Last week a potential Thanksgiving disaster began gradually unfolding, extremely aromatically, underneath our house.
An odor began to permeate the rooms—subtly, at first, as if someone’s Ukrainian grandmother had been cooking in there for decades and a bouquet of sour cabbage had slowly seeped into the walls. It soon morphed into the unmistakeable scent of decay. We began to wonder how the 16 people planning to share Thanksgiving dinner with us in a few days would enjoy the rodent-corpse aftertaste everything seemed to take on with that smell floating around.
Hal is too large to enter our tiny crawl space, and I am too cowardly. So we put out a FB call for help: For $100 cash, who is willing to crawl under the floor and extract a deceased Thing? Our friend John Alley agreed, encased himself in Hazmat wear, and did the deed. Disaster averted.
Others, it seems, haven’t been so fortunate, when it comes to Thanksgiving Day and its attendant disasters. T-G is the ideal set-up for a goat-rodeo situation: a giant bird to cook+pressure to pull off perfection+in-laws+kitchen novices with big plans=raw turkey, ER visits, and even the occasional fire.
This week I produced 3 radio stories about Thanksgivings that didn’t go as planned:
Part 1: No Harm, No Fowl – Music writer/NPR contributor/author Craig Havighurst tells the story of opening his front door one early Thanksgiving morning to find himself face to face with a live turkey.
“I just couldn’t get over this notion that he really seemed to be trying to get away from somebody.” – Craig Havighurst
Part 2: Four-Alarm Cornucopia – Tina and Jimmy Patterson recall one Thanksgiving dinner that made an indelible mark…on the ceiling. (With a poignant recollection of their son Cameron.)
“If we could be OK with the things that go wrong, maybe (Thanksgiving) would be a little more happy for people.” -Tina Patterson
Part 3: Humble Pie – What does hubris taste like as an ingredient in apple pie? Kinda like chicken. (story by the Green-Humphreys clan) #EpicPieFail moral: Don’t oversell the pie.
“It was to be the apple pie to end all apple pies.” -Faye Green
These stories come courtesy of FB, thanks to the many friends who shared their Thanksgiving disasters on my page. A few were too painful to share via a public forum, from food poisonings to extreme marital strife; others deserve a wider audience. Read on to hear about Thanksgivings that went catastrophically wrong, courtesy of Facebook friends around the country:
Of Turkeys and Tofurkeys
“How about my mother forgetting to turn the oven on and having to cook the turkey in the microwave? Needless to say, it was a tad bit dry.” -J.E.
“My boyfriend and I decided to try and make a Tofurkey. It was disgusting.” –M.S.
Of Flames and Unwanted Attentions
“My dad caught our deck on fire one Thanksgiving when he dropped the turkey into the deep fryer. WAY too much peanut oil and something about combustion. And then there was another T’giving when I was about 21 and my mom invited a server from J.Alexander’s to join us as he was from Sri Lanka and his family was still (there). She failed to tell me that she told him that he would be “interested in” her daughter – i.e. me. And he was on me like Pepe LePeu all damn night. Horrendous.
-Ashley Haugen, writer & editor
Laundry List of Horrors
“My senior year of college, I returned home for my final Thanksgiving as a “kid.” To mark this ritual, I stuffed every bit of laundry I could fit into my car, since laundry at mom’s house is free (and she ‘ll probably do it for you).
As I raided her fridge, my mother toiled away in the basement, taking care of load after load. When I heard a shriek, I assumed she had slipped on something, or — god forbid — accidentally washed one of my bright red bar shirts with my whites. As I ran downstairs, she yelled, “No mother should ever have to find THIS in her child’s laundry!”
I slowed my descent down the stairs, wary of what she may have found. What could I possibly have left in my pockets to make my normally open-minded mother scream bloody murder? Is it possible that one of the many mice we found in our apartment that year had nested in my laundry basket? Did a “party favor” migrate toward my dirty socks? Did I drop an entire box of Kleenex in there, causing a million tiny pieces of lint to overtake the entire washing machine and dryer?
Oh no. It was much, much worse. I finally arrived in the laundry room to find my mother, recoiled in horror, pointing at a pile of sheets on the floor. The contraband? A used condom.” -Abby Plachy, writer & editor
A Sickening Crunch
“I was 7 at the time and my family was living in Green Bay, WI. We had our first snow fall on Thanksgiving morning. My friends were playing right down the street so I grabbed my sled and headed out. Our street was on a steep hill so it would have been a quick slide down to their house. I stupidly put my sled in the road. As I started sliding down my neighbor backed out of his drive way. I slid right under the car (a low riding Cadillac) and it slowly crushed me as it continued backing up the street. The gas tank and muffler just pressed all the air out of me.
Luckily a neighbor heard my screams and was able to stop the driver from pulling forward which would have dragged me down the street. It was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced. I was knocked unconscious and ended up breaking my collar bone and had scrapes to my head. I was very lucky.
To this day, the sound of tires crunching on snow takes me right back to that awful Thanksgiving day.” -Jim Gates, writer & radio producer
Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone! Please remember: small disasters today = fantastic stories for years to come. Worth the momentary discomfort.
(note to Jim – Your story excepted. That one leans towards actual disaster. Major-league “ow!”)
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