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A Thanksgiving Feast for Twelve…or Two

The submarine had been out to sea for about four weeks and was due to return my husband to me just before Thanksgiving. This particular day was extra special to us because he had proposed to me on Thanksgiving two years prior, and we were separated by deployment on turkey day during our first year of marriage. This was shaping up to be our first Thanksgiving together as a married couple, and I was up to the task of preparing the feast.

Some people might have viewed this as a daunting task, but armed with a degree in Food & Nutritional Sciences, I savored the opportunity to scour magazines and cookbooks to serve a scrumptious holiday meal. I was dying to use our large serving bowls and platters we had received as wedding gifts, which had sat unused while I mostly cooked for one or two.

I planned and plotted, finally settling on a menu: maple-brined turkey and gravy, garlic mashed potatoes, sage and sausage stuffing, cranberry sauce, Grandma B.’s sweet potato and apples, traditional green bean casserole, butterflake rolls, and homemade pumpkin pie.

Perfection.

I beamed with delight, scribbling out my shopping list for the Commissary and mapping out my week. I had determined which dishes to prep in advance and the exact hour I would peel potatoes and roll out my crust. Nothing was left to chance.

And then I started to realize that many of my recipes said “serves 12”. Hmmm. This was going to be a feast, alright.

But I remembered the day we got engaged: My husband lived in the barracks when we were dating, and had been invited to a married friend’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, along with about six other single sailors. I tagged along and was more than happy to be welcomed into an actual home with actual homemade stuffing and pie. If it wasn’t for this couple’s hospitality, it is very likely we would have eaten at Taco Bell on what turned out to be a momentous day in our relationship.

So, I hatched a plan to pay it forward. When the boat pulled in, I would tell Clint that we would host Thanksgiving dinner for all the strays; for all the single sailors with nowhere else to feast. We certainly needed more eaters for all the food I was planning to make.

The turkey sat inside my largest pot, brining up a storm in the fridge when I got the call. The boat was arriving at the pier in a few hours, and I couldn’t wait to see Clint. It was the day before Thanksgiving and I wanted to be sure to extend the invitation to his buddies like I thought a proper Navy wife should.

I fought through the crowd on the dock to find my husband, who disembarked the sub and made a bee-line for me, sea bags in hand. He hadn’t seen daylight in weeks and just wanted to get home. Blubbering with excitement, I broke the news that we would be hosting Thanksgiving dinner. After six weeks of living alone, I loved the thought of a house filled with laughter, food, and good conversation. 

Umm, turns out, I should have checked with my husband first.

He immediately informed me that since he had just spent a month in tight quarters with his buds, he wanted nothing more than to spend Thanksgiving with just his wife. My dreams of hospitality dashed- I conceded and admitted that he had a good point.

And so, I proceeded to mix, bake and roast everything on my menu and we had ourselves a feast for 12.        

Every day for the next seven days.

You know when your plate of leftovers is piled so high it takes six full minutes in the microwave to heat through?

Yeah, that’s where we were at.

So, I’m sorry to those single sailors who may have eaten at Taco Bell that year or maybe wandered over to the bowling alley for fried rice on Thanksgiving. I had very good intentions.

It was one of the most important lessons learned as a new military spouse: Even the most generous of guys might not want to bro down right after a long underway.

And so, my plans of gracious hospitality would be delayed a year.

Our first Thanksgiving together was just me, my husband, and a 12-pound turkey with all the fixings.

And I’m so thankful.

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