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First Time Hostess

I lay in bed mentally checking my to-do lists.  Tables set.  Were the card table legs fastened?  Cut a lemon for tea.  Put the turkey in the oven at 5:00 a.m.  – just five hours from now.  Bake two pecan pies.  Wipe the bathroom sink.  Would the kids (ages 3 and 5) agree to wear the cute new outfits that my mother had made?

I’d written, checked, and rechecked lists for three days.  It was Husband’s and my firsttime to host a holiday dinner for my family.  And it wasn’t my idea.  Mother and her two sisters had rotated Thanksgiving and Christmas meals in their homes for 35 years, and they’d decided it was time for the younger generation to take over.

“We’ll help,” Mother had said.  “I’ll make the cornbread dressing and you know your Aunt Nell and Aunt Doris and I always make the gravy together.  Save the turkey drippings.  And everybody brings food.  You just put a turkey in the oven and make tea and coffee and maybe a dessert.  It’ll be fine.”  I told myself that these were the people – all 22 of them – who loved me best.  Grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, brother, cousins.  If things weren’t perfect, they’d understand.

But I was determined that Husband and I could host the perfect Thanksgiving dinner.  I’d take pecan pies out of the oven just after everyone arrived.  Wouldn’t that make the house smell good?  By tradition, I had covered the tables with white tablecloths, and set them with my best china, crystal goblets, silver, and floral centerpieces.

Thanksgiving morning, 5:00 a.m., I shoved an 18-pound turkey into a 325* oven and climbed back into bed until daylight.  I rolled and turned, but didn’t sleep.  I got up.  The morning passed quickly.  How many times can one adjust plates and forks and napkins?  Our children were cuter than cute in their new clothes.  Bathroom sinks sparkled.  Husband promised that the card tables wouldn’t fall.  I rolled out piecrusts – no store bought crusts for this feast – and used the family recipe for pecan filling.  Turkey out of the oven and pie in, right on schedule.

Our guests arrived carrying sweet potato pudding, corn, asparagus casserole, green beans, pumpkin pies, and more.  Mother and my aunts filled my small kitchen as they stirred and tasted the giblet gravy.  Husband sliced the turkey.  We could’ve been models for Norman Rockwell’s November magazine cover.  The oven buzzer sounded.  “That’s the pecan pies,” I announced.

“You even made pies this morning?”  my cousin asked.  I opened the oven door, grabbed two potholders and carefully set the first pie on a cooling rack.  When I lifted the second one out of the oven, it was a slippery sliding disk.  The hot pie flipped out of hands and landed upside down on the floor and splattered onto my shoes.  Tears ran down my face, and everyone assumed that the hot pie filling had burned my feet.  Not so.  The pecan pie oozing under the refrigerator erased all pretense of a picture-perfect Thanksgiving.

Now, some thirty years later, I make short lists, check them once, and don’t bake pies.  And it’s just fine.  And I’m thinking maybe it’s time for the younger generation to take over.

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