I have fathered a teen turkey.
My boy turned up his nose at nearly everything but the dinner rolls and cheese potato casserole on Thanksgiving, muttering EWWWW every fifteen seconds. Mir and I put together a real nice spread for the four of us — turkey, cheese potato casserole, green bean casserole, corn casserole, stuffing (very wet, the way I like it), mandarin orange salad, cranberries, pumpkin pie, apple pie, and rolls (of course). The kid snubbed it, in one of those contrary moods where it takes a lot of restraint to keep from tying him to his chair and forcing food down his throat.
It took a lot of patience to put up with his mocking interruption as I tried to read the Psalm that Alyssa had copied down on cards and put at our place setting. He did everything he could to agitate as I gave a little speech about looking at what God has provided, being thankful that we have what we need, take some time focusing on being thankful for what we have instead of not having all that we want. The boy has a lot of growing up to do.
Pardon me for a moment. There is some turkey calling my name. Be right back.
Two days later, the turkey and stuffing is still delish. Scrumptious. And the kid is begging us to take him to Burger King. He badgered Mir into it last night, a smirk on his face when he got home as he ate his BK in front of me. I had said no, that the kid should eat leftovers like everyone else. My wife and I come from two different approaches to parenting.. and also to marriage. In the house I grew up in, you ate what the rest of the family was eating or you starved. It was a sound financial approach, common sense in more than one way. In my house, if Dad said ‘no’ then that was the answer.
I think I will have another bite of stuffing.
Mir is out with friends tonight. The boy is insisting on Burger King. I said no, that there is turkey and leftovers in the fridge. He will go hungry until his mother gets home and gives in again.
I wish I remember more about what I was like when I was fourteen years old. I do not remember being like my son because I wasn’t like my son. Thanksgiving was always spent with my Mom’s family, my cousins, at my grandparents’ house. The stuffing I make is the same that my grandmother made, laced with a ton of black pepper, soaked with broth and full of onions sautéed in butter. Grandma, Mom, and Aunt Sandra worked feverishly in the kitchen getting the food ready while my Dad supervised my brother Mark and cousin Phil while we set up the tables and chairs, then watched the Thanksgiving day parade on TV. Grandpa sat in his recliner, packed Borkum Riff in his pipe and smoked it. Every once in a while my grandmother came into the living room to frown at him. She hated that pipe. It has been years, but I still remember the smells of the food melding with the sweet scent of the pipe tobacco, the conversation of the working women wafting in from grandma’s kitchen with the food.
Grandma always made sure she made at least two banana cream pies, my favorite, the meringue a treat with the creamy banana filling. I could eat one of those pies all by myself and I usually tried to do just that. Pies were a plenty with most varieties available — apple, cherry, peach, pumpkin. The feast was always plentiful, part of the day, and we ate all day, even as we played cards and board games, or watched TV with grandpa. At one point during the day, Grandpa set up his big reel to reel tape recorder and all of the grandchildren were asked to give a little speech.
I always had to say SPIT at some point during my speech and my cousin Jenny’s speech.
And at some point during the afternoon, after the dishes were done and the food moved from the dining room to the kitchen table, Mom played grandma’s piano while we all sang along. I always asked her to play my favorite hymn, “At Calvary”, and I usually got to solo during the chorus, the reason I always requested the song.
♫ Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty
That song always seemed perfect to me.
One Thanksgiving, my uncle Willie got leave from his Army duty to spend Thanksgiving with us. Willie had the best singing voice ever and I still can hear him sing “The Green Beret” for us.
I wonder if my son could go back in time, take my place for a while at that card table with my cousins, eat the best Thanksgiving food ever, he might just appreciate not only the food but also the time with family a bit better. We had a good time together last Thursday, don’t get me wrong, but the boy definitely has not learned to love this holiday like I did growing up. For him the holiday is more about going out shopping for early Black Friday deals, maybe play some games with Alyssa and I, watch a little football. It makes me sad that he is not learning to experience the best that the holiday has to offer.
He will grow up, mature beyond the fourteen year old angst. I do wish he had the same opportunities to share family holidays in the same way I did, but our situation is different, his cousins older and much farther away. In a lot of ways, I am sad for him. He is missing what I consider the best part of life — time with extended family.
And that really is what holidays are about.