On Thursday morning we attended our exercise class in the park. One of our classmates had lived in the U.S., and we got to talking about Thanksgiving. She said she missed the holiday, and since this year we planned to cook a turkey, we invited her to our house to celebrate in the North American way.
Overhearing the invitation, a few of the other students wanted to come too. They had seen Thanksgiving dinner in the movies, but never celebrated it, and were curious to try. Everyone offered to bring something, one would buy a cake, another offered to bring vegetables prepared by a chef she knows, another the turkey from a roasting place in the neighborhood — only $60 for a fully cooked bird. Ecuadorian men and women of the middle and upper classes don’t cook. Cooking is the business of “empleadas” or domestic servants.
We declined the offers. My wife and I love to cook, and we wanted to prepare the meal ourselves. “Just bring beer and wine,” we said.
The dinner was pegged at 6:30 p.m. — Americano style. The Ecuadorians with gringo experience came just about on time. They were the only ones that did. So at about 8:30, we sat for dinner. Our guests loved the food, and stayed on until about 10 p.m. when the first “real” Ecuadorians began to arrive.
For reasons, unknown and never probed, this group brought along “parachute guests” (as uninvited guests are known in local parlance). These unexpected folks included a grandmother, three teenagers, and a “something” new (meaning “sort-of” a boyfriend). By 11:15 p.m. the last Ecuadorian of the Ecuadorian dinner guests had arrived for the 6:30 p.m. seating, and we were scrambling to reheat turkey breast, mashed potatoes and gravy.
The sweet potato was a hit since nobody had eaten such a thing before — they thought it was carrots with honey.
Midnight came and went, and at 2 a.m. our guests were still talking and talking and drinking and drinking. I could no longer make out what they were saying, my hearing was slurred from wine and exhaustion. As I fought to keep from nodding off in the living room, my wife entertained several guests in the backyard. She felt like me, dead tired, but hides it better.
Finally, after I peeled off an embarrassing snore, one of our guests offered to leave, so we could go to bed. In the latin style, said no, insisting I was not at all tired and they could stay. Thank god, they didn’t buy it. We said goodbye with hundreds of kisses, handshakes and more kisses.
By 3:15 a.m. all had gone.
The house lay wasted, an explosion of empty wine bottles, dirty glasses, turkey bones, dried mounds of mashed potato, desiccated cheese, peas, spinach, cauliflower and pumpkin pie drizzled with melted mango ice-cream, and empty bottles of beer.
I got a second wind and started picking up the dishes. I hate to wake up to a messy place. My wife went to sleep. I soldiered on.
I don’t know when I finally went to bed, but at 5 a.m. the alarm sounded — time to get up and hustle down to the park for the Cross Fit. I turned off the buzzer and rolled over. Two hours later, I got up, made coffee and went to the office. It was a productive Friday.
For reasons unknown, I didn’t feel tired. I felt happy, instead.