“Go ahead and tell our faculty family they can each invite a guest,” I texted Pedro. “We have enough food for lots of kids to enjoy.”

Yes, we had a lot of food, but. My class schedule this year doesn’t leave me much time to prepare a Thanksgiving dinner. I pushed the niggling thought to the back of my head as I shoved another pie plate of dinner rolls in around the slowly roasting turkey.

The pale, not-roasting-fast-enough turkey. I carried another pan of rolls outside to the trailer, thankful that I had a second oven. The pies sat in the refrigerator, along with the sweet potato casserole that I had made in the morning.

I can do this, I thought, as I filled the steamer with carrots and browned the flour for gravy. Laura, our daughter, had spent her morning tidying the house and vacuuming in between caring for her infant.

When I went to set the table for 15, I realized I would need to move the table about two feet in order to add a folding table in the dining room space. Moving our table poses a huge problem.

Anaconda or Table?

My mom purchased the table 35 years ago at a garage sale—and it had a dated, feeble look to it back then. The table has spent time in her house, in my sister’s house, and for the past 15 years, in our house. Its surface has hosted tons of food, school papers, backpacks, computers, violent Pit games, and Rook tournaments. Everyone from movie producers to students in trouble have pulled their chairs close to enjoy a home-cooked meal.

We haven’t moved the table since a leaf split in half about six months ago. I grabbed one end and gently lifted. The table creaked in protest and when I tugged, it flexed like a sleeping anaconda. It moved an inch or two. Maybe if I lifted the middle part, the carpet would release its hold on the middle set of legs. It did. I returned to the end and tugged again.

Every so slowly, the table moved into place—stretching and gaping at the seams. When the south end reached its destination, I ran around to the north end and carefully shoved the accordion mess together before flicking a tablecloth over it and wedging it tight with the folding table.

In between chopping potatoes and putting stuffing in the oven, I managed to set the table. By this time, Laura had finished putting Abel down for the night. She scrounged up the extra chairs and lit some candles right before Pedro and the kids showed up.

Enjoy…Even if You’re not ‘Ready’

Of course, the turkey hadn’t finished roasting, the carrots felt like rocks and the 12 guests moaned like they hadn’t eaten since the day before. They seated themselves around the table and one of them got everyone else’s attention.

“Yo. We’re gonna go around the table and say what we’re thankful for.” He waited for the others to quiet down. “I’m thankful I’m gonna eat some turkey,” he exclaimed. “What makes you thankful?”

Pedro helped me extract turkey juices for the gravy while the kids continued with their thankfulness exercise. “I think we need to turn the heat up and put it back in the oven for 15 minutes,” Pedro whispered. “Do we have anything they can start eating now?”

“The rolls,” I answered.

Right then a student called out, “Hey, Mrs. Ojeda, what are you thankful for?”

“That my daughter and grandson get to spend two weeks with us.” And that you guys have taken control of the late-dinner situation and can enjoy yourselves without me, I thought to myself.

We all went into the dining room and Pedro said the blessing, then he and Laura started serving up food as it finished cooking.

I wrestled with discontent. My dinner didn’t look like a Martha Stewart moment. I decided to ditch my pride about having everything ready at the same time. My kids didn’t mind, so why should I? The dishes arrived in a herky-jerky fashion, with long intervals of turkey gazing in between.

My kids entertained themselves with ghost pepper sauce tasting and tales of Thanksgivings past. I listened in while mashing potatoes, stirring gravy, and catching a bite to eat.

Every Student Has a Story

My kids remind me of the parts of my table—worn down with trauma and pain; not functioning to their full potential; scarred and scared and sometimes not knowing where their next meal will come from.

I feel as if what we do, day in and day out, makes little difference in the bigger story of their lives. We lift at the middle and something pops out of place further down the line. Pushing one child to reach for a goal results in consequences we never could have foreseen.

But God. He covers the mess with the white tablecloth of his grace. Only he can take the broken, messed-up, impossible situations and turn them into something lovely. I must remember that my part requires obedience, not swooping in to fix or duct-tape together.

My part requires obedience, not swooping in to fix or duct-tape together. #Thanksgiving Click To Tweet

For this night, God only requires that I serve turkey with a smile and enjoy the drawn-out meal. My offering of love to the God who put me here to serve.

Q4U: Do you ever struggle wtih discontent when reality looks different from the picture you’ve painted in your head?


  1. Anita, like you I am also a high school English and History teacher. Although I’ve never cooked/served a meal for my students I still found myself relating to this story and your feelings about wanting things to be perfect and dealing with the reality that they aren’t. I love your quote, “My part requires obedience, not swooping in to fix or duct-tape together.” Vising from FMF again!

  2. How refreshing to read about letting the trappings and “must dos” of Thanksgiving go and enjoy the spirit of the day! And happy Thanksgiving to you from your #fmf neighbor.

  3. I thought of the Thanksgiving dinner as one in several courses. I’m still very impressed at your ability to make a whole Thanksgiving meal so quickly! The kids’ many thank-yous as they departed spoke to the beauty of the meal.

  4. We seem to get the ones who weren’t caught by you first. That’s okay. God has placed people all along the way. Thankful and grateful for the work you do, your obedience.

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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