Thanksgiving last year. It stills feels like a piece of dry turkey stuck somewhere near my heart.

Up front, know it isn’t all THAT bad. No one dies. A dog doesn’t get sick and a beautiful century-old tree doesn’t uproot for no reason at all.

But it added enormous worry, follow-up, and work to my Thanksgiving, and it could have all been avoided.

Weeks before the holiday meal that I have hosted for 27 years for two dozen people, it became obvious that it would be a Thanksgiving like no other. I even began to imagine peanut butter and jelly sandwiches shared by just Tink and me at the kitchen table.

My precious aunt, Kathleen, had open heart surgery (when the signs of the moon were perfectly aligned for a quick healing) so she wasn’t coming. In addition to being one of my favorite people, she always calls and asks “What can I bring?”

“Orange salad and sweet potato casserole.”

“Oh,” she’ll say in a tone indicating the silliness of my answer. “I can bring much more than THAT.”

And she does. It takes three trips for her and Richard to tote in the food. I used to protest that she shouldn’t do so much. Finally, years ago, I quit and just enjoyed it.

With Aunt Kathleen down for the count, two joyous faces and lots of dishes would be missing. Another happy spirit, my brother-in-law, Rodney, had been in the hospital critically ill. A few days from the holiday, he came home, but he’d be recovering for a few more weeks.

Not wishing to spread as much as a sneeze, we halted a Thanksgiving tradition that I thought would last until the good Lord calls me home. The Bible, though, warns: do not boast of what you will do tomorrow for no man (or Thanksgiving host) knows.

We canceled.

When I realized that those two households would be without Thanksgiving – my sister was sick, too – I decided it was time to do the Christian thing. What the Baptists are renowned for: carrying food to the ill and the bereaved.

I made a list that included all the necessities: turkey breast for each household, dressing, gravy, creamed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, green peas, sweet potato casserole, homemade biscuits, and pumpkin pie.

When an ad from the chain store, Williams Sonoma, popped up in my in-box with photos of scrumptious food and begging me to let them help, I decided to do just that.

“You’re not going to believe what I did,” I said to Tink over coffee the next morning. “I ordered pies and sausage dressing from Williams Sonoma.”

“Good.”

He doesn’t understand that I was raised in a “from scratch” family. We don’t use store bought pies for big occasions, and we would never trust our turkey dressing (yes, I know that the sophisticates call it “stuffing” but that’s not us) to outside sources. For both pride and cost. It was ridiculously expensive.

Over the next three weeks, I kept getting updates as to when the food would arrive. Five days before Thanksgiving, I was worried. A call to Williams Sonoma, after a 30-minute wait, assured me it would all arrive in time.

Another call on Tuesday.

Four calls on Wednesday.

“It’s en route,” a supervisor assured me. “It will arrive by end of the day. I promise.”

At 6 p.m., with no deliveries made, I headed to the grocery store. I cooked until 11 p.m. that night. The Williams Sonoma orders never arrived.

On Thanksgiving Day, I made my normal call to my dear friend Walt Ehmer, president of Waffle House, who spends the day cleaning tables and washing dishes at various WHs. I told him of my upset.

“Why,” he asked, “did you not call me? Waffle House is known for our pies. We could have fixed you right up.”

That’s the call I plan to make this year.

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Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of the new book, Let Me Tell You Something. Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.

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