birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

The Most Wonderful 20 Minutes of the Year

For the 5 most traditional years, Thanksgiving and Christmas were a lot alike. It was the same meal with different props. My father was always the first to get up. He would start preparing an elaborate meal, and throughout the day my siblings and I would help. He would prepare the turkey, filling it with one kind sage-flavored stuffing, and then he’d also make a cornbread stuffing on the side. We’d also have fruit salad, mashed potatoes, 2 kinds of gravy, yams, green peas or beans, corn, 2 kinds of cranberry sauce (one with cranberries macerated with a hand-cranked tool; another freshly slid out of a can) and rolls.

My mom was in charge of the rolls; my dad did the rest. He loved to be in the kitchen. She didn’t. Sometimes we’d be halfway through the meal and someone would say, “Where are the rolls?” and my mom would say, “Dammit,” and then go get the burnt rolls out of the oven. We never stopped giving her shit for that. I’m pretty sure someone mentioned it the week that she died, and also sure she laughed about it. My mom had a wonderful sense of humor and never lost her ability to laugh at herself.

The meals were one of the few times in the year that we were all nice to each other, and they seemed to be over too quickly, especially because there were a lot of dishes to do. I don’t remember carols by the piano or chats by the fire, just a mountain of dishes. But my dad's cooking was enough to make us forget and we'd get excited for the holidays each year, anyway.


Always for Pleasure