American Fiction Holiday

This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real experiences or people is coincidental and reproduced with mega poetic license.

 My name is Maria. I am the baby of our family. The first four siblings form the four oldest. Seven years are between me and my next older sister, and fourteen years between me and my oldest sister. I am still attending High School, whereas the others are married.

One sister, Katie, used to live in England with her husband. Once she became pregnant, her husband Finn relented, and they returned home – though not his home. We tease him when he misses England. It’s so easy for a Pom to whinge about homesickness; whinging comes easy to them, apparently. They used to be too far away to attend family gatherings. Katie didn’t make it home for my sister Laree’s wedding. But she did send over an exquisite cream silk wedding dress that fitted Laree perfectly on the day.

“Don’t worry about it being too tight. You’ll lose weight as the days count down. It will fit you perfectly without any need for alteration.” My sister Katie worked in a bridal boutique and bought the dress with her staff discount. She also knew that brides-to-be lose weight and their dresses invariably need altering. She planned ahead with a gown that was too tight. Just as well, my sister shrank. Imagine moving out fifty pearl buttons.

My brother Peter and his wife Sarah can travel back and forth as he is only five hour’s drive away. We love to stay with him as he lives near a beautiful lake. It’s a great place to holiday. He is a painter, and family members ask him to do all their painting.

I have a cute (but not) niece called Mandy, and my sister Lynley has a son named Evan. Evan is five years older than Mandy, who is three. At this stage, there are three grandchildren. My sister Katie and Finn, her husband, have an infant son, Johnny.

My four siblings have another father who is still alive somewhere. My father died. Mum remarried when my half-sister Laree, the youngest of the four, was a five-year-old. My Dad never had any children. His wife died of cancer after many years of illness. He didn’t enjoy being a widower and liked the thought of having a younger wife with an instant family, so he married my mother. He planned to have two children, but my Mum became so ill after having me that they decided to stop at five. They were too old to adopt a child.

As I grew up, my half-siblings gradually left the nest. I had words with Mum about changing her mind about another baby. If only I had a younger sibling. I could have had company. It would have been two against four and not four against one. Actually, I exaggerate. My brother Peter is the only one who treats me like a snot-nosed-brat. The youngest one broke the mold because she never fitted it. I don’t intend to, but I always prove him right. Whatever I say or do invariably shows me up in a bad light. I try to keep a low profile, but he still finds me trying.

Mum disagrees with me when I complain about his harshness. She tells me that my sister Laree fell from his graces in a much worse way. They only patched it up at Laree’s wedding. After my brother and his wife moved to the resort town, five hours drive away, my high-school-aged sister Laree would go to stay with them every opportunity she could. They thought it was lovely. At the time, our sister-in-law Sarah’s older brother, also named Peter, boarded with them. He was employed by our Peter’s boss as a painter. At least six months passed of Laree staying at Pete and Sarah’s whenever she could. Until shit hit the fan. She and the brother-in-law were caught canoodling on the sofa. Laree had fallen in love with Sarah’s brother, who was in his mid-twenties. They had been keeping it a secret. This was the reason Laree wanted to stay there whenever she could. My parents (Dad was still alive) were livid, and Peter and Sarah felt betrayed. Laree’s trips away halted abruptly, and the lovebirds’ romance was prevented on the pain of death or something closely resembling it. My brother didn’t speak to Laree for a long time. I thought he was unreasonable, but it explains why I am hassled over lesser things.

We have a close family, and we help each other out. We also get together for events and holidays. Because of our closeness, we also fall out in spectacular ways. I am the scapegoat.

Mum invited them all to stay at her house for Thanksgiving. It would be a working bee for us, with Mum providing most of the meal. My sisters always bring food along as well.

“Maria, some important instructions. I do not care what little Mandy does. You are not her parent, so please do not say anything to her or tell tales about her. Peter and Sarah think she is so cute. When she gets older and isn’t so cute, it will be their problem.” My mother constantly lectured me. “And please, don’t say anything to antagonize your brother.” This one is included in the first warning. I seem to blurt objectionable statements about many things in my brother’s presence.

