>simple girl’s 25 minus 2! or, Thanksgiving Nightmares

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The turkey I can take partial credit for…

I’ve basically checked something else off my list. By basically I mean I fully intended to and am giving myself points for effort. The story is too ridiculous to go unrecorded, anyway.

Item No. 8 on my 25 While I’m 25 list is Cook a Multi-Course Meal From Scratch. Is there really a better time to tackle this than Thanksgiving? Over the past few years, as Ben and I have moved back to Massachusetts and bought our first house, Thanksgiving has been a weird time. Our first year back, we celebrated with Ben’s extended family, but by the time it rolled around our second year, we had just closed on the little Hobbit house, I was in the middle of a huge I’m-24-and-my-life-is-moving-too-quickly-and-the-couch-doesn’t-fit-in-the-house mental breakdown, and a lot of our heavy furniture was stranded in our apartment, too difficult to move by ourselves. The solution? I bought a last-minute plane ticket to Florida to run and hide in my Mama’s arms, and Ben’s parents and brother came to see him, move the last of the furniture, and ate at Applebees. That was the only way to survive Thanksgiving of 2009. We barely made it.
This year, I was ready for guests and so excited that Ben’s family thought it was a great time to begin a new tradition of Thanksgiving at…OUR HOUSE! Ben’s mom graciously helped me plan the menu and brought a lot of sides and desserts to take the pressure off, so I was left with some drinks and munchies, the gravy, the stuffing, and the bird! I decided this counted as a multi-course meal from scratch, and it was definitely a stretch for me, as the most complicated thing I cook is quiche, and that is embarrassingly simple once you’ve made it twice. Thanksgiving also kind of kicks my ass because it falls directly after one of the sections of the school year that requires the most poise, organization, and time-after-hours: parent teacher conferences. Extreme planning was necessary.
I bought my turkey and all my trimmings exactly 30 minutes before I was due back to school, showered and dressed like someone you would leave your five-year-old with, requiring me to leave anything that did not need to be refrigerated on the floor of the kitchen. I also quizzed everyone from the teacher across the hall (who left college for a semester to attend cooking school in Manhattan) to Aunt Sally (a mythical and wonderful relative of a close friend who knows everything about cooking, entertaining, Christmas shopping, and being a warm hostess in general) about the simplest and most delicious way to cook a turkey, prepare gravy, and bake stuffing. I found some recipes, braved the stores for fresh herbs, and was ready to take on the kitchen and prepare a meal to be remembered for a long time…
…except I broke out in hives. The night before the last day of conferences, an angry red rash broke out all over my face and the back of my neck. It could have been stress, or a piece of exotic salami I sampled when planning out the T-day cheese platter. We went out to buy Benadryl in the middle of the night, my long-suffering husband grabbing his keys in a resigned matter. These things just HAPPEN around me. At least they would clear up quickly…
…except they didn’t. In fact they kept getting worse, and no combination of gulping water, avoiding certain foods, and pumping my system full of anti-histamines would help. I cancelled my drinks plans with some girlfriends, took the largest dose of meds I trusted myself to survive, and went to bed. I was sure I would be fine in the morning…
…except when I woke up, I realized (with a sinking heart) that I did not have hives. This was, in fact, poison ivy. I actually had poison ivy all over the insides of my wrists, between my fingers, and all over my eye brows, hairline, and UPPER LIP. Not the skin above my upper lip. On my upper lip. I looked a little bit like Angelina Jolie…no, I didn’t. That would have been some consolation. I made a list that included clear Calamine lotion and rubber gloves (how do you prepare a turkey with a poisonous rash on your hands?) and Ben tried so hard not to laugh at my bumpy face and completely depressed demeanor. In his eyes, poison ivy was better than unexplainable hives. Now that we had the problem pinpointed, everything was surmountable…
…except I didn’t count on it spreading into my mouth. Into my mouth. Yes, my mouth. Past the lips. On my gums. I woke up Thanksgiving morning positively giddy, ready to cook and pick up my sister from the train and Skype the rest of the family while we watched the parade and were happy and harmonious. I wore gloves to start the turkey, covered my face with lotion and make up, put on my favorite dress, and started to get ready for Ben’s family to roll in. When they were about to arrive, I ran to brush my teeth and noticed, with a terrified jolt, a bubble of poison ivy sitting the middle of my gum directly above my front teeth. I gagged dramatically, rinsed my mouth and spit 73 times, and ran to tell Ben that I was dying.
“I’m sure you’re fine,” he said dryly, not turning from the computer. I huffed away to find Laurel.
“Oh, gross,” she said. She did not mock me or make fun of me for being a hypochondriac, completely confirming that I was, in fact, dying.
I stomped back to the office where I discovered that Ben did not turn away from the computer because he was Goggling my situation. I, in turn, pulled my I-need-answers trump card, and called my mother.
“Well…now it’s time to call a doctor,” my mom said across the phone lines.
Oh my god. I had five hours to live.
(Continued in Part Two, a.k.a. How To Ruin Thanksgiving While Your In-Laws are Visiting)
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