Yesterday's Magazette

10 – One Exotic Christmas

One Exotic Christmas

By William D. Canavan
It was the snowy Christmas night of 1959, and yes, I’m the coconut-headed dude with the bazooka.  I remember my father telling me not to point the bazooka at the camera, which is wisdom that fathers develop over time, so I pointed it at his left ear; whether or not I shot the thing remains a holiday mystery. The little Spider Monkey on the floor in matching polka dot apparel is my younger brother. It seems that my older sister was the only photogenic one (at that time).


Our family tradition has always been to serve ham on Christmas night. This particular Christmas night I walked into the kitchen to scope out the tantalizing aromas wafting into the living room.

“Are you getting hungry, Bill?” Mom said.


“Well, go get everyone and tell them to get ready for dinner, it’s almost finished.”

“Okay, what are we having?”


At this point it’s important to advise anyone reading this that my mother has been known to fib—big time. It’s the occasional little white lie to goad her poor children in a misleading direction and as I look back on that day, I’m surprised that she didn’t say “chicken.”

I informed the family of the upcoming meal. I can’t recall, but I’m sure my brother had some type of agitating facial expression or statement (like you’re not the boss of me), to get my stomach acid prepped for consumption. Once at the table, prayers were said and I loaded up my plate.

The first clue that something was amiss should have been the repeated glances I kept getting from my dad.  My second clue should have been the occasional questions like “How’s it taste?” and “Pretty good stuff, huh?” The third? In the past, my mother always made a whole turkey, and what wasn’t eaten was saved for leftovers or frozen for soup. Up until I took over the privilege, my dad carved the turkey–on the table– in front of the family. Finally, what I had in front of me then didn’t have the consistency of turkey and was shaped more in an elongated oval. Hmm.

So, I ate my fill; I was just starting to reach that age where I could knock off a side of beef, and then proceeded to leave the table. It was important that I digest properly by bouncing one of the hard plastic bazooka balls off my brother’s head for acid reduction and to reinforce the fact that you never mess with G. I. Joe in polka dot camouflaged attire.

Soon came the moment of truth. As a child, sooner or later you reach that inevitable moment where truth must persevere. That protective blanket is lifted from naive eyes and childhood dreams are shattered. I recall standing in front of my mother and seeing a look on her face that was a cross between “I think I pulled one over on you.”and “is that blood on the floor?”

“So, what did you think of dinner tonight?”

“It was good. I like turkey.”


“It wasn’t turkey.”

Pause; pause. Even at that age, you’re smart enough to ask the next question: “It wasn’t? What was it?”

“It was beef tongue.”

“What’s beef tongue?”

“It’s the tongue of a cow.”

I’m sure anyone who is reading this has had a moment when they’ve heard someone say something that was so blunt, it bounces off the brain the first time and only fully penetrates on the rebound off of the inner skull. Even then, it takes several verbal repetitions to shock the brain into processing thoughts again.

“Cow tongue? I ate cow tongue?”

“Well, you said it was good.”

That didn’t even register, because although I never grew up on a farm, I had a few friends who did. I had seen a cow up close and what was going through my head at that moment was a vivid image of a cow slobbering down her chin.

“Cow tongue? Oh my God! You fed me the tongue of a cow?”

“It won’t kill you.”

The hell it wouldn’t, or so I thought. I staggered around the house with images of a cow wiping her nostrils with her tongue. My stomach felt like I had just swallowed a whole pail of sand. My intestines began to bloat. My nose was running, my esophagus was constricting and all I could hear were cows mooing.

I never actually vomited that night, but I have been told the noises that escaped from my mouth were similar. I had dreams of cows with huge bulging eyes, slurping all over my bazooka. Gigantic cow tongues hung from my ceiling and dripped a green, grassy looking substance all over my bed. I think I suffered the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for years.

So, have I recovered? Yes, I’m a big boy now. No more playing with fake bazookas and no more fighting with my brother. Have I eaten turkey since then? Sure I have. I like turkey. Red meat? You bet. When I saw the horse head scene in The Godfather I laughed and joked that it would have been hilarious if it had been a decapitated cow’s head. I don’t even bypass that aisle in the grocery store or wear blinders when I travel through the countryside. Have I eaten cow tongue since? No, absolutely not. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to put my polka dot jammies on so I don’t have bad dreams.

Vol. 38 No.4 – Copyright © Yesterday’s Magazette – Winter- 2011-12


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