Angela Huston

For many people, holidays tend to create lasting memories, many of which become anticipated traditions each year thereafter. We experienced a memorable Thanksgiving situation back in 1960, one I am thankful did not become a repeated event.

My memory is not as clear as it once was; there are even times when I do not remember what I did or ate two days ago, but then there are some other things I probably will never forget.

We had not been with family for holidays in some time because my Air Force husband was stationed in Okinawa. That Thanksgiving was our first one home after his tour of duty ended and we invited both families to join us. Besides being with family, one thing for which I was most thankful that day was a canned ham.

For several days prior to Thanksgiving the weather had been extremely cold. On the way home from work the Monday before, we picked up the ordered turkey, but could make no room for it to gradually thaw in the refrigerator, regardless of how we rearranged, shoved, or squeezed.

Finally, we realized the frigid temperature could work to our advantage with "Admiral Bird." We wrapped him well enough for an arctic expedition and put him safely in the rafters of our unheated attached garage, a good plan --- until Mother Nature sabotaged it!

We knew the temperature had been rising, but had no idea how much or how fast until we retrieved the no longer frozen, scarcely cold, admiral from his lofty perch Wednesday evening. Panic would be an inadequate word to use here.

Stores were already closed (yes, they did that in those days), and we faced the distinct possibility our main course had gone belly-up. We decided to roast the turkey through the night, but soon knew he was, indeed, "borderline ripe!"

By the next afternoon only faint traces of the uninviting aroma still lingered, and the fragrant aromas of a baking canned ham (which I luckily happened to have in the refrigerator) along with all the other fixings, were filling the house.

Our guests began arriving and a somewhat precocious 6-year-old nephew noticed the slightly unfamiliar smell and asked if it was turkey. I said no. He asked if it was duck. I said no. He tried chicken. I said no (thank goodness we did not have 'turduckens' back then). Finally, in mock exasperation, he asked, "Well, what are we having?" I said ham.

After a very brief moment of silent disbelief, he informed me ham was for Easter! By that time, others were aware of our fragmented conversation and I had to explain why we were tampering with tradition. An understanding family: another thing for which we were thankful that holiday.

We served an almost traditional feast, accompanied by all the usual Thanksgiving treats, sans turkey gravy, naturally. It was not as disastrous as it could have been, but I will never forget, or live down, our un-turkey Thanksgiving!

No doubt I will continue to forget some more current things while other distant memories will still stand out clearly. I once read somewhere the number of brain cells that die off regularly. Of course, I do not remember when or where I read that, or how many cells die off at a time, but, you know, it really does not matter.

I am thankful for the years of priceless memories still wandering around in the nooks and crannies of my brain, even if I cannot always retrieve them immediately. I know they are in there somewhere and I will find them sooner or later.

However, the memory of the canned ham that saved Thanksgiving Day is something that is etched there permanently. For many years, it also prompted me to be sure we had a canned ham on hand in the refrigerator, just in case. Ya' never know.....