Archive | 11:59 PM

Boxes, Turkeys, Thanksgiving and My Dad

19 Nov

Two 10-12 lbs, four 12-14 lbs, three 14-16 lbs …

This is how it started … however most people remember their dad carving the turkey, leading the blessing on Thanksgiving, or parked on the couch in a vegetative state watching football game, after football game. Those are the most vivid memories for some people during the turkey holiday season.

For me it was the boxes. The small ones and the big ones.

… Three 16-18, two 22-24, one 30-32 … every Thanksgiving week there were the boxes.

As a member of the Guat family I was required by blood to help out. Every year, every Thanksgiving season the masses gathered at my dad’s poultry shop placing orders for their  no antibiotics, no hormones, free range, turkeys.

The boxes … the dreaded boxes.

One of the busiest seasons in the poultry business and I dreaded it every year. Those boxes. Those Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday boxes filled with orders. My sister and mom got lucky, they were at the forefront answering phones, handling the money and taking the orders. However all they did was take. Take. Take. Take. It had not dawned on them what happened afterward. Where did all those cards go?

Two 24-26, one 18-20, three 20-22 …

In my head. That’s where. They got stuck in my brain. Every night. I’d have to double-check each and every order to make sure it matched up with what we had in inventory.

Just one of the walls in the ginormous fridge  … keeping all those gobble-gobbles.

Inventory. Jeez. Freezing my ass off, in a refrigerator as large as my living room and surrounded by boxes, while my sister and mom were up in the front chatting it up with our regular customers and new incoming ones. I mean I don’t know who decided that I should be in Rocky-Balboa-style refrigerator, but it sucked being in this caste system. There was no getting out of it. No promotions. No face time in front of the store. Just me, the ginormous refrigerator, with freezing temperatures that required gloves and constant usage of Chapstick,  and boxes  and boxes of free range turkeys. Big turkey boxes everywhere.

That was me … large and in charge of all the boxes. Order boxes and turkey boxes. The class system sucks.

So after a long day of wearing thermal underwear in order to withstand cold temperatures, I went home to deal with the small boxes. Every night during Thanksgiving week, there I was at the kitchen table with my dad — in serious turkey order mode. Him in his white butcher coat, me in sweats and a t-shirt, both of us exhausted.

He’d read the orders out loud and I’d jot it down on my chart. This was of course, pre-Microsoft Excel days. But even during post-Microsoft Excel my dad insisted on the paper and pencil method. He was old school and all about having something concrete that couldn’t be erased. So it was the old paper and pencil. We’d develop our own rhythm and finish the boxes in about an hour and a half. 12-to-14 lbs and 14-to-16 lbs. I must have heard those numbers more than any other. By the end of the night, I so hated numbers.

But on Sunday, when I sat with those boxes alone, I so missed hearing those numbers. The thing I dreaded the most — those boxes, those 14-to-16 note cards– brought me such sadness. It was a different kind of quiet on Sunday night and tonight. It sounds lame to get all weird-ed out over some boxes, but there I was getting really sad because my dad was not there. His voice was not there. The rhythm was off.

It took me a little longer to complete my inventory chart as the memories of past years kept swirling around in my brain.

Oh, dad. Miss you much, my friend. Miss you much.