How hypocritical. Mandy gets away with murder, and no one can say anything. Yet when I do things, the entire family, especially my brother, is on my case. Instead of reminding them that she is my parent, my mother agrees with them. I never got away with anything when I was sweet and tiny. Maybe that is why Mandy’s not-endearing antics make me mad. The scales of justice measure her crimes inaccurately.

I remember fouling up one time, and my sisters Laree and Katie wouldn’t talk to each other or me for ages. It was a Barbeque meal in the middle of Summer. All was going well except that I overheard Laree and Katie talking. They inadvertently mentioned some work that Laree had arranged to do for Katie. Sounded perfectly ok. I asked them what work Laree was going to do. I asked more audibly than the quiet words they had spoken to each other. Everyone’s ears pricked up, and the room went silent.

“It’s none of your business, elephant ears,” said Laree as she frowned and turned pink.

If you ask me what she said to me and how she looked gave away, there was a problem.

“What’s all this?” asked my mother, the matriarch. Neither Laree nor Katie said a word.

“What’s this about?” asked Laree’s husband.

“Don’t you even know?” said Mum. She meant that he, as the husband, ought to have known.

It all came out that Laree would go to Katie’s once a week and clean the house for her. She wanted to earn a little bit of money for herself. Her husband wasn’t happy. Mum was on his side and ticked off the girls for not including him in the arrangement. It didn’t matter what side of the fence everyone else placed themselves on; I was the one to blame. I should have kept my nose out because they sided with my sisters. Or, they thought it was tacky that because I spoke, Mum decided to give her soapbox speech about wives needing to listen to their husbands. I started it. Either way, I received the blame. Me and my big mouth. Naturally, my brother focused on this aspect.

I felt trepidation about everyone coming for Thanksgiving and Mum making it into a working bee. Having the responsibility of the family home, Mum seized every opportunity to get others to do chores. Massive tasks like painting the veranda. The forecast said it would be fine, and we usually used the back door. The perfect opportunity. My brother offered to buy the paint for Mum, but independent Mum bought her own. She believed her choice was cheaper and better. Mum also wanted gardening done. Everyone would have a job with the children playing happily. As if this can be predicted. I still had my playhouse in the backyard and many games and toys. My jobs included watching the two kids, helping in the kitchen, and gardening if I had any spare time.

Before Thanksgiving, we began our countdown preparation. Three weeks before, we purchased a gigantic turkey and put it into the freezer. We had worked on having enough freezer space. We checked what we had in the cupboards that would be needed for the meal and made up a shopping list of non-perishables.

We organized what drinks everyone would bring and what special dishes my sisters wanted to make. Diet-conscious Laree said she’d make a creamy cauliflower mash. We wouldn’t say it wasn’t potato to see if anyone noticed. Katie said she would get all the fruit for a Thanksgiving fruit salad. Mum promised to make her famous and easy crumble versus pumpkin pie-ish pudding, whipped sweet potatoes and bananas with honey, topped with spice and crushed pecans. Laree volunteered to cook her ever-popular curried butternut and squash vegetable soup. My specialty could be made in the last days before. Carrot spice thumbprint cookies topped with cream cheese frosting. Peter’s wife, Sarah, said she would make her divine cranberry sauce.

Mum always took on the most significant job. The turkey with caramelized onion and cornbread stuffing, with chopped-up apple pieces. Other side dishes included green bean casserole, Hasselback potatoes, cheese and corn muffins, and sauteed baby carrots. We stocked up the freezer with ice cream and bread.

The refrigerated turkey took three days to defrost. Then, it needed brine and preparation. On the day, roasting takes 3 to 4 hours.

The family started to arrive the day before, and everything was on schedule due to Mum’s careful planning.

