It was 90 degrees in La Plata, Argentina, and I was cooking a turkey. I was three months pregnant, and my house had no air conditioning. And I was cooking a turkey.
Because it was Thanksgiving, thankyouverymuch.
My kids, wise beyond their years, were spending most of the morning in their little pool on the patio. When the heat in the kitchen was too much, I joined them, sitting in my plastic patio chair with my feet in the water, feeling thankful for the coolness but also thinking about how this was NOT the way Thanksgiving was supposed to feel.
When it was time to get the pies ready, I went back inside. I pulled a precious can of pumpkin from the place we stored the food we’d brought with us from home. Sweat trickled down my back as I opened it and mixed in the sugar and spices. I leaned over the bowl to catch the smell of my childhood. It was barely discernible through the tang of sunscreen.
My two-year-old son burst in, his t-shirt stretched out over something lumpy and distinctly animal-shaped.
“What’s under my shirt?” he demanded.
Not feeling particularly like playing along, I answered factually. “It looks like your lion.”
He grinned. This wasn’t the game I thought it was. “Nope,” he said. “It’s my belly!” He laughed the laugh of someone who has successfully told a terrible joke. I had to smile. He got his sense of humor from his dad, who can always make me smile with those same awful jokes.
“You’re a goofball,” I said.
Pleased with himself, he trotted off to try the joke on someone else.
I rolled out the pie dough to something resembling a circle and then tried to force it into the pan. In all my years of cooking I’ve never been able to shape a pie crust neatly. My mom used to make them with those perfectly crimped edges. I’ve watched her do it a hundred times, but mine still turn out…rustic. I pulled some extra dough from the bowl to finish off the uneven edges. A piece of hair slipped from my ponytail and clung to my sweaty neck.
Bang. Bang. The sound in the dining room brought me running, flour-covered hands held up in front of me.
My son had a red light-saber which he was using to attack the table.
“No banging on the table!” I yelled over the noise.
He stopped, grinned, and began hitting himself over the head with the plastic toy instead.
I decided to just be thankful that he had technically obeyed my instructions. Then he poked himself in the eye.
He stopped, blinked rapidly for a moment. I braced myself for wails. But he looked up and said, “I otay! I otay, Mommy. The goofball otay!”
I knelt down and laughed as I hugged him close, floury hands and all.
Maybe Thanksgiving isn’t supposed to be 90 degrees. Maybe the smell of sunscreen doesn’t trigger the right kinds of memories. Maybe pies aren’t supposed to have bits of crust stuck on to the edges.
But also maybe there are lots of ways for Thanksgiving to feel.
Maybe this goofball can learn to just be thankful, and it’ll be otay.