It seems only fitting, since readers are sharing their most memorable Thanksgiving stories in this issue, that I share one of my own. I firmly believe that one of the easiest – or hardest? – life skill is the ability to sincerely laugh at yourself. I knew people who couldn’t, and I don’t think they were very happy with themselves. Life was, well, too serious for them.
I am not sure what this indicates, but I have an abundance of opportunities to laugh at myself.
One of my most memorable Thanksgivings happened in the first year of my marriage, which is now a relatively creaky 28 years old. We were renting a townhouse in a little city called Crofton, Md., halfway between Annapolis and Washington, D.C. I worked as the entertainment editor of a newspaper called The Capital in Annapolis; my husband Brian was a sports copy editor with The Times in D.C.
My sisters and brothers had for the most part migrated from Cleveland to the D.C. metropolitan area; Brian had a brother who was an F.B.I. agent who lived in nearby Virginia. Neither of us had lived near relatives for the better part of a decade, so we were eager to enjoy family time by hosting a big pre-Thanksgiving dinner.
The preparations, to us, were more than half the fun. They still are. We have the rituals down pat: The night before, I prepare the dressing, based on my mother's recipe. Brian spends the day peeling apples and baking two apple pies, gathering the ingredients for his mother's favorite salad, and preparing the brine for the turkey which is by then, hopefully, thawed.
Then as now, we wake up early, turn on the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Brian cooks a breakfast casserole and I pull the fresh cranberries out of the freezer and I put them in boiling sugar water. Several hours later, they are ready to be placed in the refrigerator to solidify by dinnertime at 5 p.m.
The turkey goes into the oven around 12:30 and the rest of the day is spent relaxing until meal time.
That year, we had his brother and his wife over. I was so excited. The décor was perfect, the bird was juicy and flavorful and we were well on our way to a holiday worthy of the memory book.
Just before sitting down to eat, I remember the cranberries. I ran back into the kitchen to grab them out of the fridge. As I turned to go back into the dining room, the container slipped out my grasp and went crashing to the floor.
A little physics lesson: When a bowl of cranberries is dropped from a height of approximately 4 feet, it becomes a volcano. The Mt. Vesuvius of berries. A Mount St. Helen's of sticky redness.
There were sticky berries on the ceiling, the stove, the refrigerator, the walls and … me. So here was the dilemma. Do I pretend it never happened, clean myself up, salvage what cranberries I can and cheerily re-enter the dining room? Or do I 'fess up and walk in like a crime victim, covered in red goo?
I chose the first option. I whipped off the apron covered in berries, mopped my black shirt (thank you, Lord), quickly wiped down the walls and floor (the ceiling could wait), and transferred the remaining berries into a different bowl.
Other than my husband, no one knew until years later when I laughed about it at a family gathering. But I will never, ever forget the cranberry bowl falling in slow motion and the funnel of redness shooting up to the ceiling. It was quite spectacular.
May you all have a less spectacular Thanksgiving than that one. We hope you enjoy the Thanksgiving memories shared in the paper today. And we truly hope you enjoy family, friends and good food tomorrow.