Yesterday's Magazette

2 – Duck For Thanksgiving

Duck For Thanksgiving

By Marion Tickner

The door slammed behind me as I followed Mom into the kitchen. Gram’s house smelled like it always did on Thanksgiving—wood burning in the potbellied stove and dinner cooking.

“Duck again,” I grumbled to myself. “Just once I’d like turkey like everyone else. Nobody in the whole world eats duck on Thanksgiving.”

Mom must have heard me because she turned and  scowled.

The kitchen reminded me of a beehive with everybody buzzing around. The queen bee was missing, but I didn’t care. It was Gram’s fault that I couldn’t have the kind of Thanksgiving meal I wanted. I flung my coat across the nearest chair.

Every year it’s the same story. Our whole big family of aunts and uncles and cousins come to Gram’s. Last year I counted 14 in just our family alone. And if that isn’t enough, Gram always invites someone else.

Once I asked Mom, “Can’t we have our own Thanksgiving with just our family—and turkey?”

I’ll never forget the look Mom gave me. “I know you don’t understand, Julie, but Thanksgiving is the one day Gram looks forward to all year.”

I know. I hope I don’t have to hear that story again. The one about the winter when Gram’s family reduced the duck population because they didn’t have much else to eat.

Sometimes we have snow on Thanksgiving. Sometimes we don’t. This year we did, and the little kids danced around with excitement. They came all bundled up, tromping through the kitchen like a kindergarten class.

“Come play with us,” one of them begged.

No way.

My brothers no longer had time for me and I had no girl cousins my age. I decided there might be more to do outside. If only it were colder and the pond frozen, I could ice skate.

Mom shook out a tablecloth. She said, “Julie, I wish you’d learn to hang your coat where it belongs. We need all the chairs.”

“Thanks, Mom, I was just coming for it. Think I’ll go outside.”

I grabbed my coat and pushed my arms into the sleeves. Snow barely covered the ground, but the little ones were having a great time. I ignored them as I wandered on toward the barn.

The pond wasn’t frozen, I didn’t really expect it to be, but I had to check just in case. Shivers slid down my back as I watched one lone duck float around. It didn’t seem to be pouting because it had to swim alone. But do ducks pout?

“You’re lucky to have escaped the pot,” I told it. “Maybe next year.”

Snowflakes dissolved as they hit the water. Everything around me had been transformed like magic into a winter wonderland. I continued my journey to the barn.

“Hello, there, Julie. Come to help me?” Uncle Jack set a bucket under the spigot and turned on the faucet.

“Might as well, Uncle Jack. I wish the pond were frozen.”

“What’s the matter, Julie?” Can’t find anything to do? I have plenty of work out here in the barn.”

I wrinkled up my nose. No barn work for me.

“Still hoping for turkey? I don’t blame you; I wouldn’t mind trying it myself.”

“Why duck every year?”

“Why turkey?” Instead of answering, Uncle Jack asked, “Why do you think turkey has become part of a traditional Thanksgiving meal?”

I thought for a moment. “Because the Pilgrims ate turkey on that first Thanksgiving?”

“Possibly.” Uncle Jack filled a second bucket.

I remembered Gram’s story about being thankful for the ducks when she didn’t have much else to eat. Could that be why she wanted duck every year? Sort of a tradition to be thankful?

I had another question. “Uncle Jack, why do we always invite someone else? I mean our family keeps getting bigger every year.” Then I added, “But if we do, can’t they find someone with a girl my age?”

Uncle Jack set both buckets of water down at his feet. He tipped his head back and laughed. “Oh, Julie, you do have a problem, don’t you? Your grandmother has been so blessed with her family, that she likes to share that blessing with someone in need. Have you met her guest yet? She’s a single mom, her husband walked out on her before the baby was born.”

He picked up the buckets and started to walk away. As I tramped back to the house, I realized how selfish I’d been. I thought about Gram: her tradition of the Thanksgiving duck, and inviting someone in need to share our meal and family. What would it be like to have a new baby to care for and no husband to help?

Nobody noticed when I walked through the kitchen and into the living room to warm myself next to the woodfire. There sat Gram in her rocking chair with a baby on her lap. Both Gram and the baby were sound asleep, Gram enjoying a gentle snore. I tiptoed over, planted a kiss on Gram’s forehead.

“Happy Thanksgiving, Gram.”

Marion Tickner remembers wishing for Thanksgiving with just her family until she learned that it was the one time of year her grandmother looked forward to with all the family together. She has been published in several magazines for children as well as magazines for writers. Her stories appear in two anthologies for children, MISTLETOE MADNESS and SUMMER SHORTS (Blooming Tree Press, 2004 and 2006)

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