Some of my favorite memories as a child were from Thanksgiving. Laughing, playing, watch football, and eating. In our crazy family, there were a few constant conversations that the family discussed year after year. Who was the best quarterback of all times? The great debate that lasted hours Phil Simms or Jeff Hostetler. The bickering on how the turkey should be cooked and the fight over who is going to eat the neck and the butt. Who’s carving the turkey, are the knife’s sharp or if the gravy is being made correctly? Or who would host Thanksgiving next year. Important matters in our family. I always stayed out of the great family debate taking it all in.
My favorite part of Thanksgiving Day was always when my sweet grandmother, “Ganny” told her “Turkey Story” as my family called it. It always started with a setup, earlier in the day, when one of my parents or my aunts or uncles would come tell the kids to go ask Ganny to tell the “Turkey Story”. My grandmother was an awesome storyteller and never left out a detail in any story. Everyone would stop what they were doing and gather around her to listen as she told her “Turkey Story”.
Ganny would light up when one of us would ask her to tell it to us. She would try to tell us that we’ve heard it a million times and we didn’t need to hear the story again. Someone would say to her, but so and so never heard the story. She would give in and tell us the story year after year and no one ever was tired of hearing it.
The whole family would gather around her right before she told her story. Listening to the story intently. All of us, hanging on each of her words. She always captivated us and drew us deep into the story as if we were there with her recounting the moments. I remember feeling unfulfilled at times listening to the story and always wanting to know more, having more questions than answers. Trying to make sense of it in our 20th-century world.
As a young child, I was always fascinated with the fact that she grew up in a time with no televisions and that she would listen to radio shows for entertainment. That her parents didn’t have a car. She had four sisters and one brother. Her father passed away and her mother worked hard to raised all the children herself. They lived in a two bedroom, one bathroom apartment in New York City.
Years before she was born her parents came to America in search of a better life. Her parents both come over to America by boat and went through Ellis Island in New York City. Our family has visited Ellis Island to see their names on the wall. My grandmother’s parents met in New York City, married and had children.
“When my grandmother was a teenage girl, her and her four sisters took the subway train to a Thanksgiving Dance. At the dance, there was some kind of raffle and at the end of the night the winner was announced. My grandmother’s name was announced, she won the prize. She was very excited and thought it was going to be some kind of gift basket.
One of the men working the dance came out from the back with a live turkey and handed it to my grandmother. She was surprised and shocked. The men told her it was her prize for winning the raffle. She asked the men how she was going to get it home. The turkey was not in a of box or bag. She had to hold the turkey in her arms all the way home.
My grandmother and her sister walked through the streets of New York City and brought the live turkey with them on the subway train. My grandmother said she was so proud that she won something she was so afraid to let the turkey go it may fly away. Could you imagine all the crazy looks they got?
She said when they arrived at our New York apartment she asked her mother what she should do with it and her mother said, put it in the bathroom. My grandmother put the live turkey in the bathroom and shut the door. They lived in a 2 bedroom high rise and didn’t have a yard. She said they were afraid to go to the bathroom because the turkey would peck at them when they used the bathroom. They were scared to open the door, they didn’t want to let it out. She said by the time Thanksgiving arrived that poor turkey was so skinny”…
At that point, she had all of us laughing, and two of her sisters would chime in, adding their parts to the story. I’m not sure if her family ate that turkey on Thanksgiving. That question was never asked.
Fast forward a few decades, and I have followed in my grandmother’s footsteps. I won a fresh, organic 16-pound turkey last year. Just like my grandmother. However, my turkey was cleaned, in a bag, and ready to be cooked. I didn’t have to lock the turkey in the bathroom till Thanksgiving. My grandmother would be so proud!
Does your family have a Thanksgiving Storytelling Tradition? A Story that is told year after year or a favorite family story?