One Thanksgiving my grandmother put her hand in the garbage disposal while it was running.  Someone distracted her. Or so she screamed. I ran into the kitchen, way too little to help, expecting to find blood spraying every inch of her pristine white kitchen.  

There was no blood.  No ER visit needed. She was fine.

But such was the usual Thanksgiving drama when through the Woods of West (aka Westwood, CA) to grandmother’s house we went each year.

Overreactions, anger, frustration and the potential loss of limbs.  It was mayhem.

But once the food got on the table everything was copacetic, with words of love and appreciation for all the cook’s sacrifices. It was as if she had just gone to war for us all and returned bloodied and broken but with an armful of delicious culinary delights.

When I started hosting Thanksgiving, I was driven to keep the drama to a minimum, doing as much as possible in the days leading up to T-Day, to avoid the last-minute chaos.  But I admit I always get a little tense in those final moments before the last thing is jettisoned to the table so that everything is hot at the same time.  Impossible of course, but worth a good “Hail Mary” pass to make the effort.

I prefer to think of my Thanksgiving prep as more like an exciting final quarter of a football game.  I remember one year I missed a pass: a casserole dish full of exquisitely fluffed mashed potatoes fell out of my hands and into the sink.  Everything slowed down as I felt my hand lose its grip. 

Fall, fall, fall… and crash!

Then time kind of stopped.  Mashed potatoes are my favorite part of the meal and I make a mean Thanksgiving mashed potato (thank you Silver Palate Cookbook). I stared down at the spray of white fluff now dotted with shards of porcelain.

Can I pick those out of there? 

Yes, that’s how much I love mashed potatoes.  But no, I didn’t.

In recent years there hasn’t been any food drama but there has been more of what most people are talking about this year – political table warfare.

Many of us will be around “mixed” Thanksgiving tables this year, trying to be conversation ninjas to avoid differing points of view. People will be quietly gnawing on what others are saying instead of a coveted turkey leg.

Was that comment about Justice Ginsburg what I think it was?

Should I let that comment about Trump go? Or can we make it through dessert somehow?

I can tell where Aunt Louise is going with this… how do we head her off at the pass? 

I’m going to a special Thanksgiving celebration this year with a dear friend whose birthday happens to land on this day of gratitude. I am super grateful for my friend and I adore her extended family. But the very best thing about this celebration is that she has declared this year’s holiday the Thanksgiving of Mayhem.

There will be differing political opinions at the table.  There will be many chefs in the kitchen.  There will be competing dietary needs and taste buds. There will be mayhem. 

Expecting mayhem is so very freeing.  I smile every time I think of it.  My soul is saying — like my friend’s is — “Bring it on, Mayhem!”

Would you like to join us?  How liberating is it to…

Expect awkward.

Expect anger.

Expect last minute emergencies.

Expect someone breaking a precious heirloom.

Expect the loss of a limb. (OK that’s a shout out to grandma, I admit it.)

Expect mayhem. 

Let’s follow the Allstate commercials’ lead: understand that mayhem is part of life. I think my friend has locked into the insurance of a fantastic Thanksgiving by opening her arms to the possibility of all things mayhem-inducing.

This year more than most perhaps, we can expect political strife – even if you are all on the same side!  Let it all be perfect. Then you can let the love and gratitude that’s present be perfect too, allow it to bubble freely up, up, up to the surface, and lighten things up.

I just saw the movie A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood which reminds us of Fred Rogers’ wise words that are perfect for Thanksgiving: “Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”

My friend is suggesting we mention mayhem so we can embrace it together. We are not alone.  No matter what your Thanksgiving feast may look like this year, know that someone very near is in the middle of something very similar, their hearts bumping up against the hearts of those they love in a way that can sometimes hurt for a bit, but which can also turn an emotional corner to feel very, very good.

If you are hitting a snag in the middle of your mayhem, pull someone aside or call a friend and mention your pain, so they can help you manage it.

I can’t wait to be on the road to my friend’s house with the expectation of some juicy love-filled mayhem. I wish you and yours the same. I wish your heart levity and love no matter what this holiday throws your way. And know that we are all right there with you.