Stuff your heart with joy and happiness

It was a hot, humid summer in North Carolina. I was working several small jobs and my three tiny kids were in daycare every day. I suffered what most working mom’s have: Guilt.

One of the kids asked me for turkey and gravy for dinner. I explained that it was too hot to cook a turkey. The other two chimed in about loving turkey, too. I explained that I didn’t have one on hand to cook.

It wasn’t long before my guilt and their little disappointed faces wore me down. I figured I may not see my kids that much and I may not be able to provide all I want to provide for them. But if they want turkey in July, they would get it!

I went to the store. Everyone knows you can’t have turkey and gravy without mashed potatoes. And, if you are going to those lengths, you really might as well have rolls, stuffing and a pie.

The buzz around the house was “Turkey on Saturday.” At the ages of 2, 3 and 5, the kids were excited. The prospect of all that cooking on a sticky-hot day in the south was less enticing for my friend and I. We sweated in the kitchen all day.

The tots eagerly climbed into their booster chairs at the table set with the “fancy” dishes. I proudly carried in the turkey. I had waited all week to see their faces light up at the sight of it. Placing the platter in the center of the table, I couldn’t help but notice their looks of confusion.

“Here’s the turkey,” I beamed.

One of the kids yelled out, “That’s not a turkey, mommy!”

Now I was confused. “Sure it is! Here are the wings, these are the legs ... “

The faces went from confused to frustrated.

“No, no, no. We want daycare turkey.”

I was crushed. Gulping down disappointment, I assured them that I would get the recipe for daycare turkey, but for now we would eat this turkey.

The meal was delicious. Somehow we got over the incident and the kids discovered that mom’s kind of turkey wasn’t so bad.

I remember that day clearly. We sat at the table together a little longer than usual. I remember wiping tiny, greasy fingers, getting gravy out of hair and everyone happy in the end.

Thanksgiving has always been a little different for me since that day. It’s no longer about everyone’s favorite dish or the perfect turkey. It’s not about the cook’s ego or the consumer’s expectations. Like all of us, I always had been taught it was about being thankful. But even being thankful took on a different meaning after that Thanksgiving in July.

Those were hard times for us, but I am thankful for that path through poverty, diapers and miscommunications.

It’s a great thing to know where you have come from. I am thankful for the blessings of today and for the hopes of tomorrow. To be thankful is to have a heart full of thanks. Thankfulness nurtures joy even when you aren’t exactly happy. And, a heart like that has no room for bitterness, disappointment or anger. What you stuff your heart with is more important than what you stuff your turkey with.

By the way, in case you want the recipe for daycare turkey, here it is: Heat up a frozen turkey loaf (the kind that makes its own slimy gravy). Chop it into cubes and spoon it onto instant mashed potatoes.

Kerri Hofmann lives in Federal Way with her three children.

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