The Turkey in Me
American author and humorist David Sedaris gained notoriety in the early 1990s through a series of essays he read on NPR called “The Santaland Diaries.” In them, he chronicled his daily observations as he played the role of an elf for the Christmas season at Macy’s in New York City. With humor that can be a bit off-color at times, Sedaris describes his colleagues (fellow elves), customers (families visiting Santa), and the “elf culture” of Macy’s with such wit and wisdom that my wife and I find ourselves listening to the diaries each Christmas season and quoting lines from them throughout the year.
So when I don an inflatable turkey suit each November in the hopes of helping our Key Club gather the 400 or so frozen turkeys we will need for our Turkey Drive, I imagine that to some extent this is what Sedaris felt like as an elf at Macy’s. In this spirit then I offer some thoughts and reflections from my time as a turkey:
- A big part of the joy of standing out front each morning is watching our students and families interact. Virtually without fail, I’m greeted by smiling faces, even when I’ve been out there for a week or more and the novelty has worn off. I’m witness to many warm parent/child hugs, some trying-to-look-casual-slightly-embarrassed waves, and the occasional eye-roll. I watch new drivers and parents switching places as they arrive on campus. Dogs bark from the back seat, imagining how I must taste…
- The turkey suit is inflated by a small fan in the back that’s attached to a battery pack I keep in my coat pocket. It has elastic closures around the wrists, ankles and neck, and the fan blows air into the suit, meaning that on some of the coldest of mornings of the year I’m actually wearing an air conditioner shaped like a giant turkey. I wear many layers underneath, and it can take a good 10 minutes to get in and out of the suit each morning. I need someone to help me with the zipper in the back, and to get in and out of the front door.
- Thanks to Mr. Swanberg and Ms. Po for their guest appearances as the turkey this year, and to Landon Roma for coming out as “Stanley the Stag” one day. Thanks to Mrs. Connick and Mrs. Poggio and the Key Clubs student leaders who keep track of all the turkeys and canned goods we collect. Thanks as well to Pape Chevrolet for lending us the truck each year and to Micucci Foods for allowing us to store the turkeys in their freezer.
- That intersection in front of the Main Office is dangerous! Slow down everybody!
- We get turkeys every day. On the first few days the count is often in the single digits, just enough to give me something to cheer about as I assure myself that more are coming and that I’m out there to act as a visual Turkey Drive reminder. By the second week my efforts are paying off and we’re collecting 25-40 turkeys a day. Trunks open as cars pull up and 2...then 3...then 6 frozen turkeys come out. People lean out their windows and tell me what the going rate per pound is a Hannaford and Shaws. Families who brought one turkey the first week show up with three more on the final day. I can hardly keep up with cheering, waving, and gobbling the turkeys are coming so fast!
- My favorite part of the Cheverus Key Club Turkey Drive doesn’t happen on the curb in front of the Main Office. The rows of boxes waiting to be filled around the indoor track in our basement look impressive, but that’s not my favorite part either. On the final day of the drive our Campus Ministry team hosts an interfaith prayer service for our community in the gym. All students, faculty and staff gather as we bless one of the meals we’ve assembled before the deliveries begin. The items are carried to the altar by students one at a time...one turkey, one bag of potatoes, one can of cranberry sauce, one loaf of bread, one jug of milk. It’s here that the total community effort comes together, and symbolically it’s here that we break bread and sit down at each Thanksgiving table in communion with the families who will receive the fruits of our work. It’s here that we remember that all this effort isn’t for our glory, but for God’s. These are God’s gifts we’ve assembled, and we’re blessed to be able to partake in the distribution of them.
AMDG. Inflatable turkey & all.