When I was a little girl, my father worked as an engineer for an oil company in Alabama, and part of his job required him to wine and dine potential clients. Where we lived in Mobile, there were few fancy restaurants and my mother was not only an excellent hostess but a great cook, so my father would often bring home important clients for my mom to entertain.
It was the day before Thanksgiving and all the family had come to stay at our house for Thanksgiving. My mother’s mother was there as well as my father’s younger sister, Aunt Trevie and her husband, Uncle Jack. My father called my mom to say that two important clients would be joining us for Thanksgiving dinner. Apparently, due to storms, their flights home had been canceled, and Dad had invited them to our house for a home-cooked meal. My mom, after a moments panic, told my older brother and I that we would have to help her get the house ready for the important guests. She sent my brother to dust and polish furniture and pulled out all her good wedding silver and sat me down at the kitchen table with silver polish and a rag, while she pulled out her cookbooks to find a recipe for apple pie.
Thanksgiving morning came and my poor mother not only had to make breakfast for everyone but start her turkey, do her hair, and get the house spotless, no easy task considering she had guests and a bloodhound puppy to deal with. The puppy, named Missile, was tied up in our large backyard, to keep it out of the way, and my brother and I were again drafted to help with preparations.
My father’s guests arrived at three and they were ushered into our spotless house by my father and introduced to my mother, who was now in her best dress and pearls, and the rest of the family. My mother had made hors d’oeuveres and she sent me out with them on a silver tray to serve the guests while my father played bartender.
Everything was going well until Aunt Trevie got into a fight with Uncle Jack. My uncle drank a lot and when he drank, he talked a lot. Apparently, he said something to Aunt Trevie, who was in a wheelchair, that she didn’t like for she threw her glass of red wine at him. It hit him in the face and he dropped his brandy, then when she tried to wheel away, she knocked down one of my mother’s ceramic lamps. Both the living room carpet and sofa where my uncle had been sitting were white and now covered with wine and brandy. I ran to the kitchen to get my mother who’d just taken the turkey out of the oven to settle. Mom came running with dish towels, while I followed behind her with a bowl of soapy water. Meanwhile, dad was chasing after his sister and Uncle Jack while Grandmother, who’d also had a few too many glasses of sherry, was entertaining the guests with stories of the Great Depression. Mom and I saved the carpet and the sofa and then announced dinner was ready. My father wrangled his sister and brother-in-law inside the house, then got his guests and Grandma to the dining room, where my mother had set a beautiful table that Martha Stewart would have been proud of.
Mom and I went into the kitchen to start bringing out the food and discovered that my brother who’d been in the backyard the whole time was standing there covered in mud and watching Missile eat our Thanksgiving turkey. My mom wrestled the turkey away from the dog, no easy feat, and told my brother to go change after making him drag the dog back outside.
Luckily, Missile had only started eating the turkey and had only made off with one leg. My mom looked at me and said don’t tell anyone, and then ordered me to start carrying out all the side dishes and set them on the table. I carried out the sides one by one while my mother strategically began carving the turkey. Once I had all the sides out, she handed me a bottle of white wine and said go fill all the guest’s glasses and keep them full. Mom sliced up the salvaged turkey and laid it on her best platter, with stuffing and covered in lots of gravy, then presented it to the guests.
The rest of the meal went without incident and all the guests enjoyed mom’s meal. The two important clients so loved our family Thanksgiving that they awarded my dad a huge contract and he got a promotion. My mom swore me to secrecy about her turkey disaster and I kept my promise till my mother passed. As for me, I learned that any meal can be salvaged with enough gravy and ingenuity.