Over Easy: The Great Turkey Mash-up

For the Valley News
Published: 2/18/2023 2:06:36 PM
Modified: 2/18/2023 2:05:39 PM

Last Saturday we had the most senior moment ever in White River Junction.

No, not the senior moment where you can’t remember the name of an old star like Jackie Gleason or his sidekick (it will come back to you in a minute or two or a day or two.) Or, if you can remember everything Gleason, you forget where you parked your car — and the keys could be locked inside.


We went to the drive-thru turkey dinner at the Methodist Church downtown. Spoiler alert: The turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes were delicious. The green beans were, well, green beans. The apple pie was sweet. Portions were generous. It’s a pretty good deal for $12.

You can get two meals out of it, which for a true senior is as close to heaven as we can get on this mortal coil. At a previous takeout dinner, they loaded us up with enough for two meals and a snack. That night I saw the Pearly Gates — at least in my overstuffed dreams.

The pandemic has made church basement suppers dicey. For this one you wait in line in your car, so you miss out on sharing tables with friendly strangers or old friends or, in days gone by, a chance encounter with famed writer J.D. Salinger, who was said to attend Upper Valley church suppers. I doubt he talked much. His Catcher in the Rye ends with Holden saying, enigmatically, “Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.” I might have asked him if he liked the pie, though.

Last year I resisted going early — it starts at 4 p.m. — because I haven’t fully embraced my age. I should know better. Years ago I helped set up church suppers in West Lebanon. I opened the waiting area about half an hour early once and seniors were sore at me for showing up so late. They were the pros, the ones who hustle for the first seating and the good tables.

But last year we were shut out in White River — they ran out just as we were next in line. This time, Dede and I said we wouldn’t make the same mistake. We got in line at 3:30 p.m., laughing at ourselves for heading to dinner so early. Would we eat right when we got home, I asked? No, she said, we’d wait a decent interval and reheat it.

We weren’t far back in line, which stretched down Gates Street. But then it curled along Church Street, where St. Anthony’s Catholic Church hosts a Mass at 4 p.m. Luckily, our car was past the church, so I wouldn’t have guilt about being in the way of the faithful.

As the minutes passed, however, more and more cars joined the line. Some turned up the Gates Street hill (the road is closed part-way up) and turned around. Two lines were established. It became hazy about who was there first.

Then drivers started double-parking in front of the Catholic Church. One pulled into the intersection and froze. I started describing the action, like a TV football announcer. Where does he think he’s going? … She’s heading toward the sidewalk … Look, a breakout!

It’s not all fun and games. A situation like this makes you agitated about losing your place in line. You see potential line cutters everywhere. I don’t think I’ve ever thought less of my fellow man when caught in such predicaments.

We saw a white car and a black truck slip past everyone and take places near the front of the line. They were cheating or confused. Either way, I judged them harshly.

At some point Scripture came to mind — the first shall be last and the last first — but I didn’t think that applied to church suppers.

There were other moral hazards. The longer we waited, the more we coveted turkey. We might cross the line into gluttony, one of the seven deadly sins. Anger and envy were also on the table. No time to examine my conscience — I had to creep forward to protect my spot.

Eventually, some guy came out (maybe from the Catholic Church) and tried to untangle the traffic and hold people’s place in line. I think he did a pretty good job, although the source of his authority was unclear. Since the Reformation, the source of a lot of religious authority has been in dispute.

Anyway, we got our supper. I felt some pride which, if overweening, can also be a sin. “Winner, winner, turkey dinner,” I said.

We ate around 6 p.m., when the TV news was trying to make something out of another slow-news Saturday. They didn’t have anything about the Great Turkey Dinner Traffic Jam, which certainly had come and gone.

Good. It would be an exclusive for my column.

Dan Mackie lives in West Lebanon. He can be reached at dan.mackie@yahoo.com.

Jackie Gleason’s sidekick on The Honeymooners was Art Carney, aka Norton.

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