My Most Remembered Thanksgiving

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Pretty much everyone has a favorite memory from Thanksgiving. Maybe it’s going around the table to say what you’re most thankful for, eating until you can’t fit another bite, volunteering at the local homeless shelter, reconnecting with family you haven’t seen in years – most of us can point to something from this special holiday that makes us smile.

For Concordia retirement living resident Mary Lou, there was one Thanksgiving in particular that she thinks about every year around this time, and she was kind enough to share it with all of us! Enjoy her story below – and from all of us at Concordia, have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

I can’t remember the year, but we were living in the South Jersey woods, in a house Jim’s brothers built for us on their family farm.
“What are we doing for Thanksgiving this year? Jim asked.
“Whatever you want.” I said. “This year YOU decide.”
“Great! Then we’re eating out.”
I was disappointed; I prefer holiday meals to be at home. So, on the day before Thanksgiving when Jim got home from work, I’d gone to the garage to help him with his wheelchair as usual.(Polio) I was surprised to see a very large paper bag on the front seat of his car.
“And what is THAT?” I asked.
“Oh, I know you don’t like to eat out on holidays, so I stopped at the turkey farm and got one of the last ones they had.”
“But we’re eating out this year!” For the past week I’d start to look forward to not having to cook for assorted relations of Jim’s NINE brothers and sisters, to a tidy, quiet kitchen, and to a restful evening instead of a big clean-up. I sighed as I pulled the bag over, lifted it, and dropped it onto my foot!
“Good grief, Jim! Did you have to get such a big one?”
“That’s all they had left, and you had to take them as is to get the discount. I got a real bargain.” Jim beamed.
“How much?” I asked. I can’t remember what he said, but it was a lot more expensive than Shop-Rite’s.
The turkey stayed in the garage all night. In the morning, I found that it would NOT fit into my largest roaster. We would have to cut it in half! I got out my longest knife, to no avail. Then I remembered the one I picked up from a bargain pile that was fancily serrated. The picture on the cardboard cover showed a lady cutting down a tree with it. It worked! However, it took us a half hour, just to get through an eighth of an inch, with abundant tiny bone-specks marking our progress.
“This will take us all day,” Jim said. “We don’t have an electric knife, so that leaves the chain-saw.”
“Absolutely not,” I said. “You are NOT using that dirty, greasy saw on this turkey. No. NO!
“Then let’s just forget it and go to a restaurant.”
I was sorely tempted. I could open the kitchen door, push the monster bird outside, roll it down the hill to the creek, and let the raccoons and foxes deal with it. But then, my stubborn streak kicked in. (you need to have one if you’re married to someone with Polio!) I told Jim, “NO! You paid good money for this turkey and we are going to roast it.”
I searched the house and garage for any container we might use, but found none. Then I opened the refrigerator and noted the full-width vegetable drawer. I pulled it out and thought it would be big enough, but it had some sort of enamel-like coating which I feared might not hold up to oven heat. It was no use checking the owner’s manual, as it was unlikely to assure the buyer that it’s insides were “oven-proof”. So it would be taking a big chance, of ruining not only the drawer, but the WHOLE oven. We might even have to buy a new stove. But it was that or DEFEAT.

Following my ever-present stupid streak, I took all the racks out of the oven except the very lowest, and was able to lift the turkey into the drawer and into the oven. It bulged over the top of the drawer, but that didn’t worry me. I turned on the heat and hoped for the best, while expecting the worst. Then I turned my attention to whatever trimmings I could scrape together, if both the turkey and the oven survived. Thank goodness we were well-stocked with potatoes from the farm, including the good Jersey white sweets. And we had canned cranberry sauce.

I can’t remember how long that turkey stayed in the oven, but it was well-roasted when we took it out that evening. It had excellent flavor, and the drawer appeared to have suffered no ill effects from its sojourn in the oven. So even though it was not an easy day, we had MUCH to be thankful for on that Thanksgiving evening.

I froze much of the turkey, and our three dogs were glad to do their part, also the birds and raccoons who dined on the carcass. Several days later when I got to the bottom of the pan, I found a weight tag. I can’t remember the exact figure, but it was in the mid-thirties. I should’ve saved that tag, but it was in no condition to be saved.

So that was the Thanksgiving which I now remember fondly with smiles and a few tears.

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