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