Thanksgiving Again, Just Don’t Stuff It
By Dorsetta Hale

Thanksgiving used to be a favorite holiday of mine, second only to Christmas. But in the last couple of years things have changed. I have absolutely no control and I don’t like it one bit. It all started going downhill when I was scheduled to work one particular Thanksgiving at my job as a 911 Dispatcher. After shopping, chopping, dicing and decorating, I carefully laid out instructions for my family to help out in preparation for a dinner feast hosted at our house with the relatives. Everything was going well. In between real emergencies from the public, I handled emergency calls from my kids, such as “Mom, is the gravy supposed to have dumplings in it?”

Then I received the one call every emergency worker dreads. Someone from the next shift called in sick and I was on top of the mandatory overtime list. I couldn’t believe that someone would love their family so much as to call in sick on a holiday and forfeit a payday worth double time and a half.

Had I not been a professional, I would have been distraught. Instead I continued to do my job, but without the smile in my voice that I am known for. I literally almost forgot to pick up my daughter from the airport who was arriving from Southern California, during my lunch break. At that point, a coworker who didn’t have any guests coming in, volunteered to work my mandatory shift. I was able to go home at my regularly scheduled time after all and have the Thanksgiving I’d planned for.

The next year I got wise and started bidding for a work schedule that would include holidays off, eliminating any chance that I’d have to work. So, my days off during the fall and winter became Wednesday/Thursdays. I had no social life outside of the office, but by gosh, I got to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas with the people I truly loved.

I began to question my decision when a daughter showed up one year with a boyfriend and proceeded to act out a “PG-13” rated display of affection at the dinner table. A blessing should never begin with “Dear Lord, please get them a room."

Last year my in-laws hosted Thanksgiving at their house and my children got to meet their father’s high school sweetheart. I bonded with my nieces and nephews at the kid’s table while my husband; I’m sure, boasted about how happily married he was. As much as I tried, I couldn’t overhear anything. Anyway, I managed to take the evening in stride without one sip of alcohol, which unfortunately is why I still remember it.

This year’s Thanksgiving was great. I had the day off without having to fake my own death. Everyone’s old flames celebrated elsewhere and all was right with the world, except that while I was cooking the turkey, its juices dripped and made the oven smoke. My Beta fish nearly died of suffocation from the fumes. I changed half the water in the aquarium and held my breath for twelve hours as he swam to the surface gasping for air or oxygen or whatever it is a fish needs. In the morning, when I came downstairs for breakfast and turned on the light, he was in the corner of the tank, looking still and lifeless. I tapped on the glass and he perked up, swimming and showing off his beautiful ocean blue fins. I was so thankful he was alive that I actually shouted in what I can only describe as glee. And as is custom in most families, when mom is happy, the family shall rejoice.

Thanksgiving has changed and I don’t understand why because in my family it was a holiday that was all about tradition. There was no guesswork. Thanksgiving Day was not unpredictable. The weather was always cold, not a balmy 76 degrees and breezy like it is now. The wind has been so strong that one of my daughters on her way home from school, found our trashcan down the hill in front of someone else’s house. She carried it back up as though it was as precious as our mailbox.

On the Thanksgiving holidays of my youth, Mom cooked and Dad carved the turkey. We sat down to eat with people we knew were going to be there. There were no surprises. Nothing bad ever happened. It was perfect. I don’t remember the grownups changing. I don’t remember the exact moment things changed and I grew up. As much as I am in the moment of my children’s lives, I will never know exactly when they grew up and began changing again. At this rate anything can happen, as it surely will. When it does, I only hope I’ll have the strength of my Beta fish, to take deep breaths and go with the flow.

Copyright 2005, Dorsetta Hale

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