The whole Thanksgiving turkey thing got out of hand early on.
The Johnsons, you see, like to name things. We didn’t think it was unusual when Joanna called her two identical dolls Martha and The Other Martha. (They were also referred to as “My Marthas” and “The Marthas.”) The big stuffed giraffe was christened Maxine, and Joanna’s treasured stuffed dragon is Warren.
The female who gives directions on Rebecca’s GPS is “Lucy.” The little green man on the Walk/Don’t Walk signs in Paris we call “Louie.” One of my most successful ad campaigns (for QuikTrip) featured a large shaggy dog named “Lamar.” (The campaign was the product of a number of talented people, but Wyatt Phillips and I came up with the concept, and I named the dog.)
Back in 1975 The Goddess and I started calling our Thanksgiving turkey Otis. None of the insiders thought anything of it. Hell, we probably had names for the doorknobs. The guests were the problem. More than once there were worried looks and the rapid clearing of throats when someone heard us talking about “taking the knife to Otis.” I learned quickly that small children do not see the humor in naming a dead bird they’re about to eat.
Otis The Turkey spawned a priceless anthology of drawings, stories, awful puns and a veritable library of Otis poems. I think I reached a certain level of amateur poetic excellence in 1979 with a moving epic called “Otis The Turkey.” I recited it reverently as the Thanksgiving blessing:
Here lies Otis,
He’s our turkey.
When we cut his head off
His feet got jerky.
Everyone was very moved.
This year Otis won’t be with us. The children and grandkids who live in foreign lands like Kansas City and Boston won’t be here so we’ll go with an unnamed turkey breast. But we won’t leave the Big O out of the celebration. Just before we cut into the turkey breast we’ll have a moment of silence, and then I’ll recite my latest tribute:
Otis isn’t here,
The price was high.
We kicked him out the door
‘Cause he never learned to fly.
Otis may have made a friend,
There might even be a wife.
It’s better to sleep with a feathered momma
Than with my butcher knife.
I’m sure that he’ll be back,
That’s what I’ve often said.
He’ll waddle through the door
Looking for his feathered bed.
He’ll come up the garden steps,
All huffin’ and a puffin’,
He’ll reach to shake my hand,
And I’ll reach for the stuffing.
There won’t be a dry eye in the house.