Thursday, November 22, 2012
Had to be a Butterball
My mother would call a good two weeks out and put her order in. She never used a coupon. That little store never offered such things. My parents knew the owner. Most everyone did in our small town. When it was time to go pick the Butterball up and bring him home to roost, my father always wore a tie with a good shirt, dress pants and his winter coat and wool hat with a red feather on the side. My mother always went with him wrapped up in her red, woolen coat. My siblings and I would stay home and wait for them to return. It was quite an exciting time.
Once back home, my mother would open the front door for my father who'd walk in carrying Tom inside a heavy cardboard box with handles on each side. We'd follow them into the kitchen as the box was placed inside the sink. Once their coats and boots were off, we waited while our parents opened the box so we could see what Tom looked like. We'd stand there marvelling at his splendor and size. Thinking about it now, Tom looked the same every year. I never thought he did back then as the box was secured and Tom was put on the side porch until it was time to put him in the oven-usually very early Thanksgiving Day-early enough so that when we got up that welcoming aroma of a turkey roasting in the oven was starting to become apparent.
Sometimes our home was where everyone gathered for the yearly feast. Sometimes it was my grandmother's. Either way, the night before was a hustle of prepartions. The stuffing was always made fresh from scratch so that meant the dry, stale bread had to be ripped into pieces and the butter had to be melted and the spices readied-especially that little box of Bell's seasonings. While the stuffing was being blended, Tom was brought in from the side porch. It was his turn to be cleaned and prepared. He was always the 'biggest turkey ever.'
As little kids we never realized what else besides the Butterball and his stuffing was meticulously prepared. I guess we thought the cranberries and coleslaw and mashed potaotes with dumplings and gravy and squash and salads and homemade pickles and pies with real whippped cream and everything else sitting on a tablecloth-the same tablecloth brought out every year-took no thought at all or at least much less than that Butterball in the cardboard box. However the feast came together, we thoroughly enjoyed the meal. Adults back then were dressed for the occasion. My grandmother always traded her house dress for a good dress even though she worked in the kitchen. Aprons were always nearby. The men wore ties and the conversation flowed. Hours after the meal, Tom the Butterball was again enjoyed in sandwiches with pepper and mayonnaise with yet another slice of pie with the real whipped cream.
That corner neighborhood store is still open but it has changed hands and no one can order Butterballs from there anymore. Nothing lasts forever. That's why it's important to enjoy the moment at hand with family and friends.