Every Thanksgiving as we sit around the table enjoying the turkey and all the trimmings, the Hubs and I reflect on the day. One of us will inevitably say, “Well, at least it wasn’t the worst Thanksgiving ever.” Then we’ll chuckle and smile and share the story all over again.
This is NOT the perfect turkey I expected to find on my first Thanksgiving without family. (Photo source: Flickr, Sharon Mollerus, cc-by-2.0)
The Hubs was stationed with the Second Armor Division at Fort Hood, TX, that year. We had celebrated our first wedding anniversary in September, and the Older One was just three months old. This was our first Thanksgiving without family…at least without immediate blood relations. The Army was our family now, so when the Hubs’ captain extended the invitation to join his wife and their two small children for a Thanksgiving lunch, we accepted.
We were just getting ready to leave our little apartment for the meal, when the phone rang. I listened as the Hubs said a few “Yes, Sirs” into the phone. After hanging up, he told me our plans had changed. We would not be having a Thanksgiving lunch after all.
The captain’s wife had taken the turkey out of the freezer the night before, he said, and was baffled that the bird was still frozen when she got up that morning to start preparing it for our feast. The new plan called for football at the captain’s house while the turkey roasted, and instead of an early lunch, we’d eat mid-afternoon.
Mid-afternoon came and went. By 2:00, the bird was still frosty and hadn’t yet seen the inside of the oven.
The captain and the Hubs’ made a quick trip into post to visit with the enlisted soldiers during their holiday meal while the wife and I made small talk and snacked on half a box of stall crackers and overly sweet wine coolers. My baby napped, and I mentally calculated if I’d brought enough formula and diapers to get us through dinner…that is if we ever had dinner.
Around 4:00, the turkey finally made it into the oven. The Hubs and the captain returned, and we all waited.
Finally, at 7:00, the captain made the first slice into our Thanksgiving turkey only to find that the meat inside was raw. By then, the side dishes were growing cold, and we were all too frustrated to wait on the bird. The captain carved up a few of the cooked pieces and served the cranky kids while his wife finished off the raw pieces in the microwave.
The Hubs and I juggled our sleepy baby between us while we gnawed the rubbery poultry, and as soon as was socially acceptable, we made our escape.
We had survived the worst Thanksgiving ever and lived to tell the tale…over and over and over again for more than 20 years. And over and over again we laugh at the mistake that set off that worst of the worst—a frozen turkey that someone didn’t know enough to take out of the freezer well in advance of the big day.
That someone was a young wife and mother, not much older than I was at the time. I imagine she was excited about the prospect of hosting her first Thanksgiving and about offering her hospitality to a young couple alone for the holiday.
She probably went to the commissary the day before full of anticipation about the recipes she would share with me. She probably spent more time than necessary selecting the perfect produce and agonized over how big that infamous bird should be. I imagine she was horrified the next morning to find it still as solid as it was the night before.
I’m pretty sure the reason we were not notified of the schedule change until it was too late for us to change our plans is because our hostess was busy praying to the culinary gods for some kind of Thanksgiving miracle to save the perfect day she had planned.
In her shoes, I would have been mortified to confess my cooking inadequacies to my guests. I would have repeatedly excused myself from the tense conversation with the lieutenant’s wife to check on the turkey, knowing I really just wanted to hide in the kitchen and cry.
I sincerely hope that captain’s wife looks back on that Thanksgiving and laughs like the Hubs and I do. We may call it “Our Worst Thanksgiving Ever”, but if the worst thing that happens on Thanksgiving is a frozen turkey, I’d say we had it pretty good.
We had nowhere else to go, and no one to spend the holiday with until virtual strangers opened their home to us. That may actually be the best thing that has ever happened to us on Thanksgiving. We may not have had a perfectly prepared meal all those years ago, but we had a place to go for the holiday, and for that I am thankful.
Hopefully, that Thanksgiving didn’t prevent the captain’s wife from trying again the next year. I hope right now, she is preparing for this year’s feast with her grown children and maybe even some colleagues her husband met at the office.
I also hope she has remembered to take the turkey out of the freezer!