This is more than Thanksgiving. It is the anniversary of my liberation. Never again since the Wednesday before Thanksgiving 1972 have I felt as in sync with the thankful hearts of the Pilgrims.
It began the same way all holidays did back then. Gramps, forever attracted to gadgets with directions written in foreign languages, arrived with his fancy new camera and insisted that we all pose for a family photo. Out of the trunk, he hauled a tripod.
After searching for the perfect outdoor backdrop, he painstakingly arranged us: "A smidge forward. Chin up. Back a hair-step. Shuffle one toe jog to the left. Now a rabbit hop to the right. One more. One more. One more. Stop!"
While we line-danced into place, something lurked on the outskirts of our gay old get-together, watching and pacing. With beady, cold eyes it scanned the unsuspecting crowd, searching for the smallest, weakest victim.
Gramps set the camera timer and hurried to his spot.
Capitalizing on the confusion, that devil bird, our pet goose, swooped in like a poltergeist and snatched me by the seat of my pants, taking a goodly portion of my fanny fat with it. Just before the shutter clicked, my grandfather found his position, I yelped, and that gander yanked me backwards, out of the family portrait, while everyone else stood there and smiled.
For months that fowl had terrorized my tender spirit. My supple legs bore the bruises. Daily, the beastly bird bided its time waiting for my four-year-old energy to drive me into the yard. As I descended the steps, it crept closer, closer, ever so quietly, timing its attack to the exact moment when I passed a point of no return. Without warning, it rushed in a cloud of dust from around the corner of the house, full tilt, neck outstretched, wings spread, beak open wide, a villainous heart pumping rapidly in its grey feathered chest, excited all the more by the sound of my desperate pleas.
I ran like an aimless, scattered guinea hen, to and fro and back again, tripping over my own developmentally uncoordinated feet. A wild goose chase summarily ensued, with a gander flying all over me, flogging and pecking and squawking. Mama, hearing the chaos, interceded with her broom, causing the reprehensible gander to retreat to the shadows, only to stalk me again on another day at a more opportune time.
Finally, enough was enough. So, right after the camera shutter clicked, my mother kicked at the bird. I scrambled off of the ground, hiked up my pants, and wiped away tears of frustration. And my daddy decided on a sudden change of tradition. Mama went inside and packed the turkey back in the freezer.
Again, the entire extended family gathered in an orderly grouping, surrounding my father and the offender, with me in the fore. The gander seeing that its goose was cooked strained to lay a golden egg. Not even that, however, could save it.
My daddy quickly and cleanly made his sharp point undeniably clear. THWACK! The hiss was ceremoniously hushed and we plucked my tormentor right down to its skivvies.
I experienced profound gratitude that Thanksgiving Day, as I feasted on the succulent white meat of justice smothered with giblet gravy made from the darkest heart ever to scour the dirt of the earth.
And I tell you what, the pig was sure on its best behavior right up to Christmas.
(Lucy Adams is a syndicated columnist, freelance writer, and the author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny. She lives in Thomson. Lucy invites readers to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and visit her web site, www.IfMama.com.)