Thanksgiving 2011…Last Years Memories.


The folding table still stands with the acorn-autumn print under half consumed soda cans left like Stonehenge. The horseshoe shaped counter lies it wait for a Ferrier to come and scrape off the travails of a Thanksgiving feast. I am a little afraid of picking through the casserole and sweet potatoes for fear the cats over-night pawed and licked some calories which were left unprotected. The fridge was stuffed like a turkey and hummed and groaned like my mother did when she left last night. She ate a little too much, and thank God Tums were available which she ate like Sweet-tarts.

It started yesterday when I rolled out of bed and on my feet as I swaggered to the walk-in closet. The Christmas rush had already started at UPS and I shuffled through the clothes which mysteriously separated from my body the night before and lay like a mud puddle next to some crusted socks. I slipped on a t-shirt and some dungarees and headed for coffee. Thanksgiving morning it was and I reached for a Bible and some poetry by Wendell Berry. The early on-set of numbness from on-line shoppers had me trying to fill an empty soul tank again. I soaked in some psalms and read again about the Blue Robe Wendell beheld his bride of decades wearing. I pondered what color of house coat my wife would be wearing years from now as grandchildren would hover around her like a merry-go-round.

I got up and looked out the back window which I imagine doing religiously for the rest of my days.  The view brings perspective and solace.  A God-gift was waiting for illumination of solar dimension and depth. Sometimes the beauty would invite a heart murmur and tear running over a cheekbone.  Seriously. A view can rivet my brain cells for hours. The day we moved in, the autumn colors were climatic and as we stood on the back deck I rhetorically asked my wife if we could just stand out there all day and allow the beauty to overtake us.

I headed over to the sink where two humble turkeys lay wrapped tight like Leader’s Marine wraps the boats for winter storage. They weren’t too big and I imagined taking the boys out back to play rugby with them. Maybe that would be considered organic tenderization… I wondered also if the gobblers were siblings or best friends. Like high school buddies joining the marines together, they paid the ultimate sacrifice for a human holiday.

It was then I started to hear vague sounds of children waking up. Whispers and coughs and creaking beds and floors were synchronizing with the sunrise. We established a rule long ago that there was to be no child up and or talking before 9:00am. It’s true. Call CPS if you want but no harm is done for allowing our children to “sleep in”.  I invite anyone, or will pay anyone to spend a few daze over up in here with twelve children of various ages and intellectual capabilities. There are more days than not when I arrive home to find my wife mumbling to herself, finger pointed into to the air, rocking back and forth in the overstuffed chair with one arm hugging the throw pillow. I figured out that asking her how her day went was an invitation to a monologue that would secure her a late night talk show host position right next to Letterman and Leno.

Anyway, it was time to wake her and she again was up late making preparations. So when I walked back into our room there she lay as though an angel sprinkled gold dust on her brow. Her arms were outstretched on the sheets as though ready to hug a brand new day.  Her lips would part just enough to let air exhale and then would seal back up to take in a draught through her nostrils. My queen asleep upon her dreams of me…her once frog turned prince through the magic of a kiss. So, turn about fair play, I set a kiss on her lips gently and quickly and stepped back for the results. Her eyes opened slowly like in an eighties music video. She smiled as I whispered “Happy Thanksgiving”. I received her smile and put it in my pocket to retrieve it throughout the morning hours…for I knew the drill…

It happened before every major event where guests were to walk through our front door. My wife would slowly rip out of her chrysalis between the night stands. A strange phenomenon would occur.  Reverse metamorphosis would translate her from her butterfly essence to a caterpillar in arms. Her wing-ed grace would become a hundred feet marching from room to room. Her voice would play leapfrog between her unrequited smoothness (The one I could listen to for hours on the phone.) to Darth Vader from the Star Wars Trilogy. She would remind me apologetically that she must adorn this particular voice if the results she was expecting would materialize. I recalled my mother’s special voice too. She would adorn her “Captain Kirk-space-between-every-word-commands” which meant she could pull out her phazer at any moment and stun us. Sometimes strange thoughts would pass through my mind like “Did I marry my mom?”

The morning became the re-enactment of the preparation of D-day. Staging areas were set to defeat the enemy…disorganization. My wife analyzed a Turkey breast beach head and Green Beret bean casserole set in tin landing crafts.  Nuts and their crackers were set out strategically as refueling stations.  Cranberry sauce, as red as blood, lay pooled in a crystal bowl. Ok, ok, it wasn’t really that graphic, but the “feel” of the pressure was in the air along with the aroma of rotten eggs getting their devil on.

