I’ve had the pleasure of hosting Thanksgiving Day dinner for approximately 6 years now, and although it’s one of the toughest meals that I put together the entire year, in the end it is always worth it. As I sit here, two days post turkey, thinking back through the events that transpired, I’ve realized something. Hosting Thanksgiving dinner is a lot like giving birth! Here’s how:
NUMBER 1: Planning
From the minute you find out your expecting a baby, your attention shifts to preparing for what’s to come. For weeks before your little one is due you begin the process of buying supplies, you plan out what you’re going to feed them (breast or formula), how you’re going to diaper them (cloth or disposable), binky or no binky, and even what clothes they will wear home from the hospital. You also plan out the birth: who will you call first, who will grab the hospital bag, which roads will you use to get to the hospital. You make a birth plan: pain meds or no pain meds, who will be in the room, spontaneous rupture of the membranes, or is the doctor allowed to break your water, who will cut the umbilical cord, etc, etc. Everything about the process of bringing a baby into the world consists of a carefully crafted well thought out plan…as it obviously should.
Preparing for turkey day is very similar. I already know a year in advance that I will be hosting again come the following Thanksgiving. For weeks before the big day I’m already contemplating what I will need to buy, what are some of the menu options I would like to try, will I need to buy more chairs, or maybe new table cloths. As the day gets closer I then switch to building out my menu: what will I cook, what ingredients will I need, how many people will I need to feed, what paper products will I need to buy, what centerpieces I will use, etc, etc. About a week before, I start planning out the schedule for the big day: What will I cook first and in what order, how will I create an effective rotation of baked items so that my oven is always cooking something, while I prepare the next item that needs to go in. Which items require more prep work? Which items will need to be refrigerated after cooking and how much room will I have to fit all those items in the night before? Which items can wait to be cooked Thanksgiving morning? All of this creates a carefully crafted, well thought out plan of how things leading up to the day are supposed to go.
NUMBER 2: Anticipation
As your baby’s birthday gets closer and closer, the anticipated arrival of the “big day” leaves you feeling excited and terrified at the same time! You realize that you have done everything in your power to prepare and get ready. You have read every book and internet article you can get your hands on, in hopes of knowing exactly what to expect when the day finally arrives. Deep down you can’t wait to get it over with, but at the same time you kind of wish you had more time…you know…to prepare some more! It’s a very exciting time, and you know the real work is about to begin!
As Thanksgiving Day gets closer and closer you are similarly left feeling excited and terrified, all at the same time. Like with baby, you have put in countless hours, reading over recipes, making shopping list, looking at place setting ideas and fall decorations on the internet. Pinterest becomes your new obsession as you look through pictures and instruction for DIY centerpieces and decorations. You have done your research and feel prepared. It’s a very exciting and stressful time that leaves you wishing that the day would hurry up and get here, but at the same time you try and wish it away for a few more days, so you have more time…you know…to prepare and rest. The real work is yet to come!
NUMBER 3: Reality Sets In
The moment you have been planning for finally arrives and your baby is on its way! You jump into action and begin the careful execution of your plan. It’s the middle of the day so you make your first call, your husband. His secretary informs you he is in a meeting and after you explain the situation she assures you she will find him and get him on his way home. Your second call is to you mother as she will be watching your oldest little one while you’re in the hospital. After trying her home number and cell phone and getting no answer you begin to panic. Your husband arrives about a half hour later to find you in pain and a bit of frantic. He takes over getting your oldest ready; he grabs your bag and loads up the car. In the meantime your mother calls back, apologizes “sorry I was at the grocery store when you called”, and she agrees to meet you at her house in a few minutes. After dropping the oldest off you get on the freeway, the easiest and fastest way to the hospital, and realize there is a car accident 5 miles ahead causing a large traffic jam. By the time you arrive at the hospital you are panicked, in pain, fearing that the baby will be born outside…in the CAR!!! Thankfully you arrive, get checked in, and get into your delivery room and suddenly the contractions STOP! It was a false alarm. Your are then packed up and sent home to once again await the big day.
It turns out that no amount of planning, prepared you for today!
Thanksgiving is very much like the scenario above. You have put into place a carefully choreographed plan where you start with the prep work; you start with your desserts. You cut up apples make your pie crusts, prepare the pie filling, and then just as you’re ready to put everything together you hear your two year old fall and cry out in pain. You leave your pies for just a moment to check on your little one who fell and got a bloody nose, and suddenly you hear your oven go off, signaling the pumpkin pies are ready to come out! So you pick up your little one while holding a bloody tissue to her nose, proceed to sit her on the counter so you can pull out your pumpkin pies. Now your oven sits empty, and you know you should be putting the apple pie you have yet to put together into the oven so you can stay on schedule, but your little one still needs you. So you take care of your little one, take some time to cuddle and make her feel better. Thirty minutes later you’re rushing around trying to piece together your apple pie so you can get it into the oven before the start of the next crisis. By the end of the day you have had more interruptions than you can remember, and instead of having pre-cooked 6 dishes, you find yourself having only finished 3. By this time it’s bed time so you hurry the little ones off to bed, hoping that you can still save the schedule and the plan by finishing up after the little ones finally go down for the night. No sooner does the last child fall asleep, when suddenly…you’re too tired to go on! So instead you look at the time and think, I don’t need much sleep…three and half hours should be enough…I’ll just set the alarm clock and get up early! That should give me enough time to get everything done, right?
