Friday, November 24, 2006

Walhydra’s Thanksgiving Kitchen Disaster

“I HATE this machine!” Walhydra shouts politely.

She shakes the whole cylinder and base of the blender viciously. A few more cranberries deign to drop into the path of the tiny blade as it whirs away in the slosh of orange juice and pulverized rind.

“This thing obviously wasn’t designed for what I’m trying to do!”

Intelligent design has never stopped Walhydra from believing that material objects should obey her command—regardless of the laws of physics. Force of will should be enough, shouldn’t it? She rattles and bangs at the blender, jabbing at berries through the half-closed lid with her narrowest spatula.

At this moment, hubby Jim comes into the kitchen. “Oh, no...!” he exclaims.

There is a horrible, panicked silence as he pulls his famous “secret recipe” maple walnut gingerbread out of the oven, its edges all returned to elemental carbon.

“Did something to the timer?”

Walhydra sinks through the floor. “Oh. Babe. I’m sorry. I forgot you were using the microwave timer and warmed up some coffee.”

Jim says nothing as he sets the baking dish on the stove. There is a horrid moment during which the ghost of Jim’s Mom wrings her hands at the ghost of Jim’s Dad. Then he quietly opens the fridge for more eggs and flour, the kitchen cupboard for more spice.

“How can I help?” Walhydra asks meekly. “Should I get the walnuts ready for you?”


“How much.”

“A cup.”

Walhydra remembers horrible fights over domestic life a few years earlier. Fights in which the shades of all four hurting, angry parents—plus siblings—had loomed over them, brandishing swords of well-chronicled resentment.

The disrupting move to Florida from their childhood South Carolina home had left the two of them suddenly with none of the habitual escapes and safety nets of their marriage. It took some years of terrifying loneliness—both of them trying to signal “I still love you” across the no man’s land—while they worked separately with counselors to name and tame their respective family curses.

Now, second batch of magic gingerbread in the oven, Walhydra goes back to her blender, while Jim returns to his computer. Walhydra feels a bit chagrined that her silly anger at the machine still wants to outweigh Jim’s grief over the baking she ruined. She pokes cautiously at the cranberries....


“G*@-d#$!ed f%^&ing piece of s#@^!”

She flings the remaining half of the spatula into the dining room. Grabs a towel to wipe slaughtered cranberries off her face and shirt—and counter and floor and walls. She finds bits eight feet away on the refrigerator door.

Jim, wisely, does not come to see what happened.

Walhydra is convinced she learned to curse from her Dad, the Lutheran pastor...even though he managed to keep it all inside throughout her childhood. Jim says it’s genetic.

Walhydra’s Grandpa, the Lutheran pastor father of her Mom, Senior Witch, was a much more restrained and proper nineteenth-century gentleman. His only, only swear word—which Walhydra had seen written in books, with its odd, nineteenth-century spelling—was “Pshaw!” Or “Oh, pshaw!”

However, he could make it sound like “G*@-d#$!ed f%^&ing piece of s#@^!”

It must be a guy thing. Sissy that she is, Walhydra nonetheless carries on the male tradition of cursing objects which disobey. As usual, she soon witnesses once more the damaging repercussions of this stubborn trait.

Back in the kitchen, Walhydra cooks up a new, alternative version cranberry sauce, one which entails no use of heavy machinery. She fishes the blender pieces out of the trash can, where she had tossed them in fury, and does the washing up. She glances around.

“Oh, s#@^! There’s cranberry on the ceiling!”

Later, as she reads Anne Rice on the back stoop, Walhydra hears the timer beep through the open mudroom door. Then she hears this long, mournful groan.

Hubby Jim has just discovered that the oven somehow got bumped up to 450° from 350°. Another carbonized baking dish comes out to sit atop the stove.

Hours later. Walhydra and Jim are dinner guests of their friend from the gay/lesbian bowling league and his new flame.

Just before the excellent turkey dinner—graced with a lonely bowl of jellied cranberries—their host asks them to join in a tradition from his home in Phoenix. There, at Thanksgiving, all the Buddhists and Druids and Jews and Navajos and other “outsiders” would gather in a circle and, each one in turn, voice personal thanks, before sharing the holiday feast.

By now, Walhydra and Jim have retold the kitchen disaster story with comic embellishment. Walhydra takes the blame for the second fossilized gingerbread as well as the first, since she figures she discombobulated Jim with her cranberry theatrics.

In the circle, Jim gives thanks jokingly for a number of things, and then gives googoo-eyed thanks for his loving partner.

Walhydra says, “I’m thankful that we finally rediscovered how to be married.”

And so it is.

Blessèd Be.


MaryKali said...

What a great story! My husband, Sunil, had to resort to throwing a chair in my direction during our first year of marriage. Now, almost six years into this, we are doing much better.

My first experiment in long term relationships was much more disasterous--and is history and shall stay there. It did get me started on the path to psychological growth though.

I noticed that you once lived in Ithaca==did you ever know an English professor named James McConkey? He is now retired--but he is a distant cousin. My mother, and her mother both were Hindu in their attitude about family---cousins are the same as siblings. You might have noted that I am interested in connection.....

Bright Crow said...


I was an undergrad at Cornell from 1968-72 and then worked for Cornell Libraries until 1977.

Didn't meet Prof. McConKey, though the name is familiar. My mentor was Charles Elliott, a prof in the linguistics department. He and I are still in touch by email.