Growing up, we always had Thanksgiving dinner at our grandparents’ ranch. They had 300 acres dotted with cattle, ponds, and rolling hills in East Texas. Upon pulling down the long driveway, the smell of pine trees and chimney smoke would make you close your eyes and take a deep breath. Those smells still transport us back in time.
Each Thanksgiving there was a green and silver bowl filled with fruit salad. Along with it came cloth napkins, expectations of your best table manners, and many tall tales from the past. No one knows where the bowl came from but we all know that it came out of its box every year to hold a colorful concoction of bananas, apples, and maraschino cherries. It was a part of what you could say was your quintessential Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving.
However, years later when it was our turn to prepare the meal Mr. Rockwell made himself less known…
The turkey was in the oven, the kids were setting the table, fresh cut flowers were arranged for the centerpiece…the whole nine yards. We were aiming to impress and show our Nany and Mom they had in fact passed down their zeal for putting on a great meal.
Then came the potatoes…easy. Peel, chop, boil, mash. As we were cleaning up the peelings in the sink we noticed the rain through the kitchen window. It was an unbelievably cold but clear day with no rain in the forecast. We soon noticed the “rain” only poured down when the garbage disposal was on. Confused, we went out the back door and looked up to see a fountain of water mixed with potato peels shooting from a vent pipe in the roof. In all honesty, we are known for getting into predicaments like this more often than not but this one was for the books. We we had to figure it out before the guests arrived and we got the obligatory lectures from 3 generations of family.
Half panicked and out of breath from having the giggles only sisters can share, we decided to try to clear the clog and run more hot water…shove broomsticks down the sink…and hope a 2nd grade science class reaction of vinegar and baking soda would clear the 5 pounds of potato peels we expected the Cookie Monster of appliances to ingest in a short amount of time. But, every time we tried to run the disposal, a geyser of steaming water and potato peels shot from the roof.
At this point is was getting late and guests were about to arrive. We made a plan to conceal the evidence by stacking dishes in the sink, not let anyone go near the kitchen, and deal with it after dinner…and most importantly not to tell a soul about the potato situation.
It was game time.
The plumbing situation was concealed under a dish towel in the sink. We finished prepping the food, and with a deep breath threw some salt over our shoulders.
Everything was going great. Mom had arrived with Nany, drinks were served, and everyone chatted before dinner. We took our seats and began the blessing. We had pulled it off……but just as it was when we were kids, we caught each other’s eye…and it happened. A smirk…a snort……the giggles. We tried to control ourselves. The men were puzzled, our own children looked at us like we had lost our minds for laughing during the prayer, but our mom knew those laughs all too well and told us to fess up. We started telling the story the way two siblings would…playing verbal ping pong, each adding a bit as we went. For the grand finale, and with tears from laughter in our eyes, we flipped on the garbage disposal to reveal the potato peels raining down in all of their glory. The children clapped, Nany shook her head, the guys were less than pleased, and Mom was genuinely unfazed because this is what she was accustomed to from us.
Some of the best memories, the ones we treasure, usually come with a few bumps along the way. That’s what makes them great. Sure, there was a $200 price tag attached to this memory to have a plumber come snake the pipe at midnight but besides that it was a great day.
During all of our Thanksgiving dinners including this one, the silver bowl was there. Our children will probably associate the silver fruit bowl with raining potatoes, and many more antics through the years but it also serves as a reminder to us of those “perfect” Thanksgivings at the ranch and how those stories, including ours will be retold for generations to come.