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Thanksgiving has come and gone and still no June Cleaver/Martha Stewart award for Best Hostess on my mantel. Each Thanksgiving and Christmas, I try. I set a lovely table, even creating my own centerpiece or  fashioning napkin holders from ribbon and bits of nature (the pretty bits, not the nasty ones). I use the good china (as opposed to the chipped kitchen plates), the silver (sometimes even taking the time to remove the tarnish) and take care to ‘garnish’ the turkey and vegetables (okay, it’s my substitute for the elaborate Jack-o-lanterns I  can no longer be arsed doing). But somehow, within five minutes of the guests’ arrival, things always take a turn.

There is at least one dog lashed to the butcher block to prevent a dog fight. The other one is sprawled out on the good white sofa — she doesn’t understand (or maybe she does but is doing it to irritate me) that when the sheet isn’t there, she isn’t supposed to be either. The third pooch is shaking his face burrs (recently acquired from sticking his head in the bushes in the nearby swamp) all over the kitchen floor. We’d bring the vacuum out to clean up the pile, but he hates the machine and attempts to tackle it (or hump it) while barking at the top of his shrill little voice. The fourth hound is a no-show this year since she really isn’t trained for polite company yet. I know, you’re all saying, ‘So what? There’s no polite company in that shitshow anyway.’

This year, with both L’il Sis and Crazy D living here, I had to make an executive decision to stash all their excess kale, vitamins, water bottles, four kinds of salt, three kinds of coffee, and eight bottles of fancy olive oil in a box in the mudroom — just to provide counter space for the meal. “I don’t care, people!” I ranted. “It’s only for one day, then you can litter the counters again with your crap. But I refuse to carve the 20 pound bird on my lap…I need space to work!” They reluctantly agreed. The dogs were crushed — the thought of meat so close to their snouts was a delight cruelly snatched away.

I served appetizers on the large coffee table in the living room — the one filled with books (Poochie’s memorial book), Poochie’s urn of ashes, Wilbur’s box of ashes, and Germaine’s (one of our deceased canaries)  Plaster of Paris footprint.  It has been dubbed, and rightly so, The Table of Death. But a casual observer probably wouldn’t pick up on the ghoulish theme. I hesitated to put shrimp on the low table, knowing that I’d have to guard it from marauding puppy mouths if the guests were to get any. But since the tall, unruly hound wasn’t coming, I figured I might have a fighting chance. The tall well-behaved hound presents no problem at all. One simply says, “Not for you, Jewel,” and she sits calmly, not touching the food. Of course, her eyes are bugging out of her head and drool is streaming from her chops, but she does not eat anything.

I do think I deserve at least a citation from June or Martha for my array of food — food that caters to every half-assed, picky diet in the world. I have non-gluten stuffing, non-dairy stuffing, stuffing cooked in the bird, stuffing cooked not in the bird, ‘mashed’ potatoes with no milk, no butter, no chicken broth, no salt…basically, a mound of dry mush. Oh, but there’s ‘real’ turkey gravy made from scratch and fake gravy made from god knows what and nutritional yeast. I know…yuck! Then we have the bird, Uncle Tom, and the vegan ‘loaf’ made from carrots, cashews and pumpkin. Two kinds of cranberry sauce and two pies — with non-dairy topping, whipped cream, or soy ice cream. I should earn brownie points at least for endurance.

The saving grace is that, by the end of the meal everyone (including me) is so happy (large consumption of booze), details don’t matter. So I didn’t win an award again this year. How many other hostesses can boast two near dog fights, an unruly house in which dogs almost outnumber humans, and a decibel level loud enough to annoy the neighbours?

I know Gill misses the family at these festive times. But, Gill, think about what I’ve just written. Maybe you got off easy this year, having a quiet evening with your British friends. I can almost guarantee nobody was lashed to your table. Someone might well have drunk themselves under the table, but that’s a whole different problem. Happy Thanksgiving, dear!