“Maybe it’s not so bad,” the turkey says.
Not so bad? I say. Are you kidding? Thanksgiving has been canceled! Not so bad?
“I’m just saying,” the turkey replies, “there’s always an upside.”
Well, I reply, I don’t know what the upside could be. COVID-19 has rolled in like a giant wave and washed away every shred of our normal existence.
It’s bad enough we can’t go to movies, can’t have big weddings, can’t attend large church services. It’s bad enough that everyone on the planet is wearing a mask, and a simple trip to the supermarket looks like you’re joining a convention of 1880s bank robbers.
But now this? Thanksgiving? The best holiday of the year? COVID-19 has benched it like a pitcher with elbow problems. States have enacted rules forbidding large gatherings. The CDC has told people not to travel for the holiday.
Not to travel? Didn’t they ever see “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”? Thanksgiving IS travel! It’s pushing through crowded airports, waiting in endless rent-a-car lines, navigating the creeping traffic, until you finally arrive in the driveway of a home, sweet, home, press a doorbell and see loved ones rushing to give you a hug.
Oh, wait. No hugging allowed. Another new rule!
“Hugging is overrated,” the turkey says, opening a small turkey suitcase. “Ever tried pecking? Much safer. I’m just saying.”
With all due respect, I tell my fine, feathered friend, you’re not grasping the gravity of this situation. You can’t just cancel Thanksgiving. It is the most American holiday on the calendar. It’s a feast of our freedom. Only suddenly, we’re not free at all.
Suddenly, you are ridiculed for wanting to join your family. Suddenly, you can get in trouble for having more than 10 bodies in your home. The mayor of Boston recently said “people are going to call 911” in his city and that police would show up and fines would ensue.
Police? Fines? For having Thanksgiving? What’s going on? Isn’t the whole idea of this holiday to gather in freedom? Remember? The Pilgrims and the Indians, sharing a big meal? I bet they didn’t have a 10-person limit at that turkey table —
“Actually, there’s no proof the Pilgrims ate turkey,” the turkey interjects. “History shows it might have been venison. Or geese. Or duck.”
I shoot him a look.
“I’m just saying,” he adds.
This will not do. People are not happy. What is Thursday supposed to look like now? Normally there’s a big parade in the morning. This year, nothing. Just a big empty street. And no big meal to race home for.
“You still have football,” the turkey suggests, opening the doors of his turkey closet. “The game they play every year? With the Detroit Cats?”
“Not the team I watched,” he says.
I notice the turkey is filling his suitcase. He uses his claw toes to pack tiny jars of grain and berries. He adds a pair of little turkey boots, and a change of turkey underwear.
Where are you going? I ask.
“Oh, nowhere special,” the turkey says. “Gonna see the family.”
Must be nice.
“Well, we usually can’t get together this time of year.”
Too busy working?
I stare into the empty kitchen. There will be no bridge tables carted in this year. No folding chairs. No stacks of plates. No enticing smell of the big bird in the oven, as it slowly roasts in its own juices.
“Yeah, that must really suck for you,” the turkey says.
He closes his suitcase. He flips the clasp. He waddles to the door and takes his turkey coat off the small turkey hook.
“Well, I’m off,” he announces. “Try to keep your beak up.”
Easy for you to say, I mumble. A virus has robbed us of our intimacy. Politicians have shut down our traditions. For the first time in our memory, our favorite holiday is rubbed out, and there seems to be nothing to be thankful for.
“I can think of something,” the turkey says.
He leaves and the room is quiet. The house is quiet. The week is quiet. Has there ever been a sadness quite like this —
A knock? Could the family have changed their minds? Could everyone have said the heck with these rules, we’re having our holiday! I rush to the door, yank it open, and —
“Sorry,” the turkey says. “Forgot my mask.”
Contact Mitch Albom: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out the latest updates with his charities, books and events at MitchAlbom.com. Download “The Sports Reporters” podcast each Monday and Thursday on-demand through Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify and more. Follow him on Twitter @mitchalbom.