You know, the ones where a novice cook forgets to defrost the turkey, or didn’t remove the bag of innards out before stuffing the bird. Or they burned a pie or the rolls or put too much seasoning into a side dish or dessert. Every family has a disaster story, and most are shared over and over each year in the name of tradition, much to the cook’s chagrin.
We have very few Thanksgiving disasters to share because my mom is such an excellent cook. However, every year we relive the moment in our family’s history known as, “When Turkeys Fly.”
One of the best things about holidays is that one usually remembers all the sights, sounds and tastes. From the decorations to the mood music or games on in the background, the day is ripe to heighten the awareness of one’s senses. What better smell is there than a pie baking or a turkey roasting? And what better sound is there than an electric knife that is cutting up slices of juicy turkey? To this day, whenever I hear an electric knife, I think of Thanksgiving.
To really appreciate this story, you’d have to understand my dad. He was a character in every true sense of the word. He was a sports nut — watched anything that moved — and other than assisting with the setting of the table, his only other responsibility on Thanksgiving was carving the turkey.
Anyhow, back to the disaster story. It was a Thanksgiving Day like any other. The turkey was huge, and hot out of the oven. Dad was getting prepped for his annual carving gig. He let the turkey set a few minutes while he grabbed the serving tray, meat fork and the electric knife. Most importantly, he got the channel set on the TV in the kitchen so he could watch his football game while slicing. And since he was an expert carver, the only cuss words we would hear while he was in the kitchen were directed at his favorite football team, the refs or coaching staff.
One memorable Thanksgiving, we heard an odd noise coming from the kitchen and a stream of curse words that would make a sailor blush. Voices were raised to a fevered pitch. As we all ran to the kitchen, our dog included, we saw my mother’s hard work sliding across the kitchen floor. If you have never heard a hot, 26-pound, buttery turkey hit the floor, it sounds a bit like a slithery thud enhanced with splattering smacks and muffled a bit by stuffing tufts hitting the cupboards.
Emotions were running high. My mother looked like she was about to cry, and my father and maternal grandmother were escalating their voices in a shouting match. Grandma could finally prove to the world her daughter married a putz, and he could prove to the world that his mother-in-law harbored a grudge.
Now, there are two versions to this story — his and hers.
Dad insisted Grandma was in his way at his carving station, and because of her, the turkey landed on the floor. Grandma insisted that Dad’s torso was completing contorted as he was twisting and craning his body to see the game, and that he wasn’t paying attention, and he knocked the turkey to the floor. Considering their history, she could have purposely blocked the TV, never knowing how bad the drama would ensue. To this day, we don’t know the truth and probably never will. The only live creature who wasn’t upset with the poultry problem running afoul was our dog, which enjoyed her happiest Thanksgiving ever as she assisted in cleaning up the floor.
Thank goodness for all the side dishes because the little bit of turkey that hadn’t landed on the floor didn’t go far among the 20-plus gathered for dinner. Supposedly my dad cut off the portion that hit the floor and tossed it out — though I believe he probably saved it and ate it out of spite, under the guise of proving it was safe to eat.
For years afterwards, every Thanksgiving this story was resurrected, and every year we were guaranteed the debate would continue as to whose fault it was. And whether it was divine intervention or my mom’s stealth coordination, my grandmother was never in the kitchen again when Dad carved the turkey.
May your Thanksgiving be filled with memorable moments and may it be a no-fly zone for turkeys.
— Lynne Cobb
Lynne Cobb is a metro Detroit freelance writer, with articles, essays and blog posts featured in major and local dailies; national and niche magazines; and various Websites, such as Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, HuffPost50 and Midlife Boulevard. Recently, a blog post was published in the popular anthology Feisty after 45 — The Best Blogs from Midlife Women. Keep up with Lynne and her “Midlife Random Ramblings” at lynnecobb.com.