Things in Erin’s Head
Whenever a holiday rolls around, 90% of the time Jerry requests a Prime Rib Roast. 99% of the time I say, “No.”
It’s not that I don’t want to give him what he wants all the time (I strive to make all of his dreams come true… and if you ask him I think he’ll tell you I’ve pulled off some good ones). It’s just that Prime Rib is pricey… and there’s seven of us… and everyone doesn’t eat beef… and even though it’s not hard to prepare, sometimes it just feels overwhelming.
This year for Christmas, I didn’t have a stellar gift idea for Jerry. Except for Prime Rib. He was SO excited when I shared my idea, that I really wanted to plan it out so it was a Prime Rib EXPERIENCE. The meat inspired good side dishes, a fancy dessert (homemade chocolate mousse baby), extra Christmas lights, and I planned to wear real clothes and make-up.
<< Test First Name >>, you would have been so proud of me. I trotted over to The Fresh Market a week before Christmas to inquire about ordering my Prime Rib (AKA a Standing Rib Roast) in advance. The butcher praised me, “You’re smart to do that,” and added a confident nod. They even had a form (I love a good form). He helped me fill it out step-by-step. He escorted me to the register and the lovely cashier put my form with the others, so it wasn’t floating around all willy-nilly. I called my best friend to tell her how ORGANIZED I was (we geek out over things like this).
I felt calm. Collected. Confident. Maybe a little cocky. I was rocking this Christmas dinner thing.
Still feeling so proud, on December 21 I moseyed into The Fresh Market to pick up my beautiful roast. I was pleased that the same butcher was working and I smiled and handed him my copy of the form. While he was in the back collecting my side of cow, I perused the meat counter, checking how how many Standing Rib Roasts were left… not many. That happy feeling of being organized and on top of things made the dimples in my cheeks sink just a little deeper with my grin. The butcher returned and extended a flat, Styrofoam tray in my direction. The happy dimples flattened out like tires that had backed over a parking lot spike strip.
I tilted the cellophane wrapped parcel toward my eyeline and stared at it.
It was a Beef Tenderloin. A $200 Beef. TENDERLOIN.
I’m not going to launch into a whole dissertation about the difference between a TENDERLOIN and a STANDING RIB ROAST. But they are clearly not the same and could never be confused. One is a tube of meat. One has bones and is the size of one of your butt cheeks.
Not wanting to accept possession of the TENDERLOIN, my hand hovered the package over the meat counter as my mind flashed rapid fire:
“What did I do?
What did I order?
I must have clicked the wrong box – but no HE helped me.
How can I scrunch this tenderloin into a roast and get it on a rotisserie?
Why would they tie a tenderloin like this?
This is insanity.”
And finally the thought that triggered my bravery to contest the TENDERLOIN, “This is NOT what I promised Jerry.”
Even if I did make a mistake, I could still ask for what I WANTED.
My head shook with uncertainty and confusion, “No, I’m sorry,” I paused to collect my thoughts, “I ordered a Prime Rib Roast. For my rotisserie. Not a tenderloin. Prime Rib. A roast.”
And then they made their critical error.
“Well, ma’am, the form wasn’t filled out right, so we didn’t really know what you wanted.”
It was either a poorly timed hot flash, or I just flushed with anger, but as I felt the heat swell up my throat I made a choice. A very conscious choice.
I was not going to yell. I took a deep breath, exhaled and after returning custody of the TENDERLOIN to the butcher I continued my reach over the counter to point at my form, folded in the butcher’s hand.
“No, sir, I’m sorry, see there on the form? I checked the box for a Standing Rib Roast. See? Prime? And the notes at the bottom, unseasoned, tied, boneless?”
The butcher disappeared behind the flapping metal doors. The manager emerged next, “Five ribs?”
She disappeared and returned again, “Five ribs?”
Yes. Five. I smiled.
The butcher had also returned, “I’m sorry ma’am, with all the holiday craziness your form got input into the system incorrectly.”
I smiled, “That’s why I did this early. Because if I was standing here on Friday night, you might be seeing tears.”
“You were smart to do that,” he nodded. Deja vu.
A different butcher appeared with a beautiful piece of meat for me to inspect, “This belongs on a mantle, look at this beautiful marbling,” he drooled. And as he finished wrapping it up in its slick brown butcher paper, he said to me,
“I’m sorry for the mix up. Thank you for being so nice about it.”
The first butcher interjected, “Yeah, I could tell by the look on your face that something was wrong, but you stayed so CALM.”
I chucked to myself. My face will always betray me. I smiled and allowed the dimples to return. I thought back to just minutes before and my frustration, disappointment, and all of the fake scenarios that burned like wildfire through my head: they wouldn’t HAVE any prime rib left, Christmas would be ruined, and Jerry would divorce me (our minds can be such crazy, irrational places). I thought of the very conscious CHOICE I made to stay calm. And to change the story. Because it would be fine. It was MEAT. Heck, worst case, I knew they had a TENDERLOIN (baahahahaha).
They proceeded to tell me how that week, the week of Christmas, they hadn’t run their usual Tuesday special: ground chuck for $3.99/lb. They shared with me that not less than fifty (5-0) people screamed at them on that single Tuesday because they couldn’t get their ground beef on sale.
I was happy that I had made my choice. It wasn’t always that way for me. The choice wasn’t always clear or accessible to me. Even still, the anger and sharp tongue are sometimes just faster than my brain (or better stated… my heart). But I try to reel it in. Seeing how making the choice for calmness affected these two men helped anchor the good feeling inside me. It helped anchor the love.
Because it’s all about love…
P.S. The Prime Rib was delicious – Jerry declared it “incredible.” I asked my sister to take a picture of us – First Jerry decided to pretend to lick the Prime Rib. Then I licked Jerry. Then we finally got around to something resembling a nice holiday picture. With beef.
I hope you all had full bellies and love in your hearts this holiday season. I’m looking forward to sharing 2023 with you.