Below is a story of mine that was published in the fall/winter issue of Magnets and Ladders. I mentioned it in a post a while back but thought that since Thanksgiving is tomorrow, you would enjoy reading it.
The dining room table was covered with a white cloth. Linen napkins adorned the eight place settings that each contained a plate, silverware, and a glass. Two of the glasses were plastic and had milk in them. The other six wine glasses were empty. A bottle of wine and cork screw were placed in the center of the table.
Pat admired her handiwork with her limited vision and hoped her mother-in-law would approve. This was her first Thanksgiving with her in-laws, and she willed everything to go smoothly. With a sigh, she sauntered to the doorway and called, “Okay, dinner’s ready.”
They all trooped in, her husband Steve, his parents Harry and Lee Ann, his brother and sister-in-law Rob and Linda, and their two children, Jayson, eight, and Ella, five. As Pat hurried to the kitchen to bring out the platters of food, she heard her mother-in-law say, “All right everyone, this is Pat’s first turkey. I don’t want anyone to say a word if it’s dry.”
“Do I have to eat the turkey if it’s dry?” asked Jayson.
Linda appeared in the kitchen doorway. “Can I help?” she asked.
“Sure,” answered Pat with a sigh of relief. “Take the turkey to Steve so he can start carving it.” She carefully removed the electric knife from a nearby drawer and placed it on the platter next to the bird. “Then you can come back and get the potatoes and gravy. I’ll get the stuffing, salad, and cranberry sauce. Oh, I still need to take the rolls out of the oven.”
“Take your time,” said Linda, placing a reassuring hand on Pat’s shoulder. “This all looks wonderful.”
After the turkey had been cut and the wine opened, and all the food was served, Pat was relieved to hear the satisfying sounds of cutlery scraping against plates. But still too nervous to eat, she stared at her food.
“Ummm, this turkey is nice and juicy,” said Lee Ann.
‘I knew it would be,” said Pat with a smile. She picked up her fork and took a bite.
“Have you cooked a turkey before?” asked Lee Ann. “I’d think that would be hard for someone who can’t see.”
“This stuffing is delicious,” said Linda. “I’d love the recipe.”
The room fell silent, and Pat could feel everyone’s eyes on her. She didn’t want her in-laws to know that she hadn’t prepared the meal, but now that someone had asked for a recipe, what could she say? She didn’t know the first thing about making stuffing. Her mother had never shared her recipes with her.
She took a deep breath and said, “To be honest, I’m not much of a cook. The turkey, stuffing, potatoes and gravy, salad, and rolls came from Albertson’s. The cranberry sauce came out of a can. I ordered the pumpkin pie from Schwan.”
“Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done? Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!” came Ella’s sing song voice from the opposite end of the table, breaking the tension. “We sang that at school yesterday, and I told everyone we were going over the river and through the woods to Uncle Steve and Aunt Pat’s house, but it doesn’t fit into the song.”
Everyone giggled, and Pat said, “You’re right, sweetie. It doesn’t, and I’m sorry I missed your program yesterday. I had to work.”
“That’s okay,” said Ella. “I really like your turkey.”
“I do too,” said Jayson. “It’s not dry at all.”
“The potatoes are great,” said Steve. “I think they’re just like Mom’s.”
“Oh you,” said Lee Ann with a laugh.
“I like the salad,” said Rob.
“The rolls are wonderful,” said Harry. “Excuse me. I’m going to have another.”
“This was a great idea,” said Linda. “Maybe the next time I host a holiday dinner, I’ll do the same thing. It would save a lot of time.”
Lee Ann cleared her throat. “Linda, surely you realize that nothing compares to a home cooked meal. However, this is rather nice. Pat, I’m sure it would have been next to impossible to prepare a meal like this from scratch when you can’t see.”
There it was again. Pat’s mother-in-law expected less of her because she was visually impaired. Maybe she should have tried to cook a turkey. She’d seen plenty of articles on cooking in Dialogue and other magazines for the blind written by sightless cooks. In fact, there had been step by step instructions on how to cook a turkey with no sight.
The rest of the family continued eating and chatting as if nothing were wrong. But Pat put down her fork and hung her head, as shame washed over her. Her appetite was gone.“
“What are you smiling about?” asked Steve a month later, as they were driving to Rob and Linda’s house for Christmas dinner.
“Promise me you won’t say a word,” said Pat. “I told Linda I wouldn’t tell anyone, not even you.”
“You and Linda can trust me. My lips are sealed. Now spill.”
“Okay, Linda ordered the prime rib, twice baked potatoes, green bean casserole, rolls, and apple pie from Warehouse Market.”
Steve burst into loud, uproarious laughter. “Mom’s gonna be pissed.”
“Not if she doesn’t know,” said Pat. “If she or anyone else asks for a recipe, Linda will promise to e-mail it to them and send them a recipe she finds online. I wishI’d thought of that last month.”
“I do too. I didn’t think Linda would ask you for that stuffing recipe. It was pretty good, though. But I think this Jell-O salad you’re bringing is going to be a hit.” He tapped the Tupperware container she held securely in her lap.
“I figured if my friend Jackie could make this recipe with no sight at all, I could make it with some vision.”
“I think you’re right, honey.”
“If anybody asks for the recipe, I have it right here.” She tapped her pants pocket that held the printed recipe. “I saved it on the computer so if more than one person wants a copy, I can e-mail it.”
“Good for you,” said Steve. “That talking computer of yours sure works wonders.”
“I downloaded a book from the National Library Service for the blind called Cooking without Looking. Maybe next year, I’ll feel more confident about cooking a Thanksgiving turkey.”
“Maybe we could do it together. It’s about time I learned how to cook.”
Who cooked the turkey when you were growing up? Did everyone chip in and bring something? Did the men watch football while the women prepared the meal?Please feel free to share your Thanksgiving memories. You can comment below or e-mail me. Also, you can click on the link below to hear me sing, “Over the River and Through the Wood.” Have a great Thanksgiving!
Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome
How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver