Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

The terrors of ‘Turkey Day’

By LORRAINE V. MURRAY, Commentary | Published November 21, 2013

It would be an understatement to say that in recent years I’ve had the worst Thanksgivings imaginable. Last year’s holiday definitely took the proverbial cake.

You see, we were supposed to go to my brother-in-law’s in Macon, but the night before our trip I started experiencing rather severe chest pains. I thought this could be due to a sprained muscle, but after aspirin did nothing I started envisioning a full-blown heart attack—so decided to swing by a nearby hospital and be checked over.

November212013 MURRAY The terrors of

Much to my dismay, an extremely young intern with a grim expression deemed the situation serious enough for me to be admitted. In short order I was spending the night attached to a weird heart-monitoring device, which I had to drag everywhere I went—like my own version of Jacob Marley’s chains in Dickens’ Christmas tale.

Thanksgiving Day consisted of a series of exhausting tests, one of which involved running like a desperate hamster on a treadmill while a doctor stood by yelling, “Pick up your feet!”

In the late afternoon, a rather seasoned specialist stopped by to see me, and reported that my heart was fine. He also mentioned that if he had been there the night before, he never would have admitted me—because he suspected my problem was merely a sprained muscle.

“Have a good Thanksgiving,” he said cheerily as he left the room.

By the time I got home, it was getting dark, and my husband and I did our best to celebrate the day with a quick meal on the back deck. Although I missed the turkey and pumpkin pie, I fervently thanked God for my good health plus the fact that I’d be sleeping in my own bed that night.

On another fateful Thanksgiving, my in-laws got into a major dispute and everyone in the family took sides—and no one was talking by the end of the day. The next year my husband and I decided to ditch all the traditions and steal away to a tiny island in Florida.

We would have a terrific tropical Thanksgiving, we decided, just the two of us. Who needed turkey? We’d have seafood instead! Who needed relatives? We had each other!

And then on the actual day we raced around like maniacs trying to find a grocery store on the island that carried turkey breast—because the thought of Thanksgiving without that particular food seemed strangely sacrilegious.

All in all, the meal was lovely, the view from our porch was delicious and there was no bickering. But it felt rather lonely if you want to know the absolute truth.

I blame my futile search for a happy Thanksgiving on my childhood when the day was synonymous with chaos and camaraderie. The usual crew consisted of my parents, my sister and myself, three aunts, two uncles and five cousins who somehow managed to squeeze into Aunt Lillian and Uncle Savy’s one-bedroom apartment in the Bronx.

The adults headed to the kitchen to drink cocktails while the kids amused themselves the way kids do, which means the older cousins got to work tormenting the younger ones. One memorable year, the big cousins unearthed Aunt Lillian’s prized fur coat—complete with shrunken fox heads and beady eyes—and chased the little kids around the apartment with it.

When the screaming escalated, my aunt exited the kitchen long enough to yell at us and lock the coat away in the closet. And even though I was among the group being persecuted, my memories of that day remain quite fond—I guess because I knew my cousins would never really harm me.

Of course, that was long ago. Most of the aunts and uncles are long gone, and the cousins have grown up and have kids and grandkids now. Frankly, I don’t know what happened to the fur coat.

But one thing I know for sure. If you’ve ever spent a holiday in the hospital, you know the bar can’t sink much lower. So although I don’t expect this year’s gathering to be ecstatic, I’ll thank God fervently as long as there is turkey, a pie—and not a treadmill in sight.

Artwork is by Jef Murray. Lorraine’s new book, “Death Dons a Mask,” featuring the gang at St. Rita’s Church is available online. Readers may contact the Murrays at