Our first Thanksgiving as newlyweds, my husband and I invited his parents to visit us in our small one bedroom apartment in Louisville, KY, where my husband was enrolled in med school. Anxious to make them feel welcomed, I had offered to cook the entire Thanksgiving meal.
Excited to use my new china, beautiful crystal and special serving pieces, I took great pains creating a lovely and colorful table setting for the occasion. As a new bride I desperately wanted to impress my in- laws and reaffirm their opinion that their son had made a good choice.
Never one to back away from a challenge or to be easily intimidated, I planned my menu and prepared my grocery list as though I were a seasoned chef. Using the Betty Crocker cookbook I had received as a wedding shower gift, I followed instructions for cooking the turkey, the grand centerpiece of the meal that day.
As a new bride I desperately wanted to impress my in- laws and reaffirm their opinion that their son had made a good choice.
I rose early the morning of Thanksgiving Day to put the bird in the oven and finish preparations for the special side dishes I had planned. When my in- laws arrived later that day my mother-in-law pulled out an apron and together we squeezed into the tiny kitchen to add the finishing touches to the meal.
“Honey, do you want me to make the giblet gravy?” she offered, probably certain that I had no idea how to perform that task.
“Yes, that would be great,” I replied, “except this turkey didn’t come with any giblets.”
“Are you sure? They always come with giblets.”
“No, I’m sure,” was my confident reply. “I checked the package thoroughly and checked the turkey when I washed it. No giblets!”
“That’s odd. OK, then I guess I’ll just make a regular gravy from the pan drippings.”
My father-in-law had always been the meat carver in the family so after we were seated and prayers had been said, I handed him the carving tools and asked if he would mind carving our turkey. With the skill of a surgeon, he stood over the turkey platter and carved the first slice of breast meat. Clear juice oozed from the white meat topped by skin that had been roasted to a golden perfection.
“The turkey looks great,” came his pronouncement. I smiled with what I hoped was a mixture of both pride and humility.
“Thank you. We’re so happy to have you both here.”
We all sat watching the carving of the turkey as though it were some kind of sacred ceremony. Suddenly as the knife moved back and forth in practiced rhythm, my eyes grew wide watching the pieces of parchment paper becoming more jagged with each stroke of the knife’s blade.
My emotions ran from shock to confusion to embarrassment all within a sixty second period of time. I looked up at my mother-in-law, seated directly across the table and saw something between a look of pity and horror on her face. We all continued to sit and stare while my father-in-law continued to carve, none of us quite knowing what to do or say.
My emotions ran from shock to confusion to embarrassment all within a sixty second period of time.
Suddenly my father-in-law threw his head back and let out a loud, hearty laugh. “Oh,” I said quietly, “I guess that turkey did have a giblet bag after all.”
“Don’t worry about it. We’ll just carve around it and I bet you’ll be able to find it the next time!” he exclaimed.
Relief swept over me as we all shared a good laugh over my “turkey that didn’t come with giblets” and proceeded to enjoy a delicious meal. Forty-three years later, I’ve never forgotten my first attempt at cooking a Thanksgiving turkey. But I’ve also never forgotten the grace and forgiveness extended to me by my in- laws that day. Their focus and conversation remained on what I did RIGHT, not on the shreds of paper and mangled pieces of turkey giblets that ended up on the platter as proof of my kitchen failure.
This Thanksgiving my prayer is that as we gather with friends and family we will all extend grace to one another when the ragged edges of our humanity begin to show. We all need it and we all need to give it.
This Thanksgiving my prayer is that as we gather with friends and family we will all extend grace to one another when the ragged edges of our humanity begin to show.
My guess is that often people’s intentions are just as right and well meaning as mine had been my first Thanksgiving as an inexperienced bride. But our lack of insight and understanding sometimes makes things come out all wrong. And sometimes what we see or hear in others may be as unappealing as the shredded, limp paper with particles of gizzard, liver and neck falling from my first turkey. It is then we would be well advised to remember Jesus’ words “Judge not lest ye be judged” and to focus on what folks are doing RIGHT rather than what they are doing WRONG.
In this year of political and national turmoil, of personal passions that may be running high, I am praying for us all the words found in 2 Peter 1:2, “Grace to you and peace be multiplied in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”
Wishing all of my readers a blessed Thanksgiving and memories that will bring you laughter and joy.