Memories that Matter – My Thanksgiving Turkey Disaster

Memories that Matter – My Thanksgiving Turkey Disaster

Life is still nuts, isn’t it? I bet your Thanksgiving, like mine, has tangled with that gnarly overused word, “unprecedented,” that rides shotgun with our relentless foe, COVID. That devastating duo continues to invade our thoughtfully-crafted plans and our time-honored traditions, often putting us in a tail-spin.

Yet, the day is here: Thanksgiving.

How will we spend it? Will we focus on what we have? Or, what we have lost?

Memories can help. Memories can warm us with good feelings, tender moments, or even a good solid belly laugh.

Yet, they can prompt grief as easily as they prompt joy. So, we must choose carefully, not only what we remember, but also how we remember it—our attitude towards remembering.

As you may know, the turkey trauma story I share each year was not always funny. I was so upset about the fiasco that it took me years to calm down enough to even write about it.

But now it’s become a Thanksgiving staple, just like Mom’s stuffin’ muffins and her famous Kentucky Derby pie. It’s a family tradition to recall it.

Although I’m not sure that particular family gathering will ever happen again, especially since we reside in five different states now, it doesn’t make me sad to remember it. Instead, it comforts me, ushering in a feeling of gratitude FOR that memory, FOR that shared time that is now deeply woven into the fabric of our family that continues to unite us in a special way.

And I’m grateful.

So here it is in all of its sparkling glory, our Turkey Trauma story* that is now a family classic. Wince, chuckle, enjoy, and please share with me any of your family’s stories that are comforting you in this unprecedented Thanksgiving season.


My sister Rachel and her family had flown in for their annual holiday visit. I wanted to create a special meal for them that included family favorites and a few dishes with a new twist.

As a Food Network junkie, I’d found the perfect kicked-up side dishes—a sweet potato casserole that included cinnamon roasted bananas and a risotto recipe that was actually barley-based with vegetables.

But, the star of the show was to be a maple-roasted, bacon-topped turkey. I’d watched Chef Tyler Florence’s Thanksgiving episode on the Food Network and was impressed with the combination of flavors, as well as the amazing presentation.

It was beautiful.

The recipe included a video with step-by-step instructions. I asked my daughter Brittany, her then-boyfriend Brian, and my son Peter, to sit with me and watch the 4-minute, 37-second recording to see exactly how to prepare this festive bird.

We executed each step to perfection. With the side dishes complete, we set the table, including special wine glasses for the teens’ sparkling apple cider treat. After 4 hours and 35 minutes of basting, the turkey was done.

Brian carefully placed it on the table.

“It’s awesome, Sissy!” Rachel exclaimed.

“Wow, Aunt Becky! You outdid yourself,” her daughter, Ashley, added.

Then, all 6 feet of my nephew, Adam, grabbed his glass, thrust it in the air, and bellowed, “Cheers everyone!”

And the unthinkable happened.

Beneath his thundering voice, there must have been a faint crashing sound. But at the time, our first clue of the disaster was Adam’s bewildered face as he slowly lowered his hand, now holding only the stem of the glass.

“Uh-oh,” he whispered.

“Adam, what happened?” I stammered as I rolled my wheelchair closer to the table.

“Watch out!” Brian said. “Glass is everywhere.”

Everyone froze as we realized what had happened. Adam’s exuberant toast had crashed into the low beam of my vaulted ceiling, shattering his glass into hundreds of slivers.

Adam was unhurt, but my prize turkey now glistened with more than a maple glaze.

It was covered in glass.

My mind joined my paralyzed legs as the shock shut it down.

“I’m so sorry, Aunt Becky,” Adam said.

“It’s OK, Adam,” I managed to reply, trying to absorb the scene.

My family quietly began the clean-up of the blanket of glass while the turkey sparkled in all its glory.

“Maybe we can clean it off,” someone suggested.

But a closer look revealed embedded glass. I postponed the inevitable, sending the wounded bird to the top of my washing machine while we pulled out lunchmeat trays I had prepared for the next meal. At least the side dishes were safely in the kitchen.

Somberly, we began our hodgepodge dinner. “Someday, we’ll laugh about this,” someone said. I nodded and smiled, knowing it would not be that day.

But after dessert, we wandered back to the laundry room and gave that glorious bird one last look before we bid it farewell to the trash can.

I haven’t looked at that turkey recipe since that day — until now. Maybe it’s time to try that recipe one more time.

And make sure Adam has a plastic glass.


I hope this story brought a smile, perhaps prompting a good memory for you. We all could use some good memories these days, that’s for sure. As writer Sarah Young reminds us:

Thankfulness is not some sort of magic formula; it is the language of love...—Sarah Young

Thankfulness is not some sort of magic formula; it is the language of love…—Sarah Young

Isn’t that an inspiring thought?

So today, I’m going to look for something to love about this day or the memory of another to fuel my thankfulness. COVID-living is hard, really hard. But maybe if we search our moments carefully, we can find something to love, something to be grateful for.

How about you? What memory or moment will you love today? Did it prompt gratitude? Tell me about it. I’d love to know.

Happy Thanksgiving!

And on we go…

My best – always,

Becky  (Nana B)

P. S. Twelve years after our Turkey Disaster: Adam and Maggie celebrated their one year anniversary in March. Brittany and Brian are married and now have three children. Pete and Meredith will be married next year. All are reporting successful Thanksgivings so far with no turkey traumas. Life is good!

P.P.S. A big THANK YOU to those who supported our Pathfinders for Autism UnGala event. Your support, encouragement, and financial contributions are deeply appreciated.

*This column was originally published as part of my “From Where I Sit” series in the Towson Times.

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