The photo is of my family enjoying a Christmas gathering at the homestead on High Street in Danbury, New Hampshire, circa 1960. Traditions change. The homestead is long sold from the family but the good memories persist. Now I make new memories and enjoy new traditions.
For the last seven years, I’ve spent one December evening telling stories at the beautiful Rosewood Country Inn in Bradford, New Hampshire. The owners put on a big feed and the locals and inn guests and I share stories over dessert. It’s beautifully decorated place, very Christmassy, and kind of enchanting. As usual, when I tell stories, people tell me stories. And sometimes they ask for stories. This year, a magical moment happened with a woman I’ve known for a long time, asked me to tell a story I’ve been telling for a long time about her dad, Fred Courser. She knew the story, of course. Had heard it and probably told it herself many times. But on this night, in the spirit of Christmas, she wanted to hear me tell it. I was touched.
Best story of the night — I think we would all agree — was told by Karen from Rhode Island. Karen, by her own admission, is not much of a cook. But one Christmas, it was her turn to host the family Christmas party. Her sisters came by on Christmas Eve to help with the prep. They peeled and sliced and put a stuffing together for the turkey.
After they left, all Karen had to do was put the huge turkey in the oven to cook overnight. She got the bird in the big pan, but something didn’t look quite right. She wasn’t sure which end was up. So she called her mother to ask how to position the turkey. Mother, who had always lamented Karen’s lack of interest cooking, told her, “Breast side up.”
Karen thanked her. Returned to the turkey, but couldn’t quite figure out which was the breast and which was some other parts. She maneuvered the turkey this way and that. But it still didn’t seem comfortable in the pan. So she called her mother again, “How do I know which way to put the turkey in the pan?”
Mother, irritated, said, “I told you, breast side up, for crissakes.”
Karen gave it another try. She didn’t want to screw up her first turkey. She still couldn’t figure it out. The turkey was flopping all over. She didn’t want to call her mother again, because her mother didn’t seem to understand that “Breast side up” wasn’t cutting it. Finally, she devised a plan.
She called her mother. “Ma,” she said, “if the turkey was a horse, would it have its hooves in the air or be standing up?”