Tuesday, November 28, 2006


We went to see Honey's family in Rochester, NY for Thanksgiving and the weekend following. It was a confusing Thanksgiving for me; my in-laws are usually in Arizona from October through April, and therefore we don't see them. Due to my father-in-law's illness, for which he has recently consented to a series of experimental treatments in Boston, they are hanging around until after the next treatment. So, in a bizarre twist, I did not have to plan and prepare the usual festive board. In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, I kept thinking I was forgetting something, and I had a sense of impending doom. All of that was angst that I was supposed to be planning and buying ingredients for all the dishes.

That's correct: I was feeling worry, doom and guilt, and wasting all this necessary energy on feelings I had no logical right to have!

Anyway, I was asked only to contribute a measly vegetable dish to the meal. I immediately settled on my grandma Ce Ce's corn casserole, the epitome of decadent comfort food. My son, G, has been known to try to appropriate the entire casserole for himself. Though I increase the amount I make each year, there is never enough. Not a kernel goes wasted at our house, and knowing that my sis-in-law's family are often very picky eaters, I thought it was a safe bet.

Then I remembered that G had recently brought home a set of fancy designer frozen cheesecakes that I had bought as a fundraiser for one of his many choir groups. I would take a cheesecake, too; I knew Grandpa liked it and so would the kids. So I'd also take a dessert. It could defrost during the six-hour car ride--that would be perfect.

For days before our departure, all I had was a little yellow post-it note with my big list: corn casserole. Take recipe. Cheesecake. Seeing it made me rather sad, as though in the back of my mind I was yearning to take on singlehendedly the annual hideous traditions and countdowns. Yes, it's painful; but apparently I love it. Who knew? There is something very gratifying about properly planning a big meal, working toward its fruition a little bit each day, and having it come off perfectly. Perhaps what I was feeling was actually the deprivation of potential triumph.

Also, as strange as it may seem, I LOVE to clean silver for a big holiday. It was always my job as a child, and I still find it very satisfying. I had eyed the silver suspiciously, as it told me it needed polishing, and I kept having to remind myself that I could get away without cleaning it since no one was going to use it for Thanksgiving. Sigh. There it still sits in the corner, glaring at me with little light reflecting out from under its brown tarnish.

Finally the day came, and the typical confusion initiated by the horrors of packing threw everyone into a tizzy and brought out the boys' frustration in loud, pummeling shows of aggression. I'm guessing that's a testosterone-linked thing. For me, the packing just induces an idiotic, sluggish, deer-in-headlights mental blankness followed by universally bad choices. I know when I begin that I am destined to pack the wrong things (it has ever been thus), and the feeling of defeat and ultimate disappointment throws me into a funk. Therefore I avoid it until the last minute. Planning ahead doesn't help. I've already tried that a million times, and all I've learned is that I will change my mind about every outfit that I planned, so there's really no point.

Days ahead, I had prepared my recipe card and put it in my purse. That's all there was to that, so it was time to get the cheesecake. I had reminded the family to remind me of it. Men. I opened the freezer door and they said, "Don't forget the cheesecake!"

Our freezer is usually a nightmare. I am anal about it and have it arranged in very carefully stacked little bricks of stuff: bags, boxes, loaves of bread, cardboard dividers laid flat like shelves between layers to boost stability and "ease of use." Hah. It took me ten minutes to remove all the frozen bricks of stuff and finally locate the cheesecake box. I had the entire countertop covered with freezer items. In order to differentiate the cheesecake from the things taht would go back in the freezer, I set it on top of the refrigerator, and then spent another fifteen minutes reconstructing the contents of the freezer. In the time it took to extricate the cheesecake and redo the freezer, I could have made a cheesecake from scratch.

We got in the car. A couple of hours later, Honey said, "And you put the cheesecake in the back, right?"


We looked at each other and laughed.

"Well, we DID remind you," they all said.

I figured it wasn't so bad. While we were gone, the house would be as cold as the refrigerator anyway; the cheesecake would have to defrost first and would probably still be good when we got back home.

Much too late, I realized I could have called my neighbor and told her to use the passkey to take the cake for her own family. But I also knew we had left the house in such a mess I was too embarrassed to do so.

At the last minute I bought a fresh cheesecake from the fancy-schmancy grocery in Rochester, and no one knew any better. But they sure knew that they liked it.



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