Driven by the wind, several brown, crisp leaves cartwheeled across the road in front of my car. They did a dance of ecstasy on the side of the road, and then dropped lifelessly into a clump of frost-deadened grass. A few hard pellets of sleet tappity-tapped on my windshield, and then seemingly disappeared into thin air. Had I imagined them? I pulled into the hospital parking lot and got out of my car.
Next to the lot, pine trees with deep green boughs, and tall maples with long, bare, gray branches huddled together whispering mysteriously about the relentless wind. The air smelled of snow. Overhead, a cloudy sky darkened the already dark November dawn.
An air of anxious anticipation, or tension crackled in the air when I arrived on the obstetrics unit where I worked. The feeling reminded me of grade school on a snowy morning, when the rumor was that the students would be sent home early. But this wasn’t grade school…it was real life as a grown-up. I had graduated from high school five years earlier, and was married for the last four.
In four days it would be Thanksgiving. Someone had decorated the walls with pictures of large, orange pumpkins, stalks of corn gathered together into shocks, Tom turkeys in grand, full display, and little pilgrim boys and girls. Was the quickly approaching holiday the cause for the tension? I could see the night staff was busy.
After I changed into my scrub dress, someone from the Admitting department wheeled a new patient off the elevator. The labor rooms were full…had the change of weather triggered the start of labor for all these women? I started my day by jumping into the action.
While washing delivery instruments later that morning with one of the other Nursing Assistants, we talked about the holiday. Ev said, “You have Thanksgiving off this year. Are you going to make the turkey and have family over?”
I laughed. Me? Make the turkey? She HAD to be kidding! I didn’t have a clue about how to even BEGIN making the big, sumptuous Thanksgiving meal that I enjoyed each year. Picturing myself baking a turkey was as unimaginable as planning a trip to the moon. I said, “We eat our Thanksgiving meal with either my folks, or with Arnie’s.”
Ev nodded understandingly, then questioned, “How do you and Arnie decide which family to spend time with on the holidays? Do you ever fight about it?”
“No…we never fight.” I explained. “On Thanksgiving Arnie hunts during the day, so we have our meal at his Mother’s place. She always has an evening meal for the deer hunters. My Mom has a noon meal, so if I have off like I do this year, I go there during the day.”
“Oph! You eat TWO thanksgiving dinners?” Ev asked with disbelief.
Guiltily, I admitted, “Yup! But I don’t eat everything offered at both places…just the stuff that I really like.”
That evening I attempted to make a pumpkin pie. It was thin, barely filling the crust, a disgusting dark brown, and tasted like mud. Arnie wouldn’t even try a piece. How did Mom make her delectable, pumpkin pies? They turned out deep, golden brown, and sweet… When I threw it out, I noticed instructions on the empty pumpkin filling can. I was supposed to add milk, eggs and sugar!
Arnie asked, “Are you going to spend the day with your folks, and then go over to my Mom’s place on Thursday?
I nodded and said glumly, “Even with holding back…I always overeat!
Arnie commiserated with a snicker, “Poor Kathy! I feel SO sorry for you.”
While doing the dishes I found myself singing a childhood song. “Old McDonald had a farm. E-I, E-I, E-I,-oh! And on his farm he had a turkey! E-I, E-I, E-I, oh! With a gobble-gobble here, and a gobble-gobble there, here a gobble, there a gobble, everywhere a gobble-gobble. E-I, E-I, E-I, oh!
I wasn’t the turkey on Thanksgiving Day, but I knew from my past history with having to eat at both places, that I’d do an awful lot of gobbling here, and gobbling there!