A Collection Of Work

Not Just A Turkey Sandwich

In Romantic on February 13, 2011 at 11:33 pm

Living in separate countries for much of the year before our wedding, my husband and I never had an opportunity to share a Christmas holiday together until our first year of marriage.

While we had little trouble sorting through the different holiday customs, such as pulling Christmas crackers around the dining room table or overloading the Christmas tree with too many ornaments, we were unaccustomed to the more personal rituals that each had grownup with or developed while raising children with our former spouses.

Some things were easy as my husband did not care whether he had a Christmas tree at all and I decorated it as I wished after he dug up one used several years earlier and brought it in from the garden. While I was used to a much larger tree, I found that a smaller one was easier to decorate and there was no quibbling about what went on top. Having had the same angel on my tree for the previous 22 Christmas seasons, I was pleased that he did not question why we needed a Teddy Bear angel on our treetop in a house with no small children.

Christmas dinner found us both preparing our own traditional favorites and we moved around the kitchen almost like synchronized swimmers timing everything so perfectly that the pink stuff he said looked funny next to turkey, slipped easily from its mold, and his roasted parsnips, found a place along side my grandmother’s sweet potato casserole.

With Christmas day being such a smashing success it was not until a few days later that some of glitter began to rub off our still new relationship.

It was my fault really, and can be attributed to what never changes, the expectation that your loved one should be able to read your mind.

My husband John was thinking as he always does about how best to make use of the turkey leftovers. Little is ever thrown away in our home and he could not have anticipated the reaction he received when he announced that he had made a soup with what was left of our Christmas bird.

I assumed for a half second that he had used the bones and the bits of turkey left on them, but I quickly discovered that all the turkey in the house was now in little pieces floating in a mixture that I was not going to eat. At least not in a turkey sandwich which I was looking forward to having for lunch that day.

To say that I handled it well would be a stretch. As I went sulking off to my studio space grumbling to myself about how important that sandwich was to me, and how could he use all the turkey up and never ask me, and how I was really looking forward it, and why did he think I bought the white bread which I never eat except with turkey sandwiches, and why couldn’t he have just asked me first, and on, and on, and on.

I tried to tell myself that it was just a turkey sandwich and no big deal, but as I went off to think, I thought about what was it that made the loss of a simple thing like the sandwich so important. Frankly, I’m not even that fond of turkey and tend to think of it more as an accessory item for Christmas dinner than a necessary piece.

It turns out it wasn’t about the turkey sandwich, but rather the ritual of eating it with my family back home.

Traditionally, it is almost like putting a period at the end of the sentence and closes out the family Christmas festivities each year. Missing my daughter and the rest of my family and friends back in America made it more painful in a way not to have this closing ritual and after I had thought about it for a little while, I came out of hiding to talk with my husband who listened quietly, hugged me while I had a little tear, and acknowledged my feelings without being the slightest bit dismissive.

I thought it was all behind us after that until we went into town to pick up a few things at the grocery store. As is our way, we split up in the store with each going off in different directions to pick up the items on our lists with a plan to meet at the checkout line.

Imagine my surprise when I saw him standing at the deli counter ordering sliced deli meat something he’d normally never do. I knew immediately what he was doing and watched as he bought a few slices of turkey so I could put some closure on my Christmas, in the same way I would have in America.

I was so touched that I almost began to cry standing next to the canned soup, in the aisle where I had stepped to watch him without being seen. The tender look on his face when he presented it to me later was as sweet as any love letter I have ever received and let me know that he understood what he was offering me was not just a turkey sandwich, but a gift of the heart.


To see more of  Elizabeth Harper’s stories and photographs, grab a cup of coffee and head over to Gifts Of The Journey.



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