Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving and the Modified Stationary Panic

The blog post I was planning for tonight will have to wait. I keep getting sidetracked.

And it doesn't help that I finally realized that Thanksgiving is actually next week. As in, one week from today.

If this were a Typical Professional Catholic Mommy Blog (tm) that terrifying statement would be followed by a soothing virtual chuckle about how busy we all get this time of year, and then either a profound yet down-to-earth reminder of the fact that Advent's impending arrival is way more important theologically than Thanksgiving (important though that is! Thanks! Prayers! Eucharistic Themes! Family! Food! Love! Children! Tradition! Food! Joy! Peace! Laughter! Carbs--and did we mention the Food?!) or a poignant yet down-to-earth reflection on how coveting some Williams Sonoma (tm) turkey platter while making do once again with our slightly chipped discount store version is really a parallel to how God makes do with our faults, failings, and imperfections while holding in His mind the image of our future perfect selves (not in a grammatical sense) when, transformed by grace, we will be guests at the Eternal Heavenly Banquet, and nobody will ask us to carve the turkey or make us sit at the kids' table, though even the kids' table will be awesome in Heaven. 'Cause, you know, it's Heaven--and is it too early to sample the Thanksgiving wine?

Alas, this is not a Typical Professional Catholic Mommy Blog (tm). So instead of the sort of thing I described above, you will get my pre-Thanksgiving version of the Modified Stationary Panic (with apologies, once again, to Patrick F. McManus). As I wrote in the blog post referenced above:
I've actually been working on perfecting what humor writer Patrick F. McManus called, in one of his side-splitting books, the "Modified Stationary Panic." The Modified Stationary Panic is supposed to be for people lost in the woods; they modify their initial desire to panic by running wildly about and getting even more lost by, instead, doing all the shrieking, wild gesticulating, hyperventilating, and other panic-induced activities while running in place. All the panic, none of the coming to one's senses in another part of the state park--or even in another state, depending on your speed, stride, and level of panic.
The pre-Thanksgiving version of the Modified Stationary Panic, or MSP, involves avoiding running off to Canada (where the silly people--no offense to my Canadian readers--have Thanksgiving even earlier, on the second Monday in October) when one realizes that one hasn't even begun to plan out one's Thanksgiving menu yet, and instead doing all the panicking and flailing while seated in front of one's computer monitor. The level of panic may be ascertained by looking at what's actually showing on the computer monitor:
  • Panic Level Low: Mom is reading opinion blogs, with an occasional peek at the Betty Crocker website;
  • Panic Level Guarded: Mom is reading cooking blogs, with an occasional peek at the Food Network website;
  • Panic Level Elevated: Mom is not reading any blogs, and is pretending that the Science of Cooking website counts as science class for the eighth grader;
  • Panic Level High: Mom is reading all the sites already mentioned plus Epicurious, clicking back and forth so fast that she sounds like some sort of weak yet deranged woodpecker;
  • Panic Level Severe: Mom is slumped in her chair, staring blankly at the Martha Stewart Website's Thanksgiving pages and wondering if anybody actually ever does any of this stuff...

How does one deal with the pre-Thanksgiving Modified Stationary Panic? Don't ask me; I'm somewhere between "Guarded" and "Elevated" right now, with occasional surges when I think about the fact that I have yet to nail down side dishes and should make my pre-Thanksgiving grocery list by tomorrow at the latest. And here's the really funny part: we're not having company this year. Yes, all the panic and stress I'm already feeling is merely the level produced by the Quiet Thanksgiving at Home with the Immediate Family (my husband has some work obligations, so we're keeping it simple. At least in theory).

Which is why this blog post of Rod Dreher's nearly made me break out in hives; I can't even pretend that I could entertain twelve interesting people, six of them technically zombies, for a faultless and elegant dinner party in which good food, perfectly selected wines, and scintillating conversation was the order of the day; the fictional scenario was enough to make me gasp in horror (and not at the idea of entertaining dead people, either; at least they wouldn't be overly critical about the dull food and the total lack of anything approaching decor). I tried for a bit to push away the feelings of the incompetent hostess and pretend that I was just going to get to meet these hypothetical people, but it didn't work; all I could think about was filling my small house with brilliant or interesting or fascinating people, all of whom would get absolutely nothing out of the experience, not even a good meal.

At least I'm not actually having a huge dinner party for important and fascinating types. And when it comes to Quiet Family Thanksgivings, I'm the worst critic in the room--my husband and children are very loving and accepting. But the sort of Modified Stationary Panic that would be induced by Rod's fictional scenario really would have me running away to Canada.


Indygo Wolf said...

I get a lot of dirty looks when I tell people not to worry so much about the menu. To me, a Thanksgiving dinner could be a turkey sandwich, a can of cranberry sauce, a cheap store bought pumpkin pie, and Coke or Rootbeer and it would still be Thanksgiving.


Because it isn't about the food. It's having the food and the people you are sharing it with, the roof over your head, the blankets on your bed, the shoes on your feet, and the clothes on your back that matter. It's about appreciating that you are still breathing when the sun comes up each day.

Anonymous said...

Dear funny! I mean from here anyway, cuz my mom is doing Thanksgiving this year. Mom, if your reading this I love you. Me? If it were me I would resort to the "grocery store brand" version you can by for 40 bucks, throw it all in some nice serving dishes, light a pumpkin pie candle and call it a day. Because, usually, my DH, who I love dearly, cooks Thanksgiving and when he does, I'll just some up by saying this- the Turkey must be free range grain fed freshly killed brined for days slowly roasted at varying temperatures while constantly basted I could keep going and yes that is just the Turkey.....Happy Thanksgiving to all.
Mom, I love you!

Anonymous said...

LOL If you were a TPCMB, your post would be titled as Grace in the Giblets or something like that :)

Ann Marie

Anonymous said...

As young, married international students, my husband and I enjoyed potluck (I'm from Alaska before it was the 49th--does that count?--I mean 'I could see Russia from my living room window') at the university 'in the middle of nowhere' married student housing get-togethers.

Cramped, yes; crowded, yes; unfamiliar foods, yes; Martha Stewart, no. Enjoyable, definitely yes. Leaving the introspection aside to give thanks has been part of thanksgiving for many years, to invite lonely, or displaced, or any other people to eat with us, or if lacking that, invite ourselves to community celebrations. Thanksgiving is a time for giving thanks! This year, since more guests are Catholic, I'll propose we participate in Mass.

One year our son still had to fulfill a school assignment by visiting a state park together as a family, and the only way we could all get together was over turkey sandwiches, pumpkin bread and bottled cranberry juice in the car. We were even in the presence of ancient Americans at Mounds State Park just northeast of Indianapolis!

Today I mailed thanksgiving presents (photos), home-grown herbs, regional delicacies, and greetings to friends and relatives.

Sometimes, I feel as if I'll never express enough gratitude in living another day with family in relatively safe conditions.

lizsturm said...

This made me smile last night when I read it before bed. Though I must mention, that if you were a "silly" Canadian such as myself, you wouldn't be fretting about Thanksgiving right now, since it was last month. ;-) Have a lovely holiday, Erin!