My Dear Tobias,
Odd as it may sound, it soothes my heart to know that you are well aware of my many eccentricities. I cannot help but wonder though, sir, what your reaction will be when you realize that I am transcribing this missive from the solitude of my master bathroom.
What, I imagine you saying with the raised eyebrow, and why? For what reason is the old fish enclosed, rather than in the comforts of his opulent office, in the curious confines of a lavatory? May I begin by putting your mind at rest: it is not for a desire for that which is cavalier. What, then? In a word five words ten words: I am hosting Thanksgiving for Aunt Veronica’s family this year.
Ah, yes—I can almost see your scornful eyebrow melt into a bug-eyed gape of concern. I am almost ready to eat my belt.
Well can you imagine the bitter scene: My sole responsibility in the edibles department, the turkey, was cooking merrily to perfection. Having used standard algorithms in regards to weight, temperature, etc. to prepare the bird (plus my own secret modus operandi re fowl), I awaited the arrival of guests with a certain degree of aplomb. The tableware sparkled and the candles glimmered. In fact, the only thing not shining with joy and gratitude in preparation for the feast was a dark cloud of foreboding that hovered somewhere between the saucer of pickled beets and my left ear.
May I interrupt this life tale, old fruit, to inquire as to whether I have shared what happened when I joined this particular branch of the old family tree for New Year’s a year or so ago? No? A pity, really—you would have more readily anticipated my growing angst prior to The Arrival.
I am at this point undecided as to which element, specifically, set my teeth a-gnashing and filled my heart with ice. Was it when near-sighted Aunt Veronica ran over my potted chrysanthemums while parking, or when little Joanna’s (first cousin once removed) second action after a friendly hug was to walk right through the screen door (as in, repairs needed)? Perhaps it was when cousin-in-law Bert’s greeting words—along with a hearty handshake—loudly requested my contribution to a recent car debate regarding the upheavals in Ferguson, MO, or maybe when I later realized that, as I stuttered a discomfited reply, young Billy had dashed ninja-like into the kitchen and turned off the oven within the span of a few seconds (and no, fellow pilgrim, we did not realize the damage the little dear had done to my half-baked bird until some time afterward). Cousin Marissa’s pies were all burned, small children of unknown origin are building a cracker-and-cheese palace on my office rug, Aunt Veronica has already given me the sniff of disdain regarding my insensitive choice of scented candles, and Uncle Joseph insists on describing in detail to one and all the recent suffering he has undergone within his gastrointestinal tract.
In short, this is not a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving.
Why is it, friend of my youth, that we must undergo these trials? I repent of the scoffing I formerly indulged in whenever a person bemoaned upcoming holidays with family. What on earth, I asked in my ignorance, could be so dreadfully awful about getting together with one’s own flesh and blood? And now I find myself hiding in my own bathroom, writing madly to ease the strain of bearing circumstances beyond my control.
The temptation is strong, I’ll admit, to make a sleeping bag out of the shower curtain and a towel and remain here until the morrow. The problem is that I know that, in about three minutes, I must check the turkey and once again join my extended family, and I cannot face them with irate cries denouncing the unmerited treatment under which I have suffered all this day. And why not, you ask? Surely such action would be justifiable, even in the most conservative of courts!
Sir, here is why not: the command is given me in black and white, “Let all that you do be done with love” (1 Cor. 16:14). Much as my heart groans under the ruined items, chafes beneath tactless conversation topics, and shudders below contemptuous glances, I cannot escape the Word that rules.
Let all that you do be done with love.
There is a choice involved. We choose to show love. We choose to be thankful for those around us. We choose to live above the circumstances.
The rug can be cleaned. Perhaps Freddie (second cousin once removed) could be bribed to pick up copious amounts of vanilla ice cream. Prompting Bert’s stories of his early life as an industrial beekeeper may bring conversations back to common ground.
Chuck your cat, Pongo, under the chin for me. Happy Thanksgiving, old fellow—I’m about to open the door.