======= ======= ====== ====== ====== ===== ==== ====== ====== ===== ==== ======= ======= ====== ====== ====== ===== ==== ====== ====== ===== ====
Being the day before Thanksgiving, Whole Foods was strangely quiet. Perhaps people had already fled the city, or perhaps everyone wasn’t as ill-equipped as Todd was going into the holiday.
While he didn’t want to commit to much, he did say in her family group text that he would be bringing two things — some red wine and the cranberries. He also had a bottle of scotch that he had received through work; something he was going to surprise her father with.
Walking down the empty aisles with a basket draped over his Barbour jacket, he wondered to himself where the cranberries actually were. He grew up in a traditional household where his mother actually made the cranberries, whereas he knew her family enjoyed the canned version. Of course, he knew he could go to the produce section and find some — at the very least, he expected everything to be picked over by this point but there would at least be some bags left.
“But… but how bad of a look is it to show up with cans rather than something I made fresh?” he wondered. This was his last Thanksgiving with her family as the fiancé rather than a legal member of their family. “Should I use my mom’s recipe for the actual cranberries?”
He took out his phone only to remember that the service in this Whole Foods wasn’t exactly stellar. In the front of the store — near the cafe — you could get a couple bars. But in the back, it was an entirely different story.
Pulling up his email, he knew he had a message from his mom from years ago with a PDF of the recipe in it. He searched both of her emails (work and personal) only to realize that service wasn’t nearly good enough for it to actually load.
“Fuck,” he thought. The more he stood in the center of the aisle, the more he realized how bad of a look it would be if he showed up with a paper bag full of cans rather than actually productively contributing to the dinner. On one hand, he knew what they wanted. On the other, he was also doing his soon-to-be-wife a service by having Thanksgiving with her family rather than his, so why not bring a staple that would make it feel more like home for himself?
He kept walking. Through the bread section and into the hot bar. He looked down at his watch to check the time. They had to get in the car in 45 minutes so time wasn’t exactly on his side. He knew he could simply buy both, but his concern was that he’d spend time working on his mother’s homemade cranberries only for them to go untouched when everyone made their plates. If he’s learned anything throughout his years of attending Thanksgivings (and Friendsgivings), it’s that you don’t want to be the person who’s dish isn’t cleared before clean-up.
But the uneasiness still lingered. Neither option swayed him either way. At his core, he knew he had to do what was right — get the canned. But his heart told him to stick to his guns and hold to tradition.
His phone still had no service despite his efforts to linger toward the front of the store. But at this point, it had turned into more of an internal struggle than anything. Bringing both was a compromise, but compromise wasn’t something he wanted to deal with this Thanksgiving. It was one or the other.
He put the basket down and walked into the parking lot. Realizing how sketchy this looked to the employees at checkout, he awkwardly told them, “Be right back!” and left his jacket unzipped so they didn’t think he was stealing a bottle of wine or something.
With his phone to his ear and his breath visible coming from his mouth, he uttered, “Hey mom, question.”
“I’m at the store right now shopping for cranberry stuff,” he told her. “Can you send me your recipe again?”
She hesitated on the other end. “I think so, I have it written down somewhere.”
“Can’t you just text it to me?” he asked hopefully. His fear was that she wasn’t going to be technologically literate enough to compose it into a text.
“I’ll take a photo of it for you and text it to you,” she assured him. “But right now I’m not at the house so it will have to wait until later this afternoon.”
Knowing that he was up Shit Creek without a paddle, he simply told her, “Thanks, mom. Can’t wait to spend Thanksgiving with you next year.”
“You too, honey!” she responded. “I’ll send it to you in just a bit. Love you.”
“Love you, too,” he said in closing.
“Well fuck,” Todd grumbled. Now that he was outside — albeit freezing — he could at least try to find her email from years ago. But as he combed through the emails, he started to second guess himself. “Was it in a text?” he wondered. “Because if it was, there’s no way I’m finding it.”
He felt beaten down. Nevermind the fact that he was at a grocery store on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, but his internal struggle and annoyance weighed him down even more.
He walked back inside and made sure to give a head nod to the checkout girl he had acknowledged on the way out. Doubling back, he approached her and asked, “Say, do you know where the canned cranberries are?”
She winced. Not out of indecision, but because she was about to deliver some news that she knew he wouldn’t want to hear. “Unfortunately, we ran out late last night and I don’t think we’re getting more in until after Thanksgiving — I know how little of a help that is.”
Todd put his hands in the side pockets of his coat and thanked her for her help. Rather than try to scrounge up the ingredients for homemade cranberries, he once again walked toward the exit. In his mind, it was either canned, his mom’s recipe, or a Thanksgiving without them. Knowing there would be no shortage of other recipes on random food websites, he just didn’t care at this point. It was tradition versus adaptation, neither of which seemed to be working out in his mind.
When he finally got through the sliding doors, he took a deep breath and zipped his jacket up in an effort to combat the cold.
“Man, I need a drink.” .