A Very Brady Thanksgiving

I probably should have worked on pulling myself together before I rounded the corner and collided with a paper goods display, arranged in the shape of a giant turkey. There really was no turning back. In the wake of the damage, I call out a harried string of, “I’m sorry… I’m sorry…” as I push on.

Just an hour ago, Greg and I were living the life, in bed with a smorgasbord of Pop-tarts, sugary cereals, powdered donuts, and a pot of coffee, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Then the phone rang. Greg’s parents were two hours away, coming through with their motor home, and did he mind two more for Thanksgiving dinner? Now I, the live-in girlfriend they have no idea exists, am trying to shop for and cook a complete holiday dinner, which I have never done before.

I swing my cart around a corner, disgruntled to find the toilet paper aisle. Where the hell is the cranberry sauce? I nearly ram into a little lady who looks about five hundred years old. She’s moving at a snail’s pace, muttering that Charmin is more expensive than the price of gold.

The clock is ticking. I want to scream. Instead, I turn on my heels and retrace my steps. Maniacal, I am well over whatever a normal grocery store speed limit might be. I accidentally take a corner on two wheels. The ten pound turkey in my cart rolls around like a cannon ball, turning the salad tomatoes into sauce. I cuss, panting like a rabid dog, and perspiring from head to toe.

I whip my cell phone out of my pocket, trying to multi-task. Racing my cart with one hand down the frozen dinner aisle, I try to Google “how to cook a turkey,” with the other hand. Somehow I summon a porn site, and maybe even Satan, so I decide to leave the Googling for later.

“We can’t serve them macaroni and cheese or ramen,” Greg insisted, upon inventory of our cupboards. We were fourth-year college students. Ramen was life. Greg, who not only an hour before had been debating whether or not whipped cream was a protein, was now embracing a newfound desire to create the perfect Thanksgiving dinner. This resulted in his staying home to clean while I was left to hone in on non-existent womanly “let’s pull together a last minute holiday” wiles. Along with every other last minute shopper trying to do the same thing.

As my cart nearly takes out a set of identical twins fighting over a bag of assorted Hershey’s miniatures, I wish mine was the hand in the toilet, scrubbing to my heart’s content. Instead, I am the one hyperventilating in the canned fruit aisle, the open space that once housed cranberry sauce taunting me. Cranberry sauce was Mr. Brady’s favorite part of the meal. Safeway was out of it.

I shuttle my cart over to the produce section at warp speed. Frantic morphs into irritation. Mr. Brady and his cranberry sauce. That he just “has” to have. These “last minute Louie” types who, of all things, named their son Greg. Greg Brady. What were they thinking? “Your name isn’t Marcia, Jan or Cindy, is it?” were the first words Greg ever spoke to me. “Or Carol, come to think of it that would be bad, too.” My name is Jennifer.

I stand there on slightly shaky legs, gaping at the instructions on the bag of whole, raw cranberries, and I try not to cry. How much do I really love Greg Brady? Enough to go through all of this? I don’t even like cranberries. Resigned, I toss the bag of them into my cart, but my heart is slamming in my ears and my throat is constricting.

I glance at my watch. They would be arriving in forty-five minutes. We needed some snacks to tie us over. And probably some adult beverages, too. Anything to make a late turkey dinner taste better than I knew it was going to.

Patrons are faceless blurs as I jog with a nearly full cart to the dairy case. Vigorously, I throw blocks of assorted cheese on top of turkey, produce, two pies, a six pack of soda, a case of beer and two packs of wine coolers. This is the most cardio I’ve gotten in years. It occurs to me, as I toss copious amounts of Cracker Barrel into the cart, that I can smell myself because I haven’t showered. If I don’t hurry, I’ll meet my future in-laws smelling like I worked the docks all morning.

I weave my cart around “Sunday driver” type shoppers as I locate the cracker aisle. It’s like an obstacle course I’m being timed completing. I am breathing heavy and my face feels hot. I pass them, muttering a mantra of, “Crackers. That’s all I need. Crackers.” I have no idea what I am throwing in the cart, other than a lifetime supply of Wheat Thins, Ritz, Triscuits, the gamut. We will have crackers.

Done, I feel a dizzying sense of elation. Or maybe it’s my sugar taking a dive, I’m not sure. I can make it home in ten minutes and shower while the oven preheats and Greg unloads the groceries. Dinner would be more of an evening event than a midday one, but some families did it that way, right?

Weary, I approach the checkout stand with a heaping cart. It’s better to have too much than not enough, I decide, and unload everything onto the conveyor belt. The checker snatches items up, one by one, the responding “beep, beep” almost soothing me. In fact, even in the chaos of voices, clamor of shopping carts, the occasional wail of a displeased child, and greetings of the holiday, I watch the accomplishment of my thirty-minute Olympic event-style shopping spree.

Though I still have to cook everything, a small part of me relaxes a little, and the panic subsides. I decide, even if the cooking isn’t done when the Bradys arrive, there will at least be more in the house than Pop-tarts, cereal, ramen and boxed mac and cheese. Considering this, I beam at the success of my “hunting and gathering” skills.

“Looks like you’ve got quite a feast planned,” the checker marvels, ringing the last item, the cannonball turkey. Her Southern accent is sweet as honey. “Y’all must be gluten free?”

As I hand her my credit card, I grin. “Oh, gosh no. In fact, we can’t get enough gluten,” I joke, feeling a little lighter, and a bit more confident with my skillset. Downright giddy, I joke with a slightly crazed edge, “Gluten, gluten, gluten! More, more, more!” I cackle, my odd sense of elation likely making me seem a bit nutty, but I don’t care. I am Spartacus. “Why do you ask?”

She hands me my receipt and card, glancing at the line of antsy customers forming behind me. Her words send a startling chill down my spine. “I just noticed you didn’t have stuffin’ or rolls.”

I swallow the instantaneous lump in my throat. Hello panic… so…we meet again.

***

14449751_1298871566811955_1722593664197469730_n.jpgSuzanne Marie Calvin-Yim is a late-in-life student, majoring in English with a minor in Secondary Education. A seasoned wearer of many hats, she has worked as a waitress, bank teller, paralegal, and a Certified Nurse Aide, in addition to having homeschooled her son and daughter. She has three published romance novels with Amber Quill Press, and has freelanced for The Colorado Springs Independent and Out Front Colorado. Suzanne lives in Colorado Springs with her wife, Juli, her adult son and daughter, and Lily the human Schnauzer. Her hobbies include swimming, hiking, biking, reading, watching British films, and thinking reflectively. Currently, she is working on two novels and a collection of short stories.