November 18, 2023
The one thing that was very true about Jennie, my mother-in-law, was that she thought I was laid back in the extreme.
When we were planning our wedding, I was not too concerned about issues or pending semi-disasters because I had grown up in a pretty calm home. When Mom made the huge family dinners, they were successful, not only because she was a pretty good cook but because things didn't rattle her. If something went wrong, she would improvise. For example, once when the apple pie accidentally got squished when a cousin put a pot on top of it, the pie pieces became apple cobbler.
When we got married, I had a very disciplined matron of honor who planned everything down to the last detail. She oversaw logistics and made sure I did my tasks in a timely manner. Frankly, we would have had a far more interesting wedding without her in charge. I remember three minutes before my dad was to take me down the aisle, I decided to paint my nails with a clear polish. Jennie was stressed but my nails were dry before we entered the church. When we didn't finish the decorations for the reception, we took the flowers and laid them down in the middle of the tables. Jennie was stressed but no one was aware of the original plan, so it was fine.
Don and I had just bought a house in our first year and we decided to host the Thanksgiving dinner at our new home. There were 22 guests, more than we had ever entertained before. My poor mother-in-law was very nervous and asked if she could help us out in any way. I said not to worry, we had it handled. After all, how hard could it be? She started to frantically write lists. As the day approached, she would call and offer to provide the turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, etc. She always offered to bring Jell-o, the centerpiece of any dinner. I would cheerfully tell her not to worry but that did not assuage her fears.
The day before the dinner she called to ask how it was going. I said Don was at the grocery store buying what we needed. She immediately panicked. She could foresee a disaster with this incompetent new daughter-in-law. What would the guests think?
I thought I would try to make her feel more confident, but my personality didn't allow it. I told her the only thing I was afraid of was that our stove might be too small. I wasn't sure if I could fit 22 turkey TV dinners in at the same time. She sputtered. I said I had thought of a brilliant way to make dinner. Twenty two TV dinners would be cooked and the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and the dessert on the tray would be scraped in separate bowls. Dinner accomplished and no one would be the wiser. Jennie nearly had a breakdown.
The dinner turned out fine – turkey dinner with all the fixings and pumpkin pie. At least that is how I remember it. Anyway, it was more important to have a great time and visit with the people who had come a far distance to see us. After dinner Jennie started to take care of the dishes. I told her not to worry about them. I would take care of them. It was more important to enjoy the company.
She was stressed. According to her dishes must be cleaned immediately. I gave her an apron and said that it would be great if she was volunteering but I was going to visit with my guests. After all, the next dinner wasn't until Christmas, and I was sure I would have time to take care of the kitchen by then. I told her to just relax and enjoy the visit. Then I gave her a bowl of Jell-o.
I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving.