Oral Tales to Fiction - Leax - 2/5/01
I woke up Thanksgiving day already smelling the turkey. I sat up in bed and took a deep breath of the cool morning air. The smell of turkey was strong. The turkey, of course, was still in a plastic wrap inside of the freezer, but I didn't know that. At the age of ten I was already perfectly capable of imagining things the way I wanted them. Fortunately for me, by the time I actually left my room to roam the house, the turkey had been taken out of the freezer and was being prepared by my mother for the oven. Thus my fantasies were not jarred too much by reality.
Thanksgiving was always a large festival in the Hassey household. My parents invited everyone: our relatives, the Cloutier family, and the Cloutier relatives. I think my parents were secretly glad that a share of the relatives lived too far away to come. Our house was not very large, and it couldn't hold too many people. But they still managed to pack in a good forty people for the main event.
The first people that arrived at our house were the Cloutiers. That meant that their son Dan and I could skulk in a corner together. Now with strength in numbers, we'd be able to withstand any doting Aunt that came to shower her affections. She would have to split her energies between the two of us, and so neither of us would get the full blast of her love and caring, which we knew could be deadly.
As we sat in the corner we carefully watched out the window. Soon, Dan and I saw several long hunter green cars roll up the driveway - the grandparents. Our grandpas took their time getting from their cars to the house, but the four grandmothers raced up the driveway, to the door, and barged into the house. The grandmas headed straight for the kitchen and ousted our mothers. Dan's mom and my mom sat down on a couch and released sighs of mixed exasperation and relief. They were upset at being thrown from their own kitchen, but at least they weren't in charge anymore. Dan and I walked through the dining room to peek in from the side door of the kitchen to see what was going on in there.
"Too many cooks spoil the broth!" cried my Grandma Sproul.
"Then get out of here!" yelled Dan's Grandma Cloutier.
Fierce looks were exchanged between the motley crew within. The other two grandmas, my Grandma Hassey and Dan's Grandma Janes were playing tug of war with a roll of French bread. They were not standing on the table, but Dan noted to me that it looked like they wanted to be. We gaped as Grandma Sproul strolled into their midst, rolled up here sleeves and disemboweled the turkey.
"I'm very glad that I was not born a turkey," I told Dan.
Dan nodded in total agreement. Then suddenly we felt something looming behind us. We turned. Half of Dan's face twitched. His Aunt Bergetha smiled at us, and eased her great body to our level.
"Oh come to me, my little darlings," crooned out Aunt Bergetha, "Give Aunt Bergetha a kiss." Somehow being a turkey did not seem so bad anymore.
Aunt Bergetha came closer to us. Dan started to shake, partly because of the shaking of the floor under Aunt Bergetha's tremendous figure, but mostly because the vapors from her perfume were starting to destroy his brain.
"Oh, don't be afraid, it's only me," cooed Aunt Bergetha. Dan shook even more. Aunt Bergetha bent down and gave Dan a big kiss on the cheek. Dan collapsed into crumpled pile on the floor.
"Now for you, Little Philip," crooned Aunt Bergetha. But I was nowhere to be found. Valuing my life, I had hidden underneath the dining room table. When she had left I crawled out to survey the damage that she had done to Dan. He looked as though his soul had been annihilated by Aunt Bergetha.
"Pretty soon it'll be time for the meal," I said to Dan in a cheery voice. It wasn't a true statement, but I was trying to revive him.
"Right," Dan said sulkily. Actually, he did not look in quite as bad of shape as the turkey which was being thrust into the oven along with Dan's Grandma Janes. "Hey Phil," he said suddenly, "I've got an idea."
I was open to ideas...
Several hours later, the turkey was almost ready, and as we well knew, behind those great folding doors, the dining room lay. The grandmothers were almost done and were likely setting the large turkey down on a plate in the center of the table. The doors would be closed until the diner was finally presented to everyone after the prayer.
After a long time my Grandma Sproul stepped out of the kitchen and finally announced that the turkey was done. Behind her, defeated, were the other three grandmas. Everyone's eyes grew larger. The smell of turkey and stuffing and potatoes and gravy was getting pretty thick in the air. I surveyed the people in the room. Everyone looked very hungry, especially the dog, Josephine. Josephine was drooling a bit. I looked at each person: my grandpa, Dan's uncle, my aunt, Dan's dad, my uncle... My uncle was drooling just like the dog. I waited to see if he would drool on Josephine's head, but he slurped it up just in time.
"First," said my father, "The Thanksgiving Prayer." Father always gave long Thanksgiving Prayers, and everyone knew it. So amid the "pre-prayer-shuffling and squirming" session that always came before such prayers, Dan and I crept out of the room and down the stairs. Josephine scurried out to find something to do. All the grandpas and uncles stretched out good in preparation. The smaller children squirmed wildly, but they were held in place by their mothers. By the end of the preparation, Dan and I were gone. And thus began the Thanksgiving Prayer.
Dan and I went out the basement door and into the back yard. Then we crawled up the back porch stairs and stole into the kitchen. From the kitchen we moved silently into the dining room. We could hear my father continuing on and on throughout his thankful prayer. We looked at the turkey and almost giggled out loud. The turkey must have weighed a hundred pounds, and it took all our effort to hoist it into the air. After we removed it, we took our positions on either side of the shutter doors. This way when the doors were opened, people would pour in and not see us against the walls, and we would be able to mix in at the end of the crowd.
Finally, my dad said, "Amen," and everyone stampeded through the shutter doors to gather around the table. Suddenly, everyone stopped and stared at the table.
"Where's the turkey?" my uncle cried in distress.
Grandma Sproul started to look very nervous. The other grandmas gave her sly smiles. They knew the responsibility rested on her shoulders.
"Why, we put it out here only .. a while ago," spluttered Grandma Sproul. The other grandmas rolled their eyes at her excuses. My uncle, still muttering, sat down anyway and began to butter a roll. Several other people started settling down into their seats as well. If the turkey was gone, there wasn't much they could do about it, so they might as well start nibbling while the Grandmas sorted things out between themselves. Dan and I sat down and smiled sweetly at everyone and began to innocently crunch a few carrots.
On the other side of the table, Dan's Great Grandmother Edith carefully sat herself down. She had just reached the dining room, being one of the last in the pack to charge into the dining room. She smiled mistily across the table, and suddenly said, "Ooh, how lovely, I didn't know you had heated floors in this house!"
My Dad raised an eyebrow. He knelt down on the floor and surveyed beneath the tablecloth. Then he crawled right under the table, and removed Great Grandma Edith's feet from the turkey. Her stockings were a bit greasy, but the turkey was as good as I imagined it would be.
Hassey - 1