Lorraine wasn’t looking forward to Thanksgiving this year. She and Frederick had been married just over one year and she was beginning to get used to his family. She had never had children herself and was happy to have inherited two friendly adult children and three lively grandchildren. The only family member she really couldn’t stand was Frederick’s ex-wife Bertha whom Frederick still considered part of the family, and whom he insisted on including in every holiday gathering. He even invited her in when she dropped off a grandchild at 44 Cherry Street, and he hugged her. Lorraine had recently baked some Snickerdoodles for the visiting grandchildren, and Frederick had the nerve to offer some to Bertha. There were plenty of cookies and Lorraine had herself eaten ten of them, but the woman was an ex-wife, for goodness sakes! She belonged outside in the car, waving up at Frederick through the window as the grandchild climbed out of the passenger seat. She did not belong in Lorraine’s living room with a fragile tea cup and saucer wobbling on her lap. She should not grab Lorraine’s cookies.
Lorraine was sure that Bertha was a decent woman but she was an ex-wife, and she felt that the woman had terrible taste. Her home was a hodgepodge of furniture that looked as if it was purchased in one visit to Goodwill. The dull wood furniture was clunky Early American and the upholstery was plaid polyester. The color scheme was dirt brown and maroon. Religious mottoes on plywood or plastic hung on every wall. And she surrounded herself with tacky people.
Last year they were invited to Bertha’s home for Thanksgiving. In addition to the family members Lorraine still was uncomfortable with at that time, Lorraine had to put up with the assembled motley crew of oddballs, people even Bertha barely knew, whom she had invited to fill the table. All the guests aside from Lorraine (dressed in Eileen Fisher) wore clothes it looked like they had worn to do some gardening just before they arrived, and the men wore baseball caps throughout the meal. The table manners were outrageous.
The table was covered with a plastic cloth from The Dollar Store, and the children were instructed to place paper napkins at each place. The food was not up to Lorraine’s standards either and was almost as appalling as the decor. An overcooked turkey was the centerpiece of the meal, canned cranberry sauce and gravy, and deviled eggs still in their plastic Ingles trays completed the meal. Aside from the exquisite salad Lorraine had brought, the meal was dismal. They might have done better to sit down at Denny’s with a group of strangers.
This year Lorraine had grabbed the reins and was hosting a family Thanksgiving at 44 Cherry Street. She was determined to teach Frederick’s family the proper way to celebrate Thanksgiving. The first step was to inform Frederick that even though he had insisted on including Bertha, her band of misfits would not be invited. Even Frederick’s children had asked Lorraine to limit the number or weirdoes at the table. Predictably, Bertha had called him and asked to include some new neighbors who seemed nice. Frederick was wobbling and almost agreed, when Lorraine sensed something bad was about to happen and wrenched the phone away from him. “There is room at the table only for family!” she pronounced firmly.
“What about my friend Ethel? She’s very nice?” asked Bertrha.
“Sorry,” said Lorraine with what she hoped seemed a sympathetic tone of voice. “I have room for just twelve at the table. And my sterling is service for twelve.”
After mentioning the silver, Lorraine was reminded that she should polish it, iron the linen table cloth and napkins, and start assembling the foods she would need for the meal. Thanksgiving was still two weeks off, but Lorraine would start baking the pies and cookies this weekend and freeze them. “Oh, and Bertha! We will dress for dinner.”
“Dress?” Bertha asked. “We always get dressed before we go out. What are you talking about. We aren’t nudists, you know.”
Was she getting snippy? The cow! “Please wear something nice and clean.” Could she be more clear? “This is a holiday after all.” She would teach them all, starting at square one.