the autumnal mayhem I thought would be thanksgiving
Have you read the book The Relatives Came? It is one of my kids' favorites, I think because it reminds them of their own extended family, of the once-a-year visits where everyone piles in the car and ventures either this way or that, of the hugging and feasting that ensues once the travelers arrive, but mostly...the sleeping. The way the author, Cynthia Rylant, describes the nighttime--the tangle of arms and legs, a house filled with the strange sounds of unfamiliar breathing--is so spot-on that I think the children must all secretly believe it was written just for us.
three cousins in a double bed, one hidden
This Thanksgiving it was our turn to host the Relatives-not that we take turns, really, it's more just what results from a slew of phone calls back and forth- a so, what are you guys doing this year?-sort of thing. When I found out my husband had invited a whopping 17 extra bodies for the week, my first thought was this: after 10 years of houses, apartments, and duplexes, he picks this year, when we don't have a guestroom, to host the Relatives?
Then I remembered that extra house we own, the one we're not living in. Perfect! I hired a lovely woman to clean it to perfection (something I would have done myself had I not been on red-alert getting my own digs in order), then I filled it with comfy linens, toiletries, and a coffee-maker, all of which I hoped would distract from the fact that there isn't a stick of furniture in the place. I have to say, it's amazing how the combination of caffeine and Egyptian cotton sheets can make you feel like you're sitting on a sofa! Really! We stacked 11 people in the place, and the rest we scattered between here and my parents' house across the street.
I had hoped to serve the big meal in the greenhouse, drawing inspiration from the bevy of photos I'd found online documenting the recent trend of hosting one's nuptials in a greenhouse. Of course paper lanterns were a no-brainer, and I figured I'd borrow a half dozen tables from church, throw down some brown kraft paper, gourds-you know, unleash my inner Martha. I was certain the seven acres could contain whatever pre-dinner restlessness the little ones might experience, and maybe once we'd eaten, there'd be room enough for games, dancing, and the general mayhem that follows 15 cousins convening in one place.
I am such a romantic in these situations. Can you blame me?
What I didn't count on: a near-freezing weather forecast, featuring rain of biblical proportions. Epic rain. Rain that never had the decency to turn into snow. Playing outside was not an option. My father, as I mention here, follows the radar, so he had the 411 on climate control--and managed to steer me away from my ill-fated idea of a hothouse Turkey fest by offering up his own home as a sort of meal-time ground zero.
Because I have a brain in my head, I graciously accepted. Clean, dry, and-let's face it, my dad is an amazing cook.* In the span of a few minutes, I went from hosting to.....producing? Instead of being responsible for the bird and 18 sides, my job was to show up with stuffing, sweet potatoes, and 18 of my relatives. And let's be clear, these are not my parents' relatives. These people came with my husband, and they know how to eat.
*as is my mother, of course. No one beats her creamed chipped beef on toast! My birthday meal for years!