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The Thanksgiving Report


Just like all holidays, Thanksgiving required hours upon hours of preparations and then passed in a flash and became only a memory.  I really enjoyed my first chance to host the once-every-two-years Presley Family Thanksgiving.  I’m much more comfortable having lots of responsibilities and preparations to make rather than feeling like I need to socialize with everyone.  Large groups are just tough for me, so being in the background was right where I wanted to be.  Ruth came over the night before so that she could get up early to make the turkey.  It was a 22.5 lb. turkey and the leftovers fit easily into a sandwich size Zip Lock.  Can you believe that?  Everyone began arriving around 11:30 and they visited with each other while we continued to cook.  More and more food just kept coming through the door and our biggest problem was where to put it all!  Ruth kept asking me where she should put dishes and my response eventually became: “Your guess is as good as mine!”  The most hilarious food arrival was the FOUR trays of homemade, custard-style banana pudding.  Apparently it’s a Thanksgiving favorite with this group and not having enough has been a problem in the past.  Only half of one got eaten, leaving me the challenge of where to put the rest.  I ended up giving one to my grandparents, dumping the half down the garbage disposal and keeping the other.  My bet is that it will sit in the fridge for about 3 days and then get dumped as well.  3 days is about my limit for looking at leftover food sitting in my fridge.


Everyone took lots of pictures and I downloaded them all onto my computer for sharing.  Here are some of the highlights of the day:

Before the Feast


My kitchen before the feast.
My kitchen before the feast.


The stage is set for overeating.
The stage is set for overeating.
The new generation of Presleys meet for the first time.
The new generation of Presleys meet for the first time.


My view of everyone reconnecting.
My view of everyone reconnecting.

Let’s Eat

Everyone descends on the feast.

Everyone descends on the feast.

We let Carter have a free-for-all with the food.  I don't know if he actually got much into his mouth.

We let Carter have a free-for-all with the food. I don't know how much he actually got into his mouth.


It is a Presley Thanksgiving tradition to take a picture of everyone that attended that year, then to take shots of each branch of the family.  It always a challenge to find good light, good seating for the elderlys and getting everyone to actually come together in one place and smile and look at the camera at the same time.  We had a little bit of drama this year.  As Jeff’s grandmother Mary Jo was making her way to her chair with her walker, she didn’t realize that there was a little drop-off when you go off of the patio.  I was inside putting away food, taking advantage of everyone being outside and I hear this collective GASP from everyone outside.  I see Mary Jo heading down to the right, her head hits one of the metal lawn chairs and she’s laying in the grass face-first.  After the tough time she had the week before, I’m thinking that she’s had a stroke.  Everyone rushes to her and finds that she’s just given herself a nice gash on the back of the head and probably some nasty bruises.  But, she’s ok.  The towel you see in the family picture below is the one we were using to get the blood off the back of her head.  Drama always surrounds large family gatherings, it seems.  I’m just glad that no one got seriously injured or died on my year!  They’d say, “Oh yes, I remember 2008 when Jeff and Mandi hosted.  (insert bad situation) was SO terrible!”  


Carter walked while he waited.  I love this shot.

Carter walked while he waited. I love this shot.

Here we all are.  Say Cheese!

Here we all are. Say Cheese!

What you can't see and hear are the 6 adults standing around these two making silly sounds, waving hands, snapping fingers and calling their names to get them to look in the same direction and smile.

What you can't see are the 6 adults standing around these two making silly faces, waving hands, snapping and calling their names to make them look in the same direction and smile.

Perhaps the greatest compliment of all was everyone (for the most part) staying.  We watched football, conversations went on all over the house, people laughed, babies played and just enjoyed being together.  At around 6:30, we pulled the leftovers out and everyone had their favorites for the second time.  It was probably 8:30 before the house cleared out.  To me, people staying at your house shows that they feel comfortable in your space and that you’ve done a good job of making them feel at home.

