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After all of my pre-Thanksgiving cooking, I covered the food with plastic wrap for ten minutes of over-the-river-and-through-the-woods-to-Grandmother's-house-we-go. Rounded up the guys and all carried something to the car. My husband carried the ham bone in a plastic bag and his blessed life-blood 2 liter Pepsi. The car has a deceptively roomy back hatch area, where we put all of the food, except for the creamed onions, which were still warm and in a pot with a lid, that I didn't want spilling. My son takes corners with verve.


I rode shotgun, my older son driving his VW Golf, which is as old as his brother, but with less mileage. I placed the pot on the floor, since I had put some effort into what I was wearing. Black cotton top, black loose-fitting yoga pants, a long silk sweater with no buttons, pale army green and a greenish paisley pashmina, given to me by the niece who would be there. Black leather jacket and boots, a beaded necklace from Kenya, a touch of mascara.


That left the back seat for my husband and younger son, who are both over 6 feet tall. My longlegged husband, clutching his Pepsi for dear life, asked me if I could move my seat forward. "Sure", I said, "no problem, just let me pick up the pot of creamed onions, so I can find the lever." In what I can only describe as A Bermuda Triangle Event, with the warm pot between my legs (which are long also), I reached down and the lever did nothing. My son, the driver, reached over to help to no avail. I told my husband to push the seat as my son pulled the lever, and I tried to use my body weight to scooch forward.


Did I mention the large golf umbrella that was in the way or that we were still in the driveway? Anyway, what happened next was a sudden feeling of warmth, not attributed to the car's heater kicking in. The lid on the pot had slid off; the pot had tilted toward me and my black clothes and paisley pashmina, and I ended up with a significant amount of creamed onions between my legs. My first reaction was surprise, followed by cursing. The guys were frozen, bewildered.


I switched into practical mode, scooping up as much as I could save, much to the disgust of my youngest son. I said, "I'm not wasting this; I'll be reheating it at Grandma's, and you don't have to eat any if you don't want." With both hands dripping with bechamel sauce, I requested paper towels. My son ran into the house to get some but my husband found a towel in the back seat, so I used that to clean up. Only then did the absurdity hit me and I started laughing; my husband blamed the golf umbrella; my sons both asked if I wanted to change my clothes. I declined, still laughing, "These are my most comfortable clothes; I am not changing. For once, I would like to be there on time. Let's go."


The meal went fine; there was plenty for all. I said a short grace, with a definitive Amen, leaving no time for anyone to add more. My VW son later thanked me for not having us say what we were thankful for, something my sisters and mother often do, with weird effects. I told him it had taken me an hour to reheat EVERYTHING but the turkey, so it was pure hunger. The usual craziness, storytelling, taking family portraits wearing my mother's odd hat collection, lasted hours.


When several people started complaining about the house being cold, I re-set the thermostat and went around checking all the registers, more than half being closed. Fixed an electrical outlet and sealed off a large register in the family room, which after opening, found it stuffed with newspapers from November 30, 1986, and not connected to the furnace. Finding tools, the right screws, a replacement outlet cover, was like going on a frustrating scavenger hunt in dim light. Forget a proper working flashlight; my mother never has the right batteries, and "someone" removed the flashlights that worked. She handed me one that looked like it came from the Art Deco era, making my degree in visual arts and art history worthwhile.


So when my husband wanted a nice hot cup of coffee, I heard various voices: "Where is she? Daughter/Sister/Mom/Grandma/Wife, where are you? We need you to make coffee." I yelled back, laying on the floor sideways with the wrong kind of screwdriver, "I'm fixing the heat and can't make coffee at the same time!" No one heard me. I fixed the large register by removing the old newspaper, stuffing the space with a pillow my daughter and I made for a garage band that has changed members, now goes by a different name, then neon pink duct taping a piece of cardboard over the whole thing.


Hid my handiwork with a piece of furniture, explained what I had done to my Mom since she pays some company to service her heating and cooling system, then put on a tea kettle of water and rummaged through her tea closet. Way at the back, next to a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, I found organic, gluten free, caffeine free, Tulsi Holy Basil infusion bags, which claimed to be Stress-Relieving and Energizing. Everyone else had moved into the dessert phase. All I wanted was a cup of tea after a long day.

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