The Week-Long Day: Tuesday & Wednesday
If I have to clean any more chicken I’m going to scream. I’m tempted to just wash them off and place them in the Ziploc bags to store them for breakfasts for the week, and dare anyone to say anything. All this for smothered chicken wings and legs for breakfast the next few days. It’s only 9 in the morning and I’m already tired of cleaning chicken! We have to do stuff like this all day. Oy! My aunts are in, somewhat rested, and Aunt Pat is actually helping out by cooking greens and cleaning chicken along with me. I’m surprised because she doesn’t cook, although she can. The dough is rising in 5 huge bowls. It will be broken out into smaller muffin shapes and left to rise again before baking.
Aunt Cookie, Aunt Carolyn, Anita, Dad (as much as he can), Mom, Jenae, Cleon, Andreka and I continue to cook food and clean what needs to be cleaned and prepped. My parents’ presence saves me from cursing at various times while cleaning. Mainly at Dudley, who wants to go outside to play while it’s pouring. And I just bathed him Sunday night. Stop being needy, dog.
I get a call from Judy and Dwayne, who say that they’re en route with some of their family, but stuck in traffic due to weather. Amazingly, it’s supposed to clear up like nothing happened this evening throughout the rest of the weekend. While she’s talking and asking what we’re doing (and mentioning that she’s kind of glad she’s missing the food cleaning [so not funny, Judy]), I get a call waiting from Angie’s cell phone. Judy and I finish talking and I call Angie back. She’s telling me that THEY’RE stuck in traffic just trying to get OUT of North Carolina and are now somewhere near Durham. So, they’ll be all day getting here, I’m sure, with rush-hour traffic, early holiday travelers, and this seemingly end-of-days rain we’re getting today. I tell everyone the deal, and say that it seems like we’re going to deal with this all day long (delayed arrivals and delayed help) for people who were coming in today. I was annoyed at having to have the gardeners come back tomorrow to clean up more leaves that are falling with the rain. I wanted them to be able to work without a lot of people around.
Realizing that we actually managed to forget items after spending a full day shopping tediously with a list that was reviewed and edited 12 times, Jenae and I ecstatically leave to go get some forgotten items at Wegman’s and the liquor store (people and their requests. Eh, I guess it helps to stock the bar anyway). While we’re gone, half of the remaining crew take a nap once Judy and company arrive, so I was told. God bless Maryland for having a law that allows all my liquor, wine, and beer needs to be taken care of at one store, unlike DC and Virginia. Aunt Ruth and Aunt Sunshine have come to help prepare too (I begged and pleaded), as has Lajuenne after she got off of work. My hands smell like chicken, but I’m grateful for lemon juice. I get back and take a brief nap. I’m awakened with a call telling me that the flight is delayed for two hours due to weather. I decide to just get up and continue helping. Besides, something smells good downstairs and it’s not something that’s on the menu for dinner later in the week.
It’s 8 p.m. now, and everyone is done with prepping for the day and nicely fed, thanks to Cleon’s linguini-tomato-olive oil creation with garlic bread. We’re all watching a movie in the theatre. Angie and her crew finally arrive. They’re understandably upset but settle down when we all hug and they start eating. It’s still raining!
I start shredding cheese (food processor for the win!) for 5 deep pans of macaroni and cheese, only 4 of them being the “sinful” macaroni. The other one is “wuss” macaroni and cheese (read: more macaroni than cheese). It’s so great to have some relatives and friends here helping out; cracking jokes; telling stories; asking me incessantly why the dinner isn’t catered, but realizing that if it were catered, it just might not “taste right”; telling one another that “you’re not doing that right” with regard to cooking (I just give the “[insert expletive] please!” look and I’m left alone for the most part); asking me when Honey is due in (if I have to say one more time, “AT MIDNIGHT TONIGHT”…); asking why people are “assigned” to rooms, for which I explain that “you’re free to switch if you want, but it’s easier to have a list of where people will sleep so I’ll know who actually will have a bed and who will have an aero bed or the floor. Also, entire families may want to stay together in a suite.”
“Don’t question me.” – Patsy Stone, Absolutely Fabulous.