Mandy insisted on the hallway light being on all night as she is scared of the dark. Before Mum said anything, the weeping and wailing started. Mum felt she should have grown out of her fear. She also didn’t like power being wasted. Mandy won.

On the day, painting of the veranda started. The menfolk were served morning tea. Soup and toast formed the basis of a light lunch. Thanksgiving itself is usually about five in the evening in our family. Everything was on track. Work had progressed nicely. Mandy came in to see Sarah, her mother and was curious about the food on the table. Mum’s whipped sweet potatoes and bananas with honey, topped with spice and pecans, sat on the table cooling. Sarah was oblivious to what her daughter was up to. I had the job of child-watching and kept my eyes on the little monster. It seemed I had been given the wrong job. Keep an eye on the children, but I can’t say anything to or about Mandy? What a contradiction.

Mandy climbed up on a kitchen chair, and I saw her chubby mitt reaching out toward the pudding. Very tempting indeed. She glanced at me with a look that, in my book, spelled defiance. I glanced at Sarah, who hadn’t noticed. Mandy reached further and triumphantly stuck two fingers right into the pudding. Then she turned slyly towards me and put them into her mouth. I wished she had yelped in pain, but it had, unfortunately, cooled sufficiently. I stared at her, not knowing how to handle it.

“Mandy, that is so naughty!” I blurted out. I felt revulsion when I thought about where those fingers may have been.

She smiled and started to weep and wail, “Auntie Marie is so mean to me. Sob . . sob.”

Sarah pounced into action. She rushed over to console Mandy. “What happened?”

“I want Daddy,” she wept.” Auntie Marie is so mean to me.” Sarah glowered at me, picked up Mandy, and flounced off to find Peter.

Mum looked at me and frowned. “I told you not to say or do anything to Mandy.”

“Mum, she put her fingers into the pudding. She did it to taunt me. Involving her Daddy is to get me into trouble.”

“Maria, grow up, she is only three. You should have ignored her.”

“We will all be eating that pudding. It’s grubby to stick your fingers in food. I’d have been spanked if I did that at three.”

Peter overheard my last words as he entered the kitchen, his overalls covered in paint splashes. “We don’t need to tell her off, as you already have. So, mean. She’s distraught. Poor little thing.”

Mum was standing beside me and discreetly stood on my foot. A firm hint to say nothing. The gall.

After that, I noticed Sarah, Peter, and Mandy entering the back garden and heading behind the garage. Maybe to have a private hate session about me. I’d always suspected that the phrase about Auntie Marie being mean came from Mandy’s parents. Not the other way around.

Evan played happily, Lynley perched beside the flower bed at the front weeding, Katie napped with baby Johnny, Laree, and her husband, Matthew, helped Finn with the painting. Peter didn’t come back.

“Hey, Maria,” said Finn, “About time for afternoon tea, you think?”

“On to it,” I said. I went into the kitchen and informed Mum I would make afternoon tea for them all and ask Pater and Sarah if they also wanted some.

It’s no problem to find them as I’d seen them go into the backyard earlier. As I headed toward the end of the garage, I heard them talking. I paused, not knowing whether to invade their privacy or sneak away.

“She’s so pedantic. She insisted on buying her own paint. The brand she got doesn’t have the right shade. The color just isn’t right,” said Sarah.

“I’m not concerned about the shade. Her choice. But I could have got it much cheaper.”

“I found out from Katie how much she spent on it. It was more than we could have got it for.”

“Not only that, but buying more paint does help our overall discount,”

“What gets me is coming all this way for Thanksgiving, doing chores for your Mum, and poor little Mandy being subjected to Maria’s nastiness.”

At that point, tears blinded my eyes, and I crept away. I went into the kitchen to make tea for the others. Peter and Sarah could come to find their own tea or coffee.

“What’s wrong?” Mum asked as I put on the water for the drinks.

I looked at her and shook my head. “It’s Peter and Sarah.”

“Not, Mandy?”

