top of page


By Tori Dudley

PROMPT — Joy is ...

So, there I was, navigating the chaos of the Thanksgiving kitchen, apron tied tight and determination etched on my face. I push Taylor away from the potatoes, removing his greedy fingers from the food. Classic older brother move of stealing the potatoes. Meanwhile, my twin sister Tia, just a step behind him, sported the same red and orange sweater as me. With a playful grin, I called her out, "Hey, you were supposed to wear the green one!" I watch as a satisfied smirk stains her face. Tia always finds it amusing to match outfits with me. It reminded me of our childhood when we did it frequently, but that tradition faded when we moved apart two years ago.

But, it feels like that time apart was only a second. It feels like, somehow, she never left. Same with Chelsea, my brother Taylor's girlfriend, a dedicated and hardworking nurse, practically the family's most diligent member. While she may not be officially part of the family (at least not yet, we hope), I still regard her as such. Both she and Taylor attempt to sneak a taste from the potatoes in the staging area. "We're not ready for dinner yet!" my mom's voice rings out from the other side of the room.

The kitchen is filled with rushed conversations, plates of food, and contrasting smells. One of those smells stands out to me. You see, I'm wondering why everyone is desperate to get their hands on the potatoes. For we all know what the real prize is: the turkey.

The scent of roasting turkey wafted through the air, an aromatic dance tickled my nostrils and whispered the truth of an impending feast. It’s been weeks, no months since that turkey paraded our family dinner table. It’s been too long. After all, we save our turkey feasting until the one holiday that celebrates it.

Dad, barely awake from his pre-Thanksgiving nap, states, "All we need is the turkey to be done and we're ready to eat."

Turkey, the hero of Thanksgiving, stood proudly in the oven, transforming from a raw bird into a golden masterpiece. I could smell the excitement almost as much as I could smell the turkey. I glance around to see everyone on their toes as our mouths filled with saliva when the word "Turkey" is pronounced. Taylor's eyes widen, and the audible growl from my other brother Tyson's stomach fills the space. Tyson's eyes are glazed, his thoughts centered around nothing else but the crispy bird. My sister Tia and I tried to take our minds off the delicious awaiting meal by talking with Chelsea, whom we hadn’t seen in weeks. It’s been busy for all of us. We all had a lot of catching up to do. Tia excitedly shared details about her latest research proposal, which recently earned approval for presentation at a conference in February. On the other hand, Chelsea mentioned that she took Taylor shopping at the mall last week, discreetly peeking into every jewelry store, perhaps wondering if, after two years, he might finally be ready to grant a proposal of a different kind.

Adding to our gathering were Chelsea's sister and brother-in-law, who traveled from miles away to be with us. Despite the marked differences between Chelsea's family and ours, we all came together in our shared love for Thanksgiving fare. Kayla, Chelsea's sister, mirrored her with a similar blonde and slender physique. Most enthusiastic about the stuffing and potatoes, Kayla couldn't resist getting caught up in our excitement over the turkey and decided to join in the festivities.

We were all gathered around the table, staring into the eyes of the oven timer. Just five more minutes.

Three more minutes.

Two minutes.


The oven door swung open, and there it was—the crisp turkey emerging in a dramatic cloud of steam, sizzling and glistening with sweat as it exited the oven. I should say, as it finally exited the oven. Amidst the steam, the only visible thing was Chelsea's vibrant blonde hair.

It was my job for the last addition of flavor. After fighting Mom for the last final touch, I treasured this opportunity. As I basted it with a concoction of melted butter and secret spices, I couldn’t help but marvel at it. Marvel at the golden brown hue, silky outside, and surely, surely, it wouldn’t hurt to take one small bite. One. Small. Bite.

“Don’t eat until we pray!” One slap of the hand by the master of the kitchen caused me to retreat. Mom, the kitchen police, monitored the food carefully. After all, it's her recipes and cooking mastery that brought all this food. She wanted us all to eat at the same time. Wanted all of us to feel like we were included—a typical quality of Mom.

It’s almost ready to be devoured.

While Mom positions the turkey on the table, along with the potatoes, stuffing, and rolls, I converse with Tyson about our love for photography. How long has it been since we'd spoken. Two weeks? Three? You know what, it's been five. That is way too long. But, our conversation was beautifully interrupted by the one thing I have been waiting for.

There is a strange joy in the anticipation of that first slice, the unveiling of the perfectly cooked turkey, whose scent can be smelt from two blocks south. It’s like revealing a hidden treasure, a crispy-skinned bounty that promises succulence in every bite. I can practically taste it. Dad, his claim to fame, grabs the special knife, eager to plunge it into the turkey. The sound of the carving knife meeting resistance, followed by the regular triumphant “pop” of the golden-brown skin, is music to everyone’s ears at the table. It can captivate even the Thanksgiving haters.

That, my friends, is the sound of tradition.

We passed the turkey platter around the table, like a mystic object that everyone was dying to get their hands on. Trey, the meat-hater, refuses to even look upon the scorched bird. And we even call him a Dudley? His wife, Abbey, slaps his knee and takes an extra slice of her favorite meal. There’s a collective inhale, a shared moment of reverence before the first fork descends. Juices run, flavors mingle, and for that brief pause, there is silence. The entire room is suspended in the magic of a well-cooked turkey.

Tyson was the first to speak. "This is amazing!"

Followed by Tia's classic line, "Could this be more perfect?"

In those moments, I find myself swept in the delight of Thanksgiving. I saw our entire family, including a few newcomers, engage in conversation over the perfectly cooked turkey. We’ve all waited so long for the turkey feast. Yet, I believe it’s not the turkey I enjoy. Sure, it’s delicious. But I don’t think that’s what I was looking forward to. Perhaps, it’s the fact that for the first time, in a long time, we were all together.


Tori Dudley is a student at BYU. She aspires to be an author or screenwriter one day. The above piece is one that I wrote during Thanksgiving. Tori writes from Lindon, Utah.


bottom of page