Thankful for a warm, well-lit place
The most memorable Thanksgivings aren't always designed by Hallmark. In 1976 on the Oregon Coast, the cold rain was pounding down in a way that wasn't even quite right for the Oregon Coast. I had been out surfing in small, sloppy waves at Agate Beach that morning and picked up a frozen turkey from the supermarket on the way back to our apartment, a small but semiclean, well-lighted place. Margie and I had no jobs because, ironically, jobs on the coast "dry up" in the wet winter after the tourists flee. We had no money to pay next month's rent. I had been working as a cook but had no idea how we would thaw and cook that frozen brute in time for dinner.
A few friends who'd graduated with me from Oregon State University that summer arrived from various points around the state. All of us stragglers with no families within driving range had a tradition of spending Thanksgiving together. We broke out the beer and began being thankful we were together and out of the rain. And we instituted a rule that anyone who went to the bathroom had to massage the turkey, still in its hygienically sealed plastic packaging, defrosting in the bathtub full of water.
Next to arrive was the "college contingent," my younger brother and his family-free friends from OSU. They broke out some kind of natural herb that they roasted in small quantities on the patio.
Then came the tribe of wild, coast surfer kids, with their long bleached-blond hair. They spoke no recognizable language, but I had spent enough time in the water with them to know they were relatively harmless. They began making some sort of mushroom tea on the stove. It tasted of warm mud. They claimed the mushrooms were fresh-picked from a cow pasture that day and that the concoction had restorative, not to mention religious, properties.
So we old folks drank our beer while the college contingent fumigated themselves on the patio and the surf kids drank mushroom tea and chattered in their incomprehensible tongue. And everyone who went to the bathroom massaged the turkey. A few hours later the turkey was cooking and we had all coalesced into a familylike group, except without the arguments.
The turkey miraculously emerged from the oven in an edible state, and after dinner the music on the stereo got louder and louder until there was a pounding on the door. The surfers launched themselves over the patio railing, cheerfully unconcerned about the two-story drop.
The friendly police officer at the door asked, "Are the kids gone?" Ignoring my initial beer-fueled urge to reply in a witty fashion, I said, "Yes, sir."
The next day everyone dispersed, and in a month Margie had gone back to Hawaii and I headed East to become a journalist. We would eventually marry and have many Hallmark Thanksgivings together. But sometimes you are just thankful to spend time in a warm, well-lighted place with friends who have no other place to go and a turkey defrosting in a bathtub.
Buy Charles Memminger's hilarious new book, "Hey, Waiter, There's An Umbrella In My Drink!" at island book stores or online
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