Not Your Traditional Thanksgiving Story

By Jody Yetti

familyMost of my tongue-in-cheek references are born out of biting my tongue on the holidays at one time or another.

Thanksgiving has served as the practice ground for it. How I managed to even eat during this holiday was beyond me. Being born into a large Italian family, holidays were and always will be about “the family”—and the size of the family. How in the hell are we going to fit everyone at the dinner table? Two weeks before the holiday, I would hear my mother, “I hope your brother doesn’t think he’s bringing his new girlfriend, there’s no room!”

As for the food, as if we were catering the inauguration, it all had to be coursed and it had to go in order, from soup to nuts, when it was put on the table. God forbid you got up between courses, unless it was the third course stretch between the lasagna and meat. Yes, lasagna on Thanksgiving. Doesn’t everyone eat lasagna as a starter?

When it came time to carve the turkey, there was always friction. It had to do with the family curse. It seems someone always pointed out that whoever had sliced the turkey the year before had experienced some sort of relationship hardship, whether it was a break-up, a divorce, a long-term live-in moving out or perpetual dating with no one steady to speak of all year. Many of us had experienced our turn. Every time one of my male cousins would volunteer to carve, his wife would shoot him a look and verbally make some sort of threat he didn’t dare defy.

The curse started with my father who would always carve, until the divorce. But there were rumors of the curse way before he became the turkey carver.

Once my father was no longer a part of the family tradition, you would think my brother would take over the carving duties. But not him—he liked his girlfriend. He wouldn’t do it. So, I once stepped up. I was going nowhere in my relationship at the time and threw caution to the wind. George (my ex bf) is now happily involved with Claire.

The following year I took a pass (just in case). My cousin Nickie took at stab at it, once. He’s never remarried, and we call him the serial dater.

You would think we’d switch to ham.

One year, we even tore off turkey pieces with a fork just so we would avoid cutting into the bird. Can you imagine? My mother had a fit when we did that. All those years of propriety out the window, and the biggest sin of all, it happened in front of company. Foregoing the carving was Nickie’s idea, and my cousins and I paid for that one. (Mom was in the kitchen scooping out peas at the time.)

We have since solved the problem. We now, believe it or not, have the turkey cooked and sliced by a caterer. Everything else is made at home.

My mother thinks the whole thing is ridiculous, and it is, but we’ve had so much fun obsessing over it why not cater to it?

My brother is the one who said he’d take care of the turkey from now on and that’s how it got to the caterer, so he did man up after all. Now, every year before stopping at the bakery, someone arranges for the turkey to get delivered to the house.

It’s had its advantages. No more getting up at 5 a.m. to put the turkey in the oven, no more worrying what else will fit in the oven because the turkey is in there, and, most of all, no more obsessing over who won’t be at the dinner table next year. Problem solved.

So, what’s this all mean to me? I feel blessed to have a family, idiosyncrasies and all, though they make me crazy. I personally could live without turkey (especially after a plate of lasagna), but tradition is what makes holidays what they are.

This year, my dad is coming to Thanksgiving dinner. My parents have been divorced 40 years and have remained friends. My father told my brother, “Don’t spend extra money on a caterer, we’ll make the turkey at home, and I’ll carve it.” My mother, tired of all the reconciliation jokes, said, “I’ll have the knife ready.”

Jody Yetti, a single woman business owner and seasoned traveler, has been in the travel industry for more than 20 years. She owns Jody’s Travel Inc., a full-service travel agency for single women and other savvy travelers, located in Moriches, NY. Jody can be reached at 631-281-3636 or