Wednesday, September 3, 2014

True Love: How a Turkey and Parsnips Made Me Cry

Every year at Thanksgiving, my company gives each employee a turkey for the holiday.

The past several years, I’ve donated my turkey to my mother for our family Thanksgiving.  But last year I decided that I wanted to host a dinner for my closest friends.  I picked a weekend halfway between Thanksgiving and Christmas and set out to make the menu.

For weeks, I perused cooking websites and asked family and coworkers for recipes. My friends all signed on to bring dishes to share.  Then I finally put together my menu.  I’d be preparing the turkey, dressing, several side dishes and appetizers. 

In the weeks leading up to the event, I must have asked my mom “How long do you roast the stuffing?” at least fifty times - among so many other questions.  Even though I kept waiting for her to tell me to back off, she was always supportive – she wanted my first “grown-up” dinner party to go well almost as much as I did.

The day before the event, it was finally time for me to cook the turkey.

I will be the first person to say that I’m willfully ignorant when it comes to many of the details of food processing.  I buy individual, nicely trimmed chicken breasts and pre-cut roasts from the meat counter at the grocer’s.  I’ve seen my mother prepare turkeys in the past – had listened to her tell me many times about thoroughly washing the bird and what parts needed to be removed - but I’d never actually handled one before in my life.

Turkeys are slippery. 

And wobbly.  

How the hell was I supposed to rinse the thing?  And what is with that weird flap of skin?  Am I supposed to pluck the random feathers that are still on it?  The neck has bones in it?!? Two openings?  And ok, Martha Stewart said to tie the legs together and tuck them - OH GOD! DID I JUST BREAK ITS LEG?

I stopped a few (dozen) times.

I’d cleaned my kitchen immaculately before beginning the process of preparing the turkey.  You could eat pudding out of the garbage can and mashed potatoes off the floor – before I unleashed the turkey.  But after just ten minutes it looked like a band of deranged interior designers had taken over and declared that Salmonella was the perfect accent color to compliment my polished concrete floors.

But after just a little more gentle coaxing the struggle ended.  The turkey was cooked, carved and ready for the next day’s festivities.  I re-disinfected my entire home and the day of the event finally arrived. 

I like to put a lot of work into hosting events for my guests.  I want people to feel welcome and, most importantly, I want them to have fun.  So the morning and afternoon before the dinner party, I had more work to do. 

That was how I found myself, just couple of hours before the event, getting weepy while cutting parsnips.

It had been stressful preparing the meal and cleaning my home.  But I was filled with excitement.  And for such a stupid thing – it was just a meal!

But I thought of my mother and my aunts and grandmothers and how they did this year after year, holiday after holiday. 

And I finally understood. 

Because yes, it was just a meal but more than that, it was a way to celebrate the people I love. 

It was an attempt to give back to them something that was tangible and in some way showed them that they were worth it all.  I had toiled away cleaning, wrestling dead birds, and murdering parsnips in order to give them something special.

Most of us are still putting the pieces together to figure out what this whole adulthood thing means.  Most of us are still living in less-than amazing homes or working less-than amazing jobs.  Most of us still think a good night out is one in which we don’t drunkenly lose our cellphones or end up with any broken bones. 

Humor often replaces sincerity and genuine emotion is hidden in favor of aloofness and bravado.

But the reality is that we are lucky. I am so. damn. lucky.

My friends and I often talk about how we’re a family.  We’re blessed in that most of us have families ourselves, many of them close by, and most of us love our families very much.  But the family of friends that you build as you step into adulthood is the one who sees you in your most vulnerable moments.  They see you as you try a new experience for the first time and are there to laugh it off with you when it doesn’t work out or hold you up when it threatens to drag you down.  They are the ones who celebrate you and push you to be better.


Not everyone has that.  Not everyone has someone they can turn to at a moment’s notice for a ride to work.  Not everyone has someone who will come over and make them breakfast because they woke up on the cloudy side of the rainbow.  Not everyone has someone who will forgive them when they’ve been a real jerk.

So as I finished cutting my parsnips I reflected on what it meant to work to provide people you love with something special, something out of the ordinary.  I smiled as I felt the warmth of love in my heart and laughed at myself for getting weepy over vegetables and turkey. 

I say this without any exaggeration - Every time I am with my friends is my favorite day.  It doesn’t even matter what we do.  When we’re together, I’m surrounded by love. 

They are the loves of my life.

Strange and pasty as they may be.

What do you and your friends do to celebrate your lives together? 

Do you find it challenging to share genuine feelings amongst your friends?

Much Love,
Annie Jay

PS - This was the first part in my new blog series, True Love, about how love manifests in the world around us. 

 I'd really like to expand the conversation.  

Shout at me via email at, via Twitter @TheGrowUpPlan, or comment right here on this blog.  I'm down for questions, suggestions of topics you'd like to see covered and most of all - your own stories about how you've found yourself in the presence of love.


  1. I find myself in the presence of true love when my daughter talks about taking over family traditions. I am really excited that it won't be long now until I can just sit back and let her do all the work for our family dinners! I love you, Peachy, and I don't care how many times you ask me how to do something!

  2. Well, I'm getting closer. I think I'll still need your help with the turkey though ;-)

  3. I've been helping my mom with Thanksgiving for years, I totally know what I'm doing, but still freaked out the first time I had a proper dinner party. It's a natural response.

    As for being honest and open with friends about feelings and such I find it very much depends on the friend. I have some friends that are fully engaged in conversations like that and talk AND listen. Others that when I was dealing with my whole, year of therapy, didn't get it so were very dismissive or better yet, took the opportunity to turn the conversation into OMG I like totally think I'm depressed too!!! So for me it's very situational. But I think everyone needs people in their life that they can be 100% honest with.

    1. Yeah, some friends are really terrible at listening and being tehre in the tough times. I've had to learn which ones I'm able to keep in close confidence and which ones I can't.

      And ugh! I agree - the people who can't keep from turning the conversation on themselves are terrible!