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Full of thanks and tree bark turkey

Gertrude, you let me down.
Or, perhaps, I let you down.
We’ll stay with the former.
Gertrude the Turkey smelled great. She looked divine. She tasted like tree bark.
I accidentally added the 2 ½ cups of water, which was supposed to go in the bottom of the roasting pan, to the olive oil baste. That probably didn’t help. Gertrude went into the oven at 6:30 that morning because the directions told us she needed to cook for 6 hours, and we planned to eat around 2:00 – and I wanted to add some cushion. By the time I inserted the digital meat thermometer at 11:00, she was already at 190 degrees – but I didn’t want to serve cold turkey, so we turned the oven off and left her inside.
Hindsight, you are a cruel, cruel friend.
But whatever. Michael’s cousin whipped up some wicked gravy from Gertrude’s drippings, so as long as Gertrude was drowning in beautiful brown sauce, I could swallow. The rest of the side dishes were divine. Fried green tomatoes with Cajun remoulade & shrimp (UNBELIEVABLY scrumptious, created by my multitalented baby brother), cranberry-apple chutney,corn casserole, broccoli & hollandaise sauce, sweet potatoes, spinach salad, fresh Mennonite rolls, and the most amazing apple pecan cornbread stuffing, which totally made up for the nastiness disguised as a turkey.
And, for the record, I am not a huge fan of making any kind of contact with a raw, slimy, bacteria-infested, dead bird.
And, for another record, I was not trying to rip the bird’s wing off its body. My mother told me we had to tuck it in. Since she’s done this before, I listened to her. After the wing-tucking, I made the baste, gritted my teeth, and forced my hands to touch the cold, wet, slippery skin. I even stuck my hands between the skin and the meat to separate the two and insert the unfortunate watery baste inside.
Not the highlight of my week. Or my year. Or my life.
Thankfully, the tree bark turkey is not what my family will remember about this Thanksgiving celebration. At least I hope so. I hope they will remember seventeen dearly loved people within the walls of one warm, welcoming home. I hope they will remember the jokes, the goodhearted teasing, the shared labor of preparing a scrumptious meal. I hope they will recall rocking on the front porch after dinner, laughing, sipping wine, weaving wisdom and encouragement with humorous recollections and family anecdotes.  
(My ancestors were nuts. Just so you know. Which explains a lot.)
And, of course, the football. Lots of football. 
I loved having a house-full. Loved it. While some may cringe at hosting a multitude, Michael and I draw energy from entertaining. We are fulfilled and satisfied and satiated when our home is bustling and loud. We know then that we are smack dab in the middle of God’s purpose for us, that we are obeying what He has called us to do.
Nothing brings joy to the soul like knowing you’re doing exactly what God wants.
I could almost sense all the prayers and love emanating from within our walls

Turkey-schmurkey. Who needs a dry, tasteless bird anyway? Some things are worth savoring more than a Thanksgiving meal. This will be the first of many holiday celebrations in our home, the first of many laughter-filled gatherings, the first of many memorable family shindigs.

And hopefully the last of tree-bark turkey.

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