“How the Grinch Stole Thanksgiving” by Anne Vuxton

      My mother doesn’t really cook.  Attempting something from her “From Stove to Table in 10 Minutes or Less Using 3 Ingredients” cookbook collection (she has all 3 volumes), or defrosting Eatmore frozen food boxes I don’t think counts.  She doesn’t clean much either.  But that’s another story.  What she does do is ask for advice when stumped, so that’s what she did.  She headed over to see Mrs. Foo next door, chef extraordinaire who smells of freshly baked pastries.  And that’s the beginning of how the Grinch stole our Thanksgiving.
        We Whipples have never had the traditional turkey for Thanksgiving.  We’ve had the nontraditional turkey, Eatmore Breast ‘O Turkey, but not the actual bird that comes wrapped in plastic that defrosts in the refrigerator.  The idea of actually cooking a real turkey was too daunting for my mother.  Her intentions were always good but the execution of the idea somehow failed her each year.  As a consequence, we always wound up with hamburgers or something like ham sandwiches.  On lucky Thanksgivings, my dad made a reservation at a restaurant.
        This year, however, Mother decided that we were going to have an actual storybook Thanksgiving dinner.  But you know how a lot of children’s storybooks end, the wolf eats the children, or the boy gets turned into a toad.  Those stories have nothing on what actually happened to us at Thanksgiving. 
        I think Mother actually perused her cookbook collection and scoped out what there was in the freezer that might be appropriate, and festive enough for the occasion, but in the end, did the wise thing and walked next door.  I was feeling very hopeful.  If anyone, or anything, could turn our Whipple family Thanksgiving into a Martha Stewart holiday, it was Mrs. Foo.  So this year, there was promise of a normal Thanksgiving. 
        For a week prior to the Big Day, Mother had been cheek and jowl with Mrs. Foo, making a grocery list, shopping for groceries, and cleaning up groceries when my 5-year old sister, Rosie, the bane of my existence, dropped said groceries (oranges rolling around broken eggs all over the kitchen floor).
        But Mother didn’t dismay at the mess.  She smiled at me and said, “It’s going to be our very best Thanksgiving,” and she looked pretty darn confident.  Following Mrs. Foo’s advice, we had a large bird defrosting in the refrigerator and Mother had proudly push-pinned the menu on her kitchen bulletin board written on one of her colorful index cards:  Turkey, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Green Bean Casserole, Rolls, and Pumpkin Pie.  The menu wouldn’t win any prizes for creativity but it was going to be a feast for us.
        Mother was determined that it would be a day to remember and so did what she really did best:  decorate.  Where creativity was somehow absent in the kitchen, it was evident everywhere else.  Candy corn filled crystal bowls and hollowed out gourds that were scattered around the living room, gaily cavorting turkeys danced in a homemade paper streamer across the entryway, and peeking out wherever you looked was one of Mother’s collection of ceramic or hand-painted wooden turkeys.  Glass, ceramic, metal, and wood pumpkins, in varying ovals or round shapes, with or without jack-o-lantern carved faces, topped end tables, and a large Pilgrim-people wreath hung on our front door.   More gourds and Indian corn lay in a straw basket at the foot of our fireplace.  It was a very fall-season pretty scene.
        Thanksgiving Day morning came and it started off bright.   Our cat, P.J., didn’t wake me too early for his breakfast, and I didn’t slip on water that Rosie somehow got, every single morning, all over the bathroom floor when she brushed her teeth.  When I went downstairs, Mother was humming and wearing her virgin, never-before-out-of-the cellophane-package “I Spice Up the Kitchen” apron.  Pots and pans were everywhere.  She smiled at me and said we’d eat at noon.  I had my fingers crossed behind my back.
        Things were looking up. 
        UNTIL.   ROSIE.  CAME.   INTO.   THE.   KITCHEN.
        Mother had been peeling potatoes when I came in.  She asked Rosie to gather them up and throw them away.  Before we knew what had happened, Rosie had stuffed them in the garbage disposal and flipped the switch.  A horrible grinding noise ensued and peelings and water starting filling up in the sink and puddling down to the floor.  We both looked at Rosie.
        “ROSIE!” Mother had exclaimed, “You were supposed to throw them in the garbage can!”
        I ran to get our mop and bucket from the utility room and started trying to clean up the water that was spilling nonstop over the kitchen sink top.  Mother reached for the plunger under the sink and started plunging.  Dad came in at that moment and grabbed the plunger from Mother but the potato skins and water just continued to chase each other round and round the sink as more water overlapped the edge of the counter.  Dad finally gave up when the water got to a standstill and left to call a plumber, saying over his shoulder that he wasn’t hopeful of getting one Thanksgiving morning.  Mother and I looked disgustedly at Rosie. 
        “Well,” she said, after sucking in the curtains with a deep breath, “Even if we can’t use the sink, I’m NOT going to let it ruin our Thanksgiving.”  I didn’t hold any such hope.  Rosie was still here, wasn’t she?
        “Just put the mop and bucket back in the utility room,” Mother directed, “And let’s get this bird in the oven.”  She reached into the refrigerator with both hands and grabbed the large pan containing our defrosted, first ever, real Thanksgiving turkey. 
        And promptly dropped it on her foot.
        Mother collapsed into a heap on the floor while the turkey in the pan skated to the other side of the room and hit the wall.  Dad rushed in with our cell phone still attached to his ear talking to the plumber, and Rosie and I stared dumbfounded at them both.  Dad ended his call, inspected Mother’s foot, and said he didn’t think it was broken.  He tried to convince Mother to go to the emergency room to have it checked out but Mother was vehement, “No!  We are going to have a nice Thanksgiving dinner!  I promised it and we’re going to have it!  Please just bind up my foot and I’ll get it checked tomorrow.  Nothing else can go wrong now!” 
