One Christmas I calculated that between preparing turkeys for Thanksgiving and for Christmas, I had filled more than 45 platters with the holiday bird. Some birds were roasted covered with foil, some baked in brown paper bags, and some just cooked with the lid off. For each of them, I had risen by 6 a.m. to baste them with melted butter and set them in an oven at 325 degrees.
“When is enough, enough?” I asked myself. I believe it is now.
I announced to my family that I would not be cooking the holiday dinner. The local restaurant had a special deal for 15, which was about our size. They looked quizzically at each other, but probably thought, “Our Mom sounds like she means it, this time.”
On the holiday, my son and his family arrived. One daughter and her family came, late as usual. The single daughter had her Boston friend. My young French friend, a student at Harvard, and a few other singles gathered together to ask an early Lord’s blessing. I handed my husband several large bills and asked him to take my son and Nicolas (he needed to see this new American tradition) to go get the specially prepared “Dinner for 15” at the restaurant. They would bring it home in splendor.
During our wait, the girls and I finished decorating the table with my good damask tablecloth. I tried to cover a stain with a bowl of flowers. Didn’t work, but the cut glass bowl for cranberry sauce fit perfectly. No one likes cranberry sauce, so it wouldn’t be passed.
Finally, the trio arrived, arms carrying styrofoam boxes and lugging large paper bags. We unpacked the food, spooning mashed potatoes into a bowl. Green beans, corn, fruit salad, green salad all into bowls. The cranberry sauce into the cut glass bowl. Rolls and butter on special plates.
Now for the turkey. We opened the box of turkey, expecting to see a big roasted bird with wings and legs sticking up in the air in surrender. We gasped. Disappointment. Nothing but slice after slice of white meat, dark meat, and more white meat. Where was the beautiful turkey I had always presented? Oh well. At least I wouldn’t have to do the carving.
But “Wait,” someone cried. “Where was the gravy?” The men looked at each other. Gravy? They searched the bags and boxes. No gravy. Impossible. “Not to worry,” I said, and solved the problem with my usual efficiency. I brought out two packets of dry gravy mix and boiled water. It was thin and watery. Oh dear.
I tried to smile as I handed a half full gravy boat to my husband. “We’ll just use more butter on the potatoes and pour catsup on the turkey,” I said. “Now please everybody sit down, pass the food and let’s eat. We’ve already said Grace.”
They sat, they passed the food, they ate. Silence except for occasional chewing. No gravy. How could it be Christmas without any gravy? I never learned the answer, but I learned the lesson. Next holiday it would be turkey #46, then #47. For the others, once the meal was finished, there were presents to open. There was fun and laughter and thank yous. No one mentioned the gravy. The spirit of Christmas had filled their hearts and tummies.