7:30 a.m. – I drag myself out of bed. The air quality is 289, very unhealthy, creating a foggy look to the city. I call Mom, who is tired from making rolls and pies for her Thanksgiving feast.
9 a.m. – I attempt to take out the trash. The new Walmart trash bags are crepe-paper thin. I gingerly lift the bag and carry it out to the hallway, only to discover that the neighbors are too lazy to put their trash inside the bin, piling it up on top. As I try to move their trash, it spills on the floor and I knock a recycling bin down one flight of stairs. Wake up, Beijing! I’m an AMERICAN and I’m making Thanksgiving dinner!
9:30 a.m. – I discover that the new microwave is too small to hold any kind of casserole dish, foiling my plans to reheat the potatoes gratin later. Need. More. Coffee.
10 a.m. – I put together a potato gratin, sans bacon so that my vegetarian daughter can eat it. Bob follows me around the kitchen, trying to tell me about a new report on breast cancer. The “Car Talk” guys on my iPhone drown him out. I distract Bob by handing him the leaf for the dining room table and we put it in.
10:30 a.m. – I start wrestling with the turkey. It’s still a little frozen inside. Uh oh. In dragging out the giblets, I further ruin my manicure. Not that it was good before. I try to check my email. I think everyone here must be trying to get on the Internet at the same time. The little circle moves slowly, so slowly. I see that Bob has also emailed me the breast cancer story. I still need to take my shower.
11 a.m. – I can’t get the VPN to connect, which means I can’t get on Facebook. It’s probably for the best because there are still people posting pictures of golden autumn leaves, sending a stab of longing to my heart. Dirty green leaves still cling to the trees in our apartment complex. Witopia tells me it’s “building an encrypted tunnel” and I imagine little elves digging under the Pacific from LA to Beijing. Go little men, go! I need to get back to the kitchen anyway. I think the little men are stuck in their tunnel – no luck.
11:30 a.m. – The directions say to peel the baby carrots, which look exactly like the bunch of carrots that Captain Kangaroo was always trying to keep from Bunny Rabbit. When I peel them, though, they become smaller than baby carrots – infant carrots. I should have left them unpeeled. I get out my “good” tablecloth (only one hole, no discernible stains). Someday, I’ll be grown up enough to have matching napkins and tablecloth.
12 noon – I sit down to check email again. Loading, loading. I’ve told guests to come at 5, so now I’m in the beat-the-clock countdown. This is the time when mistakes are made, so I tell myself to move like the Internet here. Still no VPN.
1:15 p.m. – Turkey is in the oven, roasted vegetables ready to be squeezed into the sides around the bird. Bob brings me a giant bouquet of mums, which he was proud to order up in Chinese. This is a good thing since it’s keeping him out of my hair. He also brings a tuna sandwich, which stems that low-blood-sugar feeling that had been growing on me. I find my turkey baster, which was stuck away in a drawer next to the pastry cutter that I had accused the ayi of hiding. Whoops.
2:30 p.m. – The table is set and looks nice. I’ve removed 431 pomegranate seeds from a large pomegranate. My back is starting to hurt and I think that I might need to have one of the beers in the frig. The cat is hiding under the armchair, like she knows something is up.
3 p.m. – I’m supposed to baste the turkey with the juices released, so why are none in the pan? I wash dishes for the fourth time today. My hands feel like sandpaper. I break out a Lucky Beer.
3:10 p.m. – Lucky Beer tastes like molasses. I throw it out and close my eyes for a moment.
4:30 p.m. – The phone rings. It’s Joanna and she’s on her way over. I look at the clock and stifle a gasp, as Bob has just been bragging to Daniel that I haven’t had any freakouts. I change into nicer clothes. Somehow, a blouse that I had been planning to wear shrank in the closet. I switch to a creamy off-white blouse. It plays into my risk-taking side. There will be no gravy mishaps.
4: 45 p.m. – Smoke is pouring from the oven. I ignore it.
5 p.m. – Some of the guests arrive, but not all. We ply them with appetizers and wine.
The rest of the evening is a blur. But I think it’s accurate to say that the food was delicious and the camaraderie of joining together for an all-American feast in a place so far from home made every effort worthwhile. And there were no gravy mishaps. That's a heck of a lot to be thankful for.