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Posted By: bgsmfpark-a thought...how about having your Thanksgiving dinner later in the day...so that they might be hungry by then?
lisat-loved reading the story again!!!
2 Bedroom - 2 Bath - With Loft
2 Bd | 2Full Ba
Phone: 908 273-5252
Orange Mattress - Custom Bedding
Phone: (800) 761-1100
Magnolia Home Remodeling Group
Phone: (973) 676-8590
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I admit my dinners are the butt of family jokes. But Im proud to say I learned a life lesson from one of the greatest culinary events, Thanksgiving.
My first Thanksgiving as a grownup was in Manhattan. I invited my seven roommates to join me for a home-cooked turkey dinner. That morning I pulled two twenty-pound turkeys from the freezer and phoned my mother, an excellent cook. Okay Mom, I said, What do I do with them?
My mother, though hundreds of miles away, had immediate impact. Theyre frozen?! she exclaimed. (She yelled but exclaim is so much nicer, isnt it?)
I spent Thanksgiving looking for a supermarket that sold cooked turkeys. It never occurred to me there werent any until I didnt find one. I settled for several deep fried chickens from Times Square.
Now my roommates werent the most agreeable bunch. We lived in a rambling Upper Westside apartment. The woman whose name was on the rent-controlled lease had been dead for years. We pretended she was alive and her daughter, who lived in California and collected our rent, made a tidy profit from the eight of us. I lived in the maids quarters behind the kitchen.
Blaine, slightly thinner than a skeleton, lived in the parlor and worked as an usher at Carnegie Hall. I was told he was a brilliant artist who had received many fellowships but had sworn off paint. He never touched a drop while I was there.
Next to his room lived Philip, a composer whose claim to fame was his girlfriends famous and tragically deceased cousin. I recognized her name and knew the story of her yes, tragic, death. I once helped Philip move a grand piano into his room from another floor in the building. He was eternally grateful for a week.
Eric, a writer, lived in the library with a phenomenal view of the Hudson. He had a less phenomenal view of me. I didnt take it personally. He was a bitter man. He had invented alternative endings in novels but other writers were stealing his invention and making more money. The end.
Another inventor, Bona Fide Wiz, lived at the end of the hallway. A decade before the Internet was commonplace, BFW did something spectacular with a computer and eventually sold out for millions. I didnt know him when he was rich. When I knew him he was just a hairy guy who never talked or bathed and lived like a hermit at the far end of the apartment.
Several of my roommates were alcoholics. The one on the wagon was an actor. He was so talented the most prestigious talent agency had signed him. Unfortunately he had been drunk or hung over during so many performances that his agent no longer sent him on auditions. Instead the agency sent him to their filing room where he worked full-time. Two other alcoholics lived together in the dining room. In their sixties, they left the city every day to wait tables at a famous restaurant on Long Island. Being from Maine, Id never heard of it.
Long before Thanksgiving, my roommates had grown annoyed with me. I allowed friends to stay in the maids quarters with me indefinitely while they looked for a place to live. Indefinitely, because the vacancy rate for Manhattan was less than one percent. To make it up to my roommates I invited them to Thanksgiving dinner. How much more they hated me when they saw the deep-fried imposters on the table. It was better than frozen turkey, wasnt it?
Thanksgiving tasted better at my mothers house. But it was sad watching my brothers deal with the turkey after my parents divorced. My father, who owned grocery stores, started his career as a butcher. His performance at the Thanksgiving table had been artful. He truly carved a turkey. Try as my younger brothers did, they truly butchered it. Watching them was a painful reminder that my father wasnt home and never would be again.
After I married David, a psychiatrist and the son of a psychiatrist, Thanksgiving took on new meaning. At least the tail end of the turkey took on a new name. Who wants the Popes Nose? asked Davids father.
Although the doctor and I were self-proclaimed agnostics, I had been raised Catholic. (The church lost me when I was seven, and a nun, enormous with authority, informed me that animals couldnt get into Heaven when they died because they had no souls. I didnt wonder if she might be right. I knew she was wrong. Had she never looked into the soulful eyes of a dog or a horse or a cow? I had, though I couldnt vouch for crustaceans, birds or reptiles. But if a nun, who was married to God, was wrong about animals having souls, then perhaps she was wrong about the existence of Heaven.)
