In which I dance like a chicken, or rather, a turkey

Thanksgiving, for me, has never been a huge holiday. Growing up we didn’t have a big tradition, and I’d often end up at a friend’s house for the holiday. At my job at home, you either work Thanksgiving or Christmas, and I always opt for Thanksgiving, so it’s not like we can typically travel anywhere either.
Long before we’d even arrived in Romania, our friend Cath announced her plan to come visit us there for Thanksgiving and to make sure we had a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, complete with turkey. We, of course, do not eat turkey, but details like that don’t deter Cath. She was sure that we’d be able to find willing omnivorous bellies. She was so determined to have turkey that she was planning on throwing a frozen one into her luggage. I asked a Romanian colleague of mine if one could get a turkey in Romania, and she replied, “Of course! You can get everything in Romania!” I have learned that this is not entirely true (case in point: cilantro) but didn’t think a turkey would be much trouble. Besides, I was only half sure that Cath would even make it here. 
Of course, Cath is not one to back away from her promises and she arrived here the Monday before Thanksgiving on one of the last few planes before Lufthansa was hobbled by its pilots’ strike. Our mission was now to find a turkey. Rob and Dana had said they would find the turkey, but they were unsuccessful in their attempt. Remember, these are the people who LIVE here and are Romanian and they couldn’t find a turkey. 
Challenge: Accepted. 
On Tuesday afternoon after dropping off Cath and her son at their flat, Eric and I walked past a butcher shop and decided to go in to see if they had a turkey. First, I looked up the Romanian word for turkey on my phone. Armed with the knowledge, we walked into the store, went up to the woman behind the counter and asked “Curcan?” She replied “Congealada, curcan congealada?” (Congealed turkey? I wondered) and pointed us to a case with frozen turkey parts on the familiar yellow styrofoam trays, wrapped in plastic. “No, no” I said. Now, I suppose I could have looked up the word for whole turkey, but this didn’t occur to me. What DID occur to me was to pantomime a large beach ball with my hands, then flap my elbows like a chicken and bend my knees while chanting “Curcan! Curcan!” The shopkeeper’s lips curled slightly upwards, which I think is Romanian for pointing and laughing out loud, and said “Intrega?”and pointed to a whole chicken in the next case. “Da!” I replied, “Curcan intrega!” At this point she rattled off about two minutes of solid Romanian during which the only word that made any sense was “Kaufland,” the name of the grocery store down the block. I wasn’t sure if she was telling us that they had them there, or if she was saying that I should head down and do my turkey dance for her colleagues because they’d think it was funny as hell. 
Later that afternoon, we all decided to go to a large bar/bowling alley/arcade at the mall where the kids were out of our hair could play and we could have a beverage. We stopped first at the grocery store there, in search of a turkey, thinking that if they had one available then we knew and could come pick it up the next day. 
We now knew how to ask for “curcan intrega,” and thus empowered, walked into the meat section. At the first butcher area, we asked the man behind the counter, “curcan?” He shook his head “no” and pointed us to an area with refrigerated and frozen bins. We walked over there and saw familiar cut pieces of turkey in styrofoam trays and wrapped in plastic. “Too bad,” I thought to myself. “I guess there’s no whole turkey in Romania.” Cath, however, is a dedicated omnivore and has more knowledge about the ways of gastronomic ornithology. “Wait,” she remarked, “those are FRESH turkey pieces. That means that SOMEWHERE in the back is a whole turkey.” 

Contemplating the existence of turkey


We walked to another worker, this one in the fish section. “Curcan intrega?” We asked. She gave us a look of horror and initially shook her head as if we had asked to buy a whole cow. Then she paused and strode off purposefully, walked over to a colleague and had a conversation that clearly went something like “Those crazy foreigners want to buy a whole turkey.” The colleague came over and asked me something in Romanian I didn’t understand. I pulled out my phone and had her type it into google translate. “Did you order a turkey?” The screen read. “No” I said, thinking again that our quest had come to a fruitless (or birdless, I suppose) end. She turned on the spot and walked off, waving at us to indicate that we should wait. In no less than two minutes she returned with a whole fresh turkey, shrink wrapped in plastic, with a price sticker on it. Cath looked at me and pronounced, “We MUST buy this turkey now, as this will never happen again.” 


Dear friends, we bought the turkey. We did not change our plans to go to the bar, and the turkey accompanied us there. 

Yes it’s revolting

A few days later, we had a lovely Thanksgiving dinner, with Cath, our friends Rob & Dana, and Marinela and Pali, the lovely Romanian couple from whom we rent our flat, and our collective children, feeling that we truly had the spirit of sharing bounty as newcomers to the land, and that with a little knowledge, persistence and dancing, anything is possible, even turkey in Romania.


-s

Thanksgiving

Eric had had a tradition of watching “The Last Waltz,” The Band’s last concert, on Thanksgiving and chose to resurrect it this year.

We watched it downstairs with the boy.  The girl had long since fallen asleep in our bed in her monkey-print fleece footie  jammies.  After the second interview segment in which band members talked about their lives in the 60s (think sex, drugs, rock and roll) we skipped the spoken bits and went straight to the musical performances.

The boy loved watching Van Morrison high kick around the stage in a sparkly purple jumpsuit.  He got a bit tired after that and laid down with his head in my lap.

Then The Band started to sing “Forever Young,” and, looking down at my bigger-than-I-thought-possible son, I realized that I’m not really all that young anymore.

(May God Bless and keep you always, may your wishes all come true)

The lyrics have a poignancy when you’re a parent.

(May you always do for others and let others do for you)

It’s the wishes I think every parent would have for their child.

(May you build a ladder to the stars and climb on every rung)

I looked down at the 5 year old nearly asleep in my lap, and think about all the love he brings to my life.

(May you grow up to be righteous, may you grow up to be true.)

I think of  how he wants to be a “scientist and learn everything about everything.”

(May you always know the truth and see the lights surrounding you.)

How the girl loves to touch noses, and insists on “Cheers!” and glass clinking at every meal.

(May you always be courageous, stand upright and be strong)

How proud the boy was of himself at not crying when he got his latest shots.

(May your hands always be busy, may your feet always be swift)

The mayhem on a daily basis as the kids run from the “zoo” to the “toy store,” both populated with stuffed animals.

(May you have a strong foundation when the wind of changes shift)

How the girl would scoot over to me when I went to bed and touch foreheads with me as we slept.

(May your heart always be joyful and may your song always be sung)

She wakes up with a big smile in the morning, looks at the sunrise and excitedly chirps, “Wainbow, Mommy, Wainbow!”

(May you stay forever young.)

May they both stay forever young.

May I never forget how much I have to be thankful for.