November 12th, 2010 - Annie L. Scholl
Two weeks before Thanksgiving, she’s obsessing about who’s coming, what they’re bringing. Irritated that they haven’t gotten back to her. She emails her five siblings. She’ll have turkey, she tells them. Lots of it. Potatoes. She’ll get dinner rolls, make a relish tray. Cranberries, too. Sue will bake pies, just like she’s done every year since mom died. She pleads with them, politely of course, hiding her irritation. Her brother emails immediately. Deviled eggs. Their oldest won’t be coming.
She writes it down.
Thanksgiving will come. There will be thirty or so. Between checking the turkey, stirring the cranberries, she’ll whir about with her camera, making sure to capture the moments. Her family, her husband’s parents, sit around the walnut dining room table and the two, 5-foot folding tables she borrowed from church. Some sit on the sofa, the loveseat, balancing plates on their laps. A few slip away to the family room downstairs to get away from it all.
When the food is ready, she tells them to grab a plate, to get in line. She wants them to eat while everything is hot. By the time she sits down, her food is cold. She’ll eat, laugh, tell stories, but when her plate is empty, she’ll take it to the kitchen, her mind already on clean up. She’ll wave away the offers of help. “I got it, I got it,” she’ll say, but doesn’t send away the ones who insist.
When the work is done, she gets a small plate, a clean fork. She cuts slivers of pecan, pumpkin, a bigger piece of mincemeat. It’s her favorite, the one she remembers most from childhood. Every holiday, Sue threatens to not make it because they are are the only ones who eat it. But every holiday, there it is again, with the other standbys and a couple pies Sue makes just for fun.
She wanted to learn to make pies. She tried on her own, but they never came out. You need more flour, less flour, cold water, ice-cold water, her mother suggested. When she knew her mom wasn’t going to see another Thanksgiving, she asked for a private pie-making class. She set one rule: I have to do it all. Her mom agreed, though it wasn’t easy. “Baby, just let me do it,” she’d heard more than once growing up. But her mom tried and she tried and still the dough stuck to the rolling pin.
Sue stopped by at that exact moment when tears of frustration stung her eyes. “Let me try,” Sue said, and the pie crust magically formed into a perfect disc and then a perfect pie. She gave up the notion then that she had to be the pie baker, too.
Ten years later, her mind is not on Thanksgiving. Most of her family lives a thousand miles away now that she lives in North Carolina instead of Iowa. Her wife’s family has invited them over, but everything feels too risky with the pandemic so they plan to stay home. Her wife will make Cornish hens, collards. That’s the menu so far. She hasn’t felt great for weeks. A sinus infection that came on the heels of an ear infection. She got tested for COVID and was relieved when it came back negative. It’s the same way she feels about the presidential election. Relieved. She can muster no more than that.
On Thanksgiving, they’ll walk the dogs, feed the cats, drink coffee in the morning, enjoy the Cornish hens and collards later in the day. They’ll talk and laugh, spend time together and alone. It will look like any other day, except they won’t go off to their home offices to work. They’ll Facetime with her wife’s daughters in New York; her son in Portugal; her daughter and grandson back in Iowa. “What did you eat?” “Was it good?” “What will you do with the rest of your day?”
They’ll pour wine, watch a movie. She’ll fall asleep. Her wife will walk the dogs one last time, lock up the house, set the alarm. Sometime during the night, she’ll wake, reach across the bed, find her hand, and go back to sleep.
Annie L. Scholl lives in central North Carolina with her wife Michelle, their two dogs and three cats. A native Iowan and a graduate of the University of Iowa, her writing has been featured in Huffington Post, Unity Magazine, Daily Word, and the Brevity blog. She blogs at anniescholl.com and is at work on her first memoir, Going In, Coming Out.