Being Thankful for brown recluse spiders

I had a foodie mother before foodiness existed. She baked bread, ground meat, grew vegetables, bought at the farmer's market, rejected almost all processed food, made pesto before anyone made pesto, home made mayonnaise. You get the picture. Sometimes her efforts at perfection were met with indifference and crisis ensued. Like the Thanksgiving she made beef broth from scratch with beef bones and egg shells (to clarify?) and diced vegetables. It was delicious but it was beef broth. It was the essence of beefiness was basically soup and we were looking forward to that turkey and homemade stuffing with homemade bread in it and sausage from the farmer's market. We'd hauled my cranky, senile granny out of the old age home and my mother wept. I thought, "Good God, who cares about a fucking meal?"

Freshman year in college, I bring home my first real boyfriend, a hippie of course. My mother is on some kind of warpath with tables set up in the dining room, people seated like guests at a bistro. My Uncle Brendan who usually drinks the place dry is on a health kick and pulls out a huge jar full of pot. He turns to me boyfriend and says, "Hey, you, hippie boy, roll us some joints." As the room slowly filled with pot smoke and I watched my grandmother politely pass a burning joint to my father, I recognized this same boyfriend would return to my college and tell everyone how great a family I had.

The following year, a new boyfriend who has left me to go to a school in the Midwest. I travel out there to cook Thanksgiving dinner and tell him I'm sleeping with his best friend. He is skinny and miserable and asks me to marry him. I get so drunk cooking Cornish game hens I pass out in the food. Before I pass out I am filmed reciting a monologue and sucking on a carving knife. We are doomed.

Many years pass. I am married for a second time, have a beautiful boy of 13 months and my husband's family have come from Kansas to celebrate the holiday with us in Dallas where I am suicidally depressed, underemployed, trying to find happiness in dyeing my hair blond and driving and keeping the pool from getting cloudy but gradually sinking into the depression that has followed me since we moved away from London. However, I produce a wonderful meal, a gorgeous turkey which I pull out of the oven and imagine displaying to the group sitting in the dining room. My father-in-law, a gifted butcher leans over my turkey and in one swell swoop scalps it. My turkey is bald. My turkey is a hideous bald, white thing. I run out the door sobbing, wearing my apron, screaming.

And then there's the spider bite. I journey to Princeton alone, a soon to be divorced mommy with her beautiful little boy. I am depressed and not in a holiday mood. This is fortunate as a Brown Recluse spider that has taken up residence in my parents' guest room decides to bite me in the forehead.
"Oh My God," my loving sister says, "you have the biggest zit on your forehead I've ever seen!"
I decide to work out and think my fellow exercisers are rude to stare. I return home and my mother orders me to go to the emergency room in a rather old fashioned hospital close to our house. I bring Luke because I figure they'll send me home. They do not. I am placed in the infectious disease ward, hooked up to a massive amount of antibiotics and then allowed to look in the mirror. My head has tripled in size. I look like a monster. Thanksgiving is spent in the hospital. My television gets two channels, one featuring repeats of "Petticoat Junction", the other, featuring cable of people being operated on. My parents visit and take a nap in my chair and an extra bed, my friends visit and bring me coffee and chocolate. My son strokes my head and says, "Mommy, I still love you even though you look like a Zombie". My soon to be ex calls and my mother tells him I'm in the hospital. He asks why and she snaps, "Stress" and orders him to meet my plane with a wheelchair.

He calls me and I tell him about the spider. After a moment he tells me a story about someone in Kansas who rolled a motorcycle and had his nose amputated. I hang up.
When I return to my parents my son is fertilizing roses with poison and shows me how my mother has taught him to inhale grapes. I go back to Chicago with a dent in my forehead.

And then there were divorced Thanksgivings spent alone but happy visiting my sexy artist friend in Canada in Montreal, ignoring the holiday altogether, going to the movies, eating yummy non-turkey related food.

There will be 14 this year. I will do everything. My husband will make a huge production of mashed potatoes, my ex-husband is coming and my in-laws and stepchildren and soon after my husband will leave me for the salt mines of Canada because we need money and there's no work in Chicago. There will be a 22 lb turkey and green beans and I refuse to acknowledge the marshmallow ick that invariably someone will bring. I am Thankful despite it all.


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