A Cluster of Candy Canes
I wrote this in December of 2010. I am using it again because it is one of my favorite columns…and because nothing much is different. This annual turkey/tree tradition has continued in the ensuing years (one year we even had EVERYONE here.) The age range is now from 9 to 21 so cribs and sippy cups are no longer needed but the essence of the narrative is astonishingly unchanged. I still over prepare, chaos still reigns and we still have varying people at the table claiming they no longer eat meat. And then they do. The tree is still too big, covered with too many ornaments collected over our 57year marriage, but each is a cherished memory. And despite my annual suggestion that we “skip the tree this year,” I’m glad we didn’t.
2010: Two of our three children and six of our eight grandchildren were here for Thanksgiving this year, a rare and happy event for us. We see everyone often but as a geographically challenged family, we usually do the traveling and it’s been a long time since we’ve had so many of them under our roof.
Their arrival was preceded by a week of frenzied preparation. Since the ages of the children range from 13 years to 22 months, we went shopping for a portable crib, Sippy cups, books, toys, games, puzzles and videos.
Futons, booster seats and a high chair were borrowed and a bed for us provided by a friend up the street since there was no room for us at our inn. Breakables were put out of reach, cabinets were secured, anything that could be harmful, hidden.
Ignoring a lot of advice to the contrary, I cleaned every corner of the house, ensuring everything was in perfect order. Visions of a storybook Norman Rockwell gathering danced in my head. Menus were carefully planned and shopped for, freshly baked cookies and hot soup ready when they walked through the door on Tuesday.
The chaos that immediately ensued was, well, chaotic. Hugs, happy hellos and a steady stream of soggy stuff making its way into the house and up the stairs. Coats and scarves and boots were strewn everywhere. As I tripped over suitcases I rapidly realized how out of practice I am in coping with confusion and I smiled ruefully as I thought of the futile hours spent putting everything in place. I really should have heeded that advice.
The age gap posed all sorts of unanticipated challenges; toddlers need naps and eat dinner early but older cousins don’t which resulted in mealtime madness. Pancakes for breakfast delighted some while others preferred Cheerios and everyone needed a different kind of milk. A few had decided (recently) to live as vegans which meant even turkey was verboten but we were assured the side dishes on Thursday would be sufficient. Games that are fun for some are boring for others and videos that are exciting can be frightening to little ones. Frigid temperatures severely limited outdoor opportunities to work off all that energy although the sighting of fresh bear tracks in our yard created excitement for everyone.