No whole turkey for me today.

I’m going with just the breast.

Oh, I used to go whole hog, so to speak, with the turkey. Especially when I lived in Japan. I used an oven not much bigger than the turkey itself, two little gas burners, and a kitchen smaller than my bathroom in my house now, and turned out an entire Thanksgiving-dinner-for-ten several years in a row.

It was very important then to have all the physical trappings of the holiday, no matter how difficult it was to achieve.

It was all I had to remind myself about what was important to me in the middle of a foreign country where I felt I was an outsider and where people stared at me when I walked down a street.

I’m older (and lazier) now, and just the breast, and forget the cranberry weird sauce thing, and while I still make pretty elaborate wild mushroom stuffing, this year I’m not even going to be at a large gathering.

And I was thinking it is a good thing that I no longer need to invest myself in these details to feel like myself. That I know who I am even if I don’t have the perfect turkey and lumpless gravy and creamy-smooth pumpkin pie.

But then I did an about face. Not that I suddenly had the desire to stick my hand into a frozen turkey carcass to pull out the organs-and-bits, just that maybe I needed to put a little more attention into the details.

You see, I was reading about what Ben Franklin said about the difference between a wild tukey and a bald eagle was on Wikipedia. Old Ben considered Bald Eagles of bad moral character because they would steal fish from other birds. Turkeys were somewhat vain and silly, but they were industrious, foraging omnivorously on the ground, and defended themselves from all intruders.

I think the prosperity I’ve enjoyed, and even the USA has enjoyed, for the past ten years or so has made me complacent. Maybe I should try harder to get the details right this year because I should be more like a Wild Turkey (as ironically terrible as that may be since we are discussing the cooking of aforesaid Turkey) in my industriousness. Maybe I need to get down on the ground and forage hard instead of perching on my branch complacently expecting somebody else to show up with what I need.

Not that I think I need to have a perfect turkey with cranberry sauce to understand Thanksgiving, more that I think I need to have some striving, some difficulty, in order to understand what Thanksgiving is. Thanksgiving is not sitting complacently enjoying the fruits of others’ labors.

No sirree. Thanksgiving comes from a difficult, hard part of us. The part that works very hard with a tiny oven to cook a full course meal because that means something, even when it seems ridiculously hard, even silly to try.

Thanksgiving comes from the part of me that is not perfect, that yells at my kids, and walks past the canned food donation barrel, and just can’t seem to get it right.

It’s a cold and broken Hallelujah.

So I’m going to eat that turkey breast today, and be grateful for it, and possibly strive just a bit harder to deserve all the bounty in my life.

(I’m also partial to the Rufus Wainwright version of Hallelujah I linked to above, it’s a little more gritty and angsty)

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