Every family has its own traditions for the holidays, but not every family has the same ones.
Each holiday is different for each family, so there are thousands of traditions one might never know—I would like to share mine.
Thanksgiving is often known as turkey day. Some people stuff their turkey with garlic stuffing, bacon stuffing, or even a whole chicken. Some families cook their turkey in the oven or fry it in a deep fryer. But my family was unique. Just how unique, you will have to tell me.
Each year, a few nights before Thanksgiving, my dad would come home with an enormous frozen turkey. It would be so cold your hands could freeze to the side, and so heavy you were afraid it would break the counter. Mom let it sit for a while before she unwrapped the plastic. When it was soft on the outside but still frozen on the inside, Mom started her work.
In the empty sink she washed the dripping ice away from the skin, then she stuck her arm up the backside. Like any professional turkey day chef, her arm wouldn’t reappear until it came back with a long, red, frozen tube. Mom would then say, “Got it!” To which Dad would snicker while explaining to us what Mom was holding.
After the turkey was cleaned, Mom prepared the meat with all kinds of spices. Garlic, salt, pepper, you name it. Once she finished, she started wrapping the turkey in foil. There was no stuffing inside. At the dinner table, the stuffing was a side dish like mashed potatoes and green beans. Mom would wrap the turkey in at least five layers of foil to keep all the juices inside. When she was finished, she placed the silver ball on a platter in the fridge and announced bedtime.
The following morning, Mom began peeling potatoes while Dad loaded shovels into the truck.
We kids then got to decide which parent to follow for the day. My brother sometimes went with my dad, but sometimes chose to stay with Mom and me. This was because once he realized after a brief cooking lesson, I would sneak away to watch cartoons.
Several hours later, Dad would come home dusty and dirty. He always tried to hug Mom that way until she shooed him out of the kitchen.
When he came back from showering, Dad was dressed in clean, warm clothes. The cartoons ended and football began. Bored with a sport I didn’t understand, I returned to the kitchen to help Mom make dessert while my little brother fell asleep on top of our sleeping dad.
Later in the day, Dad was rested from his hard work and ready to start again. He loaded camping chairs into the car. As my sisters helped him, Mom helped my brother and me change into warmer clothes.
Once we were all buckled into the car, Mom sat in her seat with the door wide open and hurried down the driveway to place the silver turkey in her lap.
“Where are we taking the turkey?” I asked.
“To cook it!” Dad exclaimed.
The drive was nowhere near as long as the ride to Grandma’s, but it still felt like forever. We traveled towards a little mountain while the sun started to set. Upon reaching our destination, we met with other families joining us in the desert. The mothers were carrying giant silver balls like my mom, while the fathers were lowering wood and coal into a long trench.
“Stay away from the pit.” Mom warned. “This is where Dad has been all day, digging so we can cook the turkey.”
Once all the turkeys were placed in the pit, the fathers continued their hard work while the moms set up chairs around the bonfire. Mothers would fuss over their children staying close or moving too far, telling us not to get too close to the fire but also not to wander into the dark.
We rowdy children wanted to play past our bedtime, so we chased each other in a dark, empty area of the lot. The mothers who wanted to keep their children close would bribe them with marshmallows and chocolate. My mom was no different. She helped us make s’mores over the open fire.
As the hours trickled on and the work was done, the fathers joined the fun by the fire. Finished with the pit for the night, all the families migrated back to their cars, then back to their homes.
The following day was Thanksgiving Day.
Tired from all the games and fun, we kids would sleep in till late morning. Mom got us up with the excitement of French toast. Around lunchtime, Dad left to go get the turkey. He wasn’t gone as long as he had been the day before, but he came back just as dirty.
The once silver foil ball was now blackened and crisp. Mom continued her work in the kitchen after Dad tried again to hug her with his sandy coat. He laughed before going to clean himself off.
It was now dinner time, and the table looked beautiful. In the center sat a covered platter. As a family, we blessed the food and thanked God for all the blessings and happiness we had been given. Dad then lifted the platter lid to reveal juicy slices of pit-cooked turkey.
“There’s nothing like flame-cooked meat,” Dad said with a smile.
“Can we go to the pit next year?” I asked.
“Of course!” Mom said as she filled my plate. “You kids seemed to have fun in the dark.”