Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Walking the turkey

In my family, it's not Thanksgiving til the turkey has been named and walked across the kitchen counter.

I know. It's silly and weird. The first time the husband and I cooked a turkey together and I insisted on the tradition, he looked at me like I was crazy. But isn't that what traditions are about? Commemorating your family's oddities?

The turkey trot tradition has another meaning for me, too, now that I'm a parent. So much of parenting is about pretending you know what you're doing. Looking back at that first year Mom walked a headless, gutless turkey carcass across the counter, I can see that's exactly what she was doing.

I was in late elementary school, and it was the first Thanksgiving my mom had ever hosted. We always went next door to Grandma's, my dad's mom, where Mom, the aunts and we kids were relegated to clean-up duties. On top of that, Mom was not a confident cook. She fixed good food, but rarely tried new or complicated recipes, and a turkey was way beyond her repertoire.

So, of course, we -- Dad and my sister and I -- were picking on her that Thanksgiving Eve, predicting a blackened or raw turkey and wondering if we should get the Butterball helpline on speed dial. It wasn't nice but it's what our family does. We pick. I can see her, washing the turkey out in the kitchen sink, with a disgusted, befuddled look on her face. She picked the feathers off its fresh carcass, grumbling. I'm sure there was a "What the hell do I do with this thing?" muttered at least once. Lexi and I were no help, kneeling over the back of a recliner to peer over the counter that separated the living room from the kitchen.

Probably, Mom wanted to smack Dad and us kids.

But instead, she walked that dead, headless bird across the counter. She named it -- don't ask, I don't remember -- and my sister and I laughed til she was laughing. It's a wonder the bird didn't get dropped on the floor. She still didn't know what she was doing, but none of us, Mom included, were thinking about that any more. And you know, that turkey was magnificent -- a golden brown centerpiece out of a Norman Rockwell painting.

My sister's cooking the bird this year back home. It's named Tom. I imagine she'll walk it across the counter for her boys.

I'm not cooking turkey this year. We're going to friends' for the holiday dinner. But if I were, the bird would be named before I strutted it across the counter to elicit giggles from The Boy.

This is why I love the holidays. I love traditions. I love my family. I love that I get to share these things with my kiddos.


hillarys mom said...

For clarification purposes...the walking of the turkey started because I didn't want my kids to see how disgusted I was with the whole process. I didn't want them to see me gag and possibly throw up cleaning a nasty bird. As for naming the turkey, that was something my grandma always did so naturally I continued that tradition.

Linette Trabulsy said...

Ha ha! What a great story! Have a Happy Thanksgiving Hillary and family!