“Mandy is the way she is because of them. So, no.”

“What is wrong, then?”

I knew I should be silent, but I had been restraining myself to not offend anybody. "They are talking about the paint.” I started putting the cups out.

“The paint I bought?”

“Yes. They really wanted to get you cheaper paint.”

“I wasn’t convinced they could get it any cheaper.”

I pondered over my next question. Indeed, it shouldn’t make any difference, and I wanted to know. “Does Peter get more discount if he buys more paint?”

Mum stared at me. She chewed over this piece of information like it was a tough cut of steak. I could see her jaw set hard and a scowl on her face.

“So that’s why they wanted to buy the paint!”

“Mum, it doesn’t make any difference because you bought your own paint.”

“The hell it doesn’t make any difference. What a back handed gesture offering me cheap paint.”

Peter, Sarah, and Mandy came back into the house.

“Oh,” said Sarah, “Cuppa tea would be lovely.”

I felt trepidation as I put my spicy carrot cookies onto a plate.

“Peter,” said Mum, “Did you offer to buy the paint for me on account of the discount you could save up for yourself?”

“Who told you that?” He scowled.

Sarah stared. “Who told you that?”

“A little birdie told me.”

I began to put the water into the cups. My cheeks turning pinker by the second.

Sarah and Peter looked at each other and then at me. “Did you come out . . .” Sarah’s voice trailed off.

Mum thumped the bench. “How dare you offer to help me with paint when you were really going to help yourself.”

I escaped to call in the rest of the family for afternoon tea. Their presence could defuse the situation.

When we returned, Pete and Mum still argued.

Sarah was the worst. “I’m not staying here a moment longer. Maria is nothing but a meanie and a blabbermouth.” She left out the back door and turned to give Peter her last instructions. “I’ll put Mandy in the car and then I’m grabbing our stuff. You need to help.”

“What did Maria do now?” asked Katie.

“Me? What about you, agreeing with Peter and Sarah that Mum paid too much for the paint.” I objected to Katie, assuming it was my fault.

‘I did no such thing.”

“You told them how much Mum spent. That’s the same.”

Pete walked away. “Well, goodbye, we’re going home. I’ll grab our stuff. The painting is pretty much done.”

Finn spoke up, “I think we’ll head off too. It's not fair of Maria to criticize Katie.”

Laree and Matthew stood with their tea cups in their hands. “We’ll finish our tea and then we may as well go too.”

Mum stood in the kitchen, glowering, “What about all this food? Who is going to eat it with us?”

“Thanksgiving is ruined,” I said. “Who cares.”

And that’s how our crazy family missed Thanksgiving that year. In a way, it lasted for months with all the frozen goodies we continued to enjoy. We patched it up with the family later on. Until the next time . . .

December 01, 2023 11:58

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Marty B
22:11 Dec 03, 2023

Big families mean big problems! Petty drama, when all that food sounds so good! I loved the list of the dishes for the big dinner, made me hungry just reading- Thanks!


22:41 Dec 03, 2023

Thanks, Marty. It's not my first story mentioning yummy food. I am a great cook, cook a variety of foods from different cultures, and love watching cooking programs. I think I missed my calling. LOL. Funny thing is that I am in the Southern hemisphere and though we have adopted Halloween we have not adopted Thanksgiving so I've never cooked or eaten a typical Thanksgiving meal. Strange, as Japanese and other Asian cultures celebrate Christmas, and Easter and Valentines are popular everywhere, being financially viable for businesses. Adopting...


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Mary Bendickson
16:24 Dec 01, 2023

Seems way out of proportion blaming poor Maria for everything. Good job creating so many family members.


21:09 Dec 01, 2023

As for big families - the dynamics can be horrendous. Maria seems to have her head screwed on despite not being perfect. Poor Maria. She is a lot like one of my sisters and this is exactly how she thinks, reacts and speaks. She sees the wood for the trees. The rest is mostly fictional for the drama, of course. Will check yours out.


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