WHY I LOVE TO COOK ON THANKSGIVING

Amidst all the fervor of Thanksgiving cooking specials, a friend suggested to me that, considering that I’m broke and my son’s girlfriend will be on the East Coast, and it will just be the two of us this year, perhaps I should just keep it simple and roast a nice chicken for the holiday. I explained that I really enjoy making turkey TV dinners freezing them and giving them to my son. Then I remembered that when I helped him move last summer I found several frozen homemade turkey TV dinners that had thought in his freezer when he turned off the fridge. So much for that idea…

His suggestion brought on something of a knee-jerk reaction and I couldn’t figure out why. Hours later it all came back to me.

37 years ago I was a lively, lusty, goofy and rather quirky theatre major. I absolutely loved my time at university because I pretty much did theater morning, noon and night. Whether it was taking dance and movement, acting in plays, building sets, running props or cramming for theatre history class. It was pretty much total immersion. I was in heaven.

I was 20 years old, an age where you are designed, by nature, to believe that you will not only live forever, but you are “untouchable”.

Having been a product of a somewhat strict Catholic upbringing (when it came to boys) while being immersed in the throes of the sexual revolution, college quickly became an incubator for my own sexual self discovery and enlightenment. I say “incubator”, because my enlightenment and self-awareness really came into full bloom after college. That wasn’t for want of trying however. Unfortunately, being as naive as I was, I had very little knowledge, if any, of gay men. Many of whom I happened to have crushes on, which of course was always ill-fated. I had no idea what a “beard” even was, let alone that I was one.

I suppose I was attracted to their kind and sensitive hearts. (Rather a stark contrast to my four brothers). I imagine they found me to be quite “saucy”. I even found myself in bed with one of them on occasion. Either I was just that good of a saleswoman, or they saw e as the “Final Frontier” before emerging from their closet.

I was also quite driven my desire to be an actress first and foremost. Not to mention the fact that I spent all my waking moment in the Fine Arts Center. Some days I was there from 9 a.m. until 2 a.m.

The farthest I ever strayed from the theatre department, was an organic chem major, who I’d met over the summer. He was two years my senior. I really liked him until he gave me a joint that had been soaked in hash oil, unbeknownst to me. I had a bad trip and was terrified. He was high and just laughed. Ya. I closed that door right after that night.

So when a flautist, who I knew to be straight (because he had a girlfriend that was away at the O’Neill Theatre Institute), started giving me special attention, it got my attention. I didn’t really know her, but he explained that they decided to play it “loosey goosey” while she was gone and pick up where they left off upon her return, if they both agreed. I believed him.

We became pretty obsessed with one another. He was also a couple of years older than me and as I recall, the sex was fun. We saw each other regularly, and before long, we felt like a couple and were somewhat inseparable, until…

One night I was hosting a cocktail party for a gathering of my closest friends. (I had the nickname “Chic Chicago Hostess” from the time I was a music student living in France. It was meant as a joke. ) I loved hosting parties and I love to cook. It’s nowhere near as glamorous as it sounds. The reason I was a great hostess is, I was typically too shy to go to other people’s’ parties. So I hosted my own and made they were usually unforgettable.

I’m standing in my living room with about 6 or 7 friends, quite pleased with myself, as I’m sporting a long black jersey dress with a scoop neck featuring my rather firm and plump poitrine. (French for boobs). My roommate from Texas, had three things that gave her great joy; 1.Dressing up and going to Rocky Horror Picture Show Saturday nights with her best gay friend, 2. Her vibrator. 3.Getting high with her gay friend and attacking her copy of the books “Joy of Sex” and “More Joy of Sex” with a box of crayons and wild abandon.

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On this particular occasion, I was standing behind the sofa and everyone had gathered round to laugh and/or marvel at their “colorized” illustrations from joy of sex.(Admittedly, it still didn’t make either one of these people look like someone you’d EVER want to have sex with.)

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Illustration form “Joy of Sex”. Notice the lack of color?

I was holding a glass of red wine in my hand as we were discussing the pics, when suddenly the room went black, my legs gave way and I was down for the count!

My best friend Paulie, later commented, saying, ” I was standing right next to you and suddenly you disappeared. I looked down and there you were, at my feet, in a heap on the floor for no apparent reason. It’s not like you had much to drink. You were sober!”

