Thanksgiving is just a few days away and I'm thankful already. I'm thankful that I won't be standing in security at LAX airport or shivering in temperatures not meant for human life as I wait for my mother to pick me up in a place best known for snow days this time of year. I'm thankful that I won't turn into a snowcone. Instead, I'm nice and toasty here just a few miles from the fire place (read: wildfires) where the scent of burning leaves has finally dissipated.
I'm thankful that never again will I have to wear a pastel, rainbow-striped, full-body snowsuit or witness my grandmother "oohing and aahing" over my mother's homemade stuffing sludge, the likes of which no one, and I truly mean, no one but my grandmother (i.e. her mother) liked. Several vintage bags of stuffing still sit in my mother's basement freezer with the dates of much too long ago... as the ice crystals can attest. If stuffing sludge ag
ed like wine, we'd be selling it off the back porch by now.
We were always a small family, but my mother ignored that little detail. She always prepared enough for an army-- something that's still just as true as ever. There was the Thanksgiving when potato peelings forced the garbage disposal to EXPLODE. Gushing water...potato peelings... big blobs of bleached imprints on the floor-- one for every waterlogged potato peeling that landed on our linoleum. Then, there was the Thanksgiving in which our 28 pound turkey refused to defrost even after two days in the bathtub.
However, my favorite, favorite Thanksgiving involved not the meal or the desserts or quirky family episodes. It involved leftovers, or shall I say, the one year that we didn't have any.
See, if you
live in the midwestern United States and your mother overcooks Thanksgiving (like mine always does, ) there's never enough room in the fridge or freezer for the leftovers that are sure to come. But you nearly always have subzero midwest temperatures working in your favor. Slide open that back porch door and voila! It's like having a G I G A N T I C, industrial-sized freezer the size of your deck... literally!
That year, as in every year prior, we marched outside to the back patio with platters and tupperware in hand. Sweet potatoes... mashed potatoes... dark turkey... white turkey... brown-and-serve rolls, mounds and mounds of stuffing sludge, and slices of chocolate chip pecan pie (since pecan pie is just not rich enough on its own.)
We built an altar of abandoned food right there on our porch, atop a dusting of freshly fallen snow. Then, we scurried into the warmth of the living room and settled into couches where we could rest from the gluttony of Thanksgiving recreation and contemplate over a cup of hot cocoa.
It was my brot
her who first saw the midnight flash of blackness. No one listened to him; he was just a kid after all. Then, I saw something-- a whoosh of black fur. We heard a rattle and a crash. Then a turkey carcass rolled across our front yard like a tumbleweed. At that point, everyone jumped to their feet and rushed to the back patio. My mother witnessed the black shadow helping itself to our offering. Not a split second later, her voice bellowed into the peaceful Thanksgiving night:
BO! GET OUTTA HERE!!! SCRAM!!!
It was too late. Bo, our neighbor's black labrador, had helped herself. Freezer bags were mangled. Mashed potatoes were smooshed into the snow. Turkey bones littered the yard. "All our leftovers gone," my mother lamented. We stood there, our heads held low-- even though the kid in me was secretly saying a prayer of thanks: no leftovers, f
or once!!! Hurray!
In the midst of destruction, as we stood in the darkness of that Thanksgiving night, my mother took a moment, then raised her head up high. It was then that she reclaimed a bit of her Thanksgiving pride as she exclaimed victoriously--
"Well, look here. The stuffing was left untouched!!!"
Inside, she found a place in the freezer for the stuffing sludge-- where it still remains.
I don't get to visit my family or participate in any of the Thanksgiving Day family food rituals of years past, but I'm thankful for the mishaps and mistakes just as much as the triumphs. And although I hate to admit it in print, I'm even thankful for that damn stuffing because it always triggers memories and has become, in a sense, family folklore.
Copyright 2008 Kliedle