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The turkey dance

Rick Ryckeley's picture

Not going to school and playing all day due to the holiday sure can suck all the energy out of a kid. Luckily, on Thanksgiving morning, the surprisingly wonderful smell of freshly baked apple pie drifted into our bedroom and pulled me out of my sleep-coma. If it hadn’t, I might have missed the holiday dinner altogether.

You see, living at 110 Flamingo Street, enjoyable smells were not a common occurrence in our bedroom or any room shared with Twin Brother Mark. There was only one logical thing to do to make sure I wasn’t still dreaming. I picked up my pillow and started to pummel Mark.

His cries for help, along with additional smells of fresh yeast rolls and roasting turkey, could only mean two things. It was Thanksgiving once again, and Grandma Watson was in our kitchen doing the turkey dance!

Still trying to wipe sleep from my eyes, I stumbled down the steps to see an all too familiar sight: Grandma Watson with her checker-board apron tied around her waist, snow white hair piled atop her head, and the light smell of biscuits wafting from her. She was alone in our kitchen and in full holiday preparation mode.

Somehow I found myself sitting at the table. A plate of warm oatmeal cookies and cold glass of milk appeared. As they were set down in front of me, Grandma Watson bent over and whispered, “Don’t tell your mom.” She kissed my forehead, then made her way back to her workstation at the stove. The turkey dance began again.

I watched in amazement all morning as she danced between ovens, pots on the stove, pantry and refrigerator. We all knew that the dinner she cooked would be amazing, and we wanted to help. But kids weren’t allowed in the work zone of the kitchen during the holiday; only Mom was. We were confined to the kitchen table where we all sat, enchanted by Grandma’s dance.

To say Grandma Watson was my favorite relative would be an understatement. To say Uncle Bob was my least favorite relative was not.

As sweet as Grandma was, Uncle Bob was just downright irritating. Every time he walked by, he’d rub your head and grunt, “You’re a good kid.”

After the fifth head rub, Grandma saw me jerk away. Before I could say anything to Uncle Bob, she stopped her turkey dance, walked straight over to me, and whispered in my ear, “We don’t judge family, darling.”

With my forehead kissed once again, I was instantly muzzled. She waltzed her way back into the kitchen and put the finishing touches on the holiday meal, leaving me to question what the heck she was talking about. Of course we judge family! We did it all the time.

With the head rubbing, Uncle Bob was downright weird. Big Brother James couldn’t spell. Older Brother Richard had a slight stutter – always an easy target for judgment if you’re a kid. The Sister? Well, she played with dolls. Need I say more?

Of course, Mark smelled bad, and we told him that all the time. And my brothers and sister all judged me just because I was the “baby of the family.” Yep, growing up at 110 Flamingo Street, we judged family alright.

It wasn’t until years later as an adult that I fully understood the meaning of what Grandma Watson had whispered in my ear that day so long ago:

The world will judge your family, little one; that’s why you are to love and accept them just as they are.

Even if that means having to endure a few head rubs every now and then or sitting next to your stinky brother.

Happy Thanksgiving from The Wife, The Boy, and me.

[Rick Ryckeley, who lives in Senoia, is in his third decade as a firefighter and has been a weekly columnist since 2001. His email is His books are available at]

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