Not Perfect

Eileen T. Flaherty

© Copyright 2021 by Eileen T. Flaherty

Claudio Schwarz  @purzlbaum
                                       Claudio Schwarz @purzlbaum

Today and most days when I think about the holidays, whether it is Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter or the 4th of July, it brings me such joy and makes me smile. We, the Flaherty family, were a small bunch with just the four of us, my mom, dad, brother and me, until my nephews were born. My mom always did everything to make the holidays so special. For Thanksgiving there was the turkey feast with stuffing, potatoes, gravy and cranberry sauce. When each Easter came along, there were the colorful baskets with good chocolate candy and sugary marshmallow bunnies. For the fourth of July, it was a simple picnic in our small backyard with burgers and lemonade. And Christmas was the biggest of all. Every room in the house was decorated with red and green which made it all happy and festive. It just had that feeling that something big was going on. Even after I moved out of my parent’s house, following graduation, to my own apartment and then to my condo, I always spent every Christmas Eve at our house. It was the only house my parents ever owned and it was hard to give it up many years later when it was time. I still think of the people who own it now as trespassers in the Flaherty house.

While I remember all of the good holidays, sometimes the ones that stand out to me the most were the ones that weren’t perfect, like that one Thanksgiving.

While I was living in an apartment and working in New York, as Thanksgiving was approaching in a few months, I had offered to host the holiday dinner at my condo in downtown Chicago. It was to be with my parents, brother and sister-in-law, who happened to be expecting the birth of my first nephew within a few months.

I wasn’t sure if I could pull off hosting Thanksgiving as I lived in New York and everyone and my condo were in Chicago. Luckily, I had come back to Chicago for a weekend about a month before the holiday. I had asked my mom and dad to bring the turkey, stuffing, potatoes and gravy for Thanksgiving dinner. And you might ask well, what was I doing to host. I had the other important responsibilities for a simple appetizer, cheese and crackers, the side dish, carrots, dinner rolls and dessert which would be two homemade apple pies. I still make a great apple pie with the buttery streusel topping. I went grocery shopping, while I was in Chicago that weekend, for the apples and other stuff for the pies and got the carrots, cheese and crackers and refrigerated rolls. I made the two apple pies and put them in the freezer and went back to New York after my busy weekend.

The night before Thanksgiving I flew back to Chicago. Luckily the weather cooperated, and there were no airport delays, as it can be tricky at that time of year heading into the winter. I got home at around nine o’clock and although exhausted, I had a lot of work to do to be ready for my family the next day. I took the pies out of the freezer and put them in the fridge and set the table with the simple china that my mom had given to me years before. I went to bed that night feeling pretty good about my progress, still knowing that I had to make the carrots in the morning and the other essential items and clean my place.

Getting up pretty early, I got right to it with the cleaning. My condo was looking good and neat and I then got started on the carrots. I kept it simple with sliced boiled carrots and a brown sugar and butter glaze. I also assembled the cheese and crackers on a nice platter and put the rolls on a baking sheet to be baked right before the dinner.

I was all done with my part when my parents arrived with the feast. They brought the big roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy and cranberry sauce, all of which they had made earlier in the day. My brother and sister-in-law arrived a short while later. It was small and simple, and that is how our holidays always were.

After some munching on the appetizer, while the dinner rolls were cooking, we sat down at my dining room table for Thanksgiving dinner. Right before then, I had put the pies in the oven to cook. My dad, who had cooked the turkey, started to carve it and I saw blood and that the inside of the turkey wasn’t cooked. I said, “dad it isn’t cooked through, its still red.” “Oh, it will be fine, just throw the slices and stuffing in the microwave,” he said. I said, “no, it’s not safe to eat.” The turkey had been cooked hours earlier with the stuffing still in it and then transported to my place, so it wasn’t possible to just put it in the oven or microwave again. I was also worried about my sister-in-law who was pregnant. I could tell that he was starting to feel badly, so I quickly jumped in and said “hey no big deal, we have so much food anyway with the cheese and crackers, potatoes, gravy, carrots, dinner rolls and apple pies.” My condo was starting to smell so good as the pies were baking and the apples and cinnamon aromas were beginning to fill the room.

After about a minute, everyone kind of laughed and agreed that we couldn’t eat the turkey. I then took the whole turkey with the stuffing inside, put them in a plastic garbage bag, and went outside of my condo down the hallway to the garbage chute. I opened the door and down the turkey went thirty floors. I could hear the thud from the turkey when it hit the garbage bin on the first floor. I went back in my place and we all joked about it and had the rest of the great food and spent the next few hours just catching up. And yes, there was certainly more food than we could eat and nobody went home hungry.

To this day, I still laugh about it and think of that Thanksgiving as one of the most memorable holidays. It wasn’t perfect, but then again it was to us.

I work in Chicago as a regulatory consultant with my own business, The Global Capital Group Ltd. I have been in the derivatives industry for thirty-eight years. I also actively trade options in the markets.

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