Thanksgiving in England and Why a Marriage Requires a Backbone

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This year we celebrated Thanksgiving on the Saturday. With the unreliability and current mayhem of Southern Rail, there was no guarantee that Mike would make it home from London in time for dinner, so for the first time in 15 years I wasn’t rushing between school, work and turkey basting. Every year we invite our neighbours around and cook all the fixings as a way of thanking them for good heartedness and the extreme tolerance it takes to live next door to us.

Saturday morning dawned. I popped on an NPR podcast and bounced around the kitchen cooking sweet potatoes, baking pies and eating marshmallows. The children were watching videos of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and Charlie Brown. Outside the leaves were spinning in the morning sun and the dog was chewing on a stick. Mike had gone to pick up the turkey from our local butcher and some ale from Harvey’s in Lewes, our local brewery. Everything seemed ridiculously quaint until Mike brought back the bird.

“What on earth is that?” I asked. The package was small.

“It’s a turkey crown,” he said.

Humph. “That sounds a bit British for Thanksgiving,” I said as he unwrapped it, rolling his eyes at my annual fierce Americanism over Thanksgiving.

“I though you’d be listening to Leonard Cohen,” he said.

“T-Day 2016 playlist begins at noon,” I said. “Right now is Prairie Home Companion,” then a sharp intake of breath at the unwrapped bird before me, “WHERE are the BONES??!”

“I had the butcher debone the turkey and fill it with stuffing. That’s what a turkey crown is,” he said.

“You seriously want me to serve a boneless bird with inferior stuffing? That sounds like some sort of horrible metaphor for American politics! You have to take it back to the butchers.”

“What? No, I can’t take it back, besides I thought it would be easier since you’ve been working around the clock. I don’t know what you are so upset about.”

“Ease has absolutely nothing at all to do with Thanksgiving Michael. How could you not think this would upset me? Look at it. It’s an illogical monstrosity of flesh and bad stuffing! It’s taken me ten years to perfect my stuffing!”

Mike closed his eyes and sighed. “There is only one illogical bird in this kitchen Gretchen,” he said, dodging the marshmallow I’d thrown at him and picking up the phone. “But. I love you.” Dammit, being the unspoken word that was heard all the same.

He rang Mr Leoppard, our butcher, who, frankly, knows full well the gamut of trials associated with crazy birds, as well as their virtues, I might add.

“He can’t get a turkey. Do you want a chicken? It could be a mascot representing the strong bones of poultry and fowl everywhere?”

A marshmallow hit him on the forehead. “Take that as a no. Okay, I’m off to find a 12lb turkey somewhere. In November. In ENGLAND. Bye,” and he left.

So, Mike, bless him, never normally one to suffer fools, drove all around East Sussex looking for a turkey with bones, while I sulked around the kitchen, cooking and wondering what the hell my problem was. My rational mind could see that the sheer intensity of my feelings towards this “utterly insignificant in the scheme of things” gimlet was borderline madness, but, nevertheless, I couldn’t stop the flood.

My obscene overreaction to daily minutiae is actually not surprising when I stop to think about it.  I am suffering a bereavement of ideas and values. Brexit followed by Trump and all the hatred that has been uncovered, feels like the possible beginning of our great species great decline. Of course I’m grieving. Every awake, compassionate and thinking person is grieving, whilst trying to maintain a daily existence of normalcy.

As though a balloon of despair has filled like another head above mine and because I’ve chosen not to ignore the world as it unfolds, I have to consciously link, then disconnect my two brains in order to maintain my health and responsibilities.

Basically I am holding my sense of reality separate to the life I am living in order to get through a regular day without giving way to depression. Depression immobilizes and I want to stay active.

It’s not just the communities and countries that are divided, but also the minds of the people trying to make sense of it all. It’s exhausting to compartmentalize reality with unreality, especially when the two seem overturned. It’s like working and going to the grocery store and dance recitals and dinner dates and rugby matches and talking and laughing and all the while ignoring that your skin has been turned inside out.

So, it’s unrealistic to berate myself when a small puncture in the balloon that represents the other brain I’m trying to cope with, spills a bit of its poison into my daily brain and prompts a circumstance where a boneless turkey can feasibly seem like a meaningful metaphor for a collapsed society.

Mike came back with a full bag, but no turkey, apparently there were only chicken, geese, ducks and guinea fowl to be found with bones in East Sussex, but by then, I’d had time to pinpoint my mania and was feeling philosophically content(ish).

We hugged and I apologized. I explained my balloon theory and, in an attempt to make light of the situation, said, “I mean, you’d never serve Bisto (gravy granules) at Christmas would you?”

He smiled and opened the bag. I looked inside and saw cheese, chocolate, wine and Bisto. We burst out laughing.




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