The Year the Turkey Fought Back

Fall is my favorite month for many reasons; the beautiful weather, campfires, but most importantly the best holidays. I always look forward to celebrating Thanksgiving at my parents house and I have a lot of fond memories from over the years, but one Thanksgiving, in particular, stands out to me. It was several years ago and just like every year my mother was panicked. During the holiday season her Martha Stewart alter ego makes an appearance, but this time it was even worse because our family from North Carolina was coming all the way up to Ohio. So after a solid week of deep cleaning and decorating every corner of the house with pumpkins, fall wreaths, and various gourd filled bowls she delegated the grocery shopping to my dad who asked me to tag along. As I trailed behind him, down the aisles of Giant Eagle, I scanned over the extensive list my mom had written and I was ready to cross each item off. I rushed around the store to find random ingredients while my dad rolled the cart along, but we eventually reached our most important task; picking out the turkey. Feeding fifteen people requires a big bird so we grabbed the largest and roundest one we could find, snagged a tin to cook it in, and headed home feeling pretty good about ourselves.

On the days before Thanksgiving, my dad and I went to pick up the pies from Peter’s Farm Market, my mom pre-assembled the casseroles and my grandma was set to bring the mashed potatoes and cranberry-orange bread – everything was checked off our list. When Thanksgiving finally came, I woke up in the morning to the smell of turkey and went downstairs to watch the Macy’s Day Parade and The National Dog Show as my mom put the finishing touches on the house before the rest of our family arrived in a few hours. This is always one of my favorite parts of Thanksgiving because there is finally a sense of peace knowing that everything has been done, but little did I know it was merely the calm before the storm.

Everyone had arrived and the house looked immaculate, the food smelled great, and it was nearly time to eat – the last thing left to do was take out the turkey and make the gravy. At the time, I was sitting in the family room on the floor playing cards with my cousins and siblings and  my dad went to get the turkey out of the oven. All of a sudden there was a flash of light, a scream, and a loud thud. The group of us immediately shot to our feet and rushed into the kitchen where everyone was staring at the floor in a circle, where at the center laid the giant turkey surrounded by a puddle of grease. I wondered what could have possibly happened in the last two minutes to go from a picture perfect Thanksgiving to a Thanksgiving that could have aired on The Office. I looked over at my dad, whose eyebrows were completely burned off, and as I brushed my hand across the front of his hair the singed ends floated down to the tile.

It turned out that as my dad was removing the turkey from the oven the tin pan had buckled spilling grease directly onto the hot coils creating a giant fireball that leapt out at his face. Fortunately he was only a little pink and not severely burned, because the tin and turkey had blocked most of the flame, but the incident gave everyone a scare. Once we had regained our composure we picked the turkey up off the floor and I began to help clean up the grease but it was nearly impossible to make it so the floor wasn’t slippery and we all nearly had another heart attack when my Great Uncle Ken went sliding across the kitchen. We already had a dropped turkey so we definitely did not need a broken hip as well. We ended up having a little less gravy that year, but, luckily, the turkey had landed face up and we weren’t going to let our Thanksgiving get ruined that easily, however, it certainly wasn’t what we had expected.

Although my mom had spent countless hours preparing for Thanksgiving it still didn’t go as planned. In hindsight my dad and I should have bought a metal pan for the turkey but at the time we had no idea what would happen and we’re extremely lucky that we only lost a couple of eyebrows, rather than someone getting seriously hurt. Much like preparing the “perfect” Thanksgiving dinner, safety and preparedness never stops, even when the only thing you have left to do is carve the turkey. Those who focus on the result rather than the consistent preparation that is necessary to achieve the result are doomed to be disappointed. Yep, we learned that one that hard way and since that year we have used a metal pan and have had no recurring fireball instances. But just because we prepare ourselves for an incident that has already occured doesn’t mean my dad’s eyebrows are safe this year. Risk evolves over time and therefore requires our preparation to evolve as well. So, hopefully it won’t take a turkey on the floor to remind you that even when you are completely confident in your plan you can never be too prepared.

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