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My First Thanksgiving Disaster

Autumn in New York

Autumn in New York

Measuring Up To Mother-in-Law

Oh, there were other Thanksgiving disasters, to be sure, but that first one will never be forgotten by any of the participants. It all started when I got married at the age of 19.

So many things started then, but what's relevant here is that I became a DAUGHTER-IN-LAW! It's not that my in-laws were ogres. It's just that my mother-in-law was so intimidating. She excelled at almost everything. She bowled a 275, she was president of the Ladies Guild. She could drive a tractor, knit a sweater or whip up a family dinner for 16 at the drop of a hat. She was definitely a hard act to follow!

Can She Bake a Cherry Pie?

Did I mention that my husband's name is Bill, Billy to his family? So, of course, my theme song whenever I walked into a family gathering was, "Can she bake a cherry pie, Billy Boy, Billy Boy?" I couldn't. She could. Probably in the twinkling of an eye, too.

Cooking My First Thanksgiving Dinner

By the time our second Thanksgiving rolled around, I had an infant and had gained some confidence in my homemaking abilities. I had helped my mother cook. I could read a cookbook. So far, we had eaten at least 103 meals at my in-law's, but I had never invited them for a meal. I girded my loins...what the heck are loins, anyway...and invited both sets of parents and my siblings for Thanksgiving dinner. I could easily handle dinner for ten, right? Right!

We had a nice apartment in an older house out in the country. The kitchen was small with older appliances, but there was a nice big living room with plenty of room to set up a big table. I spent most of the week before Thanksgiving cleaning and polishing, baking pies, making homemade rolls, making cranberry sauce, getting out the little-used wedding china and crystal. I spent the night before Thanksgiving chopping celery and onion and bread cubes for stuffing. I wanted everything to be perfect.

Thanksgiving Day Dinner

Thanksgiving day dawned clear and crisp. I was up with the sun stuffing the turkey, making the corn pudding, and fixing the sweet potatoes while directing Bill on how to peel the white potatoes, change the baby and set up the table and chairs. By noon, the turkey had been in the oven for hours, the mints and nuts set out in little dishes, the table was set and the whipped cream whipped. Whew! It was all going like clockwork! I would prove myself at last.

At 2pm my parents and siblings showed up with the in-laws close behind. We exchanged hugs and kisses, hung the coats and settled everyone down for drinks in the living room.

The First Hint of a Thanksgiving Disaster

My mother-in-law sniffed the air, "The house looks so nice. How come I don't smell the turkey cooking?"

HUH??? It must be cooking. The oven has been on since 9am. The stove was warm, everything else was cooking. Dinner was going to be perfect.

Then my Mom chimed in, "When did you put the turkey in, it doesn't smell like it's cooking?"

O.K., let's take a look. The two mothers and I troop into the kitchen. There were the potatoes bubbling along, the sweet potatoes ready to pop in the oven, other vegetables ready to go. There in the oven a partly cooked turkey sat happily in a lukewarm oven - an oven with the elements burned out!

Oh, no, NOW WHAT??? Give me credit, I didn't cry and I didn't run.

The Thanksgiving Turkey That Wasn't

This is how the turkey was supposed to look...too bad it didn't!

This is how the turkey was supposed to look...too bad it didn't!

Mother-in-law Saves the Day

Mother-in-law saves the day, wouldn't you know? She yanked that bird out of the oven, got out the cutting board and a sharp knife and pulled out the pressure cooker.

PRESSURE COOKER? Oh, yeah! So she hacked that beautiful bird into chunks, threw it in the pot with some juice and stuffing, popped the lid on and cooked that bird good! and fast!

There was no beautiful browned turkey to carve at the table that day, but everyone said it was tender and juicy. Yeah, pressure cooking a turkey does that. In my eyes, my beautiful dinner was ruined, and I had failed despite all of my hard work. But somehow during the dinner, we all started laughing about the disaster, we ate and talked and played with the kids and had pumpkin pie.

Six of the people who were at dinner that day are gone now. But I can still see them laughing around my table that fateful Thanksgiving day, and I am thankful for the laughter and love that we shared. And it sure did make a great story for years to come!

copyright ©2010 Stephanie Henkel

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