is not there.
“No mincemeat? No quince?” he’ll say, his face crumpled in disappointment.
Hold on, Dad, let me get Martha Stewart out of my shed where I have her crafting Christmas ornaments out of chicken wire, Spanish moss and defunct wiffle balls and we'll whip those up in no time.
I know this holiday is all about giving, so why not give me a chance to spill red wine or artichoke dip on someone else’s carpet and shrug apologetically?
Let me give you some background, I have two brothers—younger brothers. Being the only girl, I’ve learned that my DNA comes with oven mitts.
Our mother recently had her knee replaced, so even as desperate as I am, that’s asking a bit much. She’s out.
My youngest brother recently bought a home near the beach. While it is spacious and welcoming, it doesn’t have a stove. So unless you can cook a turkey in a microwave or a toaster oven, it’s not happening.
My other brother lives in a home he treats like a museum, minus the velvet ropes. What he’s protecting, aside from some electronics and an artificial ficus, is beyond me. But let’s just say the potential for cranberry sauce on his perfectly-polished floors and professional-grade pool table doesn’t sit well with him. Throw in a vegetarian wife and a new baby and I guess he’s off the hook.
And now for my husband’s side. My father-in-law is battling an unexpected houseguest—an errant squirrel—he insists it’s just the one—in his own Somerset County version of “Grey Gardens.” My sisters-in-law live more than two hours away on a non-traffic-filled day and we just saw them this past weekend.
We’re running out of options. We tried the restaurant route a few years ago only to get a call the day before telling us no one was willing to work so they were closing—nothing like entering the fray with last-minute shoppers to purchase every single ingredient the night before Thanksgiving.
Deep down I know I will be the one to end this game, just as I know I will never find the mates for 40 percent of the socks we own, and the same way I can already see my father’s sad expression when he asks, “What? No lychee mousse pie?”
I will bite the bullet and buy the bird. I will host this holiday once again and this year I will be thankful…when it’s over.
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