Friday, December 2, 2011


Of all the months in the calendar December has always been my favourite. As a child it meant the imminent arrival of absolutely the best day of the year: Christmas Day. I don’t remember how old I was when I first became aware of Christmas but I certainly recall my initial amazement at discovering that presents had somehow magically arrived as I slept.

I was so taken with this marvel that every morning for the next few weeks I would wake up and tiptoe into our living room, cautiously optimistic that whatever magic had worked this miracle during the early hours of December 25th would somehow repeat itself.

Each Christmas of my childhood came replete with its unique memories and anecdotes. The year our youngest brother was no more than 4 and decided to give us each the only present he could afford: a box of Chiclets. Or the year our dog apparently thought, “What a fabulous convenience! An indoor tree!” Thank goodness for store exchange policies or I never would have been able to wear that sweater from Mom.

Of all those holidays at home though, the one that immediately springs to mind was the year of the great “Turkey Tragedy.” As she had done so many times before, our mother purchased a huge, plump bird several weeks in advance and put it away carefully in the freezer. On Christmas Eve it was removed and allowed to defrost in anticipation of its ultimate roasting the next day.

First thing Christmas morning it was lovingly stuffed, seasoned and put into the oven. Ah, the aromas that we anticipated – the mouthwatering succulence of that first slice danced in our heads. Just like the goose eventually enjoyed by the Cratchit family in “A Christmas Carol,” our turkey would be something to remember for months to come. Off we went to frolic in the Christmas snow in joyful anticipation of our coming feast.

Now I may be wrong, but I don’t believe the overwhelming stench that greeted our noses upon returning from a walk in the crisp winter air was ever mentioned in Mr. Dickens’ book. At first we hoped that perhaps something had just fallen on the element inside the oven and the smell would soon vanish. Hours passed but no amount of evergreen, peppermint stick or wishful thinking could conceal the unfortunate truth that something was terribly wrong with Mr. Turkey.

We carefully extracted him from the oven, lifted the lid off the pan and tried in vain not to gag. Delicately a slice was cut off one side and offered up as a holiday treat to our dog, who took one sniff and refused to touch it. Undaunted (what do dogs know?) we cut off two more pieces and my father and I did what even the dog had the good sense not to do – we tasted the turkey.

Now nothing would give me greater joy than to tell you of the Christmas miracle that happened next; that the turkey was delicious and we all sat around the dinner table popping Christmas crackers and toasting the holiday. The unfortunate truth is the turkey was so rancid we had to throw it away, and Dad and I spent an hour driving around town trying to find an open store to buy something else for dinner.

At the beginning of “A Christmas Carol” we are supposed to feel pity for the Cratchit family because they have just a small goose to feed their household on Christmas Day. If only we had been so fortunate as to have that pathetic little bird on our table! It would have seemed like a feast compared to the one pound of sliced turkey loaf we eventually scrounged up to go along with our mashed potatoes and canned gravy that day.

Ultimately it didn’t matter; in fact it’s given us yet another story to tell every Christmas at the dinner table. For as we all know the holiday is about more than just a delicious dinner. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the rush and festivities that sometimes it’s a good idea to take a moment and recall the simplicity of the original event that inspired it all.

As long as you have friends and family gathered together in good cheer, nothing else is really important. But you might want to take a holiday tip from my mother who now keeps a backup roast in the freezer…just in case.

No comments:

Post a Comment