By the time this deathless prose lands on your doorstep or in your subscription box or in the newsstand of your choice, El Rancho Davis will be halfway through a holiday weekend for the ages. I used up nearly all of my fingers and toes counting the number of smiling faces that will have done wreckage to the annual Perfect Turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, scalloped corn, squash, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls by the ton, pumpkin pie, apple pie, coconut cream pie, chocolate cream pie, peanut butter pie, pecan pie, ginger bread & whipped cream, raspberry tapioca whip, banana bread, cinnamon streusel bread, a round of pumpernickel bread with onion dip, punch bowl filled with, oddly enough, punch and rainbow sherbet.

I always try to work out a strategy that will yield a clear path to all the best of everything before the grubby little meat hooks of adorable grandchildren can snatch the prize chunks or spoonsful of the goodies ahead of me. Every year I find I’m older and slower, and the pickin’s are slim at several stations when I finally arrive, clutching my silverware and napkin in one gnarled old claw, shuffling along with a dinner roll and no butter setting alone in middle of an otherwise empty plate in the other hand. If I’m lucky I might find a succulent tendon from a picked-clean drumstick lying on top of the rubble heap that was minutes before a mound of tender, juicy white meat, sliced and steaming aromas from paradise into the nostrils. It strikes me as an oddity that nearly everyone claims to not like dark meat, but try to find a chunk on the platter when you’re at the tail end of the line.

Again, with luck, I might scrape a withered green bean devoid of sauce or French’s dried onions staring up at me from the bottom of the ten gallon casserole dish. I’m pretty sure I peeled a hundred or so pounds of potatoes…there must be lots left, as I plod along searching for sustenance. But, nay! I raise a teary eye toward those already feasting like barbarians at the table that has no more chairs available, to find most of them doing the Richard Dreyfuss thing from the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” sculpting the Devil’s Tower with their spuds. There isn’t enough potato left for the Old Guy to sculpt the Devil’s Leggo…a teaspoon of gravy next to my dinner roll will have to do. I shuffle into the living room and settle my old bones into a recliner, watching the youngest collection of heathens wallowing in platters of deliciousness, spilling punch, and tossing bits of finger-rolled bread balls back and forth at each other.

Before the madness commenced, I laid loud claim to the chocolate cream pie and the raspberry tapioca whip…to no avail. It was like issuing a challenge to the pagan hoard to see if they could dispose of both before my feeble attempt to beat them back could have any effect. They succeeded quite well.

I mentioned “double barreled madness…”

That’s because a second major event was scheduled for today (Saturday), here at El Rancho. I wrote late last summer of the Reveal Party in Pittsburgh for our eleventh grandchild…the baby girl is due in February and what better time than Thanksgiving weekend to host a Baby Shower? Mind you, I am neither involved nor expected to attend, and that’s absolutely fine by me. But once again, all my fingers and toes don’t come close to the number of invitees… the whole thing demands an entirely new menu, games or some such silliness, and naturally, the opening of the gifts to the oooohing and aahhhhhing of all present. My daughter and the dad-to-be better rent an eighteen wheeler to haul just the things I’ve already wrapped “…so you can feel included…” back to the Steel City. My question is this: shouldn’t guys have a baby shower too? Imagine the trove that might await the blessed moment: how about a pink tree stand for the little girl? Or a beginner’s pink tool chest with a set of socket wrenches? A camouflage motif for the crib and a NASCAR changing table: “The Pit”? Here’s a great idea: a little swing seat that sounds like Formula One racing…or a least an off the shelf nutrition drink called Formula One. Maybe both.

I got a little sidelined there…back to the excited gaggle of relatives and friends of the mom-to-be. I have no doubt that the Friday between Thanksgiving and Baby Shower will be given over to a second thorough scouring of the entire house, because heaven forbid anyone at all should ever believe that El Rancho might look like someone actually lives within. I’m not willing to believe that any one of the guests at this fete will come with kid gloves and a notepad on a clipboard, to check off the Davis house’s deficiencies. That’s another reason, come to think of it, that guys should be the ones at baby showers. Guys don’t notice the doilies are out of place or the flowers in the mantle vase are dead as October corn stalks.

But today’s event is ladies only, and I will gladly venture forth to find a spot somewhere where I can sit quietly and watch Penn State play Rutgers in the last football game of the regular season. If I ask politely, maybe I can score a cute little pink plate full of shower snacks. I’m hoping loaded potato skins, pork rinds, and a mini-keg from America’s oldest brewery are part of the menu. Whadya think?

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