Talking Turkey

Jell-O Frisbees. Lumpy gravy. Blackened turkey. No matter. What matters is that we gather together, with gratitude to God for His love and for the blessing of each other.
by Mary Pierce

The locusts — as my husband affectionately calls our extended family — were on their way to our house for Thanksgiving. We host Thanksgiving every year, gathering together for a time of love and bonding. Every year another culinary disaster looms, threatening to distract us from what really matters.

That year, 22 locusts were headed our way, and the turkey refused to thaw. I spent the morning giving it cold-water baths. (OK, I cheated just a little and gave it a spritz or two of warm water.) Then, trying the nuclear thawing option, I realized it's impossible to wedge a 20-pound turkey into an 8-pound microwave.

"Why don't we just eat later?" my rational mate proposed. I shuddered to think of 22 hungry locusts having to wait for dinner, so I hustled to prepare the side dishes: sweet potatoes with marshmallows, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, scalloped corn — and Jell-O, of course.

The ability to make Jell-O is a gift. I'm not good at Jell-O. I envy women who effortlessly concoct crystalline mounds of jiggling glory. After measuring, heating, stirring and chilling as directed, I held my breath as I turned the plastic mold upside down onto a plate. I gave it a gentle shake, straining to hear, just this once, the satisfying plop of a well-turned Jell-O.

I lifted the mold, and — slurp! shoop! — a shimmering mound landed on the plate. Perfect! For a moment. Then it began to flatten. And flatten. And flatten.

"It's a Jell-O Frisbee," my husband said.

Shortly thereafter, the last of the locusts arrived as I was basting the buzzard. But a miscalculation shot hot grease all over the oven. The smoke alarm blasted, the teakettle screamed and the potatoes boiled over at the same time. I swished a dish towel under the smoke detector, trying to clear the air while hollering for my husband to find the stepstool and disconnect the battery until the smoke cleared.

In that moment of noise and laughter — the wonderful chaos of family and life — I realized once again what was important. Thanksgiving is not about perfection; it's about people — people who share the ups and downs of life and still love you.

For 15 Thanksgivings in a row, we've been blessed as we've gathered to eat, laugh and talk — young, old and in-between, family, friends and foreigners. One year my niece told her then-fiance that part of their marriage "deal" would be coming to our house every Thanksgiving.

Last year they couldn't come, spending Thanksgiving in neonatal intensive care with their premature son. This year they'll bring Jonah, robust and healthy, for his first Thanksgiving with the clan.

And we'll reminisce about past culinary disasters, like the time the stuffing had mystery bits in it. "Are they walnuts? Almonds?" After dinner I noticed a chunk of my rubber scraper was missing. Oops.

Grandma, who remembers yesteryear better than yesterday, will tell us about the time she baked a turkey with the bag of innards still inside.

Jell-O Frisbees. Lumpy gravy. Blackened turkey. No matter — they're the stuff of laughter and memories. What matters is that we gather together, with gratitude to God for His love and for the blessing of each other.

We express our gratitude as we hold hands and pray. With our shared amen, we have a moment of quiet. Then, someone always says, "Hey, this is the same thing we had last year!"

Yes, it's the same thing every year: noise and laughter, remembrance and blessing. We say goodbye to some, hello to others. We celebrate our blessings together, and we'll do it again and again for as many years as God allows.

This article first appeared in the November, 2005 issue of Focus on the Family magazine. Copyright © 2005, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved.

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