Well, it's on.
I spied the first grocery store kiosk of Butterball turkeys.
I have a love/hate relationship with the sacrificial poultry. I can't really blame the turkey for the Thanksgiving fiascoes of years past, but I do believe my hyperfocus to get that trussed-up bird presentable, flavorful, and on the table at the right time may have contributed to other missteps of the day.
My very first Thanksgiving turkey turned out beautifully! I was so proud. Then, a few minutes into the meal, my father-in-law tapped me on the leg. I peeked down as he graciously dropped the cooked bag of giblets into my hand. What the heck were the giblets doing in the neck? Guess I didn't check that hole. He and I were the only ones who knew about it.
One year, 25 years ago, the turkey just wouldn’t get done. An hour and a half after the scheduled meal time, Tom Turkey finally gave up the ghost. When it made it to the table, Don’s stepmother—a rotund little shorty at 4 '10"—chose her portion, a huge leg and started devouring it Flintstone style with her hands. We could hardly include her in any of the dinner table conversation for fear of laughing. I had to give the kids looks of warnings as they gawked at her. Club style, she worked that drumstick down to the gristle. Grease from the turkey skin smeared from one side of her face to the other.
One year, I lined my kitchen counter with desserts. Pumpkin pie, cherry cheesecake, and a beautiful chocolate meringue pie. My son-in-law came to me with his bowl and a quizzical look on his face. "When did pies start requiring batteries?" he asked. He had scooped out a big slice and while eating, pulled out a AAA battery. "Thank you, I have been looking for that," I replied simply, then washed the battery off in the sink (it had been sitting on top of microwave ready to re-load my camera, and apparently rolled off into the thick meringue).
Oh, then there was the year that I decide to change it up a bit. I cooked 10 Cornish hens instead of a turkey. The menu was a surprise.... to say the least. My daughter pulled the foil off of the roasting pan and my grandchildren jumped back in horror. I believe they are still scarred. They thought grandma had sunk to a new low of killing baby turkeys.
Two years ago, a very costly pan of oyster dressing in a presumably faulty Pyrex baking dish exploded in my kitchen at 6 a.m., sending shards of glass into two rooms. It sounded like a shotgun blast. Don came running from bed. His concern was evident upon arrival, and guess what—it wasn't the shards of glass on the couch and floor that worried him. Was the stuffing saved? He seriously pulled the center of the stuffing out claiming it was still good. He lives.
Laughter waves from family and friends still reverberate in the Milky Way from Thanksgivings bygone. I close my eyes and remember thankful prayers before meals that warmed my heart. I visualize the friends and family throughout the years. Moving, marriages, divorces, death, and life have changed the faces gathered around the table. Some have passed on, some passed up, and some are still saying "Pass the potatoes, please." I am always grateful for each of them.
I look forward to the whole day with the anticipation of a child. From the beginning of Macy's Thanksgiving Parade until the bodies start going horizontal on the couch, eyelids drooping from the effects of tryptophan.
Thanksgiving to me is as much about sharing and caring as it is being thankful. For years Don and I looked forward to the last tradition of the day with as much joy as the first. What is Thanksgiving without sharing it with a stranger, adversary, Piligrim, Indian?
When everyone was gone, we would package up a big helping and take it to Junior, a nearby convenience store employee. He was a sweet country boy who worked every holiday for the other employees because he didn't have any family. Junior would beam when Don walked in with his plate. I guess it was about six years into our tradition when Junior told me he wasn't going to be there for Thanksgiving. He had recently married and he told me proudly that his wife was going to cook. I was so happy for him. But it left a empty place in my heart, so when Thanksgiving arrived, I packaged up a few plates and drove behind a shopping center and found a few homeless people sitting on crates. The next year, they had been chased away. I live in Mount Pleasant now, so I haven't seen many homeless. But, I have been casing out the neighborhood to find people who won't be home to celebrate with their families for some reason or other.
I am humbled and so totally and thoroughly joyful to have such wonderful people in my life. New friends, old friends, and family. It was a transitional year for me, a year of unexpected circumstances. Yet, it was one of the best years I have ever had. I have been held up, fixed up, and propped up by the best this year.
I am blessed and so very thankful. I wish all my friends at Charleston Grit and anyone reading this a very Happy Thanksgiving!