I have long held that the arch nemesis to plate spinners everywhere is Martha Stewart. Simmering in her crafty household perfection, the ridiculously high standard she sets is one to which those of us laboring in the trenches don’t even bother to aspire.
But when it comes to Thanksgiving, there is another foe of sorts – an artist who emblazoned his idea of wholesome Americana on the the covers of the Saturday Evening Post for years. Thats right. Norman Rockwell. For many generations, he set the bar for us all.
I never realized until this year, though, that I had been falling into his trap. Heaping more pressure on myself than spoonfuls of stuffing on my plate, food was always the focus and the table had to be perfection. It just had to be.
This year, though, something odd and wonderful happened. My focus shifted from food to, of all things, family.
It all started when I was stepping out of the shower with just minutes to spare before the guests were due to arrive.
Someone tapped on the door.
“Hang on a minute!” I shouted.
I wrapped my hair in a towel and shimmied into my jeans and a sport bra (because, really, who wants to be bothered with having to adjust bra straps when you are about to serve food to thirty people?).
I was vigorously towel drying my hair when I heard the second tap.
I knew if I surrendered the bathroom to this intruder, I’d never be ready in time.
“Just a second!” I called out.
But the tapper persisted. Fearing it was my youngest who had already tried the other bathrooms and was about to make more of a mess than I was willing to deal with, I flung open the door. Shirtless.
There, grinning from ear to ear, was my first born. The one who told me that he had to work on Thanksgiving and couldn’t join us. The one who I had felt so very bad for as I pictured him alone and hungry in his dorm room on Thanksgiving day.
“Surprised?” he asked.
I took a record thirty seconds to dry my hair, pull on a shirt and make it to the kitchen where I saw my father-in-law and his family arriving bearing two large foil pans filled with his famous rice and beans and chicken dish.
“Put these in the oven to keep warm,” someone said. I was aghast. Real estate on the inside of my humble little appliance was at a premium. And the potatoes still needed mashing. I felt myself morphing, one holiday too early, into the Grinch.
I started delegating to the anyone who had the misfortune of getting in my way. By the time I finally took my seat beside my husband, I was ready to fling a turkey leg at anyone who made a sound.
Then my husband made a brief, but beautiful, toast and everyone dug in.
That’s when Norman himself elbowed his way into my subconscious. I looked out over the crowd. Every one was chatting and laughing, eating and drinking.
And quite unexpectedly, I felt like the Grinch at the end of the show when his tiny, shriveled heart begins to grow and grow and GROW.
One glance out at my family, my big extended family, and I remembered just how blessed I am.
Norman would’ve been proud…