Thanksgiving has been something of a struggle for me since my father died. Before he passed away, and before my breakup with my ex, my parents always did their thing, and we did ours. We actually had something close to the ideal American Thanksgiving where we would all get together and cook up a big meal, pig out, hang out and just be happy together. But now that Mom is alone, naturally I want to include her, but she isn't open to including our wants or needs, and she has just decided that we must all go to her home in Palm Desert every year whether we want to or not. If I even try to suggest staying home here for the holiday she begins to act like a broken hearted child and I have felt forced to go along with her desire in an effort to please her and keep us all together in one place. I mean she absolutely panics over the idea of our not going to her desert vacation home for this holiday -- she's that adamant about it.
I actually like our little home there and I love Palm Desert -- there's just something clean and relaxing about being there so I look forward to it. I enjoy getting away, and I love the mountains and the light, the ease of livability there. So it isn't that hard for me to go along with going there to celebrate the holiday but it's a big sacrifice for Scott who would probably rather stay home, gather up some friends, and have a nice meal together, or even just go out to eat somewhere where they provide the basic traditional ingredients of this holiday meal. I feel guilty for having to sort of force the issue and insist that we go along with Mom's plans because at eighty-eight, or whatever age she is, I don't know how many more Thanksgivings I will get to spend with her and I want to be with her while she is still here with us on earth. I also want Mom and Beau to be able to spend a little time together and this is the only way they ever get to do this. So this means Scott gets dragged along with us, even though he has impossibly high Thanksgiving standards and has never really even been able to meet them on his own.
Unfortunately, because of her advanced age and the fact that she has always relied on her helpers to do everything for her aside from the main cooking that she actually used to be pretty good at, my Mother is totally unable to be a good hostess, she just isn't up to it any more, even though she wants to and thinks she still can. She doesn't know that she has become really stingy, because as prices have naturally risen, she hasn't been able to account or allow for this. She just gets upset over the prices and won't spend accordingly, so she gives her housekeeper the same amount she's always given her, even less, and expects her to be able to stretch this paltry amount of money and still be able to buy enough food to feed all of us. Worried that I will be wasteful and buy too much, she tries to control the expense by asking me to make a list of the food items we require and then proceeds to ignore seventy-five percent of our minimal requests. Even making sure we have toilet paper, soap or towels is beyond her. When we wind up going out to eat or supplement the few foods she buys, most of which are geared towards her particular tastes, she picks on me and accuses me of being a wasteful spendthrift. Oh what fun.
She is seriously lacking in the grace it takes to have guests to your vacation home and ensure their comfort. Because she is elderly and in pain, she spends most of her time in bed in her room, rarely coming out to sit at her dining room table where if I try to join her in the morning she doesn't want to engage in conversation because she prefers to read the paper, and if she comes out at night, she complains about the types of food we eat, or the fact that Beau doesn't like the foods she has chosen to buy for him because she thinks he should like them.
Then there is the problem with the thermostat. Mom, like most elderly people, is always cold and overheats the house. Scott is always hot and wants to leave all of the doors and windows open and the two of them fight over the thermostat. In my Mother's room I am too hot, and in my own room I am too cold.
Beyond all of this is the fact that Mom's greedy, creepy, borderline evil housekeeper hates everyone and naturally wants to be at home with her own family and can't cook. This plus my immature, selfish, churlish, messy, online-gaming-addicted teenager, when mixed with my anxious, overheated, weed-smoking, ideal Thanksgiving wanting boyfriend, who doesn't have a lot of patience for my queenly distant Mother, and acts like he is crawling out of his skin most of the time and is just dying to hop into his car and hit the road for home, and the fact that neither my Mother, Scott, or I can stand up for any length of time to cook up anything good in the kitchen, is really the perfect recipe for a rotten Thanksgiving. And yet I always fantasize that somehow I will be able to put these three people I love more than anyone else in the world, together, and we will experience this blissful melding and feel like a happy family; all the people I love under one roof, in the same place and time, once or twice a year -- oh silly naive me.
As I read your recipe I fantasized that cooking for everyone, making good food, might somehow alleviate some of the weird loneliness that I always end up feeling, but where will the money come from, or the energy? I'm broke as can be right now and Mom won't even give us money for pies, at least I don't think she will. I'm sick of having rotten Thanksgivings, and every year I promise myself I will come just that much closer to perfecting this meaningful holiday the following year. But I never give up the hope, even as I write this recipe for a disastrous Thanksgiving down, I am still hanging on to the fantasy that we will be happy there together.
In my ideal Thanksgiving fantasy I see us seated around a table, my family and friends, each stating his or her thanks for whatever gifts or blessings they received that year, and then everyone enjoys a cruelty free meal together, and ends up sitting on the couch cuddled up and maybe sharing some music and art together or playing board games and charades. Oh well, I can always dream, can't I?