How to have a truly memorable Thanksgiving:
1. Buy the biggest turkey you can find, plus generous provisions for all the side dishes, because you're cooking dinner for twelve.
2. Find out Wednesday morning that three of the guests have had to make other plans. Dinner for twelve has become dinner for nine.
3. Wednesday evening, enjoy working with your daughter on the advance preparations, including peeling pounds of potatoes and yams as well as chopping onions and celery.
4. In the middle of that, get a phone call from your son. "The doctor says the kids have pinkeye. Would it be better if we didn't come over?" Reluctantly tell them not to come. There goes the chance to spend time with the grandkids. Dinner for nine has now become dinner for four.
5. While contemplating the huge kettle of peeled potatoes, notice that both sinks are full of water and don't appear to be draining. Oops—maybe putting all those peelings in the garbage disposal wasn't such a good idea. One plumber's snake, several phone calls, one trip to the hardware store, two huge bottles of drain cleaner, and several hours later, the drains are finally unclogged. Clean up the mess. Get to bed early—in the morning.
6. Get up early Thanksgiving morning to put the turkey in the oven. Mix up the stuffing. Pick up the heavy casserole dish of stuffing to put in into the oven. Realize you forgot to take the turkey out. As you start to put the dish down, the handle of the pot holder in your hand catches on the burner.
7. Drop the huge pan of uncooked stuffing. The good news is that it lands right side up. The bad news is that it spews like a horizontal Mt. Etna or a toddler with the stomach flu. Bits of broth-soaked bread, onion, and celery shoot out across the freshly scrubbed kitchen floor, covering the underside of the table, the fronts of the cupboards, the wall, and you from the waist down. Since you're wearing flip-flops, there is even stuffing between your toes. Just analyzing the spatter patterns could keep CSI busy for hours.
8. Clean up the mess. No, despite what you later tell the guests, you don't put the swept-up bits back in the dish before you put it into the oven. For only four people, there's plenty without it.
9. Put the turkey back into the oven to brown while you finish cooking everything else. Smell something burning just as the smoke alarm goes off. Realize you set the oven to "broil" instead of "bake." The turkey is brown, all right. Oh, well, it doesn't matter if the top is a little charred. With only four people, you'll have more leftover turkey than you can handle, anyway.
10. Eat. Laugh. Be thankful. After all, you've survived pestilence, flood, and fire. It could have been worse.
The preceding story is true. I heard it from the lips of the participants, including the one who probably still has bits of sage between her toes.
I didn't think it could be topped until I read the following story in the newspaper the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Here is how a family in Boston had an even more memorable Thanksgiving:
1. Plan to cook dinner for just your immediate family, including your eight-months-pregnant daughter.
2. Have your daughter go into labor halfway through the dinner preparations.
3. Call 911. Stay on the line with an EMT while you wait for an ambulance. The baby seems to be arriving faster than the ambulance.
4. In between contractions, run back and forth to the kitchen to make sure the turkey isn't burning.
5. With tech support from the EMT on the phone, deliver your new granddaughter.
Apparently, both the baby and the turkey came out just fine. There was no report on which one weighed more.
And that leads me to the final point—how to have a truly thankful Thanksgiving. Simply be grateful that neither of these memorable celebrations happened to you.