A Protest Poem

Every year at Thanksgiving, the fifth graders at our school have to invent a turkey character (most boys do a spin on their favorite football player or superhero), dress it up as an art project, and write a poem about their turkey. So, in honor of the fifth grade tradition, I decided to have my fifth grader as my guest blogger.

Of course, he lost the cut-out of the turkey he’s supposed to use for the art part of the project, so he’ll be scrambling tomorrow night to cut out a tie-dye turkey shirt…..

…but given my teenager wants to register Republican, it’s kind of nice to have a hippy, social justice, protestor type in the family at the gates of the White House. Even if it is a turkey.

I’m a Protesting Turkey

I do not want to live in disguise

Or end up in somebody’s pies.

The Thanksgiving feast is like a beast

Devouring us.

So, I left the farm and traveled east.

I’m at the White House making a fuss.

To get here, I took a bus.

But people make fusses on busses.

So, I took a train

but it was a pain.

It took me nine hours to get this far

Not including my stop at the bar

Where they tried to bake me

But they couldn’t take me.

So here I am at the White House gates

Protesting turkeys’ fates.

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The Turkeys Grew Up

This summer, when we visited Grandma and Grandpa at Goose Hill Farm, you could hold the baby turkeys in your hands. The boys took charge of feeding them and locking them up for the night to protect them from the hawks and other wild animals prowling for meat in the dark.

Now visiting for Thanksgiving, the turkeys have grown waist-high. They are cautious, but curious. The male leads the females up to the kitchen windows, and they peer in at us from so close you can see the short hair on their heads. There are shades of pinks and light blue in the male turkey’s face. He struts and fluffs his tail feathers, a hundred different browns.

Abandoning her flock hiding from the snow, the only white chicken comes adventuring with the turkeys. We are told she prefers them and follows them around like a little sister. “Hey, wait for me!” Shorter legs racing to keep up.

But with “Turkey Day” only two days away, we expected this crew to be gone. Isn’t that the turkey’s sad story in all the picture books? In fact, for third graders at our sons’ school, the Thanksgiving homework is to take a cut-out paper turkey and “disguise” it so that it does not become part of the feast. Using any mix of materials and creativity, the kids dress their turkeys as football players, clowns, pilgrims, lions, mermaids and more.

Our youngest disguised his as a tomato plant. Very unusual and sneaky.

But the three Goose Hill turkeys don’t need a disguise. They are members of the family this Thanksgiving: the crazy uncle with warts on his nose, the cousin wobbling around the table after too much wine, and the vegetarian sister who every year, loudly mourns the poor bird.

When Boys Cook the Turkey

A few days before Thanksgiving, there was a proclamation made at our house that the guys would be in charge of the turkey. So my husband and our twelve year old prepared it for brining.

“Get the liver and stuff out,” father said to son.

“Where are they?”

“Just reach into the hole at the end.”

“Wait, that’s his butt! I am not reaching into the turkey’s butt!”

We all looked up from whatever newspaper article, book or teacup we’d been focused on. Grandpop’s eyebrow arced in amusement.

“No really? It’s in his butt?!”

“Yep,” said my grinning husband.

“That’s disgusting!” But like any respectable twelve year old, he reached inside.

“Ewwww! I can’t believe I’m doing this!” giggling as he pulled out the neck. “What’s this?”

“His neck.”

“Oh my God, is this his heart?” he asked, triumphantly holding up a purplish blob.

“Yep.”

“Ewwwww!” as he pulled out the kidneys, then liver.

“I can’t believe I just pulled them out of his butt!”

As my husband washed out the now hollow turkey, our son played with its innards – squishing them, poking at them, sliding them along the countertop. “What does its heart look like inside?”

“Cut it open and see.”

The readers and tea drinkers paused. More eyebrows raised.

“No,” said his grossed out grandmother.

Our ten year old showed up suddenly at his brother’s side, and he did it anyway. He dissected the heart. Then the kidneys, which were much harder to cut. “Not that interesting.”

Solid purple.

Then the slimy liver. Not much for a boy to celebrate there either. “But I can’t believe you made stick my hand in the turkey’s butt!”

Then the turkey was brining, and the guys left the kitchen, content with their work – red-purple turkey juices still oozing across the counter for respectable ladies to clean up.

And I wondered why, after 47 years of turkeys, it had never dawned on me to look inside their hearts.

A Thanksgiving Scrooge Gives Thanks

I have so much to be thankful for, so I feel truly guilty that I am such a scrooge about Thanksgiving. I mean, here’s this holiday that has minimal commercial value and lavish gift-giving. All it tries to do is give us a moment to give thanks. I should love it!

And this year was truly an exceptional one. Our second grader’s friend organized a large parent/child football game at the park. Two hours of playing in gorgeous weather with a table spread with coffee and donuts reminded me of several things I am thankful for: my husband, my boys, our friends and any warm, sunny day during which I get to play like a child. Then Thanksgiving dinner at our house with more friends who made it really fun. Again, I was grateful. The food turned out fine. More friends in the door for dessert.

Really, I could ask for nothing greater than my day yesterday.

What I do not like is all the effort that goes into making Thanksgiving the feast it is supposed to be. And where does all that effort come from?

Women (yes, there are a few rare male birds out there who do the turkey’s share of the work, but mostly……it’s all us).

Maybe one of the guys stops into the kitchen on his way to grab a beer and juices up the bird. But other than that, they are in the “man cave” watching hours of football. Or reading. Or doing the crossword.

Now, every other day of the year, I am not a raging feminist. But on Thanksgiving, I rant.

And I have renamed the holiday Man’s Day, because in my experience, men really have everything they want on Thanksgiving. And it’s at the expense of women, whose feet and back ache by the time everyone sits down to eat. Men should not get Fathers’ Day too. It’s not fair.

I first hated Thanksgiving as a teenager, because it seemed to me that part of our family tradition was my mother crying as she rolled out the piecrust. Crazy. Ruining the dinner.

But now I know!

She was in the kitchen all day cooking alone for my sisters, my dad and his parents. We barely helped, if at all. Her mother-in-law got in the way. And my father disappeared into the study. No wonder she cried when the piecrust tore!

I get more help in the kitchen than she did, so I am not driven to the traditional tears. But I am on my feet all day cooking food I don’t really like. And then everyone stuffs their faces, and within half an hour, my culinary efforts have been devoured. Rather than say how delicious the food was, most people push back from the table, rub their bellies as if you’ve injured them, and groan that they ate too much.

Ahhh, Thanksgiving!

And then that pie that you cried over? They are too full to eat it!

So, here I am one day later, dishes done, laundry caught up, kids as happy as can be. Maybe I should do my “I am Thankful for…” List to remind me how lucky I am. Here it goes:

I am thankful for…
Giggles and snuggles with my boys
A husband who keeps me on my toes and makes me laugh
Parents who gave me everything
Sisters who are my best friends
Friends who are like sisters
Cheering for the sun when it sets over Cape Cod bay
Light splashing through the trees on a late summer afternoon
Books with a soul
Dinners out
Then it’s back to the boys again….chatting softly together as they get ready for bed.