Thanksgiving: It doesn’t have to be perfect

Mmm. I can almost taste the turkey now. Thanksgiving is tops on my list of holidays. Thanksgiving has mostly remained untouched by flagrant commercialism because the two themes of the day are so pure that they can’t be packaged and sold — Family and Food.

However odd our family might be they belong to us and we love them. If my Uncle Alan hadn’t been expected to drink a little bit too much and start an argument with his sister, it wouldn’t have seemed like the Bennett Family Thanksgiving at all!

I don’t remember when I stopped trying to achieve the perfect Thanksgiving.

It may have been the year when we had a house filled with out-of-town guests and one disaster after another cascaded through the house until the point that I finally threw up my hands in utter despair.

Perfection was nowhere to be found, all I could hope for was to survive the next four days and live to laugh about it. The laughter came a bit later, I was pretty traumatized for a while. I was living in Ocean Park that year, in a house that I seemed to be at constant war with. The house and I were locked in mortal combat, and this time, the house won the battle. Stuffing five guests into it was already a challenge, and the house retaliated swiftly.

On Thanksgiving morning the septic tank failed. Completely and utterly failed. Sewage backed up everywhere, nothing was going back down those drains. Okay, a disgusting massive cleanup, a run to the store for jugs of bleach, and a call to the out-of-town neighbors begging to use their bathrooms for a while, and I tried to settle back to preparing the big meal.

Since my attention had been diverted to the septic problem, I hadn’t had time to so much as open the door of the refrigerator. When I did, I discovered that the House Curse had fallen upon it also. The refrigerator was dead. Resuscitation failed, it was pronounced to be flat-lined.

Time has been kind, because there was a third catastrophe and I have somehow managed to erase it from my mind. I just remember washing dishes outside in the cold rain with the garden hose and wondering why in the world my guests couldn’t take pity upon me and go home.

On the other hand, one of my fondest memories was nothing at all like a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving portrait. I have a weakness for taking in stray cats, and often the ones that show up are completely wild. It takes considerable patience to befriend these poor felines, but the victory of winning their trust is priceless.

One of my wild cats had me baffled. I could not figure out how he was getting into the house. As soon as I opened the door, a flash of black matted fur would streak past me in a frantic escape. The mystery was finally solved when I spotted this poor starved cat crawling in through the mail slot.

Well, something had to be done about this. He was named Bad Bob, because he had a bobbed tail and the attitude of an old west gunslinger, and somehow the name suited him. Bad Bob had never even been around other cats, and he had to be taught how to meow. I would sit and meow at him until a hoarse, croaking sound eventually emerged from his throat.

The other cats fascinated him, and you could tell that he longed to be like them, getting petted and cuddled and loved. But he couldn’t be touched. He was the most conflicted creature I’ve ever known — he wanted to be inside the house, but only if no one else was inside. He wanted to be petted, but was too frightened to allow such intimacy.

The one thing I could do was to fatten him up. It was sheer joy to watch that cat eat! He didn’t understand regular cat food, having been used to hunting down his own dinner, so he enjoyed table scraps instead.

On Thanksgiving the house cats were enjoying their little plates of turkey while Bad Bob sat outside, staring in at us with such a look of longing that my heart almost burst from aching. What could I do to bring Thanksgiving into this poor cat’s life?

I decided that this year I would not make turkey soup from the carcass. Instead I took the whole turkey outside and placed it on the ground. Bad Bob stood off at a distance, wary and watchful, his nose twitching as the aroma of the bird wafted his way.

As soon as I went inside he slunk over to the turkey and began to eat. Pretty soon he crawled inside the turkey. It took him three days to eat his way out of the carcass. I would check on him frequently, but never went outside to disturb him.

This was kitty heaven, a sacred time between cat and bird. When Bad Bob finally emerged, he was a different cat. No longer did he slink around in his old furtive manner. He stood taller, walked as if he belonged here, and began hanging out with the other cats.

It was a Thanksgiving I will never forget. I wish that every hungry person, every neglected animal, and every illness in this world could be cured and healed and be made whole. May the spirit of Thanksgiving live in all of our hearts every day.

Barbara Bennett Parsons, manager of the Grays Harbor Farmers Market in Hoquiam. 538-9747