Davids father must have seen my startled expression as he sliced off the tail and motioned for me to take the coveted prize. Wasnt it the Popes Nose in your family? he asked.
No, I said, suddenly catholic. My family didnt test Gods sense of humor -- in an effort to avoid being struck down dead.
Years later, I hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for the second time. My second husband, our toddlers, and I had moved from Manhattan to New Jersey three weeks before. Although we were not yet unpacked from the move, I was ready with a thawed-out turkey when relatives arrived from all over the East coast for Thanksgiving dinner. Surrounded by older women who were expert cooks, I washed the turkey, filled it with stuffing and stuffed it into the oven. Hours later according to the clock, it was time to take the turkey out, so I did. Before bringing the turkey to the table, I brought out a heaping bowl of stuffing.
As I headed back to the kitchen, I heard Aunt Lizzie already seated apologize. She said she needed to start eating because of her Low Blood Sugar. In the kitchen, everyone understood without a word that my turkey had to pass muster before making its debut. My mother tugged at a turkey leg. I imagined she had a similar assurance when shed lived in New Jersey decades earlier and had used those same hands to deliver milk to the poorest neighborhoods of Paterson and then had delivered babies in the same city. I watched the milk lady turned obstetrical nurse turned mother struggle with the turkey leg until it came loose. She saw red not even pink, but red.
Did you turn the oven off when you took out the turkey? asked my sister noticing the oven was off. She owned a restaurant and was an excellent cook like every other woman standing in the kitchen except me. I said I hadnt turned the oven off.
Who turned it off?
Did you turn it off?
When did you notice it was off?
Something was off all right. Was it sabotage or senility? Our spoken and unspoken questions filled up the spaces between us.
Suddenly my mother spoke, enormous with authority. Your oven is broken.
By this time, news of the undercooked turkey had seeped into the dining room. Aunt Lizzies face turned a peculiar shade of purple as we took her pink plate away. After consuming a healthy portion of the unhealthy stuffing, she was convinced food poisoning and possibly death were imminent. We left her to stew and concerned ourselves with the turkey. My brothers butchered it and I zapped it in the microwave in parts. It reminded me of Chinese Hacked Chicken. Without further ado, the grace was said, and dinner was begun. Soon Aunt Lizzie moaned that the turkey tasted fine.
A much earlier Thanksgiving with my first husband changed my life. David and I were invited to a lavish potluck turkey dinner at the home of a very successful illustrator, a friend of a friend. I was seated next to him, and he asked what I did for a living. I write and draw comic books for children, I replied.
He cut to the bottom line. How much do they pay you?
Twenty-five dollars a page, I said. I liked my work, and I was very happy to talk about it.
You give them plot, dialogue and a storyboard? How long does it take to draw a page? he asked.
Seven hours. The story Im working on now takes place in a costume museum, I explained. Each costume is historically accurate.
He gave me a hard look. Why do you let that company exploit you?
I was speechless. How was I exploited? I wondered. I didnt wear high heels and a tight skirt to keep my job. No one asked me to make coffee. On the contrary, I was grateful. This company published my stories. What more could I want? Still, his questions disturbed me.
A few days after Thanksgiving, I called another comic book writer. I wanted to know if I was paid so pathetically little because I was being exploited or because I was pathetically slow. Yes, we are being exploited, she said. And yes, you are slow. Then she shared her timesaving technique with me. Draw simple.
How simple? I asked.
Stick figures. Theyre paying us to be writers not artists.
So I took a page out of her comic book. A full-figured character became a stick figure. A close up of a face became a circle with two dots for eyes. A city skyline became a squiggly line. I went further. I got a raise because I asked for one. A divorce from my husband came next.
Over the years, Thanksgiving has served as an education. For the people around me, it merely confirmed that I am a lousy cook. However, it taught me that no one should allow a turkey to define who she is. By turkey I mean a holiday entrée, an unloving husband, or a company that gobbles up talent. But Im still unclear about a turkeys soul. After all, most of the Thanksgiving dinners Ive attended began with a prayer. It is at that moment that I wonder if there is in fact a Heaven and if so, will we find our turkey brethren at the gate?