A Flood of Thanks in a Difficult Year
Once or twice a year I get drafted to participate in the creation of dinner. By that I mean The Wife issues a set of specific instructions that The Husband (me) is obligated to carry out, no questions asked.
As a non-foodie, a man who would starve to death left on my own, I am rarely asked to perform even the most menial food preparation task. Once I smushed potatoes through a ricer and a few years back, after setting three timers and distributing a blizzard of Post-it notes, I actually remembered to shut the oven off as per The Wife’s orders. I even stirred something once, but that was under exceptional circumstances, so it doesn’t really count.
This Thanksgiving, like all other Thanksgivings, I did my part by staying out of the way. Staying out of the way is the principle role of The Husband when The Wife is in full Thanksgiving dinner mode. I mowed the lawn. I painted a patch of fence. I bagged up leaves. I took her car for gas. When I did risk a trip through the kitchen I made sure to shout pacifying words of encouragement: “Smells great!” and “That looks delicious!” and “You’re doing great!” I call it mood maintenance, anything to avoid saying an unfortunate word or phrase that can trigger a thermonuclear meltdown featuring a turkey baster whistling past my nose followed by, “Then you make candied yams!”
Phrases to avoid include: “What time is everyone coming?” “But I like the cranberry sauce that has the lines from the can.” And the absolute worst thing any husband can say, guaranteed to send her to DEFCON 1: “That’s not how my mother did it.”
Everything was going along swimmingly when things took an unexpected turn.
“The sink is stopped up,” she said with a light dusting of flour on the tip of her nose and a strand of hair hanging straight down her forehead.
But a plugged-up sink was just the beginning; water was pouring out of the washing machine onto the floor of our home office. The dishwasher, both sides of the sink and the washing machine were in open rebellion, with filthy, food-chunk laden waves of soapy water gushing across the floor. T-minus three hours until our guests were due.
Bath towels and roll after roll of Kirkland paper towels stemmed the flood and a $250 check mollified two emergency service plumbers who broke the news that the main drain pipe leading from the house to the city’s sewer system was fatally flawed and would have to be replaced. On Thanksgiving Day. A four-hour job. Estimated cost? $2,400.
We took a pass.
Instead, the bathtub became the repository of Thanksgiving 2016’s dishes and our regular plumber agreed to fix the pipe Friday morning for less than half the other guy’s price.
And yet, despite the flood, the inconvenience, the gravy boat floating in the bathtub and the four-digit repair bill, we stuffed our traps and justified second slices of pie and laughed and felt gratitude for everything that went right rather than fixate on the things that went wrong.
Not a bad metaphor for this entire wacky year.
Doug McIntyre’s column appears Sundays. Hear him weekdays, 5-10 a.m. on KABC AM (790). He can be reached at: Doug@DougMcIntyre.com.