I go to bed certain my mom will forget to brine the turkey.
When the call comes at 7:30 a.m. the next morning, I’m already awake, having driven Erin to the airport an hour before. She says, “I really screwed up,” and I know what’s coming. The turkey isn’t brined.
“I forgot to add the preserves to the cranberry sauce and ruined it. Can you go to the store and buy some more?”
Oh. Is that it?
I’m being loud. I’m always loud, especially at my mother’s house. I don’t expect to be shushed. It happens anyway.
“There are people sleeping upstairs.”
People? What people? I have to cook and deal with house guests? This was so not part of the plan. I spend until noon answering questions from a thirteen year old I’ve never met, wondering if it really is too early to start drinking.
Things are going well. There’s a turkey breast in the oven at my grandmother’s, and the full bird in the oven at my mom’s. My friend Christine comes over to get a glass of wine – her family is having dinner just down the street – and I start to tell her how insane our Thanksgivings usually are.
The oven starts beeping.
And shuts off.
We head down to the garage, flip the breakers to cycle the power and turn the oven back on. A minute later, beeping and shutting off. Again. The turkey only has a half hour left, I think. Just let it go. We can finish it at my grandmother’s if we have to. And cook the stuffing and sweet potatoes there too, somehow. It’ll work.
I stay zen for a full twenty minutes. Then the oven starts working again.
My mom, of course, does not have a meat thermometer. I walk over to my grandmother’s (for the third time) to get one of hers. I bring Christine so she can say hello. I storm in, say I can’t stick around, grab a thermometer, and bring Christine upstairs to my grandfather for a quick hello.
“Christine,” he says, “I have a picture of your grandmother I wanted to show you, but I haven’t found it yet.”
“We have to go, grandpa.”
“You have to go. Christine can stay.”
We cut the legs and wings off of the turkey and carve only the two breasts. There are, Hallelujah, compliments and good cheer over the bird. The dinner goes great. Everything, on the whole, has gone great.
Leftovers get packed, and people notice that we never served the wings or legs. One by one, people approach me and say the same thing.
“Next year, why don’t we just cook a turkey breast?”