Jeff’s cousin Vicki, her husband Peter and their 11-month old daughter Kate stayed the night in our guest room.  For me, this was the most fun I’d had all day.  I can tolerate large groups, but I don’t do well being social in large groups.  So, when it was just the 4 of us after the kids went to bed, we cracked open a bottle of wine and added Kaluah and Bailey’s to the leftover coffee.  We chatted it up while football and silly shows played on the tv.  We let the stress of the day fade away as we laughed about the events of Thanksgiving and the crazy quirks of our family members and we stayed up past our bedtimes.  This was a perfect end to Thanksgiving. 





The Wild Days

Since I’ve last written, I’ve had some wild days.  Not wild, as in unpredictable–but wild, as in busy.  During church last Sunday, Jeff got a call from his aunt that his grandmother had been admitted to the hospital.  She was “talking out of her head” and her face looked as if she’d had a stroke.  To make a long story short, she didn’t have a stroke and they sent her home with a diagnosis of severe fatigue and depression.  For 16 years, she’s taken care of her husband with Parkinsons.  These days, he gets up 8-10 times per night to go to the bathroom.  He falls often.  He has to be fed and bathed.  She’s a very tiny woman whose muscles are degenerating.  She can’t handle it anymore.  They have been fighting being put into nursing home because they don’t want to leave their own home.  But, I think they are starting to realize that they just aren’t able to do this anymore.  They had a nurse who came in every day to help, but it was too much for her, too, and she quit.  Their daughter, who is legally blind and can’t drive, has been caring for them for a while now and she is exhausted, too.  Her blood pressure is up and her back is in serious trouble from picking her father up and down.

Jeff got up early on Monday so that we could drive to Anderson to check on them.  Right now, Jeff’s grandmother is staying with her daughter and Jeff’s dad is taking care of his father at their house.  We made a stop at both houses so that they could see Carter.  He’s our little ambassador of good will.  Just watching him lifts their spirits.  We stayed for dinner with Jeff’s parents and drove home.  On the way home, I started really thinking about getting old.  We all have to.  Don’t get me wrong–it’s definitely better than the alternative: dying young.  But, I never want Jeff to have to wipe my butt or change my adult diapers.  If I get to that point, I told him to please take the both of us somewhere where we can get help with those things.

While in Anderson, Jeff’s aunt pulls me aside and she’s nearly in tears.  You see, this year it’s her duty to host the Presley family Thanksgiving.  It’s held every 2 years in either Anderson, Atlanta or Daytona.  The Presley’s come from all over to attend.  With all that she’s going through, she doesn’t feel like she can handle the pressure of getting her home ready for Thanksgiving.  Feeling it was the right thing to do, I offered my house and she accepted.  This is how I came to to inflict several more wild days on myself.  I take these hosting duties very seriously, and I really like to organize and plan.

Tuesday I emailed the family to let them know of the change and give them directions to get here.  Then, I cuddled up with my recipe books and went to town.  Thankfully, Ruth is bringing the bird.  I have no doubt that I could cook a turkey with some good directions, but that’s a job I’d just rather not have.  But, everything else is up to me.  After searching and researching, I came up with a suitable menu for Thanksgiving that combines things that Jeff loves with things that my grandmother usually makes.  Isn’t it funny how some people just can’t have Thanksgiving without certain foods?  We’re having, turkey, dressing, stuffing, savory mashed sweet potatoes, collard greens, homemade cranberry/orange sauce, cream corn, fried okra, English pea salad, Jason green beans, maple glazed carrots, herb knot rolls, tea, water and hot apple cider.  For dessert, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, coconut pie, fudge and no-bake chocolate cookies.

Wednesday, I started in on the house.  I cleaned up and cleaned out.  I even washed windows.  I don’t think these windows have ever been washed since we built it over 2 years ago.  After doing the outside of one window, I realized that I’d first have to wash it before I could clean it.  Now it’s like we have HD windows.  The surrounding countryside has never looked so beautiful.  That afternoon, I went to Hobby Lobby and found their Thanksgiving and fall decor was 80% off.  SCORE!  I spent on $13 to Thanksgivingize my house.  Now there are pumpkins, scarecrows, orange candles and a big black crow wearing overalls.  It looks very festive.

Thursday I planned the logistics.  Hotels for people to stay in close by, brunch the next day, tables, chairs, plates, napkins, etc.  Thanksgiving, here I come!