As a little girl I loved staying with my Nanny. She was a short plump old lady with salt and pepper short hair, false teeth, a glass eye that didn’t always look straight on, and a laugh that filled the room and was contagious when you heard it. She always wore dresses and thick sandals and always loved seeing me, almost as much as I loved seeing her. It was the day before Thanksgiving and I got to stay the night with her and was given the awesome responsibility of helping fix the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner at my Aunt’s house the following day. This made me feel like an adult and I couldn’t have been more excited. The next day however didn’t go quite as planned but nevertheless Thanksgiving happened. On the morning of that Thanksgiving it was extremely early and still dark outside when we woke up. Nanny said it was necessary to be up before the chickens when making a turkey. I thought that should’ve been up before the turkeys since that was what we were making but whatever Nanny said I believed! I didn’t mind being up because Thanksgiving was one of my favorite holidays anyhow. I loved seeing family and playing with my cousins and of course I loved eating all the delicious food. No one cooked like my Nanny. That is a fact that remains true at this present day.
Nanny made it into the kitchen and grabbed a pot from the cabinet and filled it with water and sat it on the stove and turned the burner on. She grabbed her instant coffee from the counter and pulled it over to the stove next to the cup and saucer she had out waiting on the coffee. She leaned on the counter and grabbed a cigarette and lit it and puffed away while she waited on the water to boil. The smoke filled the kitchen and I would watch it and wonder why in the world anyone would want to do such a thing. Once the water started boiling she would dump it in her cup and always spill some out in the saucer and on the counter. She’d take a spoon and fill it with the instant coffee and dump it in the scalding water and stir it real fast until the spoon made lots of clinking sounds in her cup. The coffee had a layer of foam on the top that reminded me of a swirly cloud and I loved the way it smelled. After she fixed her coffee she poured me a glass of orange juice and put two spoons of sugar in it just like I liked it at her house. Of course my mother would never let me have added sugar in my orange juice and since she wouldn’t I never would drink it for her. Mom would fuss at Nanny and Nanny just thought it was good I was drinking my juice no matter if it had sugar in it or not. I loved it when my Nanny would tell my Momma how things were. I always agreed with Nanny and would smile real big. Nanny would give me the spoon and let me make the clinking sound with my cup like hers had done with the coffee. She would pack her coffee to the table and spill it on the saucer and the floor the whole way there. She never worried about the spilt mess and I knew it would get cleaned up after she woke up good. We sat at the table and drank our beverages and discussed the menu for the day. Nanny was responsible for the turkey and oyster dressing and everyone else was making desserts and sides to go with it. Nanny continued to drink that coffee with it still just boiling hot and it made me cringe just to think about what that would feel like on my tongue. It never seemed to bother her. She’d sip it loud and smack her mouth afterward and let out a big “ahh” like it helped take the burn away. I had tried that before when drinking hot chocolate but it didn’t ever work for me. She got up from the table and went to the refrigerator and got out some sausage and some biscuits she had made up from the freezer.
She’d say, “Jenny, we can’t cook dinner for everyone else until we’ve had a good breakfast ourselves. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You never need to go without eating breakfast.” I couldn’t argue with that! My mom cooked but usually not breakfast. I always loved eating breakfast with my Nanny. She sliced the sausage into the iron skillet on the stove and it would hiss and steam as it cooked. I got as close to the stove as she’d let me so I could smell the savory goodness. She’d get a separate smaller iron skillet out for the biscuits and put them in it and warm the oven up while the sausage cooked. After everything was done she’d sit it all on the table and get the grape jelly and apple jelly out of the refrigerator and the Land O‘Lakes butter. Every time she’d grab the butter she’d say, “You got to have pure D butter. There isn’t any other!” I always agreed with that even though I didn’t have a clue what she meant. We sit and ate our breakfast and finished our coffee and juice and decided to get busy on the bird business awaiting us.
