I guess I shouldn’t say everyone. Let’s be honest, it was the women in the family who did it all. The only work the men did was to jockey for the best position to watch the football game.
But one year, it was different.
My dad had come to this country from Europe as a poor boy of 19. He worked hard all his life and eventually succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. He went into a business partnership that did quite well, and one of its perks was a company membership in one of the most prestigious country clubs in the area.
My father loved to entertain. One Thanksgiving, he thought it would be nice to give the ladies a break, so he took the entire family — which numbered about 20 — to the country club for their annual turkey bash.
My wife and I had been there many times before and knew that their food and service were renowned throughout the area, and we also knew they had a strict dress code. Somehow, we failed to get this information to my son-in-law. He came in a nice shirt with a cardigan sweater, but no tie and jacket.
The club, being the classy place it was, was totally prepared for such circumstances. They ushered my son-in-law to the coat check room to provide him with one of their jackets and ties. Unfortunately, they had only one of each left. He slowly appeared out of the coat check room embarrassed and blushing to his hairline.
The jacket was about six sizes too big for him and was a holdover from the 1970s with a large, loud checkered pattern. The tie was an extremely bright, wide-striped variety. All he needed was a red rubber nose and big floppy feet.
My father was livid, but managed to control his short temper, because he was determined to make this a memorable Thanksgiving.
We entered the lounge to have a drink before dinner. The waiter arrived with all of our drinks on a large tray that he balanced precariously on one hand over his shoulder. We all saw him coming across the room, and we all saw the small but obvious fold in the carpet. The rest, as they say, is history.
After taking the waiter out with some help, and cleaning up the mess, we were told that our table was ready in the dining room. The color was rising above my dad’s collar. He was going into dinner without his usual dry manhattan. This was not going to be easy.
Fortunately, there was champagne at the table, so we settled in with a glass and waited for our server. And waited and waited. I thought my dad was going to start to drink the champagne straight from the bottle.
Finally, our order was taken and the hors d’oeuvres arrived. We nibbled and waited for our soup and salad. And again, we waited and waited. My dad had wanted this day to go so perfectly — and it was anything but.
My dad tried to make small talk with my brother-in-law, who was a very laid-back kind of guy. I heard my dad ask him, “Are you enjoying the meal?” My brother-in law answered, “Every now and then.”
We never went back again. The ladies are back preparing the Thanksgiving dinner and the men are still scrambling for the best spot to watch the game.
— By Richard Hoffstedt, Tribune community columnist