My mother and I wrote this story together in November, 1995. We sat together at her big library table, she smoked a cigarette, I drank hot chocolate, and we wrote it.
I’m sharing it now because I miss my mom, and I love that we created something together.
And I want you to be part of that, too.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone — I feel so lucky that I can share this with you.
The year the Dog Got the Turkey was the beginning of wisdom for me.
It was Thanksgiving, and everyone was coming to our house. Aunt Margaret had flown in from Washington DC, a Thanksgiving tradition established the year I was born. When we picked her up from the airport, she announced that she’d be having no light or dark meat this year because she’d ‘gone vegetarian,’ so the significance of what happened later may have been lost on her.
Gramma had shopped for a new blue dress — blue was always her favorite color, and now it matched her hair. Grampa was surely bringing another list of words with which to quiz me. Did I know what distinguishes a pismire from a pistacho? And Aunt Frieda would be there — Aunt Frieda who always arrived at family gatherings with a hopeful smile and the question ‘When are we going to get together?”
And Aunt Caren and Uncle Robert came late with the extra folding chairs we needed and an excuse for their lateness which nobody listened to because Aunt Caren and Uncle Robert are always late and the reasons are always much to complicated to understand. Aunt Caren stood in the doorway in a flurry of flowers and the smell of mentholatum and patchouli — her after the chiropractor smell –while uncle Robert shrugged out of his black leather jacket.
Our home was filled with the aroma of mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, green beans, fresh bread, giblet gravey, pumpkin, apple, and pecan pie. And of course, placed on the counter, the golden center piece of Thanksgiving, The Turkey, rubbed with sage from our very own graden, and filled with bread stuffing, cooked to perfection. The turkey that year was a triumph.
I went outside to blow bubbles. I heard Mom call “Dinner in seventeen and a half minutes!” Then I saw him…
He looked old, although he probably wasn’t. His face, worn raw by the endless hours spent outside was shadowed. His shoulder length hair, brown straked with grey, greasy and matted, fell over an old army fatigue jacket. He told me he was hungry. I thought about that, and then told him to wait.
I went into the kitchen where my mom was taking the sweet potatoe pie out of the oven. “Mom, there’s a man outside who says he’s hungry.”
“Lets invite him in, then. We have plenty of food.” she replied.
My mom and I went back outside and the man was still there. “would you like to come in and have dinner with us?” I asked. He shook his head and said his friends who lived beneath the freeway were expecting him. “Its Thanksgiving you know.” he explained.
“I’ll be right back” my mom said as she turned around and went into the house. She came out a minute later with the succulent turkey, pan and all and handed it to him. The man thanked her, and then he was gone.
Dinner that night was delicious – the best Thanksgiving dinner I can remember or ever expect to have. When Grampa asked ‘where’s the turkey?’ it didn’t take long for me to answer with such certainty that no one challenged me, “The dog got the turkey.”
We had so much that night. We had mashed potatoes, and sweet potato pie. We had warm bread and cranberry sauce. We had folding chairs, and family, and seating cards with styrafoam turkeys on them. What we didn’t have, was a dog.