Happy Thanksgiving! Parable of the Pies

t was thanksgiving. The family was looking forward to its usual gathering. Everyone would be there, brothers and sisters, and even a few more distant relatives that had moved far away. Much planning had gone into the event; for months before careful counts were made of guests, estimates of food were made, and careful seating arrangements organized. The planning was comprehensive.

There was a young cousin who had gone into business for himself recently. He started some kind of internet business. It would be his first time attending this particular event. He was asked weeks in advance if he’d be coming alone or with someone. He was a friendly type and met people easily.

“Hmmm. I’m not sure,” he thought. “Me and two others?”

The planners were fine with that and careful notes were taken of preferences and food allergies. Vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options would be available and allowance was even made for big eaters versus small. But what mattered most was the plan; everything had to go according to the plan.

The cousin made his plans for travel. But by the time he was ready to leave he’d added a few more friends to his list. He had decided to reserve an RV for the trip. They set out in the road early and the RV was full, but everyone was having a great time. They even crammed a couple people they met along the way. The group started looking for a second RV.

Just before they rolled into town for the thanksgiving dinner the cousin realized all his friends could be a problem. So they stopped at a grocery store and bought lots of food items and even ingredients like flour and other baking goods. The cousin figured it would all work out, the holiday is all about hospitality he thought.

Well, his arrival didn’t generate lots of joy. Even though there was lots of food the cousin got a scolding.

“This wasn’t part of the plan,” said his aunt. “We worked on that plan forever. It’s a beautiful plan!”

She made him sit down in the family room, dimmed the lights, and started a power point presentation. The first few slides were about the families history. His aunt was especially proud of all the old photos of long dead relatives in fur hats and floor length dresses and big hats.

He peeked through the blinds. His friends were playing volleyball and lying on the grass. It was warm in this part of the country and some were from colder climates. Most of his family was on the porch with their arms folded wearing frowns.

“Excuse me,” the aunt said noticing his distraction.

“Sorry,” he said, and turned back to the slides.

She outlined how the plan brilliantly assessed the weight of all the attendees based on census data then, using data from the Food and Drug Administration determined the calories needed to be sure people were full. They had even factored in economic data: people would be allocated calories based on income. Those guests who earned More would get an appropriately smaller serving of stuffing, for example.

“You see,” said the aunt as she pointed to a chart, “this plan means everyone will get what they should.”

She turned on the lights.

“But will people enjoy themselves,” he asked.

She looked shocked.

“Enjoy?” she asked, taking off her glasses. “How do you measure that?”

But it was almost time for dinner. And things were tense. Additional tables had to be set up, new silverware found. Even historical china had to be taken out of a cupboard and dusted off. A few family members protested this.

“Those plates have been up there in that cupboard since I was ten,” said one. “I grew up in this living room and now it’s changing. It’s like we don’t matter anymore.”

Some family were very bitter about the new seating arrangements. Some were now seated between the cousin’s friends. One relative was especially upset.

She grabbed her name card with, “Mable” printed on it and demanded she be given her regular spot back between “George” and “Louise” who also had neatly printed cards. Now she was sandwiched between Jose and Rohit. This was not what she expected when she came. She’d had the same spot for years. Now these kids were messing things up.

One relative leaned over to the host and offered a solution.

“Look,” he said, “if they’re going to treat this place like a restaurant instead of a home, then we should charge them; they’re making a huge impact.”

Somehow the group got through dinner. There were lots of tense, “thank yous” and “could you pleeese pass the butter,” comments made with eye rolls. But everyone ate and got full, even though the neat weight and income allocations fell by the way. Because the cousin and his friends brought so much food with them everyone ate until they were satisfied. Some were resentful of the friends.

“He ate two dinner rolls, I saw it,” complained one, “and I only got one.”

“But you don’t eat dinner rolls,” said the cousin.

“Whatever. It’s not right, everyone should get equal amounts of food.”

The cousin could only shake is head and look forward to the pies. Everyone loved pie.

And the pies were all laid out beautifully. Pumpkin. Apple. Cherry. There were even some pies the cousin didn’t recognize.

People started to serve themselves. Some took big slices, some thin. It was a frenzy of slicing and scooping and plating. Soon there was almost no pie left. People starting eying other people’s plates.

“His slice is so much bigger than mine,” said one. “And it’s pumpkin, and that means because he got more, I got less.”

She started to cry bitterly. An older aunt came over and grabbed the plate from the friend with a larger slice.

“Give me that!” she said.

She took out a sewing measuring tape she had in her apron. She carefully measured, then sliced of a section of the pie to give to the crying relative.

“There!” she said looking over her glasses, “everyone must allow me to measure their slices!”

“Oh my God,” said the cousin. “This is ridiculous!”

He started to laugh and rolled around on the floor.

“What’s so funny?” shouted the relative holding a knife and measuring tape.

The cousin walked over to the pantry where he’d carefully put all the ingredients he’d bought on the way to dinner. The pantry was full of flour and cans of pumpkin and other baking goods.

“Guys,” he said pointing to the pantry and then to the oven,” we can just bake more pies!”

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