Top Turkey Day Tips for Real Moms

I love this image, can you guess what our
turkey's going to look like this year?

There’s a chill in the air, a blaze of color in the leaves and a slew of baking items on every retail endcap. Ah yes, ‘tis the holiday season. And whether you’re hosting your entire family or going over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house, the holidays require tips – lots and lots of tips. Tips to help you navigate family gatherings with aplomb…tips to help you plan ahead…tips to help you keep your cool.

These are not those tips. These are tips to help you feel better and more organized than one other person on the planet, me. Enjoy.

Tip #1: Get Your Dad (or other relative) to Cook the Bird
This may sound like a cop-out for “the 50-lb bird handling” promised in the headline, but accomplishing this is nothing short of an art form.

In every family there is a Turkey Lover (or TL), someone whose entire holiday can be ruined by just the hint of dry turkey. In my family, that TL would be my dad.

The strategic method for getting someone else to cook the bird requires your TL (a.k.a. Intended Bird-Cooker, or IBC) to arrive a day or two before T-day. Then feed your TL/IBC oddball dinners and lunches such as lasagna with broccoli substituted for the meat, tofu pancakes and organic macaroni and cheese (yes, this stuff really exists).

Then, the day before Thanksgiving, drop the bird in the sink to defrost (a bacteria’s dream) and walk away. Just walk away.

Last year, my dad took over the abandoned bird speed-racer style. I awoke pre-dawn Thanksgiving morning to the smells of sautéing onions and sage. The bird was stuffed, prepped and in the oven before I even set foot in the kitchen. 50-lb bird. Check.

Tip #2: Tie Up the Kids

Figuratively, please. At large family gatherings, worrying about your kids can get in the way of a good holiday-punch-bowl buzz. So plan ahead.

One tip for dinnertime peace is to roll out craft paper over your tablecloth and place washable markers around the table. But if locating craft paper gives you a nervous tic (What is it anyway?), find a tablecloth to sacrifice instead. Make sure to place a liner underneath and raid your work-supply cabinet for permanent markers in advance. At the big dinner, have kids and grownups write notes of inspiration and thanks. And, be sure to date those notes and bring out the cloth every year.

Tip #3: Respect All Local Law

Last year, my family rented an old beach house in the Carolinas so we could all fit in one place. I have two brothers and two sisters, and we all have kids or dogs. It was a blast.

On Thanksgiving Day, we sent my brother-in-law Craig, from New York City, to the store on the little island for some rutabaga and other Thanksgiving essentials (you know, more beer). Unfamiliar with the area, and evidently its traffic laws, he turned into the grocery store parking lot incorrectly. Normally, this may have been forgiven. But Craig thought the ticket was dumb. And granted, most are. However, he made the mistake of showing it by rolling his eyes…whoops. Or, perhaps it was the New York license plate. Anyway, he came home with a whopping $250 ticket, and I don’t think he’s welcome on the island anymore.

Tip #4: Be Present
Yes, the holidays may be stressful, but in the grand scheme there will be so few of them in your lifetime. But if you’re just simply not going to enjoy the day, know that there are plenty of out-of-work actors who would love the job. That’s right. Outsource.

Sarcasm aside, the holidays go fast. Some years, everyone will be there. But eventually, more will be missing than present. I miss my mom, my husband’s dad, my best friend. We’re all fleeting. Life’s a journey, and time flies too fast. So slow down, relish and remember.

Tip #5: Drink Heavily
Finally, if being present and in-the-moment fails, hit the punch bowl.

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