“Mom, we can’t eat an entire turkey!”
“Honey, it’s Thanksgiving. We always make the turkey.”
It was a bit late to say that when my mother was prepping the marinade, but between the two of us, there was absolutely no way we could finish it.
“Okay, what about the other dishes? Are we making cranberry sauce? Or pumpkin pie?”
“Of course not, Taylor, your aunts and uncles are still doing their dishes. Thanksgiving has always been potluck in our family.”
“Mom.” I had to tread carefully, not wanting to get in trouble but also wanting to make sure I wouldn’t be subject to turkey for dinner for the next month and have none of my favorite sides for Thanksgiving. “I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but there’s kind of a whole-” I stopped. So much for treading carefully. I tried again. “You know we’re not actually getting together this year, right?”
“Of course not, but we’re still doing that thing on the computer so it’s as if we’ll be together.” She finished mixing the marinade and poured it over the turkey. “Hold the fridge for me, honey.”
I opened the fridge door. “Mom, we can’t share food over zoom.”
It’s a good thing she had already put the turkey down, because when she heard me say that, my mother jumped. “Taylor! Do you expect a little thing like that to be a reason for me to steal the recipes of our family? Or worse, use a different one? Things are this way for a reason. We make the turkey, and that’s that.”
My mother turned on her heal as if to march out of the kitchen, and the phone rang. She gave me a look that said, ‘this conversation is still over,” and answered.
Although she hadn’t put the phone on speaker, the volume on the handset was loud enough that I could hear the person on the other side. It was Aunt Karen.
“Since we can’t actually get together this year, I want to keep things as normal as possible for my kids this year, so I was hoping to have all the dishes they’re used to in the exact way they usually get them. Basically, what I’m saying is, can I have your turkey recipe?”
“You have to click that.” Elsie pointed to a spot on the screen.
“I know how it works! You don’t have to tell me,” Jess grumbled. “Just because you’re nine doesn’t mean you know everything.”
“Did you connect to audio?”
“I know how it works!!!” Jess snapped, “go away! It’s not even time to connect, I’m just setting up the meeting. Which is something you probably don’t know how to do.”
Elsie made a face. “I’m not a little kid. I could probably figure it out.”
“Fine. Here, you do it.” Jess surrendered the computer to her little sister and stalked off into the kitchen.
“Woah, what happened to you? Attack of the pipsqueak?” Noah laughed at the look on his sister’s face.
“Shut up. She stole my job. Again.”
“She admires you,” Noah said in that annoying way he had of noticing things.
“Ugh. If that means taking over my life, I don’t want her admiration. You can have it. I’m going to make the pie while she tries to figure out how to make a zoom meeting. Where’s Uncle Carl’s recipe?”
Elsie marched into the kitchen with a triumphant grin on her face. “I’m finished. The meeting password is TURKEY. All caps.” She paused. “You said something about pie? I made that already. See?” She opened the oven door to show two pumpkin pies. “They’re almost done.”
“I can’t believe I didn’t think of that.”
“It’s not your fault, Carl, we never make the turkey. But now we need to see where we can get one on Thanksgiving morning.” Lila pulled out her phone. “Maybe Alice knows a place. Let’s get in the car while I text her.”
“Do we really need a turkey though? Maybe we can have chicken instead. Or hamburgers? Sidney won’t care, and we can’t eat an entire turkey on our own. Plus, the light meat would go to waste since neither of us likes it.”
“Sidney’s a baby. He wouldn’t care if we ate nothing but pie! But you do have a point. Maybe we can get turkey drumsticks and we’ll make mashed potatoes in the shape of the rest of the bird. Drive. Let’s check Whole Foods.”
Carl burst out laughing.
“Let’s check Whole Foods for pieces of turkey.”
“Right.” Lila rolled her eyes. “Drive.”
“Okay, that’s Grandpa’s cornbread and Grandma’s cranberry sauce. Is that everything?”
“Mom, I didn’t mean we had to have everything!”
Apparently I should have snuck the recipe to Aunt Karen in advance. Now that Mom found out that everyone else was making more than their usual dish, she decided to make everyone’s dishes. She had asked Karen to send out an email to all of us with the whole collection of recipes, which would have been fine except that she insisted that we make everything in the single day between the time she relinquished her recipe and the time when everything was supposed to be eaten. Since then the two of us had spent the majority of the time in the kitchen following recipes exactly. And, since the recipes were for when we all ate together, that meant we had enough food for the entire gang, but only two members on hand to eat it.
