Sunday, November 30, 2014

Randy Seaver's SNGF: Thanksgiving Memories

Every Saturday Randy Seaver over at Genea-Musings blog throws out a challenge to other bloggers called SNGF or Saturday Night Genealogy Fun. The topics are usually an attractive ploy to this blogger so I have to resist dropping what I'm doing and whip up a post. This week I just have to succumb to his bait and do it because he's challenged us to recall and blog about one of our Thanksgiving memories. So Randy, here's my Thanksgiving Memory.

I have a lot of good memories from childhood Thanksgiving feasts but I want to blog about another kind of Thanksgiving. I remember this one in particular because it always reminds me of the deep human need to establish community and form a family of choice no matter where we go and how far from home it is.

In 1988 we had just moved to Florida and the beautiful west coast resort island of Marco Island. The population swelled to 10,000 in the winter tourist season but was less than half that in the hot steamy summer months. Thanksgiving was one of the last holidays to be celebrated by the locals before the winter visitors descended in mass. By Christmas you could feel the difference at the local supermarkets because the check out lines were longer and the prices higher.

We moved to Marco in the spring, just as snow birds went back north, and by fall we had a whole army of new friends. Everyone there was from somewhere else and had moved to warmer climates for health or just to retire. People made new friends with a greater ease than I'd ever seen before. It seemed that all it took was one diner out and you had a new set of best friends. A group of about a dozen or more of us were the new Rat Pack. We went to every concert, every special event, and hosted parties like only those new to a group of friends can manage.

We ladies fixed it that instead of having small Thanksgiving meals on our own we'd do it together. Two o'clock in the afternoon satisfied those whose tradition was a mid-day meal as well as those whose custom was to eat at a later hour. Drinks upon arrival with finger food, and then the big feast a bit later. Our new best friends Jeanie and Bob were hosting. It was settled with enthusiasm and plenty of laughter.

On Thanksgiving morning we awoke to a thin layer of ice on the pool! Icicles had formed on the gutters and it looked more like Massachusetts than Florida! The novelty added to the festive nature of the day.

Jeanie, who had somehow escaped cooking a turkey all of her married life until this point had gotten volunteered by Bob. Jeanie kept saying, "I can't believe he did that," which didn't make it less so. I spent the afternoon before Thanksgiving at her house prepping the turkey, mixing up enough stuffing for an army, and and giving pep talks as well as spouting things my mother taught me about turkeys. The glasses of wine helped a lot. Jeanie seemed ready for the task.

Remember me mentioning the ice on the pool and gutters? Well it proved too much for the delicate nature of the county's electrical grid. Jeanie was to put the gigantic turkey in to roast at 9 AM promptly, and she did. At about 9:45 the electricity went out. My phone rang immediately and all I could think to do was tell her to keep the oven door closed. At any cost, just keep it closed and pray to the cooking gods. At a few moments after 10 the power sprang to life and we were back cooking again. Then 25 minutes later it went out again but for only 10 minutes. And so it went all the morning and into the afternoon.

Guests began arriving just after 2, and the bird was still cooking and it smelled great. Jeanie and I and a few of the ladies who were known to be the best cooks huddled in the kitchen while Bob and his guys poured as much libation as was decent to at that hour.

Not everyone knew what was going on. There were those few in the know and had been sworn to secrecy and those who knew nothing. By the time all had arrived along with their offerings of nibbles, side dishes, salads, and deserts, the consensus was that the turkey was probably done. Probably. Well, maybe. Someone ran back home to fetch a meat thermometer so we could know how much trouble we were in and if we'd be waiting until 7 or 8 that night to sit down to the feast. Meanwhile power was going out with increasing regularity. The candles in every room made a lovely glow while four women fretted in the kitchen. Gosh, that big turkey looked good and smelled good, but was it raw inside? We waited as long as we could, opened the door and stuck in the meat thermometer. It was broken!!

By 3:30-ish all had arrived and it was time to get going and serve the bird. It was a gigantic creature. But was it fully cooked? And what of the stuffing? One of the older ladies who had raised a large family pushed up to the bird, grabbed a big bowel and a gigantic spoon and went mining for stuffing with gusto and confidence. When her head rose out of the fragrant steam of the bird's inner regions, she pronounced for those crowded close in that the big bird was indeed done to perfection! Hurrah!

By this time there were plenty of empty wine bottles and a few scotch glasses as well. Our appetites were primed and everything smelled wonderful. The turkey was brought to the table for carving with pomp and revelry, and Bob carved it like the master of the manor that he was. (Hmm. Was that why he volunteered Jeanie to cook the bird?) All praised Jeanie and her deft handling of the big magnificent Turkey.

To this day I don't know if it was the best turkey of all times... or whether that was the wine talking. It was a rousing success and we all had a happy fun day and evening. It was a memorable Thanksgiving.

By the next year Maury had been taken by complications of diabetes and his wife moved back up north to live with the kids. Paul and Mary sold their business to their son and moved away. We only stayed two more years before we moved to San Diego. That Thanksgiving was like a moment out of time.  Gosh, that bird really was tasty!

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