SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
I’m happy to report that, contrary to all expectations, no disasters happened during my family’s Christmas decoration day this year. No falling tree, no burning extension cords … we did misplace a box of decorations, but if you saw my garage, you’d understand.
I came into possession of a free turkey this year (what the former owners don’t know won’t hurt them), so we decided to have a nice post-Thanksgiving dinner to go along with the decorating. We put decorations up the weekend of Thanksgiving, because anyone who displays Christmas stuff before that needs to be shot. I’m no cook, but my oldest daughter volunteered to make the meal, and all I had to do was clean up.
I learned a lot of things that day. For instance, cleaning up after a Thanksgiving meal is like agreeing to pick up the mess after a fight, only to find yourself on the battlefield at Gettysburg. I washed eight loads of dishes in one day. Ordinarily it’s more like one load in eight days. Sometimes, when I’m by myself, I can go for several days without washing dishes at all – I just rinse them off as soon as I’m done eating and throw them on the dish rack. I’m sure that recent case of food poisoning is completely unrelated.
Another thing I learned is just what it takes to actually make a full meal like that. Charis, my oldest, cautioned that it might be too expensive. Nonsense, I told her – we already had the turkey, which was the most expensive part. I also had potatoes, corn, and green beans – heck, that’s twice the number of dishes I usually serve in a meal. When I’m cooking, my kids are lucky to get buns for their hamburgers.
Boy, did I have a lot to learn.
I spent more money on food for that one meal than I had for all my groceries in the previous month. I bought stuff that’s never been in my house. What is sage, anyway? I thought it was a description of wise old men. What happens to cranberries the rest of the year? Who came up with the idea of stuffing? Was it somebody who just had a bunch of stuff that didn’t match any other food, and decided to mix it all together in a bowl to see what would happen?
“You need to take the giblets out,” Charis told me, as we approached the turkey. We’d been thawing the bird for three days; it was warmer than I ever get this time of year.
“Why can’t you take the giblets out?” I asked her.
“Because it makes me sick.”
“Oh. But it’s okay if I get sick.”
So, I asked her where the giblets were. And she told me.
“You want me to put my hand where?”
Look, eating a turkey is one thing, getting intimate with it is something else entirely. Besides, as it turns out, the turkey was still partially frozen; I couldn’t get its little legs out of the way. And yes, I know how that sounds -- let it go.
The giblets couldn’t just stay in there while the bird baked, because they were in a plastic bag. Somebody explain that to me. So, I … I … you know, there’s really no way to put this delicately. I gave the turkey a hot water enema, until it was thawed out enough to pull its insides to the outside, by which time I’d pretty much lost my appetite.
But the dinner went well, and so did every one of the next fourteen meals, all of which included that after Thanksgiving tradition of more turkey. My youngest daughter told me she was sick of turkey. How could that be? There was still some left.
The next act was the actual decorating, which went pretty well until my daughter pulled out a new box. She had gotten, at a great discount, a blow up doll. A blow up Santa doll – get your mind out of the gutter.
Now, this particular jolly old elf stood eight feet tall – which doesn’t fit my image of an elf at all – and held the words “Ho Ho Ho” in his big plastic hand. Was that necessary? Isn’t the frightening jolly laughter pretty much a given? But never mind that – the problem, as I explained to Charis, was that it just wasn’t going to fit into the living room.
“We need to set it up outside, in the front yard,” she explained.
“I don’t think so.”
I’m no Grinch. Usually. In fact, I like Christmas lights, and those little candles, and nativity displays. My next door neighbor has a really beautiful inflated snow globe, all lit up with fake snow constantly blowing through it. Very nice. But what we had was a giant, red, gaudy, scary looking Santa Clause. It’s the kind of thing I make fun of other people for displaying. No way, I informed my kids, was I allowing this monstrosity to be assembled where everyone in town could see it. Wasn’t going to happen. Forget it.
Anyway, it took us about an hour to set the thing up. Also – and I don’t know why I didn’t expect this -- you have to plug Santa in and blow air up his proverbial skirt to keep him inflated. That’ll do wonders for my electric bill.
Luckily, I came up with an excuse to stop electrifying him after just a couple of days. A strong wind came through – hardly a surprise this year – and I looked out to find Santa weaving and leaning over, looking very much like a Santa who imbibed in too much eggnog. I had to deflate him, because if the anchors let go he would have flown right into the neighbor’s snow globe, which would have been tragic.
For them, anyway. But I’d have made it up to them by sending over some turkey.