So far: Cloud the kitten wanders off.
Early afternoon I started working on the turkey. I oiled the skin and stuffed it with an apple, a piece of celery, and an onion. I salted it and shook crumbled rosemary and sage all over the shining creature. After anointing it, I shoved it in the oven on low heat. My mother had roasted her turkey that way and it always came out tender and moist.
I felt like an interloper. Richard had always cooked the turkey. He would order an organic turkey weeks ahead from a farmer in Lake Elmo. He claimed they were the very best turkeys that could be found in the state. I didn’t argue. If they would have let him, I think he would have driven to the farm and picked out his turkey as the bird strutted around the yard.
Richard loved to get a really big turkey, like going into the forest and coming home with the biggest Christmas tree you could carry. He often cooked it on the grill, trying new systems every year or two: the rotisserie turkey, the smoked turkey, the brined turkey, the butterflied turkey.
And he named each turkey.
One year the turkey’s name was Pot-belly, the next Leaper, the next Stanton. I don’t know where he came up with the names, but he referred to it by its name all day long. When the turkey arrived at the table, he introduced it to everyone present. Then we ate it.
My turkey didn’t have a name. The poor bird would remain just a meal, not an event as it was with Richard. I wasn’t trying anything new — just cooking the turkey the way I had learned from my mother. This holiday I didn’t need any disasters. I needed a comfort meal with no surprises.
• • •
A perfectly ironed white tablecloth lay folded in the linen closet. I flapped it out and floated it down over the table. I didn’t need any leaves in the table. It could seat up to ten easily, but there would just be me.
As I looked at the expanse of white, I realized I had bought no flowers. I tried to think of what I could do to make some kind of centerpiece. There was no way I was going to have a bare table.
I decided to go out and tromp around the woods, collecting sumac heads, dried flowers, and other things for decoration. At the same time, I could look for Cloud. She must have gotten out when Dewey had come over. I was sure she couldn’t have gone far.
As soon as I lost sight of the house, I felt like Gretel, wandering in the woods, looking for crumbs. I found no Cloud, few berries, and no Hansel.
Even though I was only outside about a half an hour, I came back to the house with my fingers red, my nose running and my feet freezing. Winter already. Just without the snow. I looked down at the oak leaves and pathetic twigs I had gathered. It would take all of my cleverness and talent to make any kind of decent bouquet out of them.
Just as I was opening the door to go in, a delivery truck pulled into the driveway. I was surprised to get anything on Thanksgiving day.
The delivery guy swung down from the truck with a big purple package in his arms.
“Yes. Oh, thank you.” I decided not to cry in front of the delivery man, but a small sniffle escaped me as he handed me the package.
Once inside, I leaned against the door and squished the tears out of my eyes. Not today. I was absolutely not crying today. It was a holiday. Couldn’t I take a break from crying and just enjoy the day?
I set the purple package on the table and opened it. A standard fall floral arrangement of mums with a dorky turkey medallion in the middle. I was never so happy to see the mums. I opened the card. The flowers were from my father. What a sweetheart.
I gave the bouquet one more look, then happily tore it apart. The flowers were wonderful, but I had never liked the perfect, stilted floral-shop arrangements. I got out one of my old vases I had bought in Mexico. The perfect green and rust colors. I reassembled the bouquet, using some of the twigs and leaves I had gathered outside. Much better.
• • •
I called my dad hoping to catch him, but got his answering machine. He must have left for Carol’s house already.
I listened to his low, monotone voice talking as though he was giving a speech, “Hello there. (a little throat clearing) This is David Winkle.” Yes, my name had been Wendy Winkle. You can see now why I had to get married. “I’m either not at home or too busy to get the phone. But I want to know that you have called. So don’t hang up. Leave me a message. I will get back to you at the soonest convenient time. You can bet on it.”
My dad. A little goofy, but the message worked.
“Hey, Dad. Just me, your darling daughter. Thanks so much for the flowers. They are absolutely beautiful and so timely. Anyway, muchos muchos gracias! I hope your dinner at Carol’s was nice. I’d like to hear all about it. My turkey is getting done and I plan on eating soon. I’m having a nice day and your flowers made it that much better. Bye.”
When I hung up, I said to myself, “But my kitty’s missing.”
Tomorrow: Chapter 24 continues.