“Karen had a point. I want it to be as normal for you as possible.”
“Normal?!” I couldn’t believe it. This was supposed to be normal?
“Yes, Taylor, normal. Now, can you get into the meeting? Jess emailed out the code.”
I rolled my eyes. Jess had not emailed out the code, she put it on the Hangouts chat, but my mom made those forward to her email because she thought text was too complicated.
“Sure. Do you want me to set it up now?”
“Yeah, I don’t want to miss it by accident.”
There was no chance we would miss it. In our family, if you were two minutes late to that sort of thing you got a phone call. Still, I set it up right away.
Jess must have also been stuck on zoom school because not only was the waiting room disabled, but she had set it so that the other members could get into the meeting early, both of which are usually not true for school and are extremely annoying.
Jess carried the phone into the dining room. “Do you have zoom open? It’s the one with the blue video camera. Hang on, I’m putting you on speaker.”
“Hi Grandma!” Elsie cut in.
Jess shot her a dark look.
“Are you trying to get into zoom? I could read you the code,” Elsie continued, ignoring Jess.
As Elsie read off the number, Jess thrust the phone into her hand and left the room. She bumped into Noah on his way in.
“Don’t say it,” Jess growled at him, “I’m not in the mood. Ugh, why does she want everything!”
“Hi!!!” Overenthusiastic waves and greetings filled the screen and airspace as more and more clusters of faces filled the screen.
“By the way, Jess, nice job setting up. I wouldn’t have remembered to let people in before.”
Jess left the view of the camera. Did she not hear me? Maybe there was a lag and she was leaving for a different reason. I never knew Jess to ignore a compliment before.
“Wow, that’s a lot of food on your table.” Noah jumped in, “I think you have more than we do. And we’re more people.”
“I know, but Mom made everything and didn’t cut down on any of the recipe sizes. I have no idea what we’re going to do with all the extra food.”
Uncle Carl carried his laptop into the dining room.
“Wow! That’s a creative way of taking care of the whole meal.” The turkey was made of mashed potatoes, and the gravy boat was full of cranberry sauce. “Is that pumpkin cornbread?”
“Yup.” Aunt Lila walked into the camera’s view. “We do have pumpkin pie too, for Sidney, but the cornbread is a recipe from my family and I haven’t had it for Thanksgiving in a while and this seemed like a good opportunity.”
“Sound’s good,” Grandpa said, and a second later he and Grandma popped up.
“We got our video on, thanks Elsie.” Grandma waved and hung up the phone she was holding.
Mom walked into the room. “Oh! Taylor, you should have told me they were on. Sorry, everyone.”
“It’s still early.”
Mom started saying hi to everyone individually by name, which would have been fine if I could have walked away, but we all waited while my mother caught up with everyone publicly.
“Wait, where’s Jess?”
“I’m here.” Jess must have been hovering off screen, because we couldn’t see her but we could hear her very clearly.
“Jess, come say hi to Auntie Alice.” Aunt Karen reached over and pulled Jess into the camera.
“Hi.” She darted back out of view.
This whole year must have been pretty hard on Jess. She doesn’t mind crowds, so long as she doesn’t have to be talking to all of them at once, and on zoom it’s all or nothing.
“Let’s eat?” Aunt Lila broke the silence.
So we each moved to our tables and took turns chatting while everyone else was eating.
I guess at some point Mom realized that there could have been a different path then only turkey or the entire meal in a quantity large enough to feed a small army, because after a couple hours (Aunt Karen is a teacher, so she doesn’t have the forty minute limit) of talking over each other, when we finally got off of zoom, she passed me my coat and a mask.
“What’s this for?”
“We’re taking this food on the road. We couldn’t possibly finish it, and there are probably plenty of people out there who can’t even have a zoom Thanksgiving, so let’s give them some warm food.”
It was definitely nothing like anything I would have imagined Thanksgiving to be like, but since we had to adjust the old tradition a bit, we added a new one. The rest of the family loved the idea, and we have been planning to make plenty of extra food next year so we can deliver some to the local homeless. Pandemic permitting of course.