Don’t Be a Turkey

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by Jamie Hughes |

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Life in Letters - Jamie Hughes

Because I come from a retail family — one that, for decades, put in long hours behind cash registers and in stock rooms — Christmas is not a holiday we particularly look forward to arriving. We enjoyed it, when the day came. But often in my youth, we were so tired on ol’ Dec. 25 that it was hard to do more than drink coffee, unwrap some presents and smile at one another. We all made it out alive … again.

I think working in retail prepared me well for MS fatigue. I’ve been tired so often after long shifts spent on my feet that I learned coping techniques to deal with exhaustion long before I needed them!

Thanksgiving was the holiday we enjoyed most. Back in the day, Christmas didn’t start in full force until Black Friday. (Yes, Halloween and Thanksgiving actually had their moment in the sun without having to share space with Christmas decorations, music or other trappings.) Hard to believe, I admit, but it’s the truth. It’s really hard to get into the spirit of either holiday when the inflatable Grim Reapers are next to the Santa Clauses, but c’est la vie.

Thanksgiving was the day before all the hooey started, a day when all we had to do was cook, eat, watch football, be together and count our blessings.

Back then, I was the helper, working alongside my mother and grandmother. Then, I became sous chef to my mother, allowing my grandmother to relax a bit more. Today, I’m the woman in charge of my own little three-ring Thanksgiving circus.

And let me tell you something, brother. I hate it.

It’s a lot of work to make a meal of this size, no matter how many (or few) people you’re feeding. It requires getting up at the crack of dawn to put a turkey in the oven, keeping an eye on nine things at once and making sure you don’t forget little things like making gravy (or, as was often the case in my family, forgetting to get the rolls out of the oven in time).

This year, however, I’m not going to be a turkey. I’m giving myself permission to pull a “Mrs. Doubtfire.” Remember that scene in the film where Robin Williams is trying to cook dinner, sets his fake you-know-whats on fire and then ends up ordering fancy take out to serve the family? Yeah, I’m doing that (minus the rushing around and nearly incinerating myself).

Life with multiple sclerosis is hard enough in the day-to-day grind, and on a day like Thanksgiving when there’s a conga line of dishes to prepare and get out the door on time, it can be downright impossible to keep all the plates spinning. So, this year, I’ve decided to give myself a break and only make a few homemade things. Everything else will be store-bought and easy to prepare. Some of you might call me a shirker or shoot an outraged “But what about tradition!” in my general direction.

I know because I used to be that kind of person, but now I tend to take the “Lighten up, Sandy” approach to life. The meat will still be good, even if it is turkey ordered from Copeland’s or a HoneyBaked ham. The side dishes will still taste great whether they’re made by me or my new best friends and Costco and Publix. After all, Thanksgiving includes food, but that isn’t the only reason we get together on the fourth Thursday in November, is it? No way! It’s about spending time with family, catching up with friends, loving on one another, taking a moment from the chaos to focus on what matters. I can’t cook and enjoy my people well. It’s impossible really, so I’ve chosen the better portion this year and have opted for real relationships and store-bought food.

If you’re tired… No, I’ll stop that sentence right there. If you’re an MS patient, you are tired. No if, and or but about it. If you have a hard time giving yourself permission to do less, allow me to do it for you. Give yourself a break this year. It’s no great sin to do a little less. And maybe, just maybe, if we do, we’ll all enjoy the day a little bit more.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


R avatar


I learned pre-MS that you can roast the turkey the day before and no one will be the wiser. Or, just buy a breast from the store and roast that or just buy sliced turkey deli meat and go straight to the sandwiches with lots of Russian dressing.

Jamie Hughes avatar

Jamie Hughes

Sounds like a winner to me! Happy Thanksgiving, R!

Denice avatar


My mother in-law won't have Christmas or Thanksgiving at home or anyone else's home since her husband died 20 years ago. We always eat out, we eat at a family style restaurant on Thanksgiving and Chinese on Christmas. The family restaurant isn't very good but she likes it, the Chinese restaurant is good but it isn't Christmas. My son lives half way around the world from me. I am just glad when the holidays are over. Denice

Jamie Hughes avatar

Jamie Hughes

Denise, I totally understand how you feel. Maybe you could try to establish a new tradition, one that you have a little more say-so about and could gain a greater sense of joy from?


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