“I hear you make a shrimp salad to rival mine,” Memaw said.
“Yes, ma’am ... I mean no ma’am, not unless you believe your grandson is a qualified food critic,” Lizzie stammered, not wanting to presume her cooking could truly be superior to that of a woman who had been cooking longer than Lizzie had been on this earth.
Memaw reached over and patted Lizzie’s hand. “I take no offense. My family has been bringing me samples of your delectable creations for months now and I wholeheartedly agree with my grandson’s assessment. You, Lizzie Long, are a gifted cook.”
Lizzie flushed with pleasure. “Thank you ma’am. That means more to me than you could possibly know,” Lizzie answered. Memaw was renowned for her culinary skills much like Aunt Dorothy.
“Well, we know you can out cook me,” chimed in Mrs. Wilson. They all laughed. It was no secret that the cooking gene had skipped a generation with Bennett’s mom. She was known for burnt offerings that frequently set of the smoke detector.
“That’s okay Mama. No one can smock a dress as adorable as you,” Amy reassured her mother.
“Thank you darlin’. At least I mastered some of the domestic arts,” Mrs. Wilson replied. The four women put the finishing touches on the feast and called the men folk and the children to eat.
Amy had a dining room table that accommodated most of her guests but she also had a second table set up in the formal living room. She had place cards at each place and had conspired to place Bennett and Lizzie at the secondary table along with the kids. After they had gathered around the main table to hold hands and say the blessing, Bennett and Lizzie helped the children get situated with their plates.
At first Lizzie felt a little self-conscious, but soon Bennett had her in stitches as he told tall tales and made puppets out of the napkins to entertain his nephews and his niece. Jeremy, Bennett’s mini-me nephew got particularly wound up and in a moment of impulsivity, flicked a spoon of mashed potatoes at his big brother Charlie, who promptly responded with a spoon of his own, but with poor aim hit Bennett instead, who gleefully joined in flinging potatoes across the table hitting Jeremy square in the nose. They were all laughing now and Jeremy reached his hand into the bowl of potatoes that were on the table, scooping a fist full just as Bennett stood up to move around the table and gain some control over the situation before Amy could blow her cool.
She was already hollering from the dining room, “What’s going on?” As Bennett moved behind Lizzie’s chair, Jeremy launched his potato volley and it landed on Lizzie’s forehead and slid down her face and onto her blouse just as Amy and Scott stuck their heads in the door to see what all the noise was about.
Lizzie turned multiple shades of red and began to shake, Bennett looked at her, waiting for the explosion of anger, but instead she swiped her face with her finger and licked it, declaring, “Tasty!” Then she burst out laughing. The rest of the table began to giggle uncontrollably and Amy and Scott joined in, unable to keep stern faces. Al- though they did decide to make Jeremy apologize to Lizzie and they removed the tempting bowl back to the sideboard.
Lizzie took a quick shower and borrowed some clothes from Amy. This seemed to be the norm for a visit to the Hutchins house. She rejoined the group in time to gather in the den to eat dessert and enjoy some coffee. It felt wonderful to feel part of the family. It felt great to not be worried about her image, as she had been on all the Thanksgivings she had spent with Mark, not with family but as guests at the homes of potential political backers. She sat back and watched as Bennett alternately rubbed Lucky and Ella’s belly, as Scott and Amy were affectionately interacting with their kids and Mrs. McGantry was laughing at some story Mr. Lee was regaling her with. This is what a holiday should be. It wasn’t Norman Rockwell: it was better. It was genuine and she wished with all her heart the Thanksgiving’s in her future would be no less than today.
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