Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Keeping the Thanks in Thanksgiving

by Suzanne Wiley, volunteer contributor

Quite a few years ago, fresh out of college and in my first house without roommates, I decided to host Thanksgiving. Instead of a boozy Friendsgiving of holidays past, I was going to invite distant relatives who lived in the area. My plan was to serve all the traditional Thanksgiving fare—turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole and pecan pie. Never in my life had I attempted such a spread. I knew I could make mac and cheese, heat spaghetti sauce and order a mean pizza, but roasting a turkey? I wasn’t so sure. In my mind, it couldn’t be that hard, could it? After all, I had watched various family members roast turkeys for 20-some years. It still made me nervous, so I was relieved when one relative—lets call her Kimnay*—offered to bring the turkey. I was delighted! That way I was going to be able to focus on the sweet potato casserole recipe I found and taking a Marie Callender pie out of its box.

As one who has a preparedness mindset with the philosophy that it is better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it, I ordered a small smoked turkey breast from a gourmet meat company. If anything, I could use it for sandwiches or send it home with my guests in doggie bags.

I woke up early on that memorable Thanksgiving morning eager to start my preparations and cooking. I wanted the house warm and smelling as if I had slaved over my oven since before the sun rose. My guests started to arrive and things started without a hitch. My timing was spot on with juggling my casseroles, potatoes and rolls in my small oven. When Kimnay finally showed up, she carried in a big roasting pan covered in foil that looked like it housed a decent 10 pounder. Knowing nothing about turkeys—it sure appeared that this one would feed an army! To keep it warm, we put it in the bottom rack and I continued finishing the rest of the nosh.

The time finally came to lay out the spread. The turkey—always the star of the show—I had left to present last. After arranging all the steamy sides, I went to the oven for the giant bird Kimnay had so graciously cooked and brought. I gently laid the roasting pan down on its rightful spot in the middle of the dining table and anxiously pulled back the foil, ready to carve the succulent, delicious fowl. The foil, pulled back and removed exposed an empty, rounded ribcage, two legs—in tact—and browned wings.

It did not cross my mind to question how Kimnay had so cleanly removed the meat without breaking the bird’s chest cavity; it didn’t take me put a few seconds to burst out laughing. This was a joke, right? I exclaimed, “Well this is funny!” When I looked over at Kimnay and saw she wasn’t smiling, my good humor was lost in an instant. Where was the breast meat? Was this some new way to carve and serve a turkey?

“Kimnay,” I asked. “Where is the white meat?” Straight-faced, Kimnay replied, “Oh. I left the good parts at home.” She was dead serious.

Kimnay had cooked her turkey, removed the white meat and purposely left it at her house. In the fridge. 50 miles away.

Kimnay had brought me a turkey carcass.

Thankfully, I am a ready-minded person. We all got a slice of turkey breast instead of having to fight over the two legs and wings left of our Thanksgiving turkey.

Now, admittedly, I was devastated, in shock and in mild disbelief at the time. My good humor did not return that afternoon. However, two good things did come of that Thanksgiving. One of those distant relatives who attended and I have become close friends—and no it is not Kimnay—and now I have a hilarious, horribly true story that will never get too old to tell over and over again.

Some may say that Kimnay’s actions were crazy. And they slightly were. Nevertheless, that day was not a full loss. I thoroughly enjoy telling the story now and it makes everyone laugh every time.

I am convinced that every family is a little bit nuts. You can choose to be frustrated, grumpy and argumentative. Or you can choose to embrace their quirkiness. I mean, after all, you are one of them. Love them for their zany antics; embrace the friendly rivalry when they root for the Eagles. Even give them the last piece of white meat.

Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D has studied gratitude for over 10 years. Through scientific research him and his University of California Davis team concludes that being grateful
  • Boosts our immune system
  • Makes us more resilient to tragedy
  • Helps us feel less physical pain
  • Lowers our blood pressure
  • Gives us more joy
  • Creates resistance to stress
  • Fosters compassion

I challenge you—before sitting down with the family on Thursday—to take a few minutes and make a mental list of things you are thankful for. Your list doesn’t have to include huge things either for it to improve your mood. It can be as simple as, “I am thankful I woke up this morning,” or “I’m thankful I got a kiss from my dog.”

There are many in the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex that will be affected by disasters and suffer loss this holiday season. They will struggle with finding reasons to be thankful. To learn how you can help, visit The American Red Cross http://www.redcross.org/support.

*Names have been changed to protect the guilty.

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