Tragically, I will not be able to chase my mother around the house with a turkey neck this year. I know. I’m sad, too. After all, how many times have I convinced her that it’s not really a neck at all? There was the time I pretended the raw turkey was giving birth to the giblets, and she laughed (and screamed) till tears ran down her legs.
It’s not due to her age (40×2), because as we’ve often said, she should die as she lived, cackling inappropriately, being tormented at the hands of her middle child and/or grandchildren. It’s certainly not due to the fact that I’m cooking, because I stand by my solemn vow of never cooking a Thanksgiving dinner. It’s because my beloved and near-perfect sister is hosting this year, so we’re all heading north to her house for what is sure to be a gorgeous spread.
But back to raw turkey.
How I love watching my mother heave a 22-pound poultry corpse up from the cellar, or, in the olden days, from the trunk of my father’s little British sportscar, which we kept as a shrine/turkey storage unit for decades. I love how she could never quite thaw it out in time, either rolling the dice on all of us getting salmonella, or getting up at 2 a.m. to put the “Damn Bird”—its esteemed title— into the oven.
Those happy, happy memories of Sainted Mother dry-heaving as she rubbed cold butter into the skin of the raw bird, or tried to pry the frozen giblets from the tundra of the interior. I am quite sure that at least once, the bird was cooked with giblets inside, though whether that was Sainted Mother or one of her sisters, I cannot be sure. The annual panic inspired as the Damn Bird’s little done button would pop four hours before the guests were due, resulting in Mom turning off the oven, then turning it back on, then turning it off again. The bits of potato skin shooting into the air as Mom hand-peeled ten or fifteen pounds. The terrifying glare she’d give me if I offered to help, always putting me in mind of Samuel L. Jackson.
“Get out of my kitchen,” she’s been noted to snarl. The last time we had Thanksgiving there, she splattered me with boiling gravy as I attempted to clean up a little, something I’m quite sure was a calculated move. The time someone requested a vegetable other than green bean casserole, so Sainted Mother threw some broccoli in a baking pan, covered it in melted cheddar and topped it with Cheez-Its. Mmm.
Then, the dinner itself. Sainted Mother prefers to serve herself last, as she has to get down from the cross. “Don’t wait for me!” she snaps. This ensures that (A) her dinner will be cold, something she enjoys announcing, and (B), most of us are done by the time she sits down.
Afterward, we attempt to help to clean up, which results in her pitbull-like reaction. “No! You don’t know where everything goes!” she tells me, her next-door neighbor who grew up in that very house where nothing has been reorganized since we moved in when I was seven. “Please! Get out! I like to do it.” Another Samuel L. Jackson look, and most guests skulk off, sufficiently terrified. I then sneak back into the kitchen to wrap up and scrape off and wipe down, only to be berated by Sainted Mother when caught. “Kristan! Really! Get out! I LIKE to DO it MYSELF.”
Oh, Mommy! I miss your Thanksgivings! I promise we’ll come to your house next year!