Sunday, November 29, 2015



After 51 years of marriage, I still wouldn't dare claim all-knowledge. I have stuck with my own for a long time, and it continues to present enough twists, turns and drama to satisfy the need of any writer.   

This holiday season, I look back on small events now half a century distant. They were not as exciting as the life the young Hamilton's lived, with a revolution still to be fought and won. However, like the Paul McCartney song, these days I often feel like a "relic of a distant age." So here's my little newlywed's story:

The first turkey I ever cooked was in 1964. I was a young married, an ex-student, as was my husband. We were living in a dismal basement apartment in NYC, whose front window looked out upon the back of the building’s garbage cans. Needless to say, we kept the blinds closed. We shared a bathroom with some elder ladies who we never saw, but who, no matter how loudly I scrubbed the place after using it, would arrive soon after I'd left and vigorously wash the entire bathroom all over again. I suppose I can’t blame them, for lots of old people in the city lived in fear of their neighbors.

We’d managed to buy the turkey, a small one, although it took some financial planning to get the cash together, as I didn’t have a job. Only my husband, Chris, did.  As a nineteen year old with zero skills, it didn’t pay much and rent took the lion's share. As for me, I’d left the hospital I’d been working in back in Philadelphia and come to NYC in order to be with him. At the time, I was violently morning sick—to the 9th degree. I mean, Rosemary, in Rosemary’s Baby, had nothing on me! The only things I could reliably keep down were weird cravings: green pea soup, grapefruit, and sardines. Anything else—upchuck! Maybe that’s why the invisible ladies next door were so diligent about scrubbing our shared bathroom.

On the big day we cleaned up our turkey as I’d seen my parents do, slapped it in a big bakeware pan that we’d found in the kitchen, turned on the oven to 350 and then walked over to Broadway to see a little of the Thanksgiving Day parade. We were so far uptown that there wasn’t much to see, but there were bands and high school kids from out of town feeling really proud of themselves, and people wrestling with a couple of balloons—my favorite, Dino the dinosaur—being dragged about in the gusty wind. The other big event for me was seeing Fess Parker of Davy Crocket fame, waving and smiling from the back of an open car. Like a zillion children from my generation, he’d been my hero back in the fourth grade.  I’d wept while watching the Walt Disney show the night “Davy” died at the Alamo.

Image result for davy crockett coon skin hat

Now that little girl's life seemed incredibly distant. Chris and I looked at each other. We were married, pregnant and close to broke. Whether one or either of us would ever get back to college—and how the heck we would manage it--was still up in the air. Nobody’s parents were happy. With all this drama swirling, the parade, so very pointedly an event for kids, got boring fast. 

We turned and walked back through the wind and grimy uptown streets to our little pad. When we got there, the place was redolent with roast turkey and baked potatoes. The bird made snapping noises as the juice splattered about inside the oven, casting a smoky pall around the kitchen. We decided that this must mean it was cooked. Chris fetched it out, and lo and behold, it was done, all crispy, juices running clear. 

I was surprised because I was, for the first time in months and all of a sudden—genuinely hungry. It was quite a fine meal, our first Thanksgiving—meat, potatoes, squishy store bread and a freshly opened can of cranberry sauce. For a change, it went down and stayed there. 

Who knew I’d be remembering it fifty-one years later?


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