Then there were the turkeys. One Tom was for the roaster and one Tom was for the oven. Could it be that the Indians at Plymouth Rock were beating on similar “tom-toms” as the corn bread began it ascent?  The head count for the day was 36. I kind of wished we could have reached for 42 (Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy.) so an answer would come as to how to settle all the day’s settlers into our home.  The turkeys were only 16 pounders so twin wishbones would top off our day together. I peeled off the plastic from the first turkey like a latex glove and reached into its bowels to find the neck and the gizzards frozen!  I started mumbling cartoon exclamations…”Rut Roh!”  “Zoinks!”  “Wilma!”  “ Jane!”  “Holy turkey popsicle Batman!”  Enter plan 2 or B or infinity. Baptize one in the sink with warm water, and nuclear react the other in the microwave. It was now T minus 6 hours and I had a fleeting thought of ending up at the Chinese restaurant with the waiters singing deck the halls to all 36 of us. My friend, who was bringing his family over to share the holiday with us, texted me at 5:30am with a tale of similar demise. His foul of double proportion was 50% icicle and was indeed fouled out. It would be carved the next day at the earliest. So when I found Tom and Tom with frost bitten gizzards I thought of the power-play in hockey. More players on the vegetable team would skate against gaping holes in the meat defense.

Ah well, we carried on with Darth Vader calling the shots. She was, after all, the “desktop of the oikos.”  (A little Archie Bunker word mismanagement…A Sunday school class years ago taught about the woman of the home being the manager of the mood and flow of what happens within its walls.  The original phrase was the “despot of the oikos”.  The use of “desktop” softened the philosophical and political inferences of despotism.) Every now and then she would turn to me and smile and I felt my pocket to see if the first smile she sent was still in there. I knew under that mask and deep mechanical voice was a mother and wife and friend extraordinaire.

Eventually the little plastic thingy popped up from the Tom’s pecks. We all found enough room to connect with hands in hands, or arms over shoulders, and we sang “The Johnny Apple Seed thank you song” to God. I saw my mom’s eyes well up and I saw my wife’s eyes sparkle and I couldn’t sing for a moment. I had to pause and swallow the lump in my throat and prayed that somehow it would rest in the chambers of my heart. Thanksgiving, as a holiday, truly is my favorite because of its relational centerpiece.  I thank God for all the remarkable people in my life, including you.

Happy Thanksgiving.

I pray grateful hearts will be present as we prepare and partake today.

Just a Poultry Encounter. Part Three of Three. Talking Turkey.

Smiley face

Thom continued to tell of his dream…

His head and neck then disappeared and a translucent uncle Thommy floated above the Hubble family table. He hovered over grandpa’s comb over, Lauren’s  pigtails,  Kelsey’s cornrows, and grandma’s poofy grey arrangement. He saw the horn of plenty and the expanded double leaf table full of plenty, and there in the middle, his body. The center piece wasn’t the candied yams or the mashed potatoes. It wasn’t the salad, cranberry sauce, or the green bean casserole.  It wasn’t the cherry, mintz, or pumpkin pie.  It was the body of a bird raised free.

“Oh Thom. Thom,” he began, “Take a good look. This family is bowing and thanking God for the gifts they are about to receive and I was one of them. I was the one in the middle to be carved and given to each. This is why I was raised. Look at them. Before they sat for prayer I was able to float around the house and listen in on conversations. They have their dysfunctions and differences. They have their favorites. They have their spoiled last borne. See that little one over there. Her name is Emmy and she took special care of me when I was just fluff. Thank goodness she lost track of who I was!

It would be arrogant to tell you that they gather just because of me. No, it’s their God given desire for connection and the God-image in them. This holiday is just one reason they make efforts to come together. It’s a human thing, we wouldn’t understand. They pray to One bigger than their collective experiences. We fulfill God’s design for us.  We feed, but more than that, our species in America feed thankful bodies, thankful hearts. Your destiny is at hand. You could be in the middle of all sorts of possibilities. Redeeming moments, forgiving moments, loving moments, joyful moments, meaningful moments, all basted in the juices of thankfulness.”

“It was then I woke up and looked east and rousted my roosting. Time to head home, I said to myself. It is my time to walk through the door of destiny. No more running. I figured if I got back soon enough I could be a part of someone’s thankful day this year.”

I was without a word. Did a turkey really go there? Nobody’s going to believe this. I don’t believe this. I’m on my way to Berrien Springs. I’m a turkey taxi. There’s a turkey in my baby’s car seat who just gave me a lesson in religion, philosophy, manifest destiny, and the difference between free range and PPP turkey farming. What did eventually pass through by lips was, “Thanks for sharing.”

“Thanks for caring and carrying for that matter!” he responded. “It felt good to process the story to you. It was like getting the stuffing scooped out of me. I feel lighter.”

