My intentions were to never host a Thanksgiving dinner. Ever. But, like all great schemes of rodents and humans, my plans went awry.
You see, being a middle child has many downfalls. I never got the first crack at anything (piercing my ears, getting a Walkman, driving a car) and many of my clothes when I was a child were gently worn before they made it into my dresser drawers. Even in school, I was constantly compared to my older sister, who was just two years ahead of me. But, not being the youngest, I also didn’t get any of the advantages that come with being the last baby of the family. There were many small offenses that my younger brother got away with on a regular basis that wouldn’t have flown for my sister or me, namely fake-claims of torture by his older siblings.
Stuck in the middle. That is me.
Always looking on the bright side though, I have found a way to make my middle ground a productive one. Up until we moved away from Idaho, one of those advantages was never having to do the heavy lifting on the holidays! As soon as Thanksgiving plans were finalized, I annually threw my name into the potluck pot to bring rolls. That’s right. Rolls. Not homemade rolls, but swing-by-the-grocery-store –on-the-way-to-the-meal rolls. In a pinch, I could be counted on to pick up any other last might Albertson’s buys, so it wasn’t as if I weren’t willing to do my share. It is just that my share didn’t involve much time in the kitchen.
The long term plan was to show up every fourth Thursday of November to indulge in my dad’s deliciously home-cooked feast. When that was no longer an option (an idea I can barely contemplate), I figured either my sister would host, as the oldest sibling, of my brother’s wife would throw a spectacular holiday even.t.
Then, two years ago we moved to Chengdu, where I organized a community Thanksgiving dinner for the Americans who were living there with the consulate. This one required a lot more legwork on my part, planning and preparing, but again, nothing in front of a stove or oven. Sticking with my traditional role in the event, I signed up to bring the rolls when I created the potluck papers. With tiny Chengdu ovens, we ordered the turkeys pre-cooked from a local bakery, where I just went ahead and put in my bread order at the same time. Easy peasy.
2014 changed it all. No longer could I just be the roll-gal.
With a combination of friends from Chengdu and new embassy friends here in KL, I went from never taking on a Thanksgiving dinner to hosting for ten. (I know ten isn’t a huge number for a holiday meal, but it was more than a big enough one for my inaugural efforts!) After weeks of preparing and shopping, it was time to make this thing happen. Emails about traditional must-haves had gone back and forth and an awesome turkey tablecloth was on order from Amazon. (Side note: it never came. Sometimes the DPO is unpredictable. I am guessing it will come home with Thad today. Five days too late for this year’s table masterpiece, its debut will be put off indefinitely, as I have no plans to become an annual host of this feast-madness. I hauled Thad to Spotlight with me, where we [by which I mean I] spent nearly an hour debating the pros/cons of tablecloth vs. place mats. I had a new turkey platter (although not nearly as awesome as the one I grew up with), fancy new gravy boats (that ended up being totally non-functional, dripping gravy across the table from one end to the other) and nine chairs ready for seating. (But wait! Ten guests were coming…eeek!)
Luckily, our fantastic guests are much better cooks than I am and threw in to make sure the meal was a success. Along with a massive amount of bird, we had gourmet mac ‘n cheese, sweet potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, rolls (of course!), mashed potatoes, gravy, tossed salad, and pie. Lots of pie. As dishes went in and out of the oven and off and on the stove, Skype calls were made to locals all over the US, with Thanksgiving wishes extending from KL to families and friends on the other side of the world.
By the end of the meal, we were all ready to loosen our belts a hole or two and stumble our way to the living room for an entertaining evening debating with state would be best to cut loose from the Union and giggling at horrifying maternity announcement photos on Facebook.
I may not have been able to get away with merely showing up, rolls in hand, but this year’s Friends-giving reminded me of how many people I have to be thankful for; those who we were able to spend the day with and those who range from Nairobi to Washington DC to Idaho are all counted among our many blessings.
Happy Thanksgiving! Gobble. Gobble.