The turkey that bounced

Yesterday, I said that today I’d write about how to make the perfect pulled pork. But tonight, as we sat down to eat the first smoked turkey I’ve ever made, my son said that I should tell this story instead. The turkey was a dry run, to make sure I could smoke a bird  without incident and that it would be worthy of Thanksgiving dinner. Mission accomplished, with flying colors.

As we oohed and ahhed over the deep,  smoky, cherrywood flavor, my son Dylan reminded me of the turkey that bounced.

In fact, there’s not a Thanksgiving that passes where someone doesn’t tell the story. My mom loves to tell it. My uncle loves to tell it more. But who doesn’t love a story of family drama on a day that should be happy and carefree…after time has rendered it downright hilarious? Yeah, time heals all wounds, and sometimes makes them funny as hell.

Of course, it was anything but funny that day. And it’s pretty symbolic of what my parents’ relationship was like (and why they ended up divorced). It also really shows what different people my parents are.

My dad is a buttoned up guy who has very strong feelings about how things should be done. My mom, on the other hand, is pretty loose and relaxed. Her priorities at a family gathering are to bond and socialize. Sure, she also loves a great meal, and to make one, too.

The trouble began one Thanksgiving in the late 1970s, when my mom was being herself and my dad was being himself. The turkey was in the oven, and just about ready to come out.

My mom believes that you’ve got to  “rest” your turkey for about 20 minutes after it’s removed from the oven. The problem is that after getting a few drinks in her, she likes to talk. A lot. And it’s not uncommon for her to forget she’s resting the turkey. So the turkey sometimes gets cold–a completely unacceptable situation in my father’s orderly world.

It had happened before, too many times, or it probably wouldn’t have been so loaded. But there it was…the perfect storm brewing.

My mom’s brother and his wife were at our house and my mom was happy to see them. Maybe we had other guests as well. I can’t remember.

But my mom took the turkey out of the oven and put it on the counter to let it rest. And rest. And rest…

One thing my dad cannot tolerate is to serve cold food (same with me, but I’m not that grumpy about it, and this story isn’t about me!). He started simmering…then began to boil. He probably asked her several times to start carving. She paid him no mind over the din. I’m pretty sure I saw actual steam coming  out of his ears.

And then, the deed was done. Before anyone could stop him, he picked up that turkey and hurled it onto  to the floor in a rage.

I wish I could tell you what happened next, but I was just a kid. Things got a little confusing amidst the ensuing chaos.

All I can remember is….that turkey bounced.