I was looking up stuffing recipes, and there was one that really caught my eye. I didn’t realize my husband was peeping over my shoulder.
“If you even think about putting raisins and orange peels in the turkey stuffing ...” he said. But then he just trailed off, like he couldn’t bear to imagine the horrific possibility.
I can’t stop being extra for Thanksgiving, and especially Christmas. It’s the overachiever in me, but also the Food Network addict. If Tyler Florence makes his own mushroom soup and fries his own onion strings for the green bean casserole, why shouldn’t I spend $400 and five hours destroying my kitchen to do the same?
When I first had the girls, something just triggered in me, and I went into homemaking holiday mania. I wanted to create the perfect home for the perfect holiday, and if that meant standing on my feet until my arches fell and I lost all stability in my spine, then so be it!
Growing up, we often spent the actual holiday with extended family, but to continue my mom’s own tradition, we had another spread the next day for the immediate family. Since I was a new mom, I was all over this. I wanted all the smells and leftovers for us, too, instead of someone sending us home with pumpkin pie slopped in some Tupperware we had to sign in blood to return.
No, doing an entire spread for my family was my gift to them, even if it meant resenting them for it later.
I’d spare no expense for ambiance that lit your soul on fire!
I wanted food, perfectly timed and hot (but not too hot) set on the most perfect tablescape you’ve ever seen!
Forks perfectly placed on Pier 1 Imports cloth napkins that no one is allowed to use because they were too pricey!
But if I would have stopped whisking the gravy long enough, I would have noticed that everyone was just watching football while I was sweating like John Goodman carrying a couch up a flight of stairs. Timers were sounding off like my car every time I try to back out of my garage, and I kept stress dialing my mom because I couldn’t tell how much wobble is too much wobble on a done pumpkin pie.
Then everyone eats in 10 minutes what took me a solid seven hours to make, and I’m not even hungry because I had been taste-testing since 10 a.m. While there was help with dishes, not even a hotel cleaning staff would know how to navigate what looked like a bomb dropped on a home economics class.
Finally, when it was all over and the final dish was put away, I stole my grandma’s walker and made my way to the couch. I looked back and wondered, “Was being all extra worth it?”
No, not really.
“Just keep it simple,” my mom warned. “And good grief, stop roasting your own pumpkins. No one can tell the difference!”
I guess what I’m learning is that creating special memories and traditions for my family won’t be easy, but it should always be fun. So if that means some things have to plop out of a can and some tablescapes are adorned with paper plates, then perhaps that’s what perfect actually looks like.
Maybe some day I’ll listen, but for now I need to change out the bandages on my oven burns.
Anna Lind Thomas is a humor writer and mom to daughters Lucy and Poppy and English bulldog Bruno, wife to Rob Thomas and founder of HaHas for HooHas. She writes for momaha.com.