Cole was worried.
I was worried.
I think Lamar, even though he would never admit it, was worried.
But Thanksgiving was approaching and we didn’t know what to do.
It was the first real holiday without Granny. Granted, the old gal hadn’t been able to cook the last few years, since her knee replacement two years ago had caused her to be in a wheelchair.
But she could still boss and could tell everyone what to do from her wheeled domain.
“Bobby – get that turkey out of the stove, it oughta be done by now!” she would holler. “Did you turn the peas on? Where’s the gravy? I don’t see the pot with the gravy.”
Her turkey was always golden brown on the outside and juicy and tender on the inside. Except one year. One year, she forgot to thaw it. So she put it in her pressure cooker. It turned into such a rubbery, slimy mess that the evil beagle wouldn’t eat it. And if you know a beagle, you know what they can and will eat.
We had tried to sneak out before she could thrust a plate of leftovers in our arms but she managed to dash out to the car to fill the backseat with an aluminum pan full of the turkey goo.
“Why did Granny serve us slimy, naked turkey?” Cole had asked on the way home. We didn’t know.
The only way it would have been worse was if Mama had made it.
Mama, bless it, can’t even make pasta. For one thing, she can’t even pronounce it correctly, let alone cook it. She puts the noodles in before the water boils and serves you some Ragu covered lump of spaghetti that kind of resembles the pressure cooked turkey.
She prides herself on setting the fire alarm off at least twice a week.
When I asked her why twice, she said that was all Bobby would let her cook.
So here we were, worried about what was to come of our Thanksgiving dinner.
We knew we wouldn’t ask Mama and Bobby to cook and drive. Besides, my oven hasn’t worked in about three years, so unless they wanted some pasta or sautéed vegetables, turkey was out of the question here.
And, Bobby surely had a football game and a nap somewhere on his plan for the day.
I knew what we were all thinking, but none of us were going to say it.
What if…Mama cooked Thanksgiving?
The woman has a heart of gold, is close to being a saint, but she can drive me crazy to the point I need a Xanax before 9 a.m. Despite that, she is a dear old gal. She just can’t cook.
She tries, but she can’t.
She asked Cole why he never ate anything when we came to visit. He looked her dead in the eye and said, “Because Nennie, what you cook just tastes nasty. Like uneatable. Pepper wouldn’t eat it and you know Daddy always called her a -”
“Cole, you can politely tell her you get carsick and don’t like eating and riding in the car,” I said.
My child turned to look at me. “Mama, you have told me to not lie. That would be a lie.”
He turned back to his grandmother. “No offense, Nennie, you just cook terribly. I still don’t know what you did to those frozen chicken nuggets that time.”
And with his truth, he was off, in search of sweet tea to get him sugared up for the ride home.
“What did I do to the chicken nuggets? How can you mess those up?” she asked, forlornly. I didn’t respond. How does one explain burned on the outside, still frozen on the inside processed chicken?
I thought long and hard about what to do. I called Kroger. Did they have a Thanksgiving dinner meal – to go? And, were they open on Thanksgiving? They did and they were. Problem solved.
And, it even included pie.
I called Mama. “I am bringing Thanksgiving dinner next week,” I said.
“Really? Did you get your oven fixed?” She was probably as scared that I was bringing some tofu/gluten free/ acai/quinoa/flaxseed/healthy/nutritious anti-Thanksgiving monstrosity for them to partake in, as we were scared she was going to burn some bird beyond an inch of its life.
“Nope,” I said. “Kroger’s doing the cooking. We just gotta reheat it.”
“Sides?” she wanted to know.
“Sides, rolls, and, even a pie.” It was pumpkin – maybe I could change it to apple. Or cheesecake – didn’t those pilgrims understand the importance of cheesecake?
“Is it a whole turkey? Because I told Bobby I could maybe make some of those turkey breasts for us…”
“It’s a whole turkey, Mama,” I said. “And you don’t have to cook the first thing.”
And for that, bless us all, we were truly grateful.