Thanksgiving Thankful

November 25, 2019

Julie Traynor Postcards from the Pine Columnist
Happy Thanksgiving from the Pines.

  It’s gradual, like the cooling temperatures and the sun sliding south. This is the time of year we begin thinking turkey. It’s a slow but sure, and eventually leads us to talking about turkey, and that, naturally leads to eating turkey. It is a rare autumn we when we don’t have a scaled down version of Thanksgiving dinner.

If you are of a certain age, you likely remember the events of November 22-25, 1963. President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas, Texas. A day later Jack Ruby killed Oswald and our mourning country prepared a farewell to Kennedy. For four days Americans sat, glued to their television sets. It was a once in a lifetime experience and I cannot, nor can likely anyone, begin to describe the “feel” of America, at that time. I can only imagine that feeling was much as it was when Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941. It was much the same on 9-11. It is so very unfortunate that it takes a great, history altering tragedy to unite us all.

 I never met a turkey I didn’t like. Granted, I haven’t been on a first name basis with any feathered turkeys, although certain winter regulars at the bird feeders become familiar enough to warrant one.  When I was a kid, the farm next to my grandparents raised large quantities of white turkeys with red waddles. On sunny summer mornings, a sea of gobbling, clucking white birds with a dab of red chatted endlessly in their yard. They fascinated me from afar and I spent considerable time looking out an upstairs window for a better look.  

In the fall, my aunt helped with the seamier side of the turkey business. She made a few extra dollars for the holidays and got a free bird for Christmas dinner. I have a photo clipping from the Mt. Pleasant newspaper featuring my aunt and another woman. They are dressed in rubber aprons, long gloves and goggles and are unceremoniously holding up a dressed bird for the camera.

By the first of the year, the turkey farm was silent. It was a while before I equated the holidays and the turkey disappearance.
Most of my turkey acquaintances have been on a far more impersonal basis; in the kitchen and at the dinner table. For years, my Mom was the chosen turkey cook for Berry family gatherings. Having earned this designation on the merits of her homemade stuffing, attention to turkey detail and smooth gravy, she took this task very seriously.        

Our kitchen was an extra delight to the senses on Thanksgiving morning. The aroma alone brought me from my bed to watch, and patiently wait for a taste. Mom was up before dawn, chopping, mincing and crumbling. The cubes of stuffing bread heaped in the bid dishpan were dried a week before. The turkey’s giblets simmered on the stove and lent their aroma to the onions and celery sautéing in the cast iron skillet. The kettle steamed and hummed on the back burner and the bird, as large as could be had sat in the roaster, ready for stuffing.

By the time streaks of light brightened the sky, bread, herbs, broth had come perfectly together and the big Tom, stuffed to overflowing and trussed tight, was roasting in the oven. This holiday perfume would soon waft through the house. The hours of anticipation had begun. The wait was on.
It would seem an eternity before we saw that bird again. But when we did it was a thing of beauty, like a Norman Rockwell painting. That turkey, a golden, crisp brown centerpiece graced our table amid bowls of mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, squash, cranberries and the rest of the favorites. Garnish heavily with loved ones, and yes even football. This is our favorite Thanksgiving recipe.

A turkey dinner begins with anticipation with the first whiff from the oven and ends with the picked over carcass and crumbs from pumpkin pie. But the best thing of all has always been, and will always be, sharing this all with those we love. We are thankful for each other, our many blessings and every picture perfect bird.

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