This is the tenth in a series of Christmas reflections.
The Pope’s Nose
Dinner Is Served
After an eternity the word went out that dinner was being served. We’re not talking any dinner; this was Christmas Dinner. These days, the topic of what will be served for Christmas Dinner, surfaces about the same time as I start counting down the days (double digits). Back on Fellowship Street, the only relevant points seemed to be, “How big of a turkey shall we get?” and “What flavor pies do we want?” The answers were, “Between twenty-five and thirty pounds,” and “Apple, cherry and minced meat pies, with Cool Whip on top. Wait, don’t forget the pumpkin pie.”
About those turkeys. Sunrize Market was the most likely source, though Mom was known to have scouted out the competition to see what Alpha Beta or Market Basket might have had to offer. On the other hand, if you spoke to Earl, in the meat department, he was certain to hook a brother up. We listened to plans being unfolded at the dinner table continuously, that contained information about what magic Earl could perform to enhance our dinner table, especially when it came to the barbecue.
Turkey was the only thing I ever remember being served at Christmas Dinner. One year we raised turkeys in the back yard, with Brian being in charge of moving the cage around the yard on rollers once a week. “Bon jour, mon turkeys,” he would exclaim. “Comment allez-vous?” Don’t even ask me where we found French-speaking turkeys.
The reason I even bring up the turkeys in the first place, is that one of the six in the rolling cage was a tom that was humungous. He was so big that Pa had to weld us up a special stainless steel pan that was big enough to accommodate this most honored of guests. Of course, we couldn’t roast a turkey without knowing how much it weighed, so we bundled up the bird, along with most of the family, while we trooped up to-where else?-Sunrize Market, to use one of the produce scales to weigh old George, the turkey. Forty-one pounds. We figured that if 25-30 pounds was good, then 41 ought to be vastly surpassing excellent.
I remember eating in both the front dining room, and in the regular dining area, located between the entrance to the folks’ bedroom, and the doorway into what was Mom’s sewing room for all of the later years on Fellowship Street. We were likely to activate both rooms for Christmas Dinner, for instance, when we had the Gerlachs over. I didn’t think of it as an adult table and a kid table; I thought of it as two kid tables, one of which also seated a few adults.
On Christmas we had hors d’oeuvres, consisting of black and green olives, celery and carrot sticks. Pouring the little mound of salt, in which to dip the celery, was the height of cool. From breakfast until dinner, there was no official meal, everyone pretty much fending for him or herself to keep up sustenance from a variety of Holiday sources. In any case, I always approached the dinner hour fully prepared for action-ready for danger. Bring on the mashed potatoes and gravy. In addition to turkey, both light and dark, there was stuffing, into which Pa always put the cut-up giblets, which had been removed from the turkey and cooked. I got to cut up the giblets, because I was a lucky guy. I’m still looking for the pope’s nose.
There were freshly baked dinner rolls, or at least some top-shelf Pillsbury rolls from Sunrize; there were veggies, cranberry sauce, and a lake of gravy to pour over everything. For dessert there were the freshly baked pies that I mentioned earlier, smothered in whipped cream, Cool Whip, or smog depending on who was talking. And if we were spectacularly lucky, and Noel was asleep at the switch, there might still be coffee cake left over from breakfast.
The standard line that was used, when we got to that point when it seemed as though the initial onslaught of starving kids had been staved off was, “Shall we have dessert now, or later?” And the response was inevitably, “How about if we have dessert now and later?” With at least three fruit pies and one pumpkin pie, there was bound to enough to go around. Not even Noel could dispatch with fall four pies and the coffee cake left over from breakfast.