A Family Thanksgiving
Was it wrong to be glad your sister-in-law couldn’t come to Thanksgiving dinner? Kathy felt guilty, but secretly, she was thrilled that Lisa, wife of her older brother, Ted, would be away on her girlfriends’ cruise and couldn’t make it.
Lisa was so competitive. No matter what was being discussed, Lisa could top it. If Kathy was praised for a recipe, Lisa knew how to make one that was tastier. If one of Kathy’s children had earned an honor in high school, Lisa’s college-age children had earned something better. No matter how hard Kathy worked to make Thanksgiving special, Lisa always managed to spoil the day.
That year, no Lisa at Thanksgiving meant no drama, and Kathy was so pleased. Even after waking at five a.m. on Thanksgiving so she could stick her hand up a half-frozen turkey’s rear end to get it ready for baking, she was humming Christmas tunes and cheerfully assembling sweet potato casseroles when Stan got up.
“Why are you in such a good mood?” he asked.
“No reason,” Kathy said.
The doorbell rang at eleven a.m., and Kathy was still humming when she opened the door to find Ted on her doorstep—until she saw Lisa beside him.
“Darling,” said Lisa, air-kissing Kathy. “Our ship had engine trouble, so all of us on the girlfriends’ cruise made it home for Thanksgiving. I told Ted it would be a surprise.”
“It certainly is,” Kathy said.
“Besides, I didn’t want you to worry about having enough food. I don’t eat as much as you all anyway, you know.” Lisa was fond of letting the family know that her “fat” clothes were a size four.
Kathy laughed. “It’s Thanksgiving, Lisa. One more mouth would hardly be noticed around here.”
“Oh, you’re sweet,” she said, “but I do remember that year you ran out of dessert and Ted couldn’t have that second piece of pumpkin pie he wanted. Ah, family memories. Right?”
“Right,” Kathy said, grimacing. “If you’ll excuse me, I need to check on the turkey.”
“No problem. I know how hard you try to cook one that’s not too dry,” Lisa said.
Kathy bit her lip and walked away. She had a troubled look on her face as she scooted Stan away from his nibbling around the stove.
“Something wrong?” he said.
“Just something Lisa said,” she replied.
“Honey, don’t let her get to you. If you can’t ignore her, just give it right back to her. There’s no use letting her ruin your Thanksgiving.”
Suddenly, Kathy thought, He’s right.
By noon, the dining room was full, and everyone was standing around enjoying appetizers. In addition to Stan and Kathy and their teenage sons, Sean, fifteen, and Lee, thirteen, there were Ted, Lisa, Stan’s parents, Kathy and Ted’s parents, and three assorted aunts. Stan’s Aunt Mabel, a real sweetheart, had already complimented Kathy on setting the dessert table with the pretty harvest-themed teapot Mabel had given her as a hostess gift last Thanksgiving. Kathy had known Mabel would notice that. Every time Kathy used the teapot, she recalled the gracious woman who had given it to her. Soon, everyone was seated around the table. Stan blessed the meal and carved the turkey, which Kathy noted was slicing with ease.
“Mmm,” said Ted. “This is the best turkey you’ve ever made, sis.”
“Yeah,” said Sean. “Dad, can you cut me another slice?”
“Can I have another roll?” asked Lee.
“Kathy, your green been casserole is especially tasty this year,” said Aunt Mabel. “Did you grow the green beans?”
“Oh, heavens no. Those are straight from the produce aisle of Kroger,” Kathy said.
“If you want some good green beans, the organic ones at Publix are great,” Lisa said. “They’re not that much more than the ones on sale at Kroger.”
Kathy had had enough. She cleared her throat, took a sip of her iced tea, and said, “Lisa, what’s really bothering you?”
Lisa sounded surprised. “Bothering me? Nothing’s bothering me. Why would you say that?”
The men around the table looked nervous. The women looked intrigued.
“Every year, you make these comments about the meal, or the house, or the groceries, and I’m just wondering if I’ve done something to upset you.” Kathy’s voice wasn’t shaking, her face wasn’t red, and she was perfectly in control. It felt great. “If I’ve done something to bother you, let’s clear the air and get it settled. If I haven’t, then what can I do to get you to stop your criticism?”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Lisa said, getting up from the table with a stunned look on her face. “I’m feeling rather nauseated, probably because I’ve just returned from sea. I’m sorry, but I don’t think I’ll be able to finish this meal. I think we need to go, Ted.”
Looking embarrassed, Ted rose from the table.
“Are you sure that’s all it is?” Kathy asked.
“I’m sure,” Lisa said. “Please forgive me.”
Kathy looked her in the eye and said, “Of course I forgive you.” And to her brother, she said, “Let me at least send you home with some food. We’ve got enough to feed an army.”
She sent Ted and Lisa off with a shopping bag full of Tupperware and then returned to the table. Everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time.
After lunch, the men headed off to watch ballgames while the women helped tidy up. Mabel walked over and squeezed her arm. “You handled that beautifully, dear.”
Kathy smiled. “Did I?”
“Lisa has never had anyone stand up to her, and you did it kindly but firmly. It was just what she needed.”
“Thank you,” Kathy said. “That means a lot coming from you, Aunt Mabel.”
Mabel gave her another squeeze and said brightly, “Now, let’s use that pretty teapot to make us all a nice pot of cranberry tea—to celebrate a most happy Thanksgiving.”
“I’ll drink to that,” Kathy said. And she did.