We're hosting family and loved ones at our home this Thanksgiving, and I needed every spare minute to prepare for the arrival of our guests, a delightful tradition known as The Onslaught.
Like every American clan, we will work harder than corn-harvesting pilgrims to maintain the illusion of the happy Norman Rockwell family that lives on Wisteria Lane near the intersection of Crazy and God Help Us.
My bride - Martha Stewart's twin sister, Sigourney Weaver Stewart - is sure to win the Oscar for her magnificent wine-enhanced performance as the Happy Hostess of Butterball Boulevard, which she will sustain until she has a meltdown like a Japanese nuclear reactor when Ellie, our retriever, retrieves the spiral-cut ham.
And once we are seated, every last one of us will be counting down the seconds until some steel magnolia, fueled by fermented cranberry sauce and tryptophan, lobs the first family gossip grenade straight into the gravy.
Our gathering shall begin with a sober prayer of gratitude by Grandpa Don followed by a heartfelt toast by yours truly:
"Four hours and seven minutes ago our family brought forth on this table a Thanksgiving dinner, conceived in our kitchen, and dedicated to the proposition that all relatives are created equal.
"Now we are engaged in a great war of serving spoons and words, testing whether this family, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure - and, holy croutons, who forgot to invite Aunt Shirley?
"We are met at a great dining table that has become a war zone thanks to Uncle Joe insulting Sister Sheila's string bean casserole. We have come to dedicate this Thanksgiving dinner as a place and time for those who gave their home, their table and their last full measure of sanity and are keeping their opinions about Sister Tracy's taste in men to themselves so that this family might survive Thanksgiving intact. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
"We cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this Thanksgiving dinner, but if Mattie would take out his earplugs, and little Emma would keep her mitts off that lighted candle, I wouldn't have to raise my voice when I remind you about the brave grown-ups who are doing their best to get along, and even the brats at the kids' table - squirming and fidgeting, and not eating their peas - yes, even those little monsters have consecrated this day, far above our poor power to referee the fight over who forgot to invite Aunt Shirley. All I know is it wasn't me.
"The world will little note nor long remember what we say here. Except for our wives, who always remember everything we say as far back as two score and four Thanksgivings ago, according to Uncle Max, who always keeps his trap shut.
"It is rather for us, the stuffed and the drowsy, to be dedicated here to inoffensive small talk about Sister Susie's engagement and how great Uncle Jeff's sweater looks on him and to be equally dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that we help with the dishes, let Grandpa nap like a bear and hug each other goodbye at the end of the day like we mean it.
"We here highly resolve that these relatives and loved ones shall not have dined together in vain, that this family, under this roof, shall have a new birth of love for each other - and that includes Uncle Joe, too - and that Thanksgiving hosted by our family, with our family and for our family shall not perish in our home, even if Uncle Joe insists Monica is raising a juvenile delinquent and should have her head examined.
"God bless us everyone. And God bless Aunt Shirley, who we truly hope to see here next year. Amen."