Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Year I Stopped Cooking Thanksgiving Dinner

For most of our married life--soon to be 48 years--we have lived many miles away from the rest of our extended family. When our children started moving out on their own, they didn't have the space or utensils to cook a big dinner. So it fell to me to produce a holiday meal.

Early in November on the particular year in question, I was chatting with my neighbor, Marie in our joint back yard when she asked, "What are you having for Thanksgiving dinner?" I know I shocked her when I shamelessly admitted I had no idea and furthermore I didn't plan to worry about it.

"But, but, but--" she stuttered.

"If the family wants a big dinner, they'll cook it. I'm done."

Now it wasn't nearly the arbitrary decision you might think. Most years my birthday falls either right before or right after Thanksgiving. The previous year was one of the years it was actually on Thanksgiving Day. I was up early roasting and baking and so forth while the kids and the hunk were off doing 'something' important. At dinner time, they all showed up, devoured dinner like a plague of locusts, and... left. Total elapsed time: 35 minutes.

As I cleaned and scrubbed and struggled with leftovers the rest of the afternoon (by myself), (with nary a simple 'Happy Birthday'), it occurred to me I was completely at fault. If you will allow yourself to be a doormat, well why get upset when folks walk all over you and wipe their feet on you? I resolved to stop being a doormat.

The next year, when the troops started discussing Thanksgiving dinner, I firmly announced I was going to order dinner from Boston Market and pick up a couple pies from the grocery bakery. My goodness what a fuss! That would never do. But I stood firm. I pointed out it was MY birthday and in all the years our family have lived miles and miles from the rest of our family, I had NEVER had a birthday cake--unless I baked it myself. That was understandable when the kids were small, but now, well now they were all adults. It was time for someone else to take over. AND clean up.

From that time on, until we moved out of state away from our children, I never cooked Thanksgiving Dinner again. And I never was reduced to ordering it from Boston Market. And I always had a birthday cake, one that I didn't bake.

When folks on social media moan and groan about how much cooking and shopping and baking they have to do, I struggle to keep my mouth shut, because I want to ask how it can be a family dinner when no other part of the family is participating in the preparation? Sometimes, you just have to speak up and let your family know you're not the holiday chef.

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