Happy Thanksgiving!

A Tom Turkey walking into Thanksgiving

From: MEMORIES OF A ROTTEN CHILDHOOD, -PART 7, MY FATHER

My father was a tender man. He came back from WWII, from the Pacific Rim, probably shell shocked, certainly a pacifist.

It was somewhere in the 50′s. My parents had bought their dream house: a very old, and badly- needing- restoration pre-Revolutionary War house. My father, along with my 9 months pregnant mother, moved into this house and began the necessary restoration. I remember my brother and I were bedded down in what was to be the dining room.

Both my parents were biting off probably more than they could chew with this property. There were two barns, a few sheds, and lo and behold! An outhouse. That was the toilet…the only toilet.

My mother, being city bred, and also so heavily pregnant, refused to use that black walnut-built two seater outhouse, and since it was already winter, who could blame her? My father worked nights putting in a proper bathroom, and peace reigned again. Sort of.

(Black walnut is beautiful wood, and since they were surrounded with acres of it, that particular wood was used for just about everything, including the beautiful curving banister in the front hall. My father also tore apart the outhouse and used some of the wood in constructing a cabinet under the back staircase, accessible from the kitchen. It was a great place for us to play hide and seek as children.)

Thanksgiving was coming one year, and my father decided he would buy a live turkey, fatten it up and slaughter it for the day. I vaguely remember going with him one night, when it was already dark and cold, and what I remember was a very large, dark room, lit by a bare bulb hardly casting light on the proceedings. If I remember correctly, it probably was a poultry farm somewhere in Middlesex County, probably in Millstone. Back in the 50′s and 60′s, five miles from Princeton, all of this area was farm country. Very old, English, Scottish then Dutch countryside with huge acreage of farms, dairy and grains.

So my father brings home a live turkey, and with two kids and a toddler, he thinks he is going to make “Tom” dinner.
My father soon realized his now-country- bred children had made friends with Tom and the idea of eating a friend, well, this wasn’t on the menu for us kids.

My mother wasn’t about to pluck or clean a turkey. She was a nurse and ballet dancer and hadn’t education in this. She didn’t like to even touch fish to be cooked.

So Tom went to Ham MacDonald in Rocky Hill. He had 12 children and I am sure Tom served the purpose he was bred for very nicely there.
My father went to his friend in Millstone, Chester, who was a butcher, and got a goose. I think he decided on goose because of the quick disappearance of Tom and he knew any turkey carcass showing up on a plate would have been suspect.

So that Thanksgiving we had goose, which was rather strange because Thanksgiving wasn’t called “Goose Day”.

My father was a tender man. Perhaps WWII and the times made him tender. Perhaps having children made him see life through our eyes. Some men become harder faced with life. I think it was because of his nature. He practiced compassion, even to the sensitivities of children.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Jane Kohut-Bartels
Copyrighted, 2011, 2012

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