The last Thanksgiving we spent together as a family before my ex and I divorced was a memorable one which makes me laugh now when I think of it.
I cajoled and pleaded with my friend, Suzanne, to come over and join us and help lighten the atmosphere. Things were pretty tense and unpleasant at our house, and we needed a non-partisan to join our table and spread something besides doldrums.
Suzanne did not want to come. She had her own grown children to attend to, and I can't remember exactly how I convinced her to participate in our happy meal, but she arrived nonetheless, with apprehension and fear that she was entering a snake pit.
I used to always like starting up the Thanksgiving meal on Tuesday, getting out the china and silver, setting the table, walking through the yard and finding nature's pieces for the table centerpiece. I spent all Wednesday and Thursday preparing the dishes, the turkey, and all the trimmings, accompanied by a bottomless mimosa which I drank all of Thanksgiving Day and still do on holidays. They taste so good!
When it came time for our Thanksgiving meal that year, my soon-to-be ex passed the word to one of our children that he needed to work on the roof right then and there, and he would not be joining us to eat.
It was a sunny day, and heaven forbid, rain would fall eventually, and although we had no leaks, it was as good a time as any to pound nails in the roof.
Over our heads in the dining room.
While we ate.
And celebrated relative harmony. Without both of us at the table, there was more opportunity for conversation and less likelihood for an argument, never a good item on the menu.
I am proud to say we as a family are from the SEC, and if you don't know what that is, you don't know the SEC. Anybody "up here" who thinks he or she has ever been to a college football game has never been to a college football game unless it was REAL college football, namely in the SEC (and especially Ole Miss and tailgates in the Grove).
Ole Miss and Arkansas, Nov. 7, 2015/ Photo by Patricia Leslie
We were mostly (or soon-to-be) graduates of the University of Tennessee, save for Suzanne a proud graduate (and cheerleader) at the University of Georgia which, that year, was on top of the SEC (before the East/West split. Don't ask me). Tennessee's football team that year (as in subsequent years) was in the toilet, and the subject, unfortunately, came up at the table, amidst the hammering heard up on the roof.
While we ate.
And raised our voices to be heard.
The sorry state of Tennessee football may have been discussed all of 30 seconds before my son, Robert, exploded, angry at Suzanne for having attended the University of Georgia. He jumped up from his seat, pounding his way up the stairs, hollering something, never to join us again.
Well! I thought. And Suzanne may have thought the same thing. Could she help it she went to Georgia long before Robert was born?
I don't recall any disagreements at the table with William, our youngest child, but I do recall thinking about our daughter's fiance, Daniel (U. South Carolina), who was visiting and sharing Thanksgiving with us.
I wondered what Daniel thought about our family and why in the world he would want to be part of it, but he did.
In a little while, his fiancee, our daughter Melinda Jane (Virginia Tech), complimented me on a new dish I had prepared: "This is good, Mom," she said. Praise from her was rare.
Oh, I said, I am surprised you like it, since it's an oyster casserole.
With that, she leaped from her chair, ran around the dining room table and into the kitchen where she hurled her mouthful of oyster casserole in the sink and gagged.
This is a true story.
A few silent seconds passed before Suzanne turned to me and said in a hushed tone: "I think I'll leave now." Who could blame her?
Suzanne did not wait for pumpkin pie with real whipped cream. She stole silently out the side door, happy to leave our mad house. It was.
Soon, Daniel and William left the dining room table to go watch football and soothe Melinda Jane, recuperating from oyster casserole on the den sofa.
The hammering ceased.
Alone at the table I sat, but a lifesaving mimosa stood nearby and that, with pumpkin pie and real whipped cream, puts a magnificent finishing touch on any meal.