Fly High, Free Bird: My Daughter and Me and Our Thanksgiving TurkeySerge Bielanko
A sliver here or there at Thanksgiving is all, really. Nothing special.
No wide plates brimming with dark meat schooners in a bay of gravy.
No medieval photo-op drumsticks the size of her head.
No turkey food comas lulling her to over to the couch and off to Lala Land as the NFL does it’s same old thing in the distant background.
Violet is nearly four, but in terms of total turkey consumed, what she has ingested thus far in her short life could probably fit between two slices of white bread and barely qualify itself as a proud sandwich.
Never mind all of that though because Violet is really looking forward to her Thanksgiving turkey this year. I started talking it up to the kid about a month or so ago, when my wife let me know that, even though she wasn’t going to be downing an bird this year as a result of her new vegetarian-based diet, she still wanted Violet and our son Henry to have the full Monty.
The turkey, the stuffing, the mashed potatoes, all of it.
It didn’t take long to turn Violet on to the idea of us cooking and eating a turkey.
Right from the get-go she was on-board.
Still, I wanted to find a way to make it something at least a little bit special. I didn’t want it to be just another meal she ate and then completely forgot about, you know?
In years past, we’ve been over at other people’s houses for the holiday dinner so, in a way, the whole iconic Thanksgiving gobbler thing has been lost on my daughter. You know how it is; they do all of the work, all of the turkey shopping and thawing and preparation and then you just show up around noon, get half a buzz on, and wolf down the meat with a side of everything under the sun when it’s all ready.
There’s no attachment to the bird at all.
There’s no sense of propriety or partnership with the turkey who ended up in your gullet.
Is that a weird notion? I mean, I am eating a bird that died so I could eat it, right? I guess it might be strange to think of it in terms of something more than just a meal, but I’d like to think that there is a place for respect and admiration between us. I’d like to think that my daughter and my son could grow up thinkng a little bit about the fact that the turkey on the big table in front of them was a living thing once not very long ago at all.
Here he is, about to become part of us and yet: we never knew him at all; his hopes, his dreams.
Maybe he liked to peck at flies in the summertime heat. Maybe he was a troublemaker, bullying the other 30,000 turkeys in his barn around.
Perhaps he was a sad turkey.
He could have been wistful and forlorn. Maybe he stared off into the early morning sky and quietly wondered why fate had dealt him, of all turkeys, the most unwild uncool existence it possibly could.
It’d be easy to dismiss him as just another bird-brained domesticated oven roaster, but that seems unfair too. Plus, I don’t like to think of things that way. I like to imagine the story. Because, there’s always a story. But, whoever he might have been, we can never really know unless we raised him ourselves. And as for me and Violet, that just isn’t the case.
So, I’ve been doing the only thing I could think to do. I’ve been trying to let her in on the fact that Daddy is a really huge fan of turkeys (“It’s your favorite bird!”, she cries out). I’ve been mentioning to her that we are really lucky to have picked out this turkey at the grocery store, because this guy is perfect for us.
In my own bird-brained I’ve been trying to let her see that this turkey we are going to dress and clean and cook together on Thanksgiving morning was always more than a mafia hit wrapped in plastic and tossed into a meat locker.
He lived his life so that he could end up here, with us, I tell her. It’s weak, I know. That damn bird probably would change a lot about the way things turned out if only he could.
But, our lives have converged.
This turkey, my daughter, my son and my wife, the dogs…it is what it is.
And we’re all in this together now.
You can also find Serge on his personal blog, Thunder Pie.
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