Well, most people have gone to bed by 11 (except for a few of us who stay up to laugh and joke) when I get a call to go to the airport. Aunt Cookie and her household go back home, including Aunt Carolyn. I tell them that they should just spend the night and keep working through the night, if they get up to go to the bathroom or something. Just chop an onion on the way back to bed. Fortunately, it’s stopped raining but I’m glad I don’t have to drive beyond 25 minutes each way, because, yeah, food fatigue is a [insert exple…]…waitaminute, did I forget to get gas in the car? There’s too much going on today. Cut to me having to try and remember where gas stations are on the way to Dulles, praying I don’t get stranded. Gosh, I’m dramatic when tired. I mean, GPS is in the car.
My immediate family is now home with me. It can be bad when two people get married and they’re both really busy people by nature and by nature of the work we do, but it works for us because we make as much time for each other as we can. Due to my work and Honey’s work, we haven’t seen each other in about two. Now that Honey is home, we do… what new-ish married couples do when they haven’t seen (or touched) each other in two weeks and finally have some time alone.
At last “sweep” of the kitchen, the vegetables have been are cleaned and some are cooked; the chicken is cleaned; the turkeys are brining; the cheeses are shredded; the beef is marinating; crabcakes are formed; oyster batter is made; potato salad is actually done (all 50 lbs. of it); cranberry sauce is made (the nasty one not from the can). At the guest house, some pies have been made (hope they last until Thursday) and some cakes are cooling. Dudley is knocked out on the floor in the foyer. I put him in his bed, which I put inside the laundry room tonight. Yes, I know it’s not helping him learn where to go when I make him sleep in another room.
I kiss Honey good night, finally, and close my eyes. I hear the house phone ring and turn off the ringer in our room. Fortunately, Cleon and Dwayne, Judy’s husband, are on “Letting People In Overnight” duty. I hear Calvin’s booming voice when he enters and know that he and most of New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania have arrived. Hooray for most of the guest bedrooms being on the other side of the house upstairs and in the basement!
It’s a little after 10 a.m. on Wednesday. I didn’t feel Honey get out of bed. I hear people all over the house; in the hallways, outside, downstairs. Just how many people came in overnight? Is that chicken I smell? Wow, it really did clear up after all. It’s bright and sunny. And 60 outside? Really? Tomorrow’s high temperature is supposed to be 45.
Stop. Why is it 10 and I’m not up? I guess I needed the rest, but still. We have to cook! I get bathed and dressed within 17 minutes, running downstairs headed to the kitchen, ready to make sure that people are on their jobs.
Duckie says “good morning” as she is frying the last of the chicken wings. Joy is laughing about something. (When did Joy get in? And how did I not hear her? Because seriously…) Calvin is elbow-deep in fish batter. He still won’t share the recipe, so he is choosing to make the batter himself. People are eating breakfast. Who cooked? Who cares, right? I grab a plate and get some eggs, smothered chicken and grits. I talk to Olivia about how her upcoming wedding plans. I notice that some people are already in the pool and the hot tub.
I head out to the guest house after I eat. I wish I built this thing a bit closer to the main house. No wonder most people drive over to it. Once inside I see Angie and Cleon running things. I put people in charge of things to avoid bickering while cooking. Duckee is in charge of breakfast for the long weekend. Angie is in charge of desserts. Aunt Cookie is in charge of the potato salad, which is done. (Sidenote: I am adamantly opposed to potato salad making an appearance at Thanksgiving like it’s a Memorial Day cookout. However, it was a request, so it was provided. I do not plan on eating any of it.) Cindy will be in charge of the cole slaw when she gets here later today. TJ will be in charge of the bar tomorrow. Any available able-bodied boy is in charge of taking out the garbage. Any able-bodied girl is in charge of washing dishes (mainly it’ll be serving stuff as we’re all about paper/plastic products this year, except for the main dining table).
Aunt Willette was in charge of giving recipes for the vegetables as she just really sat there and watched us cook. It’s okay because she’s an older relative. I *know* she wanted to jump up and do it all herself, but, haha, she couldn’t this time. (It’s a long story, but she used to take over kitchens. Now she has to be patient.) TJ is also in charge of frying turkeys, which he is doing at his house. Calvin is in charge of the fish. I’m in charge of brining turkeys, baking macaroni, and baking fish, which is mainly just me cooking it, and the rolls. Everyone else is there to lend a hand periodically for cleaning and prepping stuff and cooking where necessary. On a rotating schedule it seemed to work…for the most part. I mean, most of these people ARE Laughlins, so moderate bickering did occur. But it’s all good. Friends of the family just had to get used to being treated like family. It’ll be funny when we look back on it. And mostly while going through it. For the most part.
