the first thanksgiving*

by bam

i know, i know, you’re thinkin, geez, lady, you jumped the gun. it’s not till tomorrow, sweetheart.
either that, or you’re slappin’ yourself upside the brow, groaning. maybe whispering there to your neighbor, “psst. this chick is 386 years behind the times. as every kindergartner knows, ol’ bill bradford called for turkeys back in 1621.”
ah ha, fooled ya then. cuz i am right, believe you me. i know of which i speak. this is my first thanksgiving, people. not the first of which i partake, of course, but the first of which is mine to burn, to under-do, to go mushy there in the brussels sprouts department. or even to, voila, get it relatively right.
because i took an oath of honesty when installed here at the keyboard, and because full disclosure comes with the job i do by day, i must tell the truth, the whole truth. i must explain why the little shining star up there above, indicating a writer’s “ahem,” a little clearing of the throat, on the matter.
fact is, i have a dangling participle on this feast of mine. there is a clause of sorts. a footnote, if you will. basically, a true disclaimer. i cannot claim the whole shebang.
the starring turkey will not be mine. mine’s the backup breast, the just-in-case, though it will be free-range and organic, for those of you inclined that way. in case you’re stopping by, or coming by ’round midnight to pick the bones and nibble pumpkin pie.
yup. the big bird sticks with mama. my mama, i mean. she was willing to surrender the staging site, but not the bird and not the stuffing. she wants her house to be perfumed of the great november fowl.
i get mine redolent with eau de sprouts, and eau de parsnip. hmm. wonder who’ll get out of bed tomorrow. it might be only me at the feast of deep thanksgiving.
mais non. my table will be full. even if they come with noseplugs.
perhaps i should explain. what’s going on here is what happens in the best of families: the boys moved on. there’s no one here, of the clan we call our own, ’cept me and mama now.
she and i are holding down the city by the lake–okay, so toledo, too, is a city by the lake, but yours is dirty, little brother, or at least it was, it caught on fire, and ours is sort of clean, or at least pretending to be so. if i must, i’ll compromise, let’s say, she and i are holding down the stomping ground of al capone, a claim with universal translation, as folks around the world hold up their thumb and pointer finger, as if a g-u-n, and say, in any language, “bang bang,” when they mean chicago.
ah, yes, from here on in, me and mama dearest are taking turns on holidays. we split the wishbone of the bird to see who got which one, and i am, this year at least, the poster child for the feast of many gobbles.
for a girl who’s never done this, i am feeling a little challenged by the notion of 14 coming to my door, and coming rather hungry.
how, you ask, do you get to be half a century, here in the united states, and still claim turkey virginity?
the answer, friends, goes back to mama. and before that my grandma dear. i come from a long line of turkey cookers. and both have ruled the second-to-last thursdays in november, as long as i’ve been breathing.
ah, but this year, all has changed. the turkey wing, if not the leg, is passed to me.
wisely, we are doing this in stages. i will take beginner steps, try not to kill the breast. meanwhile, i’ve got brothers far away, who’ve been flinging stellar brining formulas and full-blown saline theories all around the country. one in maine started days ago, i think. the one in old ohio might be smoking his, even as i type, in authentic smokehouse.
me, the only girl in the bunch, i’m more concerned with setting tables. and making something fine of all those sprouts and all those parsnips.
blessedly, for it is the feast of many blessings, i’ll have help. someone’s bringing pies. someone else is bringing mashed potatoes. that leaves me decidedly underwhelmed. it leaves me basically to not mess up the forks and knives.
but still, just because i think i should, i’ll spend the day today clanging pots and pans. it is, i’ve heard, part of the equation. i’ll muss my hair to look the part, of the harried hostess. perhaps i’ll spritz a little perspiration on my brow.
at the moment my main concern is the fridge that will not close. i’ve taken to pretending i’m a pilgrim, and stuffed half the goods out in what i’m calling the coldhouse (otherwise known as the garage.) long as the critters don’t break the seals, or bite the clementines, i’ll be struttin’ pretty.
my mate, the one who took the whole day off, perhaps in sympathy, or just to watch me clang around, just mentioned that perhaps we want to “neaten up.” his shorthand for holy heck, it’s a mess in here.
so regardless of my turkey duties, i’ll be mighty of the mainstream. like cooks from coast to coast, i’ll be spinning plates and tossing forks. watch out for carrot peels. and beware of over-simmered pears.
i wish you all the best of luck, as we plug our noses all together now, inch to the edge of the flapping board and dive in deep where the waters of the pilgrim feast dare to pull us under.
even if some of us are wholly wimps, and not yet taking on the big bird. but merely clinging to a starter ring of bits of unassuming white meat.

people, what’s your game plan, if you’ve got a minute here to pound out the keys? do you have a tale to tell of your maiden turkey voyage? and what of brussels sprouts? and what about the brining, boys? forgive me, while i stumble through turkey lite, a class for poultry punks….