The first Thanksgiving dinner I hosted, Gentle Reader, not the first one of my life. It was hosted in the very first house I rented, of course. We had two separate ones – one for my family on Thanksgiving itself, and another, the next day, for Ex-Husband’s family.
I was very excited. I love to entertain, and I love hosting dinner parties. I invited a mix of friends and family: My grandfather, and his girlfriend at the time, Claudine*, my parents, Miss Marshall, Miss Ward and her boyfriend at the time, S, Aunt C. and Uncle L.†, Miss K, Ex-Husband, and I. A nineteen year-old throwing dinner for twelve? What could possibly go wrong?
Well, first of all, I’m not the world’s tidiest person, and I was even worse in those days. In fact, I really only clean if I have company coming over. Having family over? Who I expect to be judging me? Sufficient motive to remove the pile of trash from the kitchen, and to hang drapes in front of the exposed storage closet, and to put throw rugs over the kitchen floor‡. It was a close-run thing.
We had a huge dining table that was lent to us – it was our neighbor’s grandmother’s. Unfortunately, we didn’t have anywhere near enough seating. Luckily, my folks came over early – I suspect they came early so that they could make sure the family wouldn’t be judging them based on my house – and they had found five chairs in a ditch on their way over, and had thought I might like them. You know the backgrounds in school portraits, in the nineties? That, but on velvet. I can’t imagine who would have tossed them into a ditch.
As my mother re-cleaned the house to avoid embarrassment, she happened to spot a painting in the library. The library was just off the kitchen, and the enormous nude on black velvet – another loan from our neighbor – was really the first thing you saw clearly on entering the house.
That, combined with my taxidermied friends – well, Maman thought they might make the relatives uncomfortable. Or judgey.
This was before she spotted the large collection of gay and lesbian literature§.
All hints of anything subversive tidily tucked away, Ex-Husband made my parents cocktails while I busied myself with dinner. The guests began to arrive. First were our friends, and then my relatives started showing up, most of whom Ex-Husband hadn’t met yet. That went well.
The fact that people had to enter through the kitchen – and tended to linger there – got increasingly irritating, as I had to try to cook around them. I was about ready to carve something besides the turkey, and it may have been my own throat, or someone else’s. My dad and Ex-Husband noticed, and herded everyone into the dining room, out of sight and out of my way.
Did I mention that I worked in a restaurant at the time? As everyone who’s worked in the industry knows, it is essential that the diner can’t see what the hell you’re doing. When my father came back to the kitchen to see if he could help, I asked him to help me transfer the turkey from the roasting pan to the serving dish. Can you guess what happened next, Gentle Reader?
The shaky old man and the clumsy young one dropped the bird. On the unfinished floor. In the exact spot where Trash Mountain had been the day before.
There was gravy everywhere.
Luckily, the ambient music muffled most of my cursing and my dad’s laughter. I scooped the bird up swiftly, plopped it on the platter, and swore my dad to secrecy. He couldn’t stop laughing long enough to promise, so I just took it as read, and sent him out with a couple of side-dishes and excuses. While he stalled for time I cleaned as much of the debris from the breast as possible, then served it with as much grace as I could muster.
Everyone declared my meal delicious, and we were thankful to be in such good company.
*Grandpa’s first girlfriend after Grandma had passed away. Or possibly the second. One of them, anyway.
† The religious ones, if you don’t recall.
‡When we moved in, the kitchen floor was just exposed sub-flooring. I started a project to finish it with reclaimed parquet, and, um, never finished.
§Even though I’d come out years before, and even though they were meeting Ex-Husband, my relatives… didn’t really understand that I was gay. So that’s a thing.