I woke up and before I could even figure out what just happened, I was vomiting up red wine all over the carpet. Paulie panicked thinking it was blood. He called for my roommate, Deb, to come to the rescue. Among her many talents she was also rather maternal. As is usually the case after vomiting, I felt better, just dazed and confused.

Now, keep in mind this was not only decades before Google, but decades before the internet! Hard to imagine… I had no idea why that happened. A friend suggested I take a pregnancy test.

Remember how I said earlier, that aside from crushing on a few gay men, I felt untouchable? When you find yourself at 20 years old, alone in your bathroom peeing in a cup (for a pregnancy test) you hold on to that mentality with a death grip! As I wait the obligatory 20 fucking minutes for the results, these words race through my head…
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“This is ridiculous! There’s no way that I could be pregnant! I’ve been on the pill for two years. No.. This can’t be happening. God knows better than to do something like that to a child or to me! I probably shouldn’t even be doing this test. This is silly. I’m being a drama queen. Life doesn’t work like this! You’re so goofy!!! Lol!”

I look at the little sterile cup (which came with the kit) containing the telltale pregnancy stick. I slowly pull it from the hormone infested urine.

POSITIVE!! WHAT?????? HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE? I’m on the pill! (I may have missed a day every once in a while) This must be a mistake! Cliche response. I know.

Remember how I said that the guy and I had become rather inseparable? That was until I became pregnant. Suddenly, he gets a call from his girlfriend and is planning to go back to her up. Her return. But he agrees to help pay for an abortion. What a guy!

(This is the point in my story which will no doubt cause a divide amongst my readers. You may wish to judge me. That’s your prerogative I guess. Knock yourself out! The way I see it, if I had made any other choice, I wouldn’t have my fantastic son who I absolutely adore, respect and admire. He is my best bud!)

Suddenly I felt like a child myself. I had nowhere to turn other than my friends who were no more savvy about these things than I was. Eventually I called my sister (4 years my senior) who was just about to give birth to her third child. She’s my only sister and as I dialed the phone, I was grateful to have her.

When I was in high school and I went to visit her in college, only to be met by one of her friends who lead me to a cafeteria where she was staging a “sit in” protesting that the University should have co-ed dorms. She wasn’t exactly a withering wallflower when it came to sexual matters. She was no help whatsoever. I got out the phone book and made some calls.

Btw, I’m not interested in turning this into a debate about abortion or discussions when life begins. I was 20 years old.

An abortion cost $200 in 1977. That was a lot of money for me.

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My mom had given me her old sheered beaver coat, which was a college graduation present to her from her parents decades before. I loved it and went everywhere in it as soon as they’re was a chill in the air! (I even snuck out of the house with my best friend on New Years Eve wearing a nightgown, the beaver coat, and ice skates!
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It was midnight when we decided to venture across the street to the nearby frozen creek to try doing the musical routine “sisters” from the movie, White Christmas, on ice!) I had a great deal of fondness for this coat.

I was in dire straits. Luckily for me, I guess, my roommate coveted it. I sold it to her. Paulie bought a very cool rhinestone belt, which mom had also given me. This allowed me to pay for my half of the abortion. The vanishing boyfriend/father, managed to come up with the other half.

My friend Paulie took me. I don’t recall how we got all the way to West Des Moines, IA, I think we cabbed it. Afterwards, he took me to a nice restaurant where I had a spinach salad and a few fresh strawberry daiquiris. I wanted to get drunk and stop the noise in my head.

I got through it and when I felt weepy, in a moment of weakness I reached out to my sister. BIG MISTAKE!

Thanksgiving was coming and I was looking forward to going home and just feeling like a dumb girl again. My sister had recently given birth to an adorable little girl and there was talk of my sister having the Christening over the holiday weekend, which meant everyone was going to Indianapolis. I didn’t have a car at school, but I got a ride from a guy who lived in a neighboring suburb. I was looking forward to Thanksgiving dinner even if it was going to be at my sisters. I thought the change of scenery might do me good as well.

I’d been in touch and told everyone that I got a ride home and would be joining them in Indianapolis.