“Hey Thom, I know this is sudden, but why don’t you come to my house for dinner! I mean, I have a couple of punk mass produced turkeys in the back I can give away to two families in Mattawan. You’ve got to be thirty pounds dressed. You are what I was looking for earlier…a nice, fat, Thom Thom! We both laughed. If you’ve never heard a turkey laugh before you’ve never split a gizzard.

“I would be honored to be front and center at your house on your Thankful Day.  Blullulla!”


“In everything give thanks.” The Bible

Just a Poultry Encounter Part Two of Three. A Turkey Tail…Tale.

Thomm the talking turkey continues…

“About a year ago my uncle Thommy went missing. Here one moment, gone the next. I was so fouled up and sadness accompanied my search for him. I wanted to pull my feathers out as I hopped and flapped over every square yard of the range. I walked the entire perimeter of the property for compromises in security. If there was a sag or a hole in the chicken wire fence he might have fallen victim to the coyotes. I never found him but I did find I had grown up through the loss. I wasn’t some little punk of a poult any more and things were going to be alright, even without my uncle Thommy to wing his wisdom and legendary stories my way. It was me and my buddies now, at least until about a month ago.”

I noticed his face starting to pale. I don’t understand how a turkey could get any paler, but he did.

He continued slowly with a Star Trek Captain Kirk cadence.  “They…just…all…started…to…vanish!”

“Who did?”

“All my friends…Wing Man, Tommy Boy, Hook Beak, Pencil Neck, Bird Turd.  My whole crew was gone!”

“You say it was about a month ago? Well I think…”

“I know, I know. At least I know now,” His tone of voice changed to that of resignation. “I was so naïve. I thought that our ranch was different from all those other PPP type places. I had to get out of there. I had to leave on my own terms so I made a way of escape. Last year, I noticed an area of the fence which hung a tad low. I thought if I could get a running start there might be a possibility. After all, I was the champion wheel dodger. So from twenty five yards back I dug my talons in and pushed the throttle to full on….and here I am!”

“Wow. That’s quite a story, even from a turkey…ehem, no offence,” I said.

“Quite all right.”

I notice we were approaching the Mattawan exit and saw Thomm sitting there, his belly sticking out with his wings folded over it.

“Hey, how ‘bout I give you a ride to Berrien Springs?”

“You don’t have to…”

“It’s a holiday!”  I immediately felt bad knowing which holiday it was and my present company.  How could I be so insensitive!  “I’m so sorry!”

“No worries, I’ve come to embrace this time of year as a point of destiny, not regret.”

Hmmm, this Thom Thom grew up in a hurry or he has gotten his feathers all fluffed up with poultry traumatic stress syndrome.

“I think hearing about the dream would help me understand why you are going back to the ranch.”

“Of course.” He sat up in the car seat. “I think what influenced the dream was the feeling of hopelessness, or rather, I could almost feel meaning and purpose drain out of me as I hitched rides away from home. So, as I dozed off or dozed on or rode the horizon of R.E.M., I had this dream. My Uncle was in it. He was plucked, stuffed, and golden brown on a platter right next to the cranberry sauce! I gasped in horror! Actually in my native tongue it would have been an annunciated “blullullla.” The table was long and the people were plenty with their heads bowed and hands folded in their lap…except for some of the children staring at my uncle like he was Turkish Delight. Then I realized even though uncle Thommy was missing feet, talons and all, his spindle neck and bald head were attached AND ALIVE! He cricked his neck and looked me right in my eye, my right eye, and began to speak.

“Thom Thom, oh how I’ve missed you! How you’ve grown. You have a nice beard there. I’ve been worried about you. I know there is reason to run, at least it seems the reasonable response to the recent events in your life. But I am here to offer another possibility, so don’t start molting like you’ve seen the ghost of Thankgiving’s Past. This is only a dream, but the scene is a reality that many of us have the privilege to enter. For many of us it is our manifest destiny.”

“Destiny! Destiny? Butter basted, extra crispy, stuffed with who knows what, and taken from the free range to the range oven…just what kind of destiny is that?”

“I know how you feel.”

“Do you now!?”

“Yes I do, because you are looking at last Thanksgiving at the Hubble’s house. For a brief moment I laid in the middle of a family taking time to reconnect at an annual meal. Meal time for American’s used to be the time of day, every day, for communication and communion. Eye to eye contact, body language, common courtesy, and a physical reminder of belonging. Now those special times are often reduced to a few times a year.

When I was your age, an older, wiser, Tom took me aside and gave me ‘the talk.’ The talk I never made the opportunity to give to you. I procrastinated, and I kept seeing the chicken scratch writing on the wall but….”  His voice trailed off. “I’m so sorry I didn’t prepare you for this. I hope you will find a way beyond this and forgive me.” He then shook his snood and said, “This is my chance, and as weird as it might be to listen to a succulent, organically raised bird speak to you from the dead, I will not pass this up.”


