Dueling Drumsticks: A Thanksgiving Story
Every family has their Thanksgiving stories. Whether it’s someone neglecting to take the giblets out of turkey before cooking it, or some relative partaking of too much wine over dinner and making a fool of themselves. After all, when the family gathers round, it’s where memories are made, right? Well here’s one of mine. Happy Thanksgiving!
By the second day after Thanksgiving, the sight of those half-eaten turkey legs made my brother Tom and I wish that we had never taken on the challenge. But by Saturday, our mother’s words haunted us: “If you take a drumstick, you have to eat the entire thing. Nobody wastes food in this house.”
At the time, the conquest seemed manageable. After all, we were hungry. As with most Thanksgivings, the smells and culinary sights of the day’s preparation had all of us salivating by the time we sat down at the table. Tom took the first leg, plunking the barbaric entree on to the holiday china with a “thunk.” The thing didn’t really even fit on his plate, the bony foot hung off the edge; the meaty top left little room for any other once-a-year recipes.
Siblings are funny when it comes to situations like this. While traditionally a white meat lover, the sight of my younger brother commandeering one of the biggest portions from the turkey platter gave rise to my rivalry. When that big plate of meat came my way I plucked the other turkey leg from the pile.
Gloating at Tom from across the finely laced dining room table, I” thunk”ed the other drumstick down on my plate like the starting gong to a challenge.
It didn’t take Mom long to see what was happening. “Thomas and Kathleen (proper names spell trouble) those drumsticks are far too much for you. Why don’t you share one?” Now for anyone who has siblings, negotiations with the word “share” in them are immediately rebuffed.
“I can eat it all!” Tom and I rang out at the same moment. As I recall, Mom backed down quickly, although in hindsight it was probably more about the presence of Thanksgiving company than her belief that either one of us could finish a drumstick that size.
“Okay, but you will eat the entire thing. If you don’t finish it tonight, expect it for breakfast and lunch tomorrow.” Permission granted! It truly was Thanksgiving!
Of course, after mounds of mashed potatoes and stuffing, piles of green bean salad, and enough cranberries to fill a bog, neither of us had taken more than five bites from the turkey’s limb. Clearing the table after dinner, Mom instructed me to put the legs aside and attach a twist tie to the bottom of mine, to help identify it.
Huh?! Wouldn’t the leftover meat from these drumsticks go into the collective pile for future turkey sandwiches, turkey tacos, and turkey stir-fry? She nonchalantly said, “I was serious when I told you and Tom that you would finish those drumsticks.”
Later that night, Mom was gracious enough to allow us to enjoy the delectable desserts the feast had to offer. However, at breakfast the next day as everyone sat down to scrambled eggs and bacon, Tom arid I stared unbelieving at our cold, barely eaten drumsticks.
If properly translated, our side-glances would have gone something like: “She can’t be serious. This must be some lesson she’s trying to teach us. She’s just serving everyone else first, but after she’s made her point, she’ll give us some of the regular breakfast chow.”
It never happened. Instead it became one of our family’s Thanksgiving stories. Remember the Thanksgiving when you and Tom took those turkey legs and Mom made you eat them for days?
As I recall, neither one of us finished our drumsticks. Mom eventually caved in as most many parents do in food standoffs that last for days, finally submitting to the guilt that your child might be starving as you make your point. Even today, the sight of a turkey leg conjures up that Thanksgiving memory. And while I still can’t bring myself to eat one, the sight of a drumstick does make me smile.
Thanksgiving Day has a way of creating these kinds of memories. When family and friends are gathered round, and food and drink are shared, the fodder for good stories is as rich as the pumpkin pie. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. And I’m thankful for that!