When I arrived home that afternoon, the house was dark. At first I thought maybe somebody went to the store to run an errand. Then I checked the garage. The cars were gone. This was long before cellphones. I’m not quite sure what happens next. I think I called my sister and she said everyone was en route. I was really upset and asked why would they leave without me? She got stranded at first saying nobody knew I was coming or that I was late. When I refuted that, she blurted out that she did not want me at her daughter’s christening. And that God would probably punish me one day with a “disabled child”, if he even saw fit to give me a child. .Although “disabled” was not her choice of words.

I was devastated. I asked if she told mom and dad. She replied, saying she couldn’t because it would kill them.

I hated her!!! I quickly got off the phone and had a rather lengthy cry. When I finally recovered, I headed for the fridge to see what there was to eat. It was bare, something that rarely occurred. I don’t know what mom and dad were thinking I was going to eat. You can’t very well order out on Thanksgiving Day.

Then I said, “Fuck This!” I made my way into the family room where there was a well stocked bar. I found a bottle of Stoli, which was new at the time and very trendy. This was long before vodkas had come in as many flavors as ice cream.

I went back to the fridge and found a bottle of cranberry juice and two cold leftover egg rolls.

Our kitchen had a desk built into the formica countertops. Between the overhead cabinets and the surface of the desk was an intercom system which mom and dad were talked into adding when they built the house.

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The explanation given at the time was that we were 8 people and it should eliminate yelling for one another throughout the house. In truth, we often used it to spy on my parents or each other by turning the dial to “monitor”.

It also contained a radio. Mom was a big fan of classical music and I’ll send would turn it on and whatever room she was in.

I was a big fan of the irreverent Steve Dahl, a Chicago disc jockey who was famous for blowing up disco music at Comiskey Park.

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I pulled up a chair to the desk, along with a glass of ice, the cranberry juice, a bottle of Stoli, and to overly microwaved egg rolls. I got hammered. That was my Thanksgiving dinner.
imageI had no one to call. It was Thanksgiving and my friends would be with their families. Besides, I was humiliated and feeling like this was the wrath of God which I brought on myself.

Steve Dahl saved the day! I listened to his show for hours and he made me laugh out loud, all alone in that big house! That may be one of the reasons I hold comedians in such high esteem. In my estimation, being able to make someone laugh is a noble deed.

Eventually, I somehow ended up talking to the guy who drove me home. He was younger than me. He came over late that night and I think we made out, extensively. (Which I had no business doing because he thought it might happen again. Wrong!)

I don’t remember much more about that weekend other than I hightailed it out of there as quickly as possible. I was hurt and angry and felt no connection to my siblings or parents, once again. I couldn’t believe they could be so cruel and figured that I must be a pretty awful person to warrant this kind of behavior from them. There was never an apology or explanation offered other than “We had to get on the road and your sister didn’t want you there. Didn’t anyone wonder what I was going to do all alone in the house for dinner? That’s just weird to me.

So this is my very long-winded reason for wanting to cook a turkey on Thanksgiving.

In spite of all the bizarre turns my life has taken in the past couple years, I am so grateful to be singing again. We’re it not for all the challenges in currently facing, I never would have gained an understanding of the Law of Attraction or Napoleon Hill. Nor would I have gained the amount of courage that I’d like to believe I’ve acquired in the past year. (Then again, maybe I’m just batshit crazy!)

As I immerse myself in Thanksgiving cooking shows, almost ad nauseam, I can’t help but wonder if other countries around the world have a feast day devoted to gratitude. Let’s face it, that’s what Thanksgiving is all about. What began as an attempt to gloss over how we decimated the Native Americans, has morphed into a beautiful celebration of thanks! I love that!

I haven’t seen or spoken to any of my sibs in several years. I’m okay with that. I’m more than okay with it. I’m grateful. I believe in my heart, that’s how it’s supposed to be. The love and sense of connection that I feel with my son far exceeds that of all my five sibs combined. That’s a blessing.

This year Anuja will be visiting some of school chums from India, on the East Coast. So it we’ll be just me and Mike. So I’ll be teaching him how to cook a Thanksgiving dinner. We both love to cook.So this will be a milestone. We’ll celebrate with Nuji upon her return, and dinner will actually be on time! 🙂

I have been accumulating groceries for the day. The coup de gras? A frozen turkey from TARGET for .49 a lb! So i bought a 20 lb turkey. I think that’s a riot! Who knew Target Sold Turkeys?
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Yet another blessing…

Happy Thanksgiving!!! If you have a holiday devoted to gratitude, I’d love to hear about it!!!

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