Stay tuned…

Just a Poultry Encounter Part One: A Thanksgiving Tail…Ahem, Tale

Thanksgiving Wallpapers: Thanksgiving Turkey Cartoon Wallpapers

Highway hypnosis took over the minute I finished the on ramp to I-94 west. Destination: home. The back-end of the van sagged with holiday food which included not one, but two frozen turkeys. I scored a couple of fifteen pound weaklings. I felt like kicking sand in their faces, of which they had none. I set the cruise at seventy, pulled the arm rest down, and turned off the Christmas music.

I saw something short, white, and moving along the rumble strip on the right near exit sixty-eight. I cancelled the cruise and coasted. It was a bird! It was a rotund bird trotting with the traffic. A left-wing was stretched in the air. I tapped the brake and as I got closer its tail feathers reached for the sky and spread like a Geisha’s fan. “It’s a turkey!” I said, “A suicidal turkey!” Come to think of it, a nice fat turkey like that, suicide would be a viable option rather than wait for the chopping block or hope for a pardon from the President. I put on my emergency flashers as I passed him and pulled over the white line. In my mirror I saw him put his wing down and start running for my van. Trotting?  I got out and went around the back of my vehicle and this out of breath bird approached.

“Thank goodness!…I know there is a trust issue in this country for picking up hitch hikers, but, come on, how much harm can I do in my condition?”

I stopped short with my hand to my chin and thought I’ve heard a lot of people talk turkey, but a talking turkey!? I shook it off.

“Where you headed?”


“I can take you as far as Mattawan,” I said.

“Thanks, I was sure I was going be the next entrée on the Road Kill Café menu. I mean really, if people don’t want to give me a ride they should just drive on by! They were honking and swerving and yelling out their windows! Geez, it’s like they’ve never seen a hitch hiking turkey before.”

“Well I…”

“I’m just trying to get from A to B you know!” He said as his snood flapped from one side of his beak to the other.

“Hey, let’s get in out of this holiday traffic,” I said. I moved up one of the kid’s car seats and positioned it in the middle of the bench behind me and buckled him in.  Under forty pounds, have to be in a car seat. I got back in and adjusted my mirror so I could see him. He had a long scrawny neck and a not so handsome head attached. His head was stubble bald with a three inch orange-red snood draped over his beak. The hanging red caruncles waved back and forth like a dancing double chin every time he turned his head.  “Do you have a name?”

“Tom. That’s Tom with an h, T-H-O-M. I was named after my uncle Thommy.”

I had an Uncle Tommy once. Come to think of it he would have made a nice turkey on many different levels.

“I’m Jerry with a J. Are you running away?”

“I was, but now I’m heading back to Berrien Springs,” he said as his head bobbed and weaved.

“What’s in Berrien Springs?”

“The free-range turkey ranch I lived at since I was just a wee poult.”

“Why the turn around? Why are you going back?”

“Bad dream. Well, it wasn’t a total bad dream. It was a wake-up call kind of bad dream. I mean it had an epiphany inserted in it. I mean I had an epiphany while I was dreaming. No, no, when I woke up and assessed its meaning…  I was taking a snooze behind a rest stop near Detroit and had a half-sleep non-R.E.M. dream.” He stopped short and took cleansing breath.

“Hey, it’s okay, do you want to tell me about it?” I said as a saw his head down with his snood hanging dead center off his pale yellow beak.

“Yeah, maybe talking about it will help me process it better.” His choice of the word process made me raise an eyebrow.

“Why don’t you start by telling me why you ran away in the first place? I kind of have an idea seeing what time of year it is in America, but I don’t want my assumptions to precede the truth.

“Well,” he said after a gulp, “being from a free range ranch I had a great childhood. There was lots of freedom, lots of friends, and lots of room to run. I even enjoyed short flights from time to time. I hardly ever got pecked on and when I did, it was my buddies having some good, clean fun. Yeah, we used to stay up late and talk about our adventures, like when we would wheel dodge. We saw how close we could strut in front of cars or tractors without getting run over. We had chicken fights in the watering trough. We had snood flapping contests until our gizzards hurt.

My uncle Thommy, in whose honor I was named, would tell us of his days in the PPP, the Poultry Processing Program, and his daring escape aided by some animal rights group. He was like a father to me. He would always find a way to help me appreciate life. I remember the way he puffed out his chest and made eye contact. That was his listen up sonny body language.” Thomm then changed his voice to sound like his old uncle. “You weren’t raised to fly but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.” He smiled, although I didn’t think turkeys could with a solid beak and all. “I will never forget that,” he said. Then Thommy looked out the window and sighed and his wing covered his mouth as he continued…

To be continued tomorrow…