Thursday, April 14, 2011


Thanksgiving, 1990-something, not sure of the exact date. My brother’s new wife, the second wife..the one unfortunate enough to have to follow the first wife whom we all adored... was joining us for the first time. We were all a bit nervous, no more than she, I suppose. They drove down from Boise the day before. Next morning she, (let’s just call her L.) jumped in to help with the Thanksgiving feast preparations. A risky thing for anyone, if you catch my drift. We have our "ways", established no doubt before the creation of time. I imagine our spirits hovering over a cluster of clouds, peering over the edges on a late November day, watching Pilgrim women stoke their fires and dress their birds and simmer their cranberries over open flames, long wooden ladles poking out from black iron pots. We watched again, much later in the history of the world, year after year, as the commemorative feast evolved from the late 1800’s until the day the Gatekeeper of Heaven called our names and told us to line up. We five women slid on down to this spot, under our mother’s wing, and started the earth-life journey.

I feel it each November, after the Trick or Treater’s have finished their quests, and the leaves have succumbed to the blast of snow that inevitably hits after an Indian Summer. I feel that familiar yearning to gather wood and check my store of spuds in the cellar, likely something I had imagined once upon a heaven-time.

So that Thanksgiving morning L. shimmies through the crowd of us in the kitchen, moves to the sink and lifts the turkey out of the basin of water it has been thawing in all night. She proceeds to rub it down and opens the seasoning cupboard at Gram’s condo. We glance at each other and hold our breath, wondering what in the world she thinks she is doing. Next thing we know she is sprinkling Lawrey’s Seasoned Salt over the sacred bird! I drew a slow deep breath and held it while I thought about what to do next. It just would not do to have seasoned salt on the turkey. I can’t even remember what we ended up doing, whether we opted to let it ride, or if one of us spoke up. I guess, thinking back, we must have spoken up, because I don’t remember ever tasting our Thanksgiving bird with paprika and turmeric flavoring. Chicken at Sunday dinner, crispy skinned with spicy flavoring; maybe. But never turkey!

So I suspect L. found out that’s not how the tradition went for us. I suspect she found out a lot about us that first day she met us. No one…seriously NO ONE…should meet their new in-laws while preparing a holiday feast. There is a secret sacred dance one must know on such occasions. Even we ourselves are not aware of the dance and wouldn’t know how to describe the steps. But it is a dance nonetheless and one is wiser to watch it a few times before jumping in. Sad, I know. But true.

So anyway, my brother asks L. when they are finally alone, when the meal is completely devoured and the dishes are done and our tummies are stretched beyond their natural capacity and everyone is settled into reading the ads for the upcoming sales; he asks her what she thought of his family.

“Well,” she said, “its sort of like being around six of you! All chiefs; no Injuns.”

And so it was.

And so it is.

(They’re not married any more.)


  1. ha ha ha! i needed this good laugh tonight. thanks. i suppose i must admit we can be a bit overwhelming...our poor in laws! but we do have fun.

  2. Holy cats. I read this first. I should have saved it till last. Indignation sets me back in the saddle. I can't believe the NERVE. To waltz into somebody else's family dinner, go straight to the turkey and without a by-your-leave lay hands on it???? My mouth is hanging open. HOLY CATS, did he make a mistake. I wouldn't have a woman like that in my house, and have actually banned one from it for that kind of thing. YOW YOW YOW