My mother doesn’t like to waste money, and similar to many other Jewish mothers of her generation, she can sense a sale at Loehmann’s from miles away.
Which brings me to Thanksgiving.
Recently, a new supermarket took over in the space across the street. At first, everyone in my apartment building loved the shiny new store because it was clean, had a brightly-lit produce section, and the check-out people said “Thank You,” something previously unheard of in a Queens supermarket. The local customers froze in shock upon hearing these words, as if they had just entered an alternative universe.
But these niceties came at a huge price. The supermarket was stingy on sales. The previous supermarket had a cluttered appearance, like a desk covered in post-it notes. Everywhere you looked, there were colorful, mismatched stickers and hanging banners screaming out a new promotion, such as “Canned Peas! Buy One, Get One Free!”
These constant promotions served two purposes — they created excitement and they distracted the customers from focusing on the unorganized shelving and inept customer service.
There were few sales at this new, more upscale store, and never on anything that people really needed as a necessity. Last week’s big promotion was for “Fresh Halibut at $8.99 a pound.”
The bomb dropped this week when rumors spread throughout the apartment building that the supermarket wasn’t even going to offer a free turkey for Thanksgiving (usually for spending $25 dollars in purchase, with one per customer, of course)! This had been a Holiday tradition with the supermarkets in this spot for the last forty years. It was a tradition held as sacred to Queens residents as nativity scenes are to those who live in the mid-West.
My mother was very upset at the supermarket.
Now I can hear some of you grumbling and snickering at home.
“How cheap are you people in Queens? Why don’t you pay for your own freaking turkey? That’s what is wrong with liberals — always looking for a hand-out!”
Before you pontificate, let me try to explain this in a language that you will understand.
Imagine that you wake up tomorrow morning and go on Twitter, and you are greeted by a smiling cartoon Twitter bird with the message, “We have finally figured out how to make money with Twitter. Please pay $10 a month if you want access to your account. Thanks.” Are you going to say, “What a clever business model?” Or are you going to be pissed, used to getting the milk from the cow for free?!
Think about that as you snicker!
You should also understand that my mother is a dangerous woman. She is strong-willed AND retired, which means she is stubborn AND has too much time on her hands.
“I heard the supermarket on 164th Street is giving you a free turkey if you spend $25 dollars,” she said.
“You want to go all the way to 164th Street just for a turkey? Is someone driving there?”
“No, I thought we’d walk over with the shopping wagon.”
“That supermarket is over a mile away!”
“Let’s just get it downstairs. I’ll pay for the turkey.”
“No, it’s the principle of the thing. Getting the free turkey is an essential part of Thanksgiving. It’s like the Indians sharing their food with the Pilgrims.”
“And look what happened to the Indians.”
“If you don’t want to go, I’ll go myself and schlep the wagon up the hill, along with the heavy turkey, so everyone in the building will see me breathing heavy, walking two miles, and wondering if you’re sooooo “busy” at home writing one of your porno posts for your blog that you couldn’t help your mother carrying the turkey.”
“Nice,” complimenting her guilt shtick.
“Besides, you did say that you wanted to exercise more.”
I lost the battle. Off we went to get our free turkey.
When we returned home, we were exhausted, and my back hurt from pushing the shopping wagon, filled with groceries and a 14 pound frozen turkey.
“So, honestly, Mom…” I asked. “Was schlepping all this way just to get a free turkey really worth it?”
“Absolutely,” she replied, as she placed the frozen turkey in the bottom of the refrigerator to start its long thaw.