        Really?  Don’t problems come in threes?  Dad got an Ace bandage from the linen closet and bound Mother’s foot.  She proved she was a trooper and hopped on one foot over to the oven, reset the temperature for the turkey, and removed the already cooked Eatmore pumpkin pie, placing it on the kitchen counter to cool.   Dad retrieved the heavy turkey pan hugging the opposite wall (luckily, the turkey was still in the pan) and placed it in the oven for Mother.  
        “Now,” said Mother, “In a few hours, we’ll have a lovely turkey dinner.”  She hopped over to the pantry on her one good foot and sighed.  Oh, oh.  She’d forgotten to buy the canned green beans. 
        “Oh, well,” she told me, turning around, “I’ll just substitute another vegetable.  How about beets?”   (This is how Mother often got into trouble with cooking.  She was constantly substituting one ingredient for another.  We once had Sweet and Sour Hamburgers instead of Sweet and Sour Chicken because she’d forgotten to buy the chicken.  Don’t try this at home!)   I really didn’t think beets with crunchy onions and mushroom soup sounded good, but she was already opening the cans.  I wasn’t going to eat it anyway. 
        I was about to leave her in the kitchen when she started shrieking, “Stop, stop!  Stop I say!”  What now?  I swung around and P.J. jumped off the kitchen counter, licking orange off of his paw.  He’d gotten into the pumpkin pie.  Dad heard the screaming and again rushed in.  He was probably sorry by now that he hadn’t called a restaurant.  One look at his face and I think he was trying to be sympathetic but he seemed to be holding back laughter.  There was Mother, clutching the pumpkin pie with a big cat paw in the middle while balancing on one foot.   I was afraid of what I might say and get myself into trouble so I grabbed P.J. and started to leave when Rosie walked in, took one look at the pie with a cat paw in it and wisely exited, too.   Rosie might be the pest of the century but she wasn’t stupid.   I was SO certain that nothing like this was going on in the Foos’ house.
        In my head on the way upstairs, I tallied it up:   Sink.  Foot.  Pie.   If bad things did come in threes, maybe we were done.  But I doubted it. 
        A few hours passed until I heard Mother’s call for dinner.  She may not be a chef, or a housekeeper, but she could certainly set a beautiful Thanksgiving table.  Her Waterford goblets caught the tapered candles’ flickering glow and shone on her best Battenburg lace tablecloth, Lenox dinnerware, and her family-inherited sterling silver utensils.  Platters for our feast were nestled between the candles but all were empty except for two:  a small platter containing rolls and a larger bowl with the beets/crunchy onion/mushroom soup combination.  Dad, Rosie and I simultaneously looked at Mother.  She had tears in her eyes.
        “I tried so hard,” she said, “I really did.  I SO wanted this to be our best Thanksgiving ever but it was just not to be!   Mrs. Foo called to see how our turkey was cooking and when I came back to the kitchen, the potatoes boiling on the stove had burned to a crisp.  And I guess that I set the temperature on the oven for the turkey too high because it’s a big charred mess.  I am SO sorry!”  And she started crying in earnest.  Dad hurried over and hugged her, patting her on her back saying, “It’s okay, Helen.  We know you meant well.”  Then Dad looked at me and Rosie and said in a fake cheery voice, “How about rolls and beets?” 
        We both shook our heads.  Rolls and beets for Thanksgiving.  Geez.  Dad hugged Mother again and said that we must have something in the freezer we could add to the rolls and beets and Mother sniffled and said there was a box of frozen Eatmore Veal Croquettes and she could nuke it in a jiffy.  So we had Eatmore Veal Croquettes, rolls, and beets for Thanksgiving.  Yum.
        Mother, I think hoping to put a brighter spin on things, said, “Even with our little mishaps today, there are lots of things we should be thankful for.  Let’s say what we’re thankful for.  I’ll start.  I am VERY thankful for an understanding, loving family at Thanksgiving!  Now you, Warren.”
        Dad didn’t look like he wanted to play but knew better so he cleared his throat and sort of rolled his eyes and said, “Okay.  I’m thankful that it’s been a good year at the flower shop.  You’re next,” and he eyeballed me.
        What was I thankful for?  I was sure it wasn’t a wise idea to say the first thought that popped into my head:  I’m thankful that I don’t have TWO sisters, so I said, “I’m thankful that I’ve become captain of the chess club at school.”  Mother and Dad congratulated me and we all looked at Rosie.
        Rosie smiled and said, “I’m thankful that I didn’t get caught.”
        Dead silence. 
        Mother groaned and put her head down on the table.  Dad started choking on a chuckle and I glared at Rosie.  Dad finally said, “Rosie, we’ll talk to you later.  Helen, why don’t we follow our tradition and watch an after-Thanksgiving dinner movie in the living room?  I’ll make some popcorn.”  Mother looked at Dad, said not a word, and shuffled into the living room with me and Rosie following.  In a few minutes, we were each settled with bowls of popcorn on our laps. 
        Mother told Dad that her intention was to rent “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” from the movie store but by the time she got there, they were all out of Thanksgiving movies. We wound up watching “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” 
        It had turned out to be a typical Whipple Thanksgiving after all.

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Comments

  1. Abigail says:

    What a cute story! I’m very curious of what Rosie did for which she wasn’t caught. ^_^

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