After making jokes and being told to either help or leave the kitchen IN A (guest) HOUSE I OWN, I decide to leave. I’m on my way to the pool to say “hey” to the swimmers when I hear yelling. Are they yelling my name? Who is YELLING for me from the main house? Why am I yelling back asking what they want? “JAMIN! COME HERE!” “FOR WHAT?!” “THE CAFSDASOFS ARE HERE!” “WHAT?” “THE KAY….JUST COME HERE!” I swear Joy has a megaphone for a larynx.
I get back in the house and the catered food I had ordered has arrived. We have some side items that are frou-frou chi chi coming in. We probably shouldn’t have ordered pumpkin soup, zucchini bread, pumpkin bread, and anything else that is normally pictured prettily in catalogues. It’s at this point that I realize that we should TOTALLY cater if we’re doing something like this again. It leaves one stress-free, even if I would never hear the end of it from my family. After storing all the pre-cooked and cooked bought food, I start separating dough into muffin and cake pans, along with others. Honey, coming in the front door after a walk with Dudley through the neighborhood, even says, for the 5th time in the course of 2 days, that we should have catered it all along.
Later on, while I’m cooking the “secret ingredient” for my macaroni and cheese, the phone rings and someone answers it while, Dad, acting like he lives here, is trying to give directions and gets confused. I pick up another phone and hear Camille trying to clarify if they’re lost and the GPS stopped working on both of their phones. Turns out Timmy took the wrong exit for 495 from the Toll Road and they’re headed to Maryland over the WW Bridge. Not exactly in the right direction. I take over and tell Camille to tell Timmy, who is saying “we’re not lost!”, that he can either take an exit and head back in the other direction or just go over the Woodrow Wilson bridge and come back around. They elect to take an exit and loop back around. I hang up and ask aloud why they didn’t rent a car from the airport with GPS.
More people arrive throughout the day: Brian, Wendy, Jerelle, Jasmine, Racheal & families; Tim & Camille (at last); Honey’s parents, 2 nieces, 2 nephews, cousin, and four of Honey’s friends landed safely; Uncle Frank’s other kids from South Jersey their families get in; I tick off most of the new arrivals by telling them to park their cars in order to not block having a row of parked cars so that there is an open “lane” around the driveways; Cindy came over to start on the cole slaw with some “recruits” who just happened to be at her house.
Some people are staying either in the main house or in the guest house; others are sent, as planned, to TJ & Anita’s. We’re almost at capacity for sleeping areas at my house. I hope they work it out well in Great Falls. As for my house, I’m glad that kids are flexible and make sleeping on the floor in the huge basement family room in sleeping bags like camping. I invited ALL of my family, but a lot of them declined the invite. For my grandmother’s grandchildren, though, I pressed the issue until most of them caved. Most are coming in today. Some are arriving tomorrow. And then there are even more family and friends coming from the local area over the weekend to say “hi” and drop by. There’s also a “Eat Up The Leftovers” party planned for Friday night.
After dinner (I’ve never seen so much deli meat and cheese in my life. We had make-your-own sandwiches delivered tonight), we clean up and start cooking the beef, lamb chops, marinating the ribs, icing cakes, cooling more pies, etc. Cleon headed up to Baltimore since he was off on a “company holiday” (it’s my company) since yesterday (he decided to help another day and “float” the holiday) until Tuesday and he’s going to be with his family. Jenae is staying for the duration, as much as she hates being away from her mother’s family. She will join them for Christmas in Florida. Jenae is officially on vacation, however. Strangely, everyone arriving today gives the same look – the look of Thanksgiving Eve Traffic Fatigue.
While things are cooking in the ovens in both houses (trying to explain how a high-speed convection oven reduces cook time can get hard to do after 3 glasses of Shiraz), and the cooks are watching them, people are chilling out around the houses, just imagining what the food will taste like tomorrow.
Angie, Jasmine, Judy, Jerelle, and I are laying across my bed talking, laughing, and being silly (Gail, Joy, and Honey’s niece and nephew are somewhere nearby laying on the floor joining in the silliness), while Dudley plays in the sitting room with Honey’s niece’s dog.
Eventually we all go to sleep in our rooms, halfway looking forward to tomorrow and halfway not looking forward to the early rising to cook turkeys, side items, reheating, etc.