Dear Ms. Millsap,
Several years ago you wrote an article in the Spokesman Review about your daughter and a picture of a turkey. I thought it was very funny and I gave copies to some of my friends. I even sent one to my 82 year old mother.
This year I lost that clipping and was hoping you could send me a copy.
Happy Turkey Day!
It happens every year. Each November somebody sends me a note like the one below. So here's a copy of the piece I'm most requested to read or share. I've come to think of as the Turkey Story:
Let’s all give thanks for the bird – and the bees
For most people, Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on what we’ve been given, and savor the scents of crisp autumn days and pumpkin pie.
For me, it’s a little more complicated.
One November afternoon when my daughter was in kindergarten, I picked her up after school. She bobbed out to the car and crawled into the back seat.
“What did you do today?” I asked. She couldn’t wait to tell me.
“We learned that boys are different from girls,” she chirped.
Looking into the rearview mirror, I could just see the top of her head.
“My teacher told us that boys have a thing the girls don’t,” she added.
“Well, yes they do …,” I said cautiously.
I couldn’t think of anything else to say, so we were quiet for a moment. Then she piped up again. “That’s how girls know that boys are boys,” she said. “They see that thing that hangs down and they know that he is a boy.”
I mentally calculated the distance home. Our five-minute commute already felt like an hour.
“Did you know that when the boys see a girl they puff up?” My palms were beginning to sweat. “Um … well ….”
I was still searching for something new to say, to change the subject, when she asked, “Why do the girls like the boys to have those things?” Well I didn’t know what to say. I mean, what woman hasn’t asked herself that question at least once?
“Oh, well … um …,” I stammered.
She didn’t wait for my answer. She had her own. “It’s ‘cause it moves when they walk and then the girls see that and that’s when they know they are boys and that’s when they like them. Then the boy sees the girl and he puffs up, and then the girl knows he likes her, too. And then they get married. And then they get cooked.”
That last part confused me a bit, but on the whole I thought she had a pretty good grasp on things.
As soon as we got home and I pulled into the garage, she hopped out of the car, fishing something out of her school bag.
“I drew a picture,” she said. “Do you want to see?”
I wasn’t sure I did, but I looked at it anyway. I had to sit down.
There, all puffed up, so to speak, looking mighty attractive for the ladies, was a crayon drawing of a great big tom turkey. His snood, the thing that hangs down over his beak, the thing that female turkeys find so irresistible, was magnificent. His tail feathers were standing tall and proud.
She was a little offended that I laughed so hard at her drawing, and I laughed until I cried. But when I told her I loved it – and I did – she got over her pique.
That was the end of that, for her anyway. But I’m not so lucky.
Every year I remember that conversation.
And to be honest, I haven’t looked at a turkey, or a man, the same way since.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org