See, it turns out that no amount of planning, prepared you for today!
NUMBER 4: It’s Beautiful!
You have been laboring now for hours…seemingly an eternity! You are hot, sweaty, exhausted and just when you think you can’t take another moment of this, your body and your doctor’s tell you it’s time to push. It takes everything in you to muster up the strength and courage to make those final pushes to bring your little one into the world! You push and push with all your might until finally, that beautiful, gorgeous, slimy little person emerges. You take one glimpse of that little baby and you are in love…what a beautiful baby I have created, you think to yourself! It’s the most beautiful baby you have ever seen!
After laboring over a hot stove for hours…even days, you are finally approaching the moment you have been frantically preparing for. Your turkey and all the trimmings are either in the oven, or sitting in a warmer ready to be served. You put the last minute finishing touches to your table, you organize the plates, cups, silverware, napkins, and making sure everything is as it should be. You are exhausted, hot, and sweaty. Just as you’re ready to fall out from the exhaustion of getting little to no sleep for two days, you hear the oven beep…turkey is ready! With what little energy you have left, you make your way to the oven…you take a deep breath…close your eyes…say a little prayer…open the oven door, and then…OH MY, it’s BEAUTIFUL!!! With its golden color, the little thermometer thingy popped up to show that it’s ready…it’s the most beautiful turkey you have ever seen, your beautiful creation!
NUMBER 5: Family Time
After months of planning and preparing, and after hours of laboring, your brand new bundle of joy is finally here! As exhausted as you are, you now have to get ready, for in a few minutes there will be barrage of family and friends eagerly coming through the doors of your hospital room to meet the newest member of the family. After giving birth, this is no easy task. You are sore, exhausted, and an emotional wreck, but even still you get yourself all dolled up; you brush your hair, do your make up, put on a huge smile and in they come!!! Everyone comes in, excited and happy as they happily talk about the momentous occasion and your new bundle of joy! Everyone is so happy, and seemingly unaware of the exhausted mess that you are and feel. You happily put on a smile and giggle and talk, and even though you’re so glad they are there, and that you get to share this experience with all your loved ones, deep down inside you can’t wait until they all leave, so you can finally get some sleep!
The turkey is done and now all that’s left is getting you ready and dressed. You slowly force yourself upstairs, jump in the shower and come out feeling refreshed and ready for bed. You quickly shake off the feeling, and rush to do your hair and make-up. You walk past your bed and stop…it’s calling you, and your body is answering. Your brain craves sleep, but it also knows you still have a show to put on. Your guests begin to arrive, you put on a smile and for the next few hours you entertain your guests. You have a great time talking and sharing stories of Thanksgiving’s past, you love your family and love spending time and enjoying their company. As the hours wear on you start wondering, do I look as tired as I feel? Do they notice that I can barely keep my eyes open, and are just too polite to say anything? Eventually as your guests start to leave you find yourself glad. You love having everyone around, and you’re so glad that they came but even still you can’t wait until the last person leaves…so you can finally get some sleep!
NUMBER 6: Never Again
It’s been a few days since baby entered the world. You’re slowly getting yourself and your house back to normal. For the most part, visits from family and friends have died down, as everyone has met the little one and they are giving you the time and space to let life return to normal. You’re still exhausted from the ordeal and still excited and thankful you got to experience the birth of your child, and most of all that you got to share it with your loved ones. Even with the euphoria that you feel over all the wonderful things that have happened the past few days, you look back and think to yourself…NEVER AGAIN!!!
That is until about a year later, you see a newborn baby while out and about, and think to yourself…AWW, I WANT ANOTHER BABY!
It’s been a few days since Thanksgiving ended. Family and friends are still calling to thank you for the meal and wonderful time. You have fond memories of the experience and are so thankful for the opportunity to spend time and enjoy a nice meal with everyone you love. As you slowly piece your home and kitchen back together, you think back to that day and recall all those wonderful memories that were made, it sure was fun, everyone enjoyed themselves, it was really nice, and then one thought crosses your mind…NEVER AGAIN!!!
That is until about a month later, when you look back at the pictures of that wonderful day and think to yourself…I CAN’T WAIT UNTIL NEXT YEAR!!!
Did you host Thanksgiving for your family this year? How did you survive the frenzy of cooking and entertaining? Can you relate to my experience?