After dishes Nanny went to the refrigerator and got the massive bird off the shelf and took it to the sink. She unwrapped all the plastic and began cleaning the innards out of the inside. I couldn’t believe she’d stick her hand in that bird and do such a nasty thing. I was rethinking my desire for turkey at that point. She’d watch my face as she cleaned all those things out and giggle to herself when I’d make a yucky expression. She got a big roasting pan out from the cabinet and laid the bird on the pan. She went back to the refrigerator and grabbed the Land O‘Lakes butter and say, “You got to have pure D butter. There isn’t any other!” Once again I agreed with this statement. She took a whole stick and rubbed it all over that turkey, inside and out. I didn’t see any reason to be kind to that poor bird with a rub down at this point. He was a goner. She seemed like she knew what she was doing and I wasn’t about to tell her it was silly. If my Nanny knew anything it was how to cook! And Nanny had a heart bigger than Texas and if she wanted to give that dead bird a massage then who was I to tell her not to? After the butter and the seasonings, which were a secret, it was time to stick it in the oven.
Every few hours of cooking she’d get that big bird out and take a big medicine dropper looking thing and squirt the turkey’s juice that it was cooking in all over it and plop it back in the oven again. It was a long task cooking a turkey. In between those times we would play Old Maid and help pass the time. Nanny was good at Old Maid and she almost never ended up with that card. I couldn’t figure out how she did that.
It was late in the day and we had to get dressed and ready to go to my Aunt’s across town. While I got my bath she fixed the oyster dressing. I was glad too because those things stunk! I hated that stuff. I couldn’t see how anyone in the world would consider eating it. It was really cold outside that Thanksgiving and nanny started the car to let it warm up. She took the oyster dressing out and said we’d wait and get the turkey very last as we went out the door. I was standing at the bar in the kitchen with my jacket and boots on ready to go. Nanny came back in from the car and went to the oven. She told me to stay far back from the oven while she got the turkey out because it was going to be hot and she needed room to get out the door. I made sure to stay on the other end of that bar. She opened the oven door put an oven mitt on each hand and pulled the oven rack out to get the bird. As she pulled the oven rack out the pan slid and the turkey flew out of the pan off of the roasting rack and across the kitchen floor. I was TERRIFIED! I was just about to cry when without missing a beat she said, “Well let’s get in the car and we’ll stop at Don Lindsey’s Store and get some lunch meat to take to Paula’s.” She shut the oven door put the oven mitts on the counter and stepped over the turkey and headed out of the kitchen into the living room toward the door. My mouth was gaped open and I walked slowly out of the kitchen into the living room never taking my eyes off that bird. She told me everything was ok and not to worry about that turkey. She said it couldn’t hurt anyone or anything anymore.
We got in the car and went to the store and got lunch meat and thanked the man without explaining our dilemma. I wanted to though. I loved informing people of anything I knew about. I was about to bust. She let me hold the lunch meat in my lap and said I could carry it in if I wanted. We rode up the long driveway to my Aunt’s. I could see the house from the distance and several cars. We were running late and I couldn’t wait to see everyone but at the same time I was nervous about not having the turkey. We parked and I helped Nanny get the oyster dressing out and we rushed up the sidewalk into the house out of the cold. Everyone was thrilled we were there. The turkey was the center point of Thanksgiving and now we could all eat! Well, that’s how it was supposed to be. Everyone kept looking and noticed there were no large pans. My Uncle seen the lunch meat I had in my hand and asked where the turkey was. I couldn’t hold it in any longer. Like a wave of rushing water I yelled it out to everyone, “Nanny dropped the turkey in the floor at her house and she just ran off and left it there. It’s still in her kitchen floor!” My uncle looked like he just lost a member of his family while others laughed hysterically and asked if I was telling the truth. My Nanny got so tickled it made us all laugh. We have never forgotten about our “Year without a Turkey” Thanksgiving. The turkey is and was long gone but the memories remained forever. I would give anything to be standing in the kitchen with my Nanny one more time. I was 4 at the time of this Thanksgiving. I had many more years with my Nanny and lots of good memories were made with her. It’s been 11 years since my Nanny has passed. I’m 28 now and I love to cook just like my Nanny did. Even more I love to laugh just like she did. I can almost feel her sometimes when I’m standing at the stove cooking and I never cease to hear her say,” You got to have pure D butter. There isn’t any other!” when I use butter. Sometimes I say it out loud and sometimes I just hear it in my head and smile and think of her. My Nanny knew the importance of family and she knew how to feed your belly and your soul. She combined the two and everyone was welcome at her house. She showed love and compassion to everyone she met. I pray that I can do the same.