Dear Diary: Turkey Day, Black Friday, and Spiked Eggnog

Week 3

New Flash Fiction: Recalculating, Luckless

New Merc Rules: Merc Rule 155, Merc Rule 6, Merc Rule 391, Merc Rule 1

Turkey-day in the Wiley house was a… unique experience this year. Try to imagine a house with eight kids bouncing off the walls (only three were my spawn), a mother-in-law (the good kind (yes, they exist (shhh, yes they do!))), and three couples surviving solely on the power of spiked eggnog and whiskey. Let me just say, everything is better with spiked eggnog. And whiskey.

Ours is a football house, and so from the coin flip of the first game, ‘til the suits and mics came out when last game ended… hungry humans were shuffling between couch and food almost non-stop. Whether they were chased out of the kitchen with flaming turkey legs or not.

Let me rewind a bit.

This year was a landmark year for our family. Usually, we head up to the frozen north and spend the holiday with my folks. But we’ve opted to only make that harrowing trek once a winter now… Seeing as Montana can be a brutal and uncompromising hinterland of long icy roads and prowling deer, in search of the perfect vehicle to dive in front of.  Deer-in-the-headlights-look, my ass. Those crafty, hoofed charlatans are nature’s kamikaze pilot.

I digress.

This was only our second year hosting, and it’s the first time we volunteered to cook the turkey. Fortunately, I (and by I, I mean we) had some help in the kitchen. My longtime pal, Shelley, stepped up to the pan to make the poultry magic happen. It’s a rare thing to see a lumberjack in an apron. But damn it, Shelley, you pulled it off. He washed that beautiful bird and pulled the innards. And he didn’t even make that many inappropriate comments while stuffing it…

There may have been something about a hotdog in a hallway.

I’ll leave the rest to your imagination.

When the bird was prepped my wife seasoned and basted it. You have to let the Chosen One do what she was born to do, after all. If you blindfolded my wife and gave her three seasonings she could create flavors you’ve only heard legends about. And she keeps the spice cabinet full… Insert giddy smile.

Turkey-wise I had the easy job. Loading sticks of butter into the pan and applying generous dollops at strategic locations across the bird.

‘Course, as soon as the bird went into the oven we realized we were short on yams, pies, soda, measuring spoons, board games, and sanity… (read: Shelley and I needed to get out of the house) So we went to pick up some last minute nuts and bolts, and escape the terrorism that only a house full of kids can inflict.

When we got to the store it was already staged for the Black Friday madness that would ensue the following day. It was like navigating a maze just getting around the pallets of shrink-wrapped cookware sets and video game consoles. I started having flashbacks of a previous shopping experience with Black Friday… So Shelley and I filled the cart with missing essentials and high-tailed it out of there.

When we came back the clock struck whiskey-thirty, and we found the ladies had already started in with spiked nog and coffee. Great minds, I tell you. Great minds.

A little alcohol makes for a more laid back endeavor. At least it does with my close friends and family. Now, everyone has those drunk relatives that can make a wedding feel like a funeral. You know, the ones you don’t invite. We didn’t invite ‘em, either.

So, my wife is flying around the kitchen whipping up heaps of delicious sides. Buttery crescent rolls, spiced deviled eggs, fried zucchini, mashed taters and turkey gravy, succulent yams, cranberry sauce, sweet potato pie, cinnamon apple sauce, extra-cheesy southern mac, and the best damn stuffing this side of the Mississippi. Actually, to be fair, her mom, aka Mommy-law, made the yams and stuffing. Those ladies are a force to be reckoned with, I tell you! The real heroes are the ones that keep the army fed.

There may have been a bowl of black olives floating around too… But no matter how many cans we buy, olives never survive until dinner in a Wiley house. I may or may not have played a hand in that. Plausible deniability is a wonderful thing. One of the many benefits of having kids to blame. Shhhhh…

After a bit of experimentation with the temperature and some extra basting, the turkey came out perfect. Shelley did the honor(s?) of carving it up.

Dessert was store-bought pumpkin pie, homemade-from-scratch apple pie and sweet potato pie, both courtesy of Shelley. We’re talking golden brown lattice crust… and fresh Honeycrisp apples. The man is a damn pastry wizard. Throw in some cool whip and you have the pinnacle of human (not to mention culinary) achievement.

I had an easy job. Possibly the best job. Mixing drinks. And everyone loves the bartender. As long as he doesn’t have to cut anyone off. And I didn’t.

Dinner went on the table piping hot at 5pm, and after the first hour of eating, we hadn’t even made a dent. Hell, by the end of the night you could barely tell anyone ate. But that ain’t so say plates weren’t filled and belts weren’t loosened as we shoveled food down. Truth is, we grossly overestimated how much food we needed, and/or could eat. Which brings us to the best part about hosting Thanksgiving. Keeping leftovers.

Cleaning and repacking food quickly turned into a game of Tetris. Our fridge is loaded to the metaphorical gills. You might be able to slide a razor blade in on top of the mashed taters container.

So, overall, I’d say Thanksgiving was a success. And for the first time, we did Black Friday completely online. Which, I gotta say, is the only way to do it.

I remember going to a certain supercenter (I won’t say which, but it rhymes with WalMart) with my brother to try to get one of those deals. I can’t recall a time I ever felt so claustrophobic. We’re talking wall to wall humans. It felt like being in an ant farm, with people literally climbing over everything. That was the first and last time I tried to do Black Friday during peak hours.

I don’t know how anyone does it.

So now that Thanksgiving is behind us… my wife is breaking out all of the Christmas decorations. She tried to do it the day after Halloween… Christmas is her favorite holiday. Can you tell?

So… now we begin the slow uphill battle of Christmas shopping. One stressful event down. One to go. I’m sure all you smart shoppers out there have a battle plan. Hell, some of you might be done shopping already.

Not I. Nope.

I don’t even start thinking about shopping until about a week into December. Maybe I’m shooting myself in the foot, but I’ve managed to pull it off every year so far. The real trick is going to be balancing the holiday lunacy with my writing. But a little hard work never hurt anyone. Such is the price of success.

Oh, and on a final note, NaNoWriMo is kicking my lily-white arse! Only a few days left and I still have several thousand words to go. It’s knuckle-down time.

For everyone else out there behind the eight ball, don’t give up. We can do it!

Game face!

Go forth and conquer,

J. D.

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