I Can Picture It Now

By Anna Mitchael

I’m picturing the turkey that will be in the oven for what seems like a century.

And how every time someone opens the oven door to baste the bird or turn the bird or lay hands on the bird and pray — sometimes if you didn’t allow for the proper defrosting time, that’s a good idea — I won’t be able to stop myself from leaning in, eyes closed, just to catch a whiff of that bird cooking.

I’m picturing a sweet potato dish so rich that I completely stop believing potatoes have vegetables in their family tree. Where I start to think scientists must have something to do with this: Finally they’ve managed to create a potato whose sole purpose is to be a vehicle for cinnamon, vanilla and a crisp, marshmallow top.

I’m picturing Brussels sprouts all dressed up for the midday meal in rich, caramelized coating. “They taste like candy,” I’ll say, and everyone under 12 will roll their eyes, thinking I’m saying that just because I’m a mom. When they choose more dinner rolls instead, I won’t complain. More sprouts for me.

I’m picturing mashed potatoes and how whenever my husband passes the bowl to me, he always makes a point to raise his eyebrows just a bit. It’s nothing anyone else would notice, but it’s always duly noted by me. Our first Thanksgiving together I was shocked he wanted mashed potatoes, because I hadn’t grown up with them. As time goes on, it’s funny what things stick with you. And then also how rough spots can get smoothed by the years, even becoming what you look forward to.

I’m picturing how the kids will try their hardest at adult conversation but really will only be paying attention to each other. How, as I do every year, I will wonder if we are robbing them of a rite of passage by not giving them the pleasure of a kids table. Even after all these decades of Thanksgivings, the ones I spent at the card table with my brother and cousin still remain some of my favorites.

I’m picturing how no one will be hungry when the pie is served, but everyone will eat some anyway. And how I will say I want just a small slice. But then later when I am cleaning up, I will find a moment to cut another slice of pecan, and then I’ll eat it without a fork or a plate, just holding it barehanded. If you could turn the kitchen island that I’m leaning against into a butcher block and then turn back the clock 40 years, you’d see my grandma doing the exact same thing.

I’m picturing a Thanksgiving that’s pretty perfect. Maybe you’ve lived through enough of them yourself that you’re thinking that’s a lofty goal to set. There are lots of moving parts in a Thanksgiving — the most delicate often being the people. And in this year, perhaps even more than years that have come before, we are all seasoned to disappointment.

But here’s another way to look at it. Say the turkey catches fire. Say the mashed potatoes turn to rubber. Say, just say, that grandma gets run over by a turkey that’s being chased by a reindeer that got scared by the boom from a meth lab blowing up one county over. Even if all that happens, it still probably won’t be the worst day of 2020.

And anyway, anticipation has never really been just about the day you’re picturing. It’s about putting some happiness into all the ones that come before.