For Thanksgiving when I was 8, we went to my cousin’s house in the Nashville suburbs. They had a long gravel driveway that crunched beneath the car tires as we rolled up to the big house. In the yard bounced their boxer dog named Skipper. I loved dogs (and still do), but even I had a hard time liking Skipper. He was hyper and drooled a lot.
Inside, my mom and aunts and grandmother were all discussing the enormous turkey they were cooking. They stood around the oven and basted. The turkey smell filled the kitchen. The skin was golden brown. It looked juicy.
Skipped drooled and looked on.
My aunt pulled the turkey from the oven and everyone remarked upon its grandeur. It was held aloft for a moment and placed upon the kitchen table to cool.
We were herded into the dining room to look at the beautiful table. This seemed like drudgery to me and I brought up the rear pushing through the swinging door last. There were crystal and cranberries on a big table with a tablecloth. It was impressive.
Meanwhile, the huge turkey emanated its delicious smells in the other room. With Skipper.
Someone was telling a lightly unamusing family anecdote about the crystal or some bullshit when there was an enormous crash in the kitchen. My aunts and grandmother and mom stampeded past me through the swinging door and into the kitchen.
I pushed through the swinging door into the kitchen. Here was the scene. (Imagine how it looked to an 8-year-old.)
Skipper had the turkey down on the floor! It was steaming hot and he was trying to get a bite with his short boxer snout. It was too hot but he wouldn’t give up. This caused him to push the steaming, greasy, enormous and increasingly less admired turkey all over the linoleum floor of the kitchen. It skidded into the family room.
My aunts and mom and grandmother were kicking at Skipper and yelling at him. Their mission was animated with panicked urgency and energized commentary. Every second the bird was on the floor was a travesty!
Skipper dodged kicks and nipped at the hot bird. This was a significant opportunity for him. Perhaps the chance of a lifetime. He had brought the turkey down with cunning. Imagine his thinking as we all left the room.
“I could eat that good-smelling big meat,” Skipper must have thought. “Let’s roll!”
The team trying to get Skipper off the turkey was soccering it away from him with their good shoes and it was now picking up a significant amount of grit and dust and it’s golden brown skin was less mouth-watering, except to Skipper who seemed to like it this way and saw it as more and more his birthright.
“Get the pan!” someone yelled and my uncle ran up with the turkey pan and an oven mitt. He held the pan and my aunt showed the turkey into it. The turkey was put back on its throne of the kitchen table, disgraced. We looked upon it with significantly less admiration that 15 minutes previously. Skipper had bitten one gash in a breast and there was grit and dust hanging from the skin.
“Are we still going to eat it?” I asked, and was replied to with shouts of admonishment. Of course we are! Of course. It’s fine. We’ll just wash it off.
Skipper, scowling, defeated but unrepentant, was banished to the outside. I liked him far more than ever I had before.
For reasons I cannot explain, this is my favorite Thanksgiving memory.