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Over the river ... to the worst Thanksgiving


Terry Briggs

  Since both my father-in-law and mother-in-law have been gone for several years, I think it is safe to reveal the details of my worst Thanksgiving. I think it will be therapeutic for me as the demons are still there.

  It was 1986. I had graduated from the University of Georgia and was living and working in Athens. My then-boyfriend, Bob, asked me to spend Thanksgiving with his family. I accepted as I had spent time with his family and found them to be good people.

  So, we drove to Warner Robins that Wednesday before Thanks-giving. His father took us out to a Mongolian barbecue place. For the uninitiated, Mongolian barbecue is something else. It’s a buffet with  various meats, vegetables and enhancing sauces. Your selection is cooked over a slightly domed griddle. This was such a treat, but always more than I could eat.

  We decided to see a movie after dinner, so I gave my precious leftovers to Bob’s stepmother, “Jane,” who said she would put them in the refrigerator for me.

  We got in late, and I was very quiet not to wake anyone. Jane’s oldest son and his wife had arrived from Columbia, S.C., and had settled into one bedroom. I had put my things in another one.  Bob went to the house where he had grown up. A few years after his mother died, his dad, the Colonel, married Jane. They bought a new house to give themselves a fresh start, so I was staying in the new house.

  Well, I brushed my teeth and lay down and my head hit the bed with a thud. There were no pillows. I knew there had been pillows earlier, so I turned on the lamp, but there were no pillows to be found. I wadded up the dress I had been wearing and made a makeshift pillow. The only problem is that the dress was corduroy. Wikipedia describes corduroy as “ridged velvet.” Yeah, velvet with ridges.

  But I was going to make the best of the situation, so I tried to go to sleep. I had succeeded when I woke up suddenly feeling something damp and slimy on my hand. I yanked on the lamp to find a green tree frog nesting on my hand. Fortunately, I don’t freak out over frogs. So, I got up and took him outside where I hoped he would survive.

  I went back to bed and adjusted my corduroy pillow, but you know, once you have had a tree frog crawling on your hand, it’s hard to relax. So….I lay there.

  I finally drifted off some time in the wee hours, and I woke up the next morning and tiptoed down the hall to the bathroom. The door was closed and I could hear the shower. I went back to my room and waited a little bit. Still occupied. This went on for a while, so I finally decided just to throw on some clothes and try again later. I had left my cosmetic case in the bathroom, so I couldn’t get my toothbrush or hairbrush. I have to have a hairbrush. I didn’t want to get the reputation of being lazy, so I went to the kitchen where Bob’s dad, stepmother and stepbrother, “Jerry,” were having breakfast.

  “Wow, someone had a rough night,” Jerry said, seeing the corduroy ridges on my face and my hair standing out all crazy.

  “You don’t want to know,” I replied.

  He languidly stretched. “Well, I sure slept good after I got those pillows out of the other bedroom.” I bet you did, I thought.

  I went to the refrigerator thinking I would eat my Mongolian barbecue leftovers, but I couldn’t find them.

  About that time, Jerry’s wife came strolling into the kitchen as fresh as a daisy and perfectly coifed. I think I may have growled under my breath.

  “I don’t know who brought in that Mongolian barbecue, but it was so good,” she said. What???

  The day didn’t get better.

  Jerry and his younger brother had a golf outing, so I found myself alone with Jane (whom I loved dearly) and that leftover -stealing daughter-in-law of hers. Jane was a wonderful cook but liked to be alone in the kitchen. And with good reason. Travel trailers had bigger kitchens than hers. So, I went into the living room and sat with the Colonel.

  After toiling for hours, Jane was ready to serve up a wonderful Thanksgiving feast. She had told the boys when to be back. We waited…and waited…and waited. More than an hour after the meal was ready, they arrived after obviously having had a good time. Poor Jane was so upset. The gravy had congealed, the dressing cooled, and the green beans floated in cold pot liquor.

  It was a quiet meal, except for the boys, who were still enjoying themselves, just chatting and chuckling away.

  After dinner, I told Bob I was ready to go back to Athens where, thankfully, I had pillows, no tree frogs and leftovers Jane packed up for us.

  Bob and I married a few years later, and I am happy to say we have had many wonderful Thanksgivings together. And now I feel so much better getting this off my chest, but if I ever have Mongolian barbecue again and someone takes my leftovers, he or she had better watch out.


  Terry Briggs is a wife and mom to two daughters and three dogs. She has lived in Henry County since 1999.




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