For some people, whirlwind shopping trips and the unfurling of snarls of twinkling lights herald in the
holiday season. For me, it is the annual Thanksgiving eve turkey shoot.
I was horrified the first time I heard one of the men in our family refer to such an event. Turkey shoot? What? How could
something so awful be considered even legal? Poor turkeys.
Of course, that was many years ago, and I learned in short order that the only things in danger at a turkey shoot are the
small squares of cardstock pinned downrange with targets printed on them. And even those often emerge unscathed.
The customarily chilly nights leading up to Thanksgiving are prime turkey shoot time, culminating for our family on Thanksgiving eve. I suppose it is a Southern rite of passage in the life of many a youngster to be invited to go along. The bustling activity in our home before the turkey shoot is always enjoyable. Friendly faces, as welcome and beautiful as the Thanksgiving dessert table, emerge through the door and into the kitchen for hugs and sustenance. The best years are when those faces manage to make it from both right here in town and from farther away. New York, Virginia, Indiana and Tennessee, as well as Raleigh, Wilmington and Charlotte, are all home to turkey shooters I adore.
Always, there are some new faces in the mix, such as our busy friend who works in the medical field who last year joined the
gang for the first time. He made it for the chili but then had to sit in his car for the entire duration of the turkey shoot fielding
Another of the things I love best about the turkey shoot is the peace and quiet, which is always as welcome as the aroma of pumpkin spice, that settles over the house after the turkey shooters have eaten their bowls of chili, gathered their supplies, dressed themselves in warm clothing and headed out the door. I love you all. Now, scram.
My sisters-in-law, sometimes a daughter or two, sometimes a girlfriend or two will be among those who stay right here. Don’t worry about us. We’ll be in charge of filling the dishwasher and the wine glasses. Some years, we’ve spent all that turkey-shoot solitude baking pies for the next day. “Chili and pies,” one of my daughters told me recently. “That’s what I remember about turkey shoots. I always end up staying with you.”
Some years, we’ve cradled newborns in our arms. Most years, we’ve exchanged stories about husbands, sweethearts, careers
and wayward children. In recent years, we’ve toasted loved ones we’ve lost. We’ve shed tears of laughter and sadness, and I don’t
expect that will ever change.
The months preceding this year’s turkey shoot have been like no other. No one knows exactly what the holiday season will hold. But in the stillness of a cool, crisp evening, surrounded by people you love, there is peace in a world of uncertainty. And then, before we know it, we hear the front door open with a thud, and noisy voices rush in to regale us with tales of near-misses and bull’s-eyes. And in that moment, there is confirmation in grand, loud, laughing fashion: Some things, thankfully, will never change.