About a month ago I found out I was going to have to work on Thanksgiving.
The Red Lion Inn has a long history of serving dinner on Turkey Day and we serve a lot of them. There are three seatings – 11:30, 2:30, and 5:30 – and over three hundred people will stuff themselves with everything from clam chowder to turkey and stuffing to pumpkin pie. The whole place has to fire on all cylinders to make it happen. The Head Chef simply said, “Everyone has to work on Thanksgiving.”
I came home and told Ginger and the first words out of her mouth were, “Then quit!”
She wasn’t joking. Despite the financial straits such a move would put us in, she was calling for a values check. Thanksgiving is the one major holiday for her, as a minister, that doesn’t carry religious overtones in one way or another. She never has to work on Thanksgiving. It is our best family day, as I mentioned yesterday, full of deep emotion, tradition, ritual, and meaning. The arc of the day goes something like this: we have breakfast (with bacon!) and then, while I get the turkey started, we bring in the old futon mattress from the garage (which has been well wrapped in plastic) and put it on the floor in front of the couch, where it stays until New Year’s. Ginger covers it with sheets and blanket and it becomes our bed for the holiday season. It’s something we’ve done since we lived in Charlestown, though I don’t remember how it started. I love it. There’s something that happens to our sense of expectation when we move downstairs for the season.
Ah, but I digress. Thanksgiving Dinner is always at two o’clock. Again, I’m not sure why, but that is when we sit down. Once we are seated, we stay a long time, way past the eating. Some of my best memories of the day are the conversations around the table after dinner. More than one year, we’ve sat there so long that we’ve filled our plates for a second time with what were leftovers by then.
What follows is a trip to the movies. The same is also true on Christmas Day. This year, I’m hoping we pick Happy Feet. After the show, it’s a late snack before settling down on the palate.
Every time the schedule came up at work, I talked about what the day meant to us and that we had friends coming for dinner. Chef worked hard to accommodate me, but couldn’t figure out a way to let me be off all day. On Saturday, he said he could get me out of there after the first seating if I would come in early to help prep. When I told Ginger that this morning before I left for the restaurant, she said, “I still haven’t given up on you not working on Thanksgiving. I am willing that you will not work.”
When I got to the Inn, Chef said he thought he could get me out pretty early if I came in at the crack of dawn to help get things ready. Late in the day, he came back to say something had come up that meant he had to be away from the restaurant most of the day tomorrow. He asked if I could cover for him. I said yes. What that means is by the end of my day tomorrow I will have worked twenty-two hours this week. The owner won’t let us work past forty.
“If you work tomorrow,” said Chef, “you can take Wednesday and Thursday off.” I said thank you.
When I called Ginger to tell her the news, what she said first was, “I knew it.”
My pie making will get pushed back a day, but I can live with that. I get to revel and relish in Our Favorite Day around the table with people we love and maybe even get to see some dancing penguins.