Art by Drake graduate, Marvin Hill, 1952 - 2003
I’m thinking of starting a Thanksgiving Public Service. You know how every family has a Weird Relative, right? Or maybe one who can’t so much be classified as a Weird Relative, but a Drama Queen, one who cannot abide the fact that the Tsunami Was Not About Her, and so makes everything else about her.
I’ll get to the logistics of the public service in a minute. But first, I’ll give you a purely hypothetical situation involving generic events that have probably happened to every family sometime, or will happen, given lots of years and many ill-spent holidays. The characters are common stereotypes, Everymen and Everywomen, who dwell on some common branch of Everyfamily tree. I hope you can relate, and that my familiar example will illustrate the desperate need we, as a civilized society, have for this service I am about to present.
When some of us aren’t actively trying to break down the foundations of any and all Western religions for fun and profit, we like to roll-play that we are Martha Stewart. No, really. Look in the closet, past the leathers and the feathers and the strap-on horns.
There, do you see it?
Right there; the apron Mom made us, with the little cherries-and-blue-china-plates print, from a pattern she picked up called “Church Lady.” Yeah, disturbing, I know, but let us not judge.
Yes, some of us blasphemers save this apron for the Special Day, the Day of the Turkey. Some of us lose sleep, wondering if we will find and land The Big One; the turkey that will feed 15 people. Some of us rejoice when our hunt proves fruitful (or turkeyful) and we carry home the Great 26 Pounder, and lo! It Is Fresh, Not Frozen!
We agonize over keeping the raw, featherless beast at the proper temperature in the garage, because the fridge is inadequate for its majesty. We gather herbs and spices, some from our very own Hell’s Half Acre (this is all hypothetical, of course; everyone has at one time or another named their property Hell’s Half Acre), we perform obscure and arcane rituals over the bird, drawing down the spirit of Ben Franklin, Patron Saint of Turkeys by painting our beaver pelts red white and blue (not THAT kind of beaver pelt, you pervert!) and petitioning his patriotic blessing on this splendid specimen of his beloved fowl.
We double, double, boil and trouble the Sacred Brine of Many Tasty Ingredients, all at the special request of our father-in-law, who made the silly suggestion that if the event were not to take place at his daughter-in-law’s home (it did), that perhaps she could co-cook the turkey with his psychotic daughter (I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not considered judging if it’s true). We blasphemers do brew this brine for ourselves too, yes, because we are Homesick, and sad that we must be stranded 1000 miles away from our family on our Favorite Holiday, and that we cannot make the Turkey Brined in Many Tasty Ingredients for said family, who always makes a point of ooohing and ahhhing and pouring Many Good Libations into our wine glass of satisfaction (hypothetical), and, whereby, by virtue of our cooking, are not ourselves proclaimed the Weird Relative.
And in three day’s time, the Brined Bird, raw and colored mahogany from the salty waters of Many Tasty Ingredients, rises from its cooler, and the angels sing (in our hypothetical heads) and we bathe it and anoint it with melted butter, we swaddle it in a cooking bag, tucking the Chosen Bird in with the three gifts of garlic, lemon and a stick of cinnamon, strew it with herbs both bitter and sweet, and we lay it in its aluminum manger. Then we send Our Beloved Bird to its temporary resting place – the oven (or rather, our hypothetical husband does, because, hypothetically, we are too small to get really good leverage on the thing as it goes in the oven).
Now, before all this preparation of the Most Holy Bird, plans have been made for the rest of the feast, otherwise known as Garnish. Ok, envision something with me here for a minute. It’s two weeks before Thanksgiving, the Christmas decorations have already been up in the stores since November 1st, replacing the cardboard turkeys that replaced the Halloween jack-o-lanterns around July 5th. It’s late afternoon, quiet, the (hypothetical) twin boys are gently napping, when an intense and shrill ringing complains through the house. It is the telephone, and some of us blasphemers answer it with a sense of foreboding.
It is our (completely hypothetical) sister-in-law, who brings tidings of What Is To Be Made By Whom. Some of us reply that since we will be preparing the way for the Coming of the Brined Bird, we joyfully will add to its bounty stuffing, gravy and appetizers of loaves and fishes; specifically, Smoked Salmon with Herbed Cream Cheese and Capers on Cute Little Slices of Pumpernickel. We hark, and in return, we hear that our (stereotyped) sister-in-law will bring forth from her kitchen mashed potatoes (for hypothetical Dad), sweet potatoes, and five pies. Some of us blasphemers then offer to unburden our sister-in-law a little, by offering up a chocolate torte made from a virgin recipe in place of one of the pies whose number is like the grains of sand beside the sea, or the stars in the sky.
Our sacrifice is flatly refused, with the lamentation of, “If I don’t make them all, my (hypothetical) husband will be disappointed. So will (hypothetical) Dad.” (Lamentations 6:6,682,725). “Oh, and you must make your corn pudding, since I can’t make it as well.” (Lamentations 6:6,682,726).
We commend our blasphemous spirit to this decision, and then it is revealed to us that our (hypothetical) mother-in-law shall bring forth from her kitchen the Sacred Cranberry Sauce, the green bean casserole and possibly the Carbonated Libations, if said libations are not provided by (hypothetical) sister-in-law’s own mother-in-law (hypothetically). “Thy will be done,” we (hypothetically) respond, and then some of us blasphemers go in peace to love and serve the Bird.
We are visited twice more by the Messenger, with tidings of, “I’m bringing one of my friends along too, you mind? (we don’t; there’s plenty of room at the inn) and, “What about bread? Whose gonna make the bread?” Some of us blasphemers respond that with the miracle of the Loaves and the Fishes, we shall have ample bread. “But Dad’ll want rolls,” responds the sister-in-law, “I guess I’ll make those too.” (Lamentations 6:6,682,727).
To Be Continued... (Dec 1st post, if this link doesn't work)