The two children Robin and I raised had grown into young men. They left our home, found, and married, young women they wanted to spend their lives with and had children of their own. Our oldest son David married Kim, had two children Zach and Samantha and now worked and felt the sting of mortgage payments each month. Our other son, Rob fell in love with and married Chris, had a daughter, Sarah and knew the high costs of electricity and children’s shoes.
My wife Robin inexplicably enjoyed working in the kitchen for hours and hours each year in the days leading up to Thanksgiving Day as she prepared the family’s holiday meal. She would arise before the first hint of sunlight that morning and I remember listening to the sounds of mixers, blenders and exhaust fans that carried the unwanted odors away. I remember thinking that the Thanksgiving Day odors of turkeys, potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing and pumpkin pie were fragrances that were to be savored and embraced, not discarded.
In November of 1996 Robin and I came to the reluctant conclusion that her Thanksgiving Day preparation efforts may no longer be practical. As Robin grew older, convincing her that a holiday meal served to the family at a local restaurant became much easier, so Robin and I made the decision to save the pots, pans and turkey baster for another time.
Thanksgiving Day afternoon came and the whole family gathered at a very nice restaurant offering the promise of a traditional holiday meal which would be enjoyed by all. Two tables were pushed together forming one large one. The adults sat at one end while the children sat like outcasts near the other. I recall that Samantha continued to let everyone know that she didn’t like turkey and asked if the restaurant was serving hamburgers that day. She was purposely ignored by all. Zach was incapable of sitting quietly so he entertained himself, and annoyed the rest of the group, by clanking his butter knife against his water glass. Sarah, on the other hand, was her customary quiet self and didn’t speak, but rather intently listened to every word spoken. Her eyes darted from speaker to speaker and it appeared as though she was analyzing every spoken word.
The conversation at the grown-up end of the table flowed seamlessly from home to work and eventually to everyday annoyances. It was at that moment that David took the conversation to the topic of his children and their occasional outbursts of misbehavior. As he talked about Zach forgetting to take out the garbage on trash day, Samantha allowing her bedroom to resemble a nuclear disaster site and both being relatively unfamiliar with the truth, I couldn’t help but recall an incident that occurred when David was seven years old and Rob was four.
We lived in a small brick house with a partially finished basement and the home looked like many others sitting along the suburban street. David was attending the elementary school located a few blocks away while Rob was a year removed from kindergarten. Robin and I were trying to convince our youngest son that he would like school but David privately told him stories of teachers with long tree branches that were used to beat the small children.
Robin, as was her custom, was preparing her pre-Thanksgiving grocery list and asked if anyone had any special requests. David and Rob needed bubble gum, Lucky Charms cereal and chocolate ice cream. Robin gave the boys that look which only she could give that let them know she was annoyed with them. I, on the other hand, did think of something much needed and asked Robin to add a box of Entenmann’s chocolate covered doughnuts to the grocery list. I recall she gave me that same look but then wrote something on the piece of paper.
For several days leading up to the day itself the kitchen countertop was covered with small boxes, cans, jars, bags of sugar, both white and brown, and chopping and cutting instruments. A large turkey rested quietly in the refrigerator unaware that it would be the guest of honor on Thursday.
Thanksgiving Day morning came and we gathered at the dining room table for breakfast. Robin announced that the day’s main meal would be served at 3:00 p.m. She said she hadn’t prepared breakfast but asked if anyone wanted something to eat. David and rob asked for their favorite cereal, Lucky charms. I, on the other hand, asked for two chocolate covered doughnuts.
A moment passed before Robin came from the kitchen with an empty Entenmanns box, and a confused look on her face. “There aren’t any doughnuts, the box is empty,” she said as she looked at each of the children. I remarked that I hadn’t eaten any of the doughnuts and as she continued to stare at the boys said neither had she.
They both sat motionless and speechless. I was waiting for one of the fantastic stories I had heard in the past when food items seemed to disappear; The chocolate ice cream monster made one-half gallon of ice cream disappear in less than 2 days or the much used story about the overnight Oreo cookie burglar that took, not all, but a noticeable number of cookies from the ceramic pig cookie jar.
With no such explanation forthcoming, David suddenly cast the blame on his younger brother and told such a convincing story involving the use of a kitchen stool that Robin accepted it and summarily punished Rob although he continued to deny the allegation. Many years later, and after the boys were grown, David eventually admitted to the great doughnut theft exonerating Rob. As the years passed and everyone grew older, Rob often reminded us that he was unfairly punished while David seemed to derive some degree of pleasure knowing he had pulled the proverbial wool over our eyes.
As David continued to entertain the family seated at the table with tales of his two children’s misbehavior, the crowded restaurant’s waitress asked if anyone at the table would like desert; perhaps a piece of pumpkin pie topped with whipped cream. I asked if there were any chocolate covered doughnuts. The busy server said “I’ll check, but I think they are all gone.” I muttered softly, and really spoke only to myself, “This isn’t the first Thanksgiving day that I’ve been told there are no chocolate covered doughnuts.”