Time to give thanks for champagne and Chihuahuas

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Enterprise columnist

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* Editor\’s note: Debra is on vacation. The following column first ran in November 2002.

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Although my family is scattered all over the place, we usually manage to congregate in one place for Thanksgiving.

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The core group is my aunt and uncle, four cousins, my sister, myself, and all the associated children, dogs, spouses, in-laws and out-laws. Each year, we pick a house and descend upon it like a flock of birds, and just the sheer number of bodies in one spot requires incredible patience.

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If you want a cup of coffee, a shower or a trip to the restroom, you\’d better watch for your chance and go for it before someone beats you to it. The jockeying for a shower before the hot water runs out can be vicious, but it\’s nothing compared to the competition that takes place in the kitchen.

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The most volatile situation on Earth is a kitchen filled with women. Everyone has an opinion about how to do things. The men avoid the situation entirely, having learned that the safest place to be while the women are cooking is outside putting up the Christmas lights.

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Unlike women, men handle group activity quite easily: One person does all the work while the rest stand around and drink beer. If only pumpkin pie were so easy.

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Back in the kitchen, life is not so harmonious. By the time the stuffing has been prepared, the bird is in the oven, and several of us have arranged and re-arranged the appetizers (because, you see, there is a right way and a wrong way to place salami on a platter), more than one person can\’t stand the heat but wants somebody else to get out of the kitchen.

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I don\’t usually get sucked into the fray, because the only task I\’m ever entrusted with is chopping. Onions, celery, garlic, parsley, whatever — I am handed a knife and cutting board and given my marching orders. Which is fine with me because I don\’t have the personality type that can engage in a heated debate over the consistency of mashed potatoes.

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This is a big concern to the others, however, and by the time everything is chopped, whipped, sautéed and either baking or refrigerating accordingly, everyone\’s in need of decompression time. Only one activity can smooth the ruffled feathers: the traditional Walking of the Chihuahuas.

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As the only dogless person in the family, I always have to borrow a Chihuahua for the walk, which is no problem as most everyone has at least two of the shivering, yapping little rats. Actually, they aren\’t so bad.

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I enjoy them the way I enjoy other people\’s infants: fun to cuddle and play with awhile, but when they start getting noisy and fussy or soil the carpet with the various bodily fluids they are capable of producing, I\’m glad I don\’t have one of my own. Nice to hold, even nicer to hand back.

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We begin the traditional Walking of the Chihuahuas with the traditional Walking of the Chihuahuas cocktail: mimosas all around. A mimosa is either champagne mixed into orange juice or orange juice mixed into champagne. If the debate over the green bean casserole was particularly ugly, it will probably be the latter.

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With mimosas in hand, the Chihuahuas are herded together and tiny, colorful harnesses are attached to each one, which is no easy task as they squirm and wriggle like their kibble was replaced with espresso beans. We don\’t use collars on them, as there\’s a choking hazard: it\’s hard to tell when a Chihuahua is choking to death when their eyes already bug out to begin with.

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Eventually, we manage to leash each one, and if you\’re at the other end of the leash of more than one Chihuahua at once while they\’re being sorted out, you start to look like the center of a maypole. One by one, we tease out a leash from the tangle and set out for the sidewalk.

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Since the dogs (and I use the term loosely) dart here and there, sniffing out all sorts of invisible delights, we have to walk single file or the leashes get tangled like fishing lines.

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It may not be sponsored by Macy\’s, but it\’s definitely a parade: seven women with seven Chihuahuas, drinking mimosas from seven matching glasses. (The women, not the Chihuahuas.) Believe me, we\’ve generated more than one double-take.

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The Walking of the Chihuahuas always does the trick. No matter how much disagreement was generated over the exact sage content of the stuffing, by the time we get back home, everyone\’s smiling and happy again. And that makes me appreciate the whole scrappy bunch.

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There probably isn\’t a family on Earth that doesn\’t have squabbles during the holidays, but I doubt that many of them can be quickly settled with some champagne and Chihuahuas. And that\’s something to be thankful for.

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— Follow Debra DeAngelo on Twitter. Links are posted at and http://www.edebra.com and http://www.wintersexpress.com. Find Debra\’s columns online at http://www.wintersexpress.com, http://www.edebra.com and http://www.ipinion.me

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