Of Thanksgiving Past: or death by turkey leg

When I was young my cousin Bruce and I used to hang together at all the family get-togethers.  We were inseparable as children.  There were only four months difference in our ages and we got along (in)famously.  Well, there was that incident with the Skippy dog food in Grandma Strong’s kitchen… and of course this epic tale:

I have said it before, my mother was not a good cook, but she tried her best and on Thanksgiving meals she poured her heart into the task.  With a family of six, and relatives to feed, she would get up at 4:00 AM to begin roasting the big turkey to feed us all.  The smell of it filled the house and all of us kids would be in and out of the kitchen wanting to know, “IS IT DONE YET?”

How do mother’s survive the commotion?

As well as the turkey there were candied yams,  mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce,  assorted vegetables, and fresh-baked dinner rolls to drown in butter.

Oooooh, and after it all there would be the pies!

Apple, pumpkin and mincemeat…

although I never understood the need for mincemeat.

Well, the big event was finally at hand!   We all gathered around the table, said the blessing and dove in…

However, on this particular Thanksgiving Bruce and I were truly at odds.  There were five kids at the table, and we all wanted a leg.  My Dad said that we must “…share with the other kids at the table” and we proceeded to argue:

Bruce:  “I’m the oldest and biggest kid and I can eat a whole leg by myself!”

Me:  “That’s not fair!  That’ll mean that I have to share with all three of them!”

This went on for a bit, until Dad said:

“Fine.  You want a whole leg for yourself?  Then you will have to eat the whole leg and anything else you put onto your plate.”

We looked across at each other, and sneering in victory proceeded to pile it on…

Plates cleaned of all the piled on goodies, we then picked up our treasure and ran for the door wanting to devour our ill-gotten booty without the little kids accusatory stares.  Once outside we danced about on the porch leering with bulging eyes at each other.  We could not believe our fortune!

One for him and one for MEEE!

These were the biggest turkey legs in history, we thought, and they were all ours!  Then, tilting turkey legs, we began in earnest to gnaw on them.  After only a few bites we began to realize our folly.  We were already truly full!

It was at this moment we began to really consider the proviso my father had given us.

We must eat the whole thing or suffer the consequence for our greed.

Having barely made a dent in those legs we had already begun to slow down.  Looking back at the kitchen window we could see my father giving us the look.

He had a way of drawing his mouth into a thin line, his eyes becoming beady with brows knit, and a little tick would start in his left cheek just below the eye… he was truly angry at us for our greediness.

We looked at each other.  Moaning, Bruce pulled up his shirt to show me how full his belly was and whined that he couldn’t take another bite.  At this, my dad opened the window and calmly said:

“You wanted it now eat it.”

As we sat there listening to the rest of the family, we heard them laughing and enjoying their meal.  We began to feel sorry for ourselves, as we continued to pick at our huge, meaty, turkey legs.

Then Bruce whispered, “Hey Lynda, I’m going to give the rest of mine to your dog, he’ll eat it all, come on!”

I instantly knew this was a bad plan, and opened my mouth to say so, when my dad reappeared at the window and said,

“Don’t even think about it!”

“How does he do that?”  was Bruce’s whispered lament.

We were skunked.  We had to eat the whole thing or suffer my father’s ire, and so we sat there and…




Each bite we took felt like a rock in our bellies.  I looked at my tummy and it was pouched out just like his.   Silently, I began to cry.  I wondered why I had wanted a whole leg in the first place.  Wouldn’t sharing have been the better thing?

Now it seemed that with each bite I took, I was piling up another stone in my belly.  I hurt.

I remember thinking that each bite lacked flavor, and in finishing those last bites I also realized that there would be no pumpkin pie with whipped cream for me that day.



I felt I was going to explode


That was over forty years ago, and to this day I have no real desire to eat turkey.  I haven’t spoken to Bruce in a very long time, but I am sure that he would remember that particular Thanksgiving vividly.

Was my father wrong to have done what he did?

Perhaps, but I forgave him a long time ago.   Now I look back on that day and laugh at my foolish greed.

Just don’t ask me to eat turkey.