Like any family, we’ve had our disasters, most of which occurred at my uncle’s house in Gloucester. He and my father were famous for sipping Manhattans all afternoon until it was time to carve the turkey. One year, Dad stuck the bird with a long-handled fork in such a great show of enthusiasm that it launched across the room in a blaze of its own juices.
The next year, my mother’s Southern sweet potatoes went up in flames when she popped the dish dotted with marshmallows under the broiler to brown, and then forgot it until fire shot out the oven door and set off the smoke alarm.
Another time, my cousin Mary Lou collapsed the infamous “kid” table when she balanced her cranberry Jell-O mold on the edge of it so that one of the legs gave way. Down came the heaping plates of six starving cousins who watched in fascination as the slippery blood-red goo shimmied under the main table, as if it was alive.
And then, of course, the time my aunts recoiled in horror when my sister Shelah forgot to buy the dinner rolls and showed up hours late with a bag of lemon poppyseed muffins.
When my husband impaled his leg on a stray length of rebar that was sticking out of the rocks on a pre-dinner beach walk, a wound he dressed with toilet paper and duct tape so no one would know.
Or the Christmas at home where my mother got so rattled getting the meal on the table that she grabbed a cookie sheet out of the oven with her bare hand, postponing dinner until after the hospital run.
Most recently, an unstable wooden dining room chair at my sister’s house exploded into a billion splintered smithereens when my brother-in-law sat on it, initiating a one-way trip to the floor that left him flat on his back, his juice glass miraculously upraised, and unspilled!
Believe it or not, I’m excited about my turn to host the family this year although I’m a little nervous about what might happen. I have about three weeks to get ready so I should be OK.
I can’t wait to see everyone’s faces around my table, which I pray won’t collapse. We’ll keep the bird off the floor, if we can, and remember the rolls. Hopefully, everyone will remain uninjured. With my mom gone, my major task will be to replicate the sweet potato dish without burning down the house. I’ll get back to you and let you know how it goes.