Busted on Thanksgiving!
"Mommy!" The sob escapes through Jake's two front missing teeth. "Teacher gave me a sad smile on my Thanksgiving picture." Tiny tears streak down the dirt dusted face.
I wipe away the cheek stream with the side of my finger and open my treasure box of hugs. I study the crayon etching, vibrant with fall colors. One, two, three, four stick people - one bigger and with fluffy head, must be me, eating Thanksgiving dinner.
"This picture is great." I hold it high and secure a place on the refrigerator door for all to see.
"She said it's not Thanksgiving dinner." Sniffles ease and Jake's tears drain dry.
"What's wrong with it?" I look closer at the table spread with holiday food. Steak, potatoes, broccoli casserole and four Baskin Robbins' ice cream turkeys.
"My teacher said this's a picture of a Fourth July barbecue." A quivering lip returns. "She said people eat turkey, stuffin' and pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving." Inquiring eyes roll to my level. "What's stuffin'?"
Turkey busted! No Christmas present for this kindergarten squealer.
"We have turkey." I point to the round belly of the ice cream turkey to strengthen my case. "And stuffing, well it's something people put up the turkey's, I mean inside the turkey's belly."
Jake's runs his finger over the upside down smile, not buying my turkey story.
"Billy down the street's grandma grows her own turkey." The tales of kindergarten expand. I swear I'll be hearing how she marched it to the butcher's block and picked all the feathers by hand next. "And teacher's mom cooks pumpkin pie from batch."
I used to bake from the ground side up before single parenthood, pre absence of sleep and lack of appreciating taste buds. Steak on the grill now a perfect solution to defrosting and basting a frozen Tom and still have energy to watch T-day football. I boast like a plump hen with my idea. I drop the magnet from the artist's construction paper and carry the picture to the table.
"Well, did you tell your classmates our turkey taste like pumpkin pie?" I trace my fingers along the gobbler's cookie tail and smack my lips.
"Mommy!" Jake's foot stomps and he quick butts it to the living room. Flying through the air he lands on the couch, belly down, his crimson face soaks the pillow.
I inhale the Thanksgiving season, peek at the orange candle on the mantle and pull the heaving form into my lap. I brush his golden curls from wet cheeks and gaze around for a Kleenex. A sleeve swipes the nose clean.
"Okay bud." I huddle the kid with the red mark of teacher induced failure and offer, "Want to have a turkey this year?" I'm inscribing adequate words for this teacher of tradition as I rock my son.
The squirrels scamper down the palm tree, the morning frost glimmers on the lawn. I stare at the picture refastened on the panel of Hallmark moments. I'm up to right elbow groping out the insides from the Safeway special turkey. I sneer at the upside down smile and mumble vipers of revenge. Maybe brownies laced with Ex-lax for Christmas? Hum?
Smells of cloves linger in the warmth of the small kitchen, bubbling pumpkin pies cool on the counter and flour smudges dot my nose. A ten-pound bag of russet potatoes wait to be stripped of their outer clothing. I'm beat. I saw dawn and the rising sun, the edges of my eyes droop, but I promise traditional mounds of food spread over my table this Thanksgiving Day. Upside down smiles - not in my house.
Yawns and rumbling stomachs wander into the small room.
"Good morning sleepy heads." I scoop a wet mass of seasoned breadcrumbs and giblets into my palm and reach far into the turkey cavity to deposit the stuffing.
"Yucky!" Three wide-eyed kids stretch on tiptoe and gasp in horror.
"Mommy's hand is up the turkey's butt!" Krista declares with her four years of knowing.
"Icky, yuck, yuck, yuck
" the trio chant.
"Now stop that you guys." I'm trapped with my hand deep in untreaded territory. "I'm just stuffing the bird."
"That's stuffin?" Jake's words travel in a whisper, barely dancing on my ears. "Turkey poop?"
"No it's," The kids double over, grasp flannel wrapped stomachs and back away. "It just cooks inside the turkey. Really it's bread." I snag the empty package from the stuffing mix and wave it in the air.
"I'm not eating turkey poop!" Jake scoots away from the icy bird and sticks out his tongue.
"Me neither," the remaining troop rally together at all costs.
My fingers tap on the stainless steel sink, reflecting my inner thoughts of never again. I look at the picture holding fast on the refrigerator door and wonder if it is too late to buy steaks.
"Jake?" My voice carries easily in the aroma of pumpkin. "Does your teacher like brownies?"
"Yeah, she loves cookies and chocolate brownies with nuts." He pokes a finger in the pumpkin pie and turns, "Why?"
"Oh, I thought I'd bake her a big batch for Christmas." I wipe the remnants of turkey droppings from my greasy fingers, sip my hot coffee and give thanks.