It’s Okay to Overcook the Turkey

thanksgiving

Hands down, Thanksgiving is my husband’s favorite holiday. Why wouldn’t it be?  Let’s do the math.

Meat + Potatoes + Football x Pie {nap} = bliss (repeat) <— this is a formula for man holiday awesome

Me? I’m not the biggest fan. Why?

In my world Thanksgiving means weeks of planning, days of cooking, decorating, stressing and a history of storied foremothers to live up to. All of this for 20 minutes of pigging out, followed by an immediate dispersal to the sofa for the ensuing tryptophan coma.

Or am I missing something here?

Last night we got a call from my Mother-in-law. My husband’s Uncle passed away. He was elderly, but that didn’t really lessen the blow. It seems that this week is a favored time of year for fate welcome members of my family to their seats at the grownups table in the sky.

This got me thinking about my complicated relationship with this holiday.

My mom is the queen of the holidays. Before there was a Martha Stewart, there was my mom… with a tenth of the budget and a million times more personality.

Mom grew up with little to no family to speak of, bounced around from home to home, until she landed with the aunt and uncle who raised her. I think creating a Rockwellian holiday for her kids was her way of filling the need that no one ever took care of for her. I really was lucky to have that growing up.

That said, those perfect holiday decorations, meals and themes, sure are hard to recreate. Trust me, I’ve spent many years trying to. So many, I think I’ve missed out of much of the joy I could have been having with my family.

The funny thing is, as perfect as mom’s Thanksgivings were, my favorite parts were the odd things, the imperfections. The folklore of my family, the part that matters most to me are the things like…

My mom being famous for her strays. Where some people might a leave little turkey out for the neighborhood alley cats, her turkey always attracted the extra person to the table. I couldn’t tell you the name of many of them, where they came from or where they are now. They came, they ate, they left.

The year mom got so uptight dad couldn’t take it anymore so he let her have it in the face with a scoop of mashed potatoes (I’m sure I remember this wrong, but it’s how I recall it). The ensuing food fight was epic.

The other fights, those too are part of the tradition. One of my brothers is notoriously cantankerous, and it isn’t a holiday until he reminds us all of that. I’m usually the one who takes that bait, being a bit overly dramatic myself. Once the tension breaks, it’s like the best spa day ever.

Dad always does something wrong. I don’t think he even tries to fight it anymore. In fact, I suspect he secretly plots a new way to piss mom off every year. Most of us secretly root for dad, though we all know mom will win in the end.

Family is such a complicated thing, and I certainly can attest to that with my family.  You love them, even when you have a hard time reconciling all of your other feelings for them.  Sometimes our thankfulness for family comes in the form of thanks for showing us how we don’t want to do things. Sometimes it is a gratefulness for them allowing us the room to have our own imperfections.

This Thanksgiving I won’t be pressing linens, shining glassware or insisting that everyone dress for dinner. I might even opt for paper plates to make cleaning up easier. I give even myself permission to over-cook the turkey, just like mom does… and be completely okay with that.

in memory of Aunt Donna and her doll houses, Uncle Bill and the first time I ever learned about Cambodia, Aunt Paula and her sweet potato casserole, Aunt Carrol and Tryon Peake, Zio Serafino and fresh zeppole with honey

2 thoughts on “It’s Okay to Overcook the Turkey”

  1. Sorry to hear about your loss. We never had Thanksgivings like that. We just had my immediately family and there wasn’t much family lore to be shared. Sounds like an interesting way to grow up. With the bad weather coming this way, I’m not sure what we’ll be doing this year.
    Mimi´s last blog post ..2013 Holiday Event Reviews & Giveaways

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