(for the Pollands)
You rose at 6 a.m. to see if the damn thing was finally defrosted, the decapitated hen with her big breast leaking fluids into the sink like an old radiator,
too heavy for me to lift, you could one-hand it and pull out giblets from its rear, run it under cool water to rinse off whatever needed rinsing,
plop it on the chicken-wire tile counter of our old kitchen and set to work, trussing its legs, applying olive oil and butter and spices,
while I, still sleepy, tore up stale bread in the big black-and-white speckled roasting pan where the turkey would rest, throwing in sage and onions,
giblets simmering on the stove, you adding olives and walnuts and Jimmy Dean sausage for texture because, your people believed,
stuffing should be more than just sage-y bread, and you were right—your stuffing was the best—but it took us a good two hours to get that bird in the oven,
so by 8 we were exhausted, especially in the days when you were so sick or recovering from having your chest sawed open and your ribs cracked,
not unlike the poor bird, but you insisted, as you laid down on the sofa for just a quickie nap, there was nothing poor about turkeys,
the dumbest creatures put on earth, and you would know—your family raised them on the ranch in Rescue, all six kids pitching in to feed turkeys
and water turkeys and scoop turkey poop and chase skunks out of the turkey houses because they could cause a stampede,
and you’d end up with a bunch of dead birds—because, again, you liked to emphasize, turkeys were the dumbest fowl ever, no brain in those tiny heads,
short lives for a reason, eat that good breast meat, chew on a fat drumstick and OK, be thankful for that dumb bird who now tasted good,
and I knew that you didn’t miss the turkeys one bit, but I knew you remembered those tough years
of early mornings and late nights on the ranch, endless work to be done, all six of you kids crammed into two bedrooms,
when there was Grandma next door in the little house, and Mom and Pops, her making her hand-sewn curtains and clothes, him making his tomato wine,
who were all gone by the time I came into your life, so I would never know them, only I did, in a way,
from the stories you and your siblings told around our table on Thanksgivings, all of you having long ago flown the coop in Rescue,
all of you grownups with jobs, some with spouses and families, you with your repaired heart ticking away, growing larger and larger each year,
your own life destined to be shorter than any of us wanted; we gobbled your turkey and your stuffing, Annie’s cranberry sauce on Grandma’s dishes,
and, after the huge meal, I stood over our old sink, scraping plates next to one of your siblings, listening to the rest of you
in the dining room telling tales of the time when…—you survivors of that ranch, those people, that long-ago life. I hear your voices still,
every Thanksgiving, and I want you to know: I am grateful.
Love this Jan. I was thinking about you and Turkey day–and the first holiday without my parents. Hope to see you soon, Vonnie
Love the image of the lede! Love you, Gud Writer! x
Lovely, Jan. Mom
I miss that big Rescue man too. He who made making a fuss look so easy. Love to you, dear Jan.
Such imagery, especially in the first “paragraph.” I love your writing and your sentiments, Jan. You bring to life and page some of the things I’ve been thinking but don’t have the talent to put down in words. Hugs, Cora
Oh my heart is so grateful for this story. And for you dearest BFF
Loved it. Sonya
I miss the big man from Rescue too and how he made making a fuss look so easy. Love to you, dear Jan.
Awwwww! Uncle Kiff!