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Thanksgiving dinner dilemmas

Thanksgiving dinner dilemmas

Posted: Wednesday, November 19, 2008 9:13 pm

When it comes to Thanksgiving dinner, there are two kinds of people. I’m sure you’ll be able to recognize your own relatives in this “fictional” tale of family relationships. First, there’s Uncle Bud. Uncle Bud likes things to remain the same. He doesn’t understand some people’s constant need for variety. When it comes to Thanksgiving, Uncle Bud thinks we should do what we’ve always done while eating what we’ve always eaten. He thinks we should sit where we’ve always sat and play the games we’ve always played. He likes his canned sweet potatoes coated in brown sugar and marshmallows. He finds comfort in hearing that “squishing” sound as the ever-familiar canned cranberry sauce makes its glorious entrance into the world. Green bean casserole. Mashed potatoes with gravy. Whole kernel corn. Sweet tea. Pumpkin pie. He still hasn’t forgiven Aunt Marge for cooking pork tenderloin one year instead of turkey. It just didn’t seem like Thanksgiving. Uncle Bud has everything all figured out. Uncle Bud doesn’t like change. Cousin Carla has a slightly different perspective on life. Everyone still whispers about the year Cousin Carla hosted Thanksgiving. Oysters in the dressing. Figs diced up in the sweet potatoes. Real cranberries pureed with orange peel and put in a mold shaped like the Eiffel tower. Steamed artichoke hearts. And the meat? Cousin Carla decided to serve Orange-Cilantro Salmon for Thanksgiving dinner. She also made place cards and wrote family members’ names with a fancy gold pen she ordered from the Martha Stewart magazine. When Aunt Bess spotted the place cards, she said, “Carla Michelle, I’ve known you since you were in diapers. No one has ever told me where to sit, and I’ve never missed a meal.” Uncle Bud just nodded and sat at Cousin Larry’s place at the end of the table. The salmon and the figgy sweet potatoes were one thing, but when Carla brought out flaming crème brule for dessert, Uncle Bud grabbed the fire extinguisher and started spraying. In tears, Carla ran to the bedroom and declared she wouldn’t even attempt the “get to know each other” game she’d cut out of the new Good Housekeeping magazine. Somehow that declaration brought a sense of relief. An uncomfortable silence hovered over the living room until Uncle Bud asked if anyone brought a pumpkin pie. That’s when Aunt Myrtle saved the day by retrieving a pumpkin pie from the trunk of the Crown Vic. Holiday time. The idealistic commercials show harmonious families sitting at meals, playing games and warming themselves by the fire. The commercials don’t show Uncle Bud spraying Cousin Carla’s flaming crème brule with a fire extinguisher. They don’t show chubby Aunt Bess declaring her distaste for place cards. I guess there are some things families would rather forget. This Thanksgiving, if you’re sitting at a table with friends or relatives, count your blessings. Enjoy the variety of personalities placed in each extended family. Be glad you’re not all alike. When Carla brings her sweet potatoes with chopped figs, give them a try. Show Uncle Bud some respect by cooking a traditional turkey. If the dinner host makes place cards, smile graciously, and sit where you’re assigned. At our house, we’re blessed to be hosting extended family members this year. We’ll all hold hands and thank God for His incredible love. And if Aunt Nancy brings a flaming dessert? Not to worry. I’ve hidden the fire extinguisher. Editor’s note: Lisa Smartt’s column appears each Wednesday in the Friends and Neighbors section of The Messenger. Mrs. Smartt is the wife of Philip Smartt, the University of Tennessee at Martin parks and recreation and forestry professor, and is mother to two boys, Stephen and Jonathan. She is a freelance writer and speaker. Her book “The Smartt View: Life, Love, and Cluttered Closets” is available at The Messenger, The University of Tennessee at Martin bookstore or by mail for $10, plus $2 shipping. Send checks to Lisa Smartt, 300 Parrott Road, Dresden TN 38225. She can be reached by e-mail at lisa@lisasmartt.com. Published in The Messenger 11.19.08

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