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TALKIN’ TURKEY

Holiday Dinner with the FamilyI

I wonder if it would be socially acceptable to dump my family and invite myself to eat the holiday feast with the Johnsons, total strangers who live around the bend  … ‘cause I don’t think I can take another year with my over-zealous politically-inclined relatives. And I predict this year will be a doozy!

Besides, I hear the Johnsons are politically-apathetic. So what if the cooking is bland? I can picture my surrogate relations now – they’ll have mellow yellow candles glowing in each window. Zen music will be coming from every orifice of their walls. Maybe all they’ll argue about over dinner is the wishbone.

In our family, we have an Chef a ‘la Attitude, who hands out meticulously printed menus to each of the twenty dinner guests seated at the long table. His recipes are so confidential, even the Secret Service can’t break the code. Except for the caucus … I mean, carcass. That’s a given! “Kill bird – cook bird – eat bird,” says our gun-toting Uncle Samuel ready to stab the poor unpardoned thing with his fork.

Don’t get me wrong, we were very grateful for the food we were about to receive: corn bisque with red bell pepper and rosemary soup, brussel sprouts with pecans, baked spiced butternut squash drizzled with pure maple syrup, en salada miste verde, and of course, the main course, crispy roasted applejack tarragon turkey with mushroom bacon leek stuffing.

But at the last gathering, I knew trouble was a brewing when I saw renderings of elephants and donkeys on the backs of the carte du jour. And the alcohol and appetizers was the precursor for the mix of high strung personalities and a melding of different generations

Ahh, a family with diverse political appetites, I write about in my run-on-sentence, including:  the “I’m-gonna-save-the-world” United Nations human rights attorney nephew; his brother, the liberal elitist New York Times journalist; the pompous English professor; the protesting, but creative nieces and nephews in the music business; the high school sophomore  who thought he could apply for his higher education at the Electoral College; the “what-am-I-gonna-do-now?” recent Ivy League college grad student;  and the peace-making surfer dude, who says, “You know, it doesn’t matter who’s in office, the cycle of political eras just go up and down … you gotta ride ‘em out like a wave, man … you just gotta ride ‘em out.”

There’s the identical twin sisters, Aunt Franny from Philly, who always wears those crazy hats, and her sister Flo, from LA, who only eats organic foods like African plant roots. I think last year she brought her own tree to the table. And, of course, I can’t forget the spinster, Cousin Zoey, the vegan, who lives on beans and garlic. There’s usually an empty chair next to hers. She goes into great detail about how she “cleanses the toxins from her body” the day after big holiday meals.

So, who planned Thanksgiving and Christmas time so close together, anyway? We JUST saw these people! We start out very polite; everyone attempts to skirt around the political issues at hand. I recall in the year 2000 (which seemed like such a futuristic date at the time), we turned into the Hatfields and the McCoys. A good old-fashioned food fight would have been more civilized between the staunch Republicans versus the resilient Democrats. I had wished there were no utensils within anyone’s reach. Looking back, the chit chat seems so harmless now, arguing over the dimpled and absentee ballots at the time rather than the Russians and nuclear weapons we now face. Someone had suggested if the ballots were printed like Bingo cards, they never would have counted wrong!

But everyone was eating in between the discussion, except for the vegan who started to cry.  “I can’t eat this poor turkey! Isn’t it bad enough they had to walk around their entire lives with those stupid red things hanging from their necks?” There was silence between gulping. “And what about animal rights?”

“Animal rights? What’s that?” Great Aunt Millie from Brooklyn asked, innocently. She reminisced. “I remember the old days on Mulberry Street. We were sooo poor back then. There were stables across the street from where we lived, and whenever a horse died, they would just put it out by the curb until someone would come and take it away. I once sat on a dead horse when I was little, eating my sandwich.”

“I think I’m gonna be sick!” The vegan bolted from the table. Brussel sprouts rolled everywhere. Again … silence.

“Did I ever tell you about the time Uncle Tooty bit the ear off a dog?”

‘Shut up!” someone blurted.

“At least we got off the subject of politics,” the host said pleasantly.

Then, the leftover hippie from the 60s spoke up. “The last time I voted was in 1976 for Jimmy Carter.” Uh-oh. I knew that wouldn’t sit right with the rich bastard Cuban-cigar smokin’ Uncle from the gold coast. The food was passed around abruptly. To say there was a lot of clattering is an understatement.

The wide-eyed “Why-is-the-sky-blue?” little ones watched the adults as if it was a tennis match. One of the youngest asked, “What is a gravy boat, anyway?”

“I don’t know, but it sure is starting to thicken!” someone said.

“Why are you all fighting?”  Little Bobby asked.

“We’re not fighting, Bobby. We’re having a discussion. A debate, if you will.”

This year, I can only imagine when the main platter, the “head honcho” will take center stage on the dining room table – The Big Orange Bird.

Good Luck, America. Gotta love it!

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Published by Janet Berg

Janet Lee Berg is a novelist and a blogger, who is known for her freelance writing on the east end of Long Island, NY, including Dan’s Papers. Keep an eye out for the release of her upcoming novel Rembrandt’s Shadow, a Holocaust-related story about Sylvie Rosenberg, the privileged daughter of a prominent Dutch art dealer, who never knows her father’s love until the day he trades his beloved Rembrandt to the Nazis in exchange for her life.

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