Gratitude: How To Salvage A Thanksgiving Day Disaster

My house smelled like rotten eggs. Spoiled milk. Dirty socks. I emptied the trash, disinfected the countertops, and lit a pumpkin-scented candle, but I could not get rid of the stench. I sniffed and I scrubbed and I desperately searched for the origin. I was hosting Thanksgiving dinner in less than two hours and I did not want to serve it in a house that smelled like dog poop.

I was determined to impress my guests. The table was set. The salads and sweet potatoes were prepped and ready. The children had been scrubbed and pressed and laid out to dry. The turkey was almost done. Every detail was attended to.

In the days leading up to Thanksgiving, I scoured the internet for the perfect turkey recipe. Discarding one after another, I finally found the recipe I was looking for. I could already envision my new holiday tradition: a slow-roasted turkey.

The website promised a “moist, delicious, holiday turkey. The perfect centerpiece for your Thanksgiving table.” The photos looked impressive, golden brown skin lightly sprinkled with herbs and spices, smiling guests gathered around expectantly.

I bought the biggest turkey I could find. I was feeding my entire family: a multitude of children, one husband, two in-laws, seventeen assorted cousins, and a few random nuts who are somehow related to me.

Step One: Clean and stuff turkey.

Step Two: Rub outside of turkey with a mixture of butter, spices, and herbs.

Step Three: Place turkey inside 500 degree oven. Cook for one hour.

Step Four: Turn oven off. DO NOT OPEN OVEN DOOR. Allow turkey to slow-cook in oven overnight while you sleep.

Step Five: Two hours before your meal, turn oven on to lowest setting. Allow turkey to warm until meal time.

Step Six: Place delicious, slow-roasted turkey as centerpiece on Thanksgiving table.

I carefully followed the instructions. My perfect turkey was less than two hours away from being the centerpiece to my perfect Thanksgiving. If only I could vanquish this God-awful smell from my holiday festivities.

“Honey! I think there must be a dead rodent in the wall. Or maybe under the sink. Could it be in the pantry? We have to find it and get rid of it before our guests arrive. I don’t want my perfect Thanksgiving to smell like a dead animal!”

My husband began pulling things out from under the sink. He opened cupboards and cabinets, searching for a dead body. I unloaded the bottom shelves of the pantry. Sacks of rice, bags of potatoes, various pots and pans, dishwasher detergent and cleaning supplies were piled haphazardly on the kitchen floor. The kids soon joined the fun, emptying one drawer after another onto the counter tops. It was like a hideous Thanksgiving version of hide and seek.

After thirty minutes of Hide and Seek Hell I had had enough. “Stop! Stop!” I yelled, waving my hands in the air. “There’s no time for this. Everybody put everything back where you got it. I am running to the store for some air freshener. Maybe that will help.”

In my heart of hearts I knew it would not help, but I was desperate.

“Honey, will you check on the turkey?” I asked as I searched through the piles of misplaced cupboard contents for my car keys. “It should be ready to come out of the oven soon. I will be right back.”

My husband obediently put on his oven mitts and opened the oven door.

An overwhelming wave of dead-animal-stench washed over me.

“Oh no! Do you smell that? The dead rodent must be in the oven! My turkey is ruined!” I wailed as I pushed my husband out of the way and reached in to pull out my perfect centerpiece.

I gagged as I set my darling turkey on the counter. “How did that happen? A rat must have crawled into the oven yesterday.”

“There is no dead rat, dear.” My husband said kindly. “That smell is coming from your turkey.”

Horrified, I realized he was right. I leaned closer and took a cautious sniff. The inside of my nostrils burned and I heard a retching sound emanating from the back of my throat.

“What in the world? Why does my turkey smell like that? I must have gotten a rotten turkey from the store!”

“Where and when did you get it?” my husband asked. “We should take it back and demand a refund.”

“I got it fresh yesterday afternoon! I washed it, stuffed it, and it was in the oven by dinner time last night.”

“Wait a minute. You have been cooking this turkey since last night?”

“Yes! I put it in yesterday and let it sit in the oven all night with the door closed.”

“You let a turkey sit in the oven all night with the door closed?” my husband asked incredulously. “Why would you do that?”

“I was following a special recipe! I did everything EXACTLY as they said!”

My husband shook his head sadly as he lovingly picked up my turkey from the counter. “Sweetheart. You didn’t buy a rotten turkey. You bought a perfectly good turkey and then you rotted it overnight in the oven.”

I watched in horror as he dumped my turkey in the trash can. “Wait! Maybe it is not entirely ruined! There could be some parts that are still edible.”

“No. There are no parts that are edible unless you are planning on poisoning your family.” My husband tied the drawstrings on the trash bag and hefted it up. “This has to go to the outside trash can. It smells too bad to stay in here.” And then he carried my perfect Thanksgiving turkey as far away from the house as possible.

Into the trash can went my hopes and dreams for the perfect Thanksgiving. I looked at the clock and realized I now had one hour until my guests would arrive. Snatching my car keys from the disaster in my kitchen, I dashed out the door. There was only one way to salvage this mess. I drove to the only store open on Thanksgiving Day and grabbed the three biggest turkey rolls I could find. I had never eaten a turkey roll before, but have since learned they are the glorified salami log of the turkey world.

I rushed home to warm up my glorified salami in the rodent-free oven. My children had returned all of the items to various cupboards and drawers, although not the correct ones, of course. I would spend the next several weeks searching for misplaced kitchen utensils. The stench had mostly dissipated by the time the guests arrived. The scent of the pumpkin candle and the steam from the salami-turkey managed to cover the slight dead-animal smell still in the air.

When everyone was seated, I placed the ugly, odd-shaped, tannish-colored, turkey roll on a beautiful platter. As we bowed our heads and prayed, giving thanks for our many blessings, I realized that despite the salami-turkey taking center stage, I still had everything I could ever want at that table.

Moral of the story? Not everything you read on the internet is true. Some of it is made up by people who think it would be funny to ruin your Thanksgiving. Well, the joke is on you, suckas! You didn’t ruin my Thanksgiving at all. It was actually my crazy Uncle Leo who ruined Thanksgiving by discussing politics at the dinner table.

**Disclaimer: Crazy Uncle Leo is a fictitious character/pseudonym to protect me from additional familial discord.

Actual moral of the story? You do not have to have the perfect turkey, the perfect meal, or the perfect family to give thanks. You simply have to have gratitude.

“Gratitude unlocks the fulness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” ~ Melody Beattie, author, journalist


4 thoughts on “Gratitude: How To Salvage A Thanksgiving Day Disaster

  1. Jackie

    Love this – love your writing. I wish I could read a new one everyday. Ever thought of writing some sort of devotional?

    1. Natalie Gwyn Post author

      Thank you, Jackie! I have thought of it. It is a very small thought, waaaaay in the back of my mind. I think someday I might like to do that. My first book comes out in June. I have already started writing my second. Maybe my third book should be a devotional:)

  2. joel marquette

    I enjoy reading your stories and plan to print this one out and read to my family this evening at dinner. I do have one question though, Did the turkey really smell rotten or was this an exaggeration?

    1. Natalie Gwyn Post author

      Joel, I read your comment to my husband and his response was, “It smelled like urine. Really strong urine.” There you have it! Proof from an unbiased third party that I did not exaggerate.

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