As we here in the U.S. celebrate Thanksgiving this week, I’d like to share a quick holiday story with you.
When I was growing up, my single mom worked multiple jobs to support me and my two siblings. Looking back as an adult I know how much she must have been working, with a full-time job, a weekend job, and taking in sewing jobs at night. But it never felt like that to me. One thing my mom was brilliant at was making family time special, especially with holidays and traditions.
Money was always tight, but there was one year that Mom decided to make it extra special with Cornish hens. Not only was this a splurge financially, but the meal was ornate, as it always was with my mom. She is a wonderful cook and we regularly enjoyed things like chicken Kiev, beef Bourguignon, and always a homemade dessert like pot de creme. So what I’m about to tell you is not a funny story about my mother’s terrible cooking.
Except that night when my brother-in-law—our family’s most notoriously finicky eater—cut into the tiny little bird carcass on his plate, the inside was still frozen and raw.
Obviously that was it for the rest of us. I took one look at the glistening gelatinous flesh and to this day I have issues with raw poultry—and don’t even get me started on Cornish hen. My mom was mortified that holiday dinner was ruined.
But my family can make a joke out of just about anything, and before long we were practically falling out of our chairs laughing. I don’t remember what we wound up eating that night. I don’t remember the rest of the meal at all.
What I do remember, though, is that it was one of the happiest, most ridiculous, joyful memories of my childhood. My mom made the holiday special by making the Cornish hens terrible.
There are loads of lessons in this for writers, I think, but the one I want to share is this: In a subjective pursuit like writing or any art, there will always be failures. Every now and then you will serve up a story that is a salmonella-ridden spongy mess of undercooked fowl.
But sometimes the treasures can be found in those failures. The most perfectly cooked meal in the world would have vanished from my memory, absorbed into a string of delicious meals I’ve eaten over my lifetime. But this one is a meal I will never forget with my family, not because it was perfect but because of how gloriously it wasn’t, and how we celebrated that together.
Whether you observe Thanksgiving or not, I hope you celebrate your special occasions with the people who make successes out of what seem like your failures.
And I just wanted to take a quick moment to say thank-you to all of you who join me here. Your work makes my work possible and gives it meaning.
But you’re also the ones I can take the occasional Cornish-hen risk with, knowing that if I serve something to you undercooked I am with the people who understand that sometimes in this business, that shit happens….
I’m always a bit in awe of writers, not just for the fact that you spin worlds and unique souls from the ether of your imagination, but for the dedication and work that I know firsthand writing takes to share your vision with others.
Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but maybe the best stories are the ones that happen incidentally around the ones that may not turn out exactly as we hoped.
Happy holiday, my friends. And thank you.