It is darn difficult during the hectic holiday season. Everyone around you gets a little crazier each day and that can make you completely nuts. A season of peace it sure as hell isn’t. I decided years ago to just survive it however possible and postpone the needed meltdown to a much later time. Like years later.
The yearly battle between my in laws and my parents would begin with Mother calling the first of November. She would say she was making plans for Thanksgiving dinner and wanted my opinion. She was really trying to nail me down to a time and date before my in laws did. I tried all the standard tactics like alternating afternoon and evening times between my parents and the in laws. I’d tell her I needed to check with the in laws first so I knew what time they were planning dinner. She would blow up at the suggestion her plans might depend on others. It never once occurred to her that the other set of parents had times that worked best for their family. One year I suggested we alternate Thanksgiving with one set of parents and Christmas with the other. She was still ranting years later about that “stupid crazy” idea every time I talked to her.
I finally realized that the only thing that would work is to not admit we went to the in laws at all. I also fixed the times so we could eat at the in laws after we ate at my parents. I am sure my Dad knew but he wisely didn’t tell Mom.
There was a method behind that madness. Mother was very skimpy on serving size and never offered seconds. You didn’t dare ask for more. My ex did one year and all he got was a harsh lecture. You know it’s bad when your six year old son and eight year old daughter ask if we can stop at the fast food joint after dinner at grandma’s because they are still hungry.
She thought kids needed very small portions and that men could be rationed to one paper thin slice of ham or poultry. One year she cooked a frozen turkey roll (gosh awful thing) that was intended to serve four. She was serving six and she expected to reheat the leftovers for at least a full week. There were other annoying things, like rationing the amount of butter you could use on rolls (only one roll per person permitted), the amount of sugar you could put in coffee and using soup spoons instead of the larger size serving spoons so people could not take as much. Mom was who she was and dealing with her post Great Depression mind set could be a true adventure.
After she died I found the notes she’d made on each Thanksgiving meal. The prices paid at the grocery store for each item, the time it took to prepare the meal, the exact amounts of the leftovers, and the number of days she expected they would ate the leftovers. A final figure compaired the cost for that years meal with the last year. All calculated in her tiny bookkeepers hand writing. It was pretty damned scary but it explained a lot. Everything was always a project and money was the key to it all. So we would tell the kids that they could fill up at their other grandparents house and that worked out well.
When we moved out of town we decided to ask my parents to visit for Thanksgiving. Because our house was small we rented a nice cottage for them for a couple of days so they had a relaxing place to stay and get away from the noisy kids. I worked on dinner for several days in advance. I roasted a turkey and a small ham, made homemade rolls, dressing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, a vegetable, salad, cranberry sauce, gravy and pie, cake and cookies. I also fixed several relish trays. I cooked enough food to feed a small army. I enjoyed every second of it.
Mom brought her usual attitude with her. Nothing about the meal pleased her although Dad came back for third helpings of everything. He also raided the frig the next day. She cornered me in the kitchen while I was stacking dishes and ranted that I could have fed my whole family for weeks on the amount of food I’d cooked. She didn’t help me clean up but only lectured. I grabbed a beer from the frig and as politely as possible thanked her for her sincere concern and for her unasked for advice but that it was none of her damned business. The beer distracted her from her rant more than my comments did and she launched into another lecture about the “evils” of beer.
At least Dad was happy and he gave me the ultimate compliment by saying it was one of the best meals he’d eaten since he’d lived in Chicago with his grandmother and his aunt. Those ladies could really cook.
Years later I can finally stand looking at these memories and can finally lock them away.