“Are you fucking kidding me? I don’t even wanna cook for me and you. Now you’ve invited your parents?”
“And my sister….”
“Your sister, too? Well, Happy Thanks-Goddamn-giving to me.”
“Listen, they invited themselves, what was I supposed to say?”
“How about, ‘since you clearly and flagrantly despise my wife, perhaps asking her to SERVE.YOU.FOOD. might not be in your best interest’.”
“Would you seriously poison them?” Brett chuckled but stopped abruptly when Beth leaned in with gritted teeth and asked, “Would you seriously BLAME me?”
* * * * * *
“Why didn’t you teach me how to cook?”
Beth’s mom received the accusation and volleyed back one of her own, “Because when I tried you bitched and complained and said you were going to ‘marry a man who takes care of the kitchen shit’.”
A roll of her eyes and a quick nod of resignation to the fact her mother was right and Beth had never been more thankful for the 72 miles of telephone wire that separated them. She wanted her mother to know neither about the eyes nor the fact she had acquiesced, “well… so far, in the first 6 months of our marriage, he hasn’t proven to me that he even knows we have a kitchen. And now I have to cook for his people. Who, by the way, think he married down.”
Her mom spent the next 15 minutes encouraging Beth, offering to be by the phone all day Thursday and laughing at the out-of-proportion reactions she had come to expect from her only daughter. “Good luck, you’ll do fine… and honey… no man married to you could have married down.”
* * * * * *
Thursday morning Beth was as civil as could be expected while doing something she was so loathe to do. She’d made up her mind last night to make the most of their first Thanksgiving as husband and wife and her smile paid homage to the harmonious evening they’d spent cleaning the house and prepping for today’s activities. She was definitely thankful for Brett, their’s was a marriage based on equality and subsequently, respect, and sex, definitely sex. Still savoring the memory of the previous night, Beth dropped onto his lap in the recliner and began nuzzling his neck, she felt his body respond immediately, “mmmm everything is pretty much ready… you did tell them three o’clock, right?” now everything else stiffened, “I was enjoying that until you brought my sister and parents into it… but yes, I told them dinner would be served at three o’clock. I guess I thought they might get here a little beforehand…”
Forty-five minutes later… “Sorry we’re late, I was watching the Macy’s Day Parade and I must’ve missed Snoopy so I had to rewind… oh Beth, I’m so jealous of your relaxed way of house cleaning… and look at Brett… you could be a chef my dear…”
“Actually, mom, Beth made everything. I just carried it to the tab….”
“Oh my, now he’s carving the turkey. You could be a butcher… Brett the Butcher, at your service. How lucky you are Beth… I made a wonderful young man,” Lucy gave herself a round of delicate applause.
Brett’s dad asked if he could help. Beth smiled appreciatively and assured him everything was taken care of, “…all you need to do is pick a chair and dig in. I’ll grab the butter and be right behind you.”
Beth walked into the dinning room to find Lucy and Michelle sitting to either side of Brett. With an inaudible sigh and forced smile she grabbed her cup from in front of Lucy and claimed the seat next to her sister-in-law. Each dish sat at her father-in-law’s left and was passed counterclockwise. As he handed the stuffing to his wife he smiled, “Everything looks delicious, Beth.”
“Thank you Cliff. ‘Cook’ is a four-letter word in every sense so be forewarned.”
“Oh my dear, I’m sure it’s superb even if it is a little cold….” Lucy drew up her nose and groaned as she pushed aside the congealed skim of gravy.
“Thank you… it’s just that I was a worried about everything drying out…”
“Beth is more of a toss the football kinda girl. Kitchen duty is not really her bailiwick,” Brett inexplicably offered.
Beth looked around for help… none was coming. “Well, I… I had it all set to be served at 3 but…”
“Does she want potatoes?” Michelle was asking Brett while jamming her thumb in Beth’s direction.
“I’m sure she does. Especially after all the effort she put into them,” Brett’s look was full of pride as he continued, “this is only her second attempt at real potatoes…”
“What do you mean real potatoes, my dear?”
“Oh we use the instant flakes,” he rolled his eyes from Beth to Lucy, “nothing you would understand mom.”
Beth took in Lucy’s wide-eyed horror and turned to her groom, “Actually… Brett… the first time I cooked for you I made real mashed potatoes and you told me you prefer instant, so that’s mostly why I….”
“Did you make sugar-free cranberries? You know I can’t have all that sugar…”
Beth looked to Brett in a panic, she put up her hands and shrugged her shoulders while mouthing, ‘I didn’t know’ then she glimpsed the mound of potatoes, gravy and stuffing challenging the boundaries of Lucy’s plate, “I’m sorry Lucy it didn’t even occur to me…”
“Mom, I can try to whip up something, we have some of the ingredients left…”
“Oh Brett, you’re so considerate. Beth won the husband lottery when she got you to marry her. But no thank you, it’s too late now for any cranberries for me. I’ve been really watching what I eat anyway…” Lucy trailed off wistfully while the buttons of her blouse tested the mettle of the thread holding them in place. “I’m sure you noticed I’ve lost a couple of pounds?” her cajoling was, thankfully, directed at Brett.
In an effort to unsee the diamond-shaped patches of skin growing between each duo of straining buttons Beth turned her attention to Brett’s sister and realized she was getting quite familiar with the older sibling’s back while Michelle held Brett’s attention hostage. “Can we discuss this…” Michelle waved her arms in an all-encompassing arc.
“Discuss what, Sis?”
“Well… going way back… the fact you didn’t tell me you planned to propose. I should’ve been informed. Then the crooked stamp on your RSVP envelope. I was mortified when I dropped that thing in the mailbox,” she turned just enough to let Beth know this was for her, “…it takes literally 3 seconds to put a stamp on an envelope straight.” She once again acquainted Beth with her back, “And that wedding… I guess it was ok but I’d NEVER do the white dress and bridesmaids… and she made you wear a tux? I don’t even know you anymore.”
Beth opted out by striking up a conversation with Cliff, “Did Brett tell you he made that picture frame?” Cliff’s eyes followed the path of Beth’s finger.
“Uh, yeah… he mentioned he was making a special frame. It’s nice but he should’ve used a wider router….”
Beth wasn’t sure exactly when her sanity had wandered off but she knew she’d better track it down. She stood and asked, “Babe, do you want to clean up these yams so I can take the bowl into the kitchen?”
“Brett doesn’t like yams,” from somewhere opposite Michelle’s back.
“Actually, he does, we eat them often,” and with that Beth excused herself from the shit show called ‘Thanksgiving Dinner’ never actually knowing if Brett wanted the damn yams or not.
A few minutes spent organizing the disaster that was her kitchen did wonders. She took a deep breath, turned toward the room of horrors and mumbled ‘I can’t even wrap my mind around the fact a filthy kitchen is the lesser of two evils.’. She returned to the dining room, sanity mostly intact, to find Michelle trying to take a ‘family selfie’. When Beth snuck around behind Brett Michelle dropped the phone, clearly vexed, “Nuclear family only please. But maybe you could take the picture,” she jammed her cell phone at Beth.
“Actually Brett and I would love to get a picture of the five of us since we aren’t able to display any of the wedding pictures of his family… the photographer wasn’t able to crop your ex-boyfriend out, unfortunately.”
* * * * * *
Three hours and innumerable veiled (and a few not-so-veiled) shots later, Beth sat at the kitchen table, staring off into the abyss, preparing her psyche for a lifetime of these people. Brett walked in from the driveway, “They said to tell you thank you and they can’t wait for Christmas.”