Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Dutch Oven Thanksgiving

Yesterday evening, I was outside with my boys during that short one-hour span of winter daylight that’s left after I get them home from school and give them a snack.  That one hour is precious to my boys, but it’s especially precious to me, as it helps them to run off at a little bit of their craziness.

A little bit.

As has become customary, some of the neighborhood kids joined us.  One of them, a little girl named Sammie who’s about 9 years old, came by with another neighborhood girl, Allison, who’s around the same age.

Sammie and Allison parked their bikes on the sidewalk and walked into my backyard. They’re still at that adorable age where they pause as they walk through the yard, trying to decide whether they want to play dump trucks or have light saber wars with my boys or whether they’d like to act more mature and walk the rest of the way to the back deck so they can sit and have a chat with me. This time, I won. Apparently Sammie had a lot on her mind and needed an adult’s perspective.

“Hey, Shay,” she said as she trudged my way.  She wistfully eyed my boys, who were busy building a fort to keep out the imaginary bad guys. She had some insight for them, I could see, so I knew our conversation wouldn’t be a long one. She wanted to play.

“Hey, Sammie,” I said, setting my magazine to the side.  I looked to Allison, who was a few steps behind her.  “Hey, Allison.”

Sammie stopped in front of me and sighed dramatically. She got right into it.

“So I’m going to have a miserable Thanksgiving,” she announced.

“Yeah?” I asked.  “That’s too bad, Sammie, because Thanksgiving is probably my favorite holiday!  How will it be miserable for you?”

She cocked her head and widened her eyes at me, a look that said, Oh, you can’t even possibly FATHOM.
“We’re going to be out of town,” she explained.  “We’re not visiting family, though.  It’s for some tournament that my brother’s in.”  She rolled her eyes.  Her brother is in middle school.  “He feels bad that we’ll be stuck in a hotel for the holiday, so he promised us a Dutch Oven Thanksgiving.”

I had to choke back my laughter.  I’m 12, you see, so the phrase “Dutch oven” gets me every single time.  It’s one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever heard.

But I didn’t want to ruin her punchline, so instead of laughing, I waited.

Except Sammie didn’t say anything else.  She just stood there, blinking at me.  I looked toward Allison.  She was doing the same thing.

And then I understood. 

Those little shits thought I was so old that I wouldn’t understand a phrase like “Dutch oven.”  They thought I was going to look at them quizzically so that they either had to explain it or walk away, shaking with laughter that the old woman with the two little boys down the road didn’t even know what “Dutch oven” meant!  Oh, the hilarity that would follow as they told all of their friends!

I mean, they’re good girls, but everyone loves a good prank.

Except the person who’s the butt of it. And I wasn’t going to let that be me.  So I decided to call her bluff.  I said:

“You mean he’s going to fart under the blankets at the hotel room and make you smell it?”

And Sammie blinked again.

“Um, no,” she replied slowly, casting an unsure glance at Allison.  “I mean that he’s made brisket in the Dutch oven before, but he’s never made turkey.  I’m just not sure how good it’s going to turn out.”

We all sat there silently for a moment, unsure of what to say to one another.  Finally, I went, “Oh.”

Luckily the neighborhood kids don’t hold the dumbassery of the mother against her two little boys. Sammie and Allison, satisfied that they’d gotten to complain about an older brother to a listening ear—even though I’d proven to be not exactly the kind of understanding adult they’d bargained for—turned and joined my boys, spending the rest of the hour helping them set up their little army guys on their dirt fort.

I texted my best friend the whole story.  I was shaking with laughter by the time I was finished typing.

You guys, shit like this happens all the time to people like me who suffer from the problem of over-the-top honesty.  Of course, I don’t spill other people’s secrets or act disrespectful by giving my unwarranted opinion in the name of “honesty.” No, I'm only brutally honest when it comes to my own issues that nobody else in the world has any business of hearing.

I swear it’s some kind of mystery honesty gene that I received from somewhere.  (We all know it’s not from my mom; that woman can’t tell the truth to save her life.  She’ll go, “Oh, that’s not what happened?  Well I thought I heard it somewhere…”)  It’s kind of like winning the lottery, I guess, except that winning the lottery doesn’t usually make a person look like a dumbass.

Once, I was at a job interview to teach 8th and 9th grade Spanish at a Catholic school. I was smashing that interview and could tell that the principal loved me.  At the end of the hour, during which we had sat and chatted amicably, she opened her mouth and I could tell that an offer was going to come out of it. 

Before she could say anything, though, I felt it very important to say, “There’s one thing you might want to know.  I’m living in sin with my fiancé…although we haven’t really had many chances to be sinful lately because he travels a lot for work.  Anyway, we’re getting married next month, so maybe we could just try not to 'do it' until then?  And then we’d be legit?”

We Catholics pretend to be really strict about all that no-sex-before-marriage stuff, even though tons of us break that particular rule. I wasn't exactly sure which type she was, so I was just covering all of my bases.

I remember she looked at me and furrowed her brow for a minute, trying to decide what in the hell to do with me.  In the end, my sparkling personality and honesty won out.  I get lucky that way sometimes.

“If people find out, that’s okay.  Just don’t make it a point to tell anybody,” she said.  I have to say, she had a lot of confidence in my ability to keep my mouth shut, as I had just spilled it to her within an hour of meeting her.  But I agreed, and thus began four of the best years of my career life.

When I called my dad all those years ago to excitedly inform him that I'd gotten the job, I told him about the interview.

"You know, Shay," he began when I finished talking, and although I could hear the smile in his voice, I could also sense his frustration--a kind of, What the hell did I do wrong with this one?--when he said, "you don't have to say everything."

"I know, Dad," I said.  "I'm not sure why I--"

"It's like that time we were trying those fried turkey balls at that fair because they were famous for them...remember that?" my dad asked.

"Yes," I replied, sighing heavily. I knew where this was going.

"And you said, 'Mmm, Dad, these taste much better than human balls!'  Remember that?"

"Yes, Dad," I muttered. I mean, first off, I'd been pretty drunk at that fair.  And secondly, some people just won't let things drop already.  It happened, like, 16 years ago, for eff's sake.

"I didn't need to know that, Shay.  I mean, what father in the whole entire world wants to know that his daughter prefers the taste of fried turkey balls to those of humans?  It was just something that didn't need to be said."

"But they do taste better...I mean, if you have to choose one or the other..."

I guess the moral of the story is that I probably won’t ever learn how to not say stuff that most adults consider uncouth, but then again, that’s part of my charm, right?


Oh, and also, have a happy Thanksgiving—whether it’s a Dutch Oven Thanksgiving or a normal one, sitting around and guzzling fried turkey balls and wine with loved ones.


  1. When I read "Dutch Oven," I automatically thought it meant farting under a blanket too... although that did seem like a weird thing to do on Thanksgiving. I'm not even sure what a real Dutch Oven is! Some sort of portable oven that you can bring with you to a hotel? And what is brisket? Hmm...

  2. I was right with you with the Dutch oven reference. The other meaning will always be secondary.