I’ll never forget the day I forced my father to take on a turkey in heat in front of our entire neighborhood. I was just moving into the front apartment in my parent’s house in suburban New Jersey. They had gone to the movies for the afternoon, and I was loading some stuff from my childhood bedroom into the new place and doing some light cleaning in the basement. I didn’t have kitchen appliances yet, so when hunger struck, I had to go back next door. I was heading out the side door when I was approached by a giant Thanksgiving turkey. With his feathers on display, he stood up to my waist.
My immediate reaction was to slowly turn around and then quickly slam the door shut. I watched the turkey from the window and he turned around to show me his bottom and display more feathers. I called my zia, who began instructing me in her thick Italian accent to get a broom, bop him in the head, and wait for her husband to arrive to finish off the thing, so we could have dinner. I told her she was crazy and hung up. Then, I called my sister, who is a professional zookeeper (of birds no less). She informed me that the turkey was showing me his backside and feathers because he wanted to mate with me. She told me to go out the door and resume my normal activity – going to get something to eat – but not before she asked if I was wearing pants.
I said, “Why does it matter if I’m wearing pants?”
She said, “Well, he will probably peck and scratch at your legs, especially since you don’t want to mate, and he could cut you if you are not wearing sturdy pants.”
I said, “Well, then I’m not going outside – and that’s the sort of information you tell a person up front, sister!” And I hung up on her, too.
So, I gave up on getting help from my relatives via phone and decided to just wait for my parents to return. In the meantime, the neighbors, in whose driveway the turkey was standing, came outside and did the same thing I did, replete with door slam. When the turkey hid behind the doorway in their garden, they ran out, jumped in their car, and took off as though they were O.J. and the police was chasing them. The turkey was still there, staring me down, and making some noise to boot.
Finally, my parents returned home, and I immediately called them. They didn’t believe me that there was a full-on Thanksgiving turkey outside the door, until my mom moved to the window. Then, she said, “Oh, you’re not kidding.” Of course, I wasn’t kidding. Who would make up something like this? The thing had been holding me hostage for what seemed like days but was probably more like 30 minutes. My father, took his sweet time, went to the bathroom, had a drink, and finally walked out into the driveway. He made eye contact with the turkey, who began to run around the car parked in the driveway as if it was a chicken with no head. My father took off and ran toward the bird, all the while, shouting,” Go home-a turkey, go home-a turkey, my daughters won’t-a let me kill you, turkey. Go home-a.”
At this point, my father is running out of steam and he is starting to walk like an oompa loompa instead of run. Still, he keeps his chant of “My daughters won’t let-a me eat you. Go home-a turkey. Go home-a turkey,” steady. People from the neighborhood start to come out of their homes to see this dream-like vision of a man and a turkey on the run. People can’t help but stare, and everyone is laughing – hard. My father and the turkey start chasing each other in another neighbor’s yard and then they ended up running into the street. Cars are stopping, people are watching the scene unfold as though it’s theater. Then, I can’t see my father and the turkey. Then, they’re back in view. Then, I can’t see them. Then, they return to my window seat. My father is still shouting at the turkey to go home. Finally, he gets him to go down the street, toward the house from which we believe he has come. Indeed, he returned to the cage in a fellow Italian’s backyard.
Two days later, a few turkey feathers blew over from our neighbors house and into our driveway. Surprise, surprise, she had had turkey for dinner. My father said to me, “You see, he got eaten anyway. We could have eaten him ourselves. And you’re going to eat one of his cousins on Thanksgiving. Remember that.” Still, I prefer to forget all that and cherish instead the face of my father, the face of the turkey, and the chase. On that day my father was my hero, not to mention comic relief for the entire town.
Di Meglio uses the written word to help families create memories and stick together. You can follow her on Facebook at Francesca’s Newlyweds Nest and on Twitter @ItalianMamma10.