Monday, November 27, 2006

Poultry Stuffed with Revelations

Admittedly, I am a few days late. But what am I if not perpetually later than I intended to be?

It all started with a frozen turkey. was kind enough to provide us with one free of charge, except for the $150 we spent to qualify. All of this, despite the fact that we had no use for a turkey, as Thanksgiving would be held at my aunt's house where another aunt would tackle nearly all of the cooking.

"What do we need a turkey for again?" The Boy furrowed his already wrinkly brow.

I don't think I ever really had an answer. I told my mom about it, and she also looked perplexed. "You mean you won't use it?" she asked me, her daughter, who cooks nearly every night. "I mean, not for Thanksgiving, but for another time? We'll take it."

I didn't want to give a whole turkey to someone who didn't need it, especially when it arrived and weighed in at a shade heavier than 14 lbs. But how to find someone in need of a large frozen bird? I scoured sites for shelters and food banks, none of which were interested in perishable food. As a last attempt to rid our poorly-designed freezer of the turkey with enough time for it to defrost before the big day, I posted an ad on Craigslist-- FREE Turkey, it read.

I took the ad down about an hour later, my inbox overwhelmed with enthusiastic hopeful takers. A woman who had planned to pick it up at 6 read my mind and thought better of it; "It would make me feel better if it went to someone who really needed it," she said.

Attempting tact, with wording help from The Boy (of all people), I screened the prospective poultry owners. Most were kind-hearted with plans to pay it forward to others who needed it more. Finally, a man named Dave began, "well i am out of work with an injurey and don't have much money and now my ex is having trouble with my two boys..." The Boy christened him winner of the turkey, then met him the next day on the rainy corner holding an umbrella and a sweating bird. Dave was so grateful; we felt more blessed.

"I wish we could help more people like that," The Boy said. And so, we posted another ad on Craigslist, offering last-minute help for Thanksgiving. I felt nervous that night after hitting Publish; I wondered how it would go over and if it would help. In the morning, I parsed e-mails from people telling me their stories; "Thanks for listening," one said. Mostly they were single moms, others out-of-work, all just wanting to provide a day of plenty and warmth and turkey for their families. Wednesday night before Thanksgiving, I only needed gingersnaps, cream cheese, yams and light brown sugar. But I left the grocery store with a buckling cart filled with a 17-lb turkey, a roasting pan, 15 lbs of potatoes, and everything else I could think of that red-blooded, blue state Americans might need on the fourth Thursday in November, including three still-warm pumpkin pies and whipped cream. My winter-white wool coat and I got soaked unloading someone else's supplies, but I couldn't stop smiling. Maybe it was because I knew I didn't have to cook any of it, but I didn't think that was all.

I met Felisha at my front door with bags in hand. I don't know where she lives or how old her kids are or if she had ever cooked a turkey. But I know she had enough for a feast last week.

We were hesitant about the traveling artists/activists. They ventured to see us in the rain for a Safeway gift card and an unexpected pumpkin pie. They cried in our living room, and so did I. Who am I to judge which people need what when? When they left, The Boy and I wished we had given them more.

I wanted to assure them all that we had been in their position, and very well may be again. Strangers have given me exactly what I needed without possibly knowing it was what I needed. A $20 here, a free dinner there. Strangers like that used to show up on The Boy's childhood doorstep with everything his mother needed for their Thanksgiving. "I didn't remember it until just now," he said, after we had given out the last of the groceries. I didn't get to tell anyone. But really, I think we wanted to disappear, thinking that would make it easier to be and provide whatever they needed. I'm not sure if that's what we accomplished, but I know we tried.

But then there was the woman who needed vegetables. I got her every vegetable I could fathom eating on Thanksgiving. I checked my e-mail obsessively and begged her to call, but she never called. Still no email. Now I'm the one who could use a turkey to go with all the fixings.

And, since I am perpetually later than I intended to be, next time we'll tackle "the things I'm thankful for." I'm reminding myself now, to keep from focusing on the zephyr that, for now, wasn't meant to be.
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