By Mary Lynn Bruny

I heard Christmas music in a store recently which made me realize that Thanksgiving is right around the corner. (At some point will all the fall and winter holidays just meld together? Thanks-hallo-kwan-mas? Christ-giving-ween-kah?)

Usually my husband and I host a Thanksgiving get-together for 25 family members and their partners. It’s an exhausting day of utter chaos, mess, football, food and fun. My zany great nephews and nieces zip around the house fueled by excitement and sugar while the adults slurp down drinks and nosh on pumpkin and zucchini bread. Come dinnertime there is twice as much food than can possibly be consumed including – the best of the best – homemade pies.

Flakes of mashed potatoes (made by our sons) end up on the nearby kitchen window and cupboards (wild use of beaters), sticking like cement to be scraped off the next day. It takes my husband and me days to prepare, then days to clean up, even more days to eat all the leftovers, and then days to recover from all the work and massive consumption of food. It’s pretty wonderful. So that’s out the window this year.

Instead it will just be our immediate family. Before the numbers spiked, we thought we could safely abscond my delightful mother-in-law her from her senior living facility. But now of course Prisoner 135 (what I teasingly call her since the lockdown – her room number) won’t be able to join us, which is sad on so many levels. Not only does she make the best gravy, she’s fun stuff even in her 90s. Those Nebraska farm girls are hardy and feisty.

My husband and I were bouncing around menu ideas to accommodate the needs of our small party. Like every group of human beings eating together in the U.S., we all have various dietary requirements, and planning a dinner necessitates piles of cookbooks (with names like Non-Dairy Dreaming and Vamos Vegetarian!), and making several Venn diagrams. “Can we safely say water? “ I ask peevishly. “No. Remember how that carbonated mineral water bothered you last time you had it?” my husband replies. Geez. Even water isn’t a given. How did we become so digestively wimpy?

Instead of food planning I shift to fashion. “I’m going to dress up,” I tell my husband. “Sick of your gray sweats, are we?” my husband asks. But trying to determine what I should wear – what one outfit I should pick from my closet of unworn clothes – was harder than meal planning.

“Perhaps you could change with every course,” my husband suggests. “Instead of pairing with wine you could pair with attire. Or, layer and remove pieces.” What an interesting and fun idea. But of course since it would require more effort after we’ve already cleaned, prepared and cooked, it would not happen. Instead I would sit on my dupah (what my Hungarian mother calls a rear end), munch, drink and hang with the gang. Still, points for creativity.

This idea reminded me of when our youngest son was six and decided he was tired of changing his underwear every day. He came up to my husband and me with seven pairs of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles underwear piled atop each other in a big bunch on his skinny little body (he looked like a number two pencil stuck though a ping pong ball), and announced he was set for the week: He would simply take off one pair each day. He was crestfallen when we explained how the same pair would be next to his body all week. Though again, points for creativity.

Family: Whether you’re with 25 or a few, they usually keep you entertained.

By Mary Lynn Bruny is a Colorado freelance writer. Contact her at [email protected].