Credit: Brian Feulner

The holidays always leave me with mixed emotions. Take yesterday’s Thanksgiving banquet.

You go to all sorts of lengths to craft beautiful appetizers, side dishes, homemade breads, desserts, and main dishes, and the result is … well, sometimes hard to swallow.

There is the buffet, laid out on the kitchen counter in pristine glory, resplendent in holiday hopes and beauty. There’s the turkey, which you managed to roast perfectly and now rests on the table filling the room with the wholesome smells of rosemary, sage and thyme, and boasting a crusty skin of brownish paprika red. Multiple pies perch at one end of the counter, some with pecans nestled in sugary yumminess, nutmeg smells rising off another, and it seems like actual elves must have woven the perfect golden crust of the apple pie. There’s the dinner salad which looks as if a professional chef lovingly assembled the layers of julienned vegetables resting atop a bed of fresh lettuce arranged just so. The whole meal sits there in elegant glory for a few moments, and there is a sense in the air that the holidays of 2018 are going to be perfect.

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And then the family swoops in like rampaging wildebeests at a desert watering hole, charging through the kitchen with serving utensils plunging into the tops of apple pies, scoops of mashed potatoes flying through the air, stuffing scattering across the counter like shrapnel from an explosion, the gravy boat toppling over and bleeding out brown gravy like somebody had just plunged a knife into Aladdin’s magic lamp. And the turkey, oh the turkey — once the family has their go at it, the once proud traditional main dish looks as if someone shoved it through a woodchipper.

What took days, perhaps even weeks, to pull together, a hungry family can destroy in minutes.

Soon everyone is in the other room, chowing down on their plate piled high with too much food.  You can hear voices proclaiming that the turkey is perfect this year, and that Aunt Sylvie’s jello salad is their favorite food, and how little Billy is going to eat cranberry sauce for the rest of his life because he loves it so much. There’s the clinking of silverware on china plates, the murmur of people conversing, the scrape of a chair scooching over to make more room at the table and a child’s voice proclaiming that she is going to eat a slice of every single pie for dessert.

Sure, the kitchen looks like the French countryside after the D-Day invasion. There is still the washing to do, and yes, there are six weeks of holiday ads and inane Christmas carols to endure. We’ll all have to answer the question of whether we respond to a wish for a Merry Christmas or happy holiday with a glare of defiance or just a tired sigh. Yet, for a brief moment, the smell of good food, sounds of holiday cheer and a family that is getting along, even for a few seconds, is enough to rekindle your faith in humanity and leave us all with a small candle flame of the holiday spirit.