‘Twas the famous Thanksgiving of 1977, the year I turned eight and sported my super-trendy Dorothy Hamill ‘do. The traditional holiday spread was to be consumed at Grandma Slovick’s house, but the real story lies in the Dexter family’s designated offering to the feast. I am speaking of none other than the star of the meal, the veritable symbol of the holiday itself. That’s right … the Thanksgiving turkey.
I was the youngest and, therefore, the cutest of the Dexter siblings. My brother, Paul had just turned eleven and Robyn, nearing seventeen, was several years our elder. In my younger and even more adorable years, I had followed teenage-sister-Robyn around like a lost puppy copying everything she did, much to her chagrin. Oh how I wanted to be a teenager. My aspirations for teenagehood are inscribed in my baby book where Mom eloquently penned, “When Jennifer grows up she wants to be a teenager.” I think this was a fine choice, really, and far superior to my brother’s grand ambition to become a trash man.
Our story begins at the point where Mom was rendered bedridden with sudden and excruciating back pain. With Mom incapacitated, the illustrious task of preparing the bird was left to Dad. Having never roasted a turkey, he ambled back and forth from the kitchen to the bedroom for instructions.
The conversation went something like this.
“There’s stuff in there?” Referring to the neck and giblets.
“Yeah, you gotta get it out.”
“Well, how do I get it out?”
Imagine, if you will, my big, strong, building contractor of a father. Six-foot-four, with a size-15 foot and large calloused hands to match. Standing at the kitchen counter grappling with a raw turkey, he endeavored to locate and unearth the bag of giblets from … well, who knows which end?
Twenty minutes later, with jaw clenched, he was now long into the process of excavating his find. By now his pulsing temples were beat red, yet his determination to conquer his adversary was fierce and unwavering. He clutched his opponent with the firm grip of one hand, the other buried deep inside the cavity of the bird. Clasping the bag, he yanked with full force. Unwilling to submit, the turkey executed a sly maneuver. With impressive agility, that turkey slipped right out of Dad’s grasp and performed a beautiful nosedive directly into the sink full of dirty dishwater.
Well, after the unruly fowl underwent a very thorough shower, inside and out, his innards were conquered and annihilated. No longer was he able to avoid the inevitable, and so it was that the turkey was finally roasted.
Transportation, however, was another matter altogether. With Mom disabled, Dad was obliged to stay home and play nurse. The task of transferring the turkey, along with little brother and sister, fell into the hands of teenage-sister-Robyn. Yet, oddly enough, she also would not be joining us for Thanksgiving dinner either, on account of her gainful employment, waitressing at Alphy’s.
So, the very clean and very roasted star of the feast was loaded into the back of our late 60’s Ford Fairlane station wagon, which showcased a lovely shade of puke green.
And thus begins part two of the story.
Traveling north on Magnolia Avenue, teenage-sister-Robyn decided that this would be an excellent time to apply mascara.
You see where I’m going with this.
Little-sister- Jennifer, sat in the back seat staring at the bright red traffic light shining gloriously above the upcoming intersection, where an unsuspecting vehicle already lingered.
Umm … she wasn’t stopping.
“ROBYN.” A little louder.
Mascara was much more important.
Teenage-sister-Robyn reacted with impeccable driving skill, thrusting her foot upon the brake with raw power. The station wagon careened to a screeching halt, mere inches from the parked car.
Whew! We were alive.
But what of the turkey?
Upon examination, it was discovered that the defiant turkey had indeed escaped, along with all of his juices, having glided freely about the slick vinyl space in the back of the station wagon.
The slippery suspect was restrained, and once again confined to his roasting pan. Sworn to secrecy, the Dexter siblings arrived at Grandma Slovick’s house and boldly submitted their peculiar offering to the Thanksgiving feast.
Upon being questioned where the drippings were for the gravy, teenage-sister-Robyn just shrugged. “I don’t know. I have to get to work.”
Thanksgiving dinner was enjoyed by all and no one was any the wiser.
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