I live in Atenas, Costa Rica, chosen for the convenient location close to the airport, shopping and services. From my door, I can be in PriceSmart (similar to Costco) in twenty minutes.
My family lives in Nosara on the Nicoya Peninsula, overlooking a beautiful beach, Playa Guiones on the Pacific coast. They can be at PriceSmart in five hours.
Naturally, in preparation for the Thanksgiving feast, the job of procuring the Butterball fell to me. As I happily lifted the twenty-two pound bird into my cart, my mind drifted back to the olden days when the only way to have a Thanksgiving turkey was to schlep it from the states in your carry-on. Yes, we did that in the early 90s. More precisely, my eleven year old son carried the bird. He never complained – just thought it was part of the holiday ritual; go to Grandma’s for Thanksgiving in Costa Rica, carry a frozen turkey on the airplane.
I bought the frozen bird for last year’s feast well in advance – God forbid they should run out – brought it home to my tiny casita and realized I had no room in the freezer. Luckily, my neighbor’s freezer was empty and she volunteered to store it for me. You can see what’s coming here.
On departure day, Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, I loaded up the car with goodies, and necessary items such as my bicycle, beach toys, wine, and boogie board. I left at the crack of dawn to avoid traffic and mid-day heat. I was two hours into the journey when it hit me: I FORGOT THE TURKEY! I left it in my neighbor’s freezer! Oy vey. I was past the point of no return. There were no stores on the way that would just happen to have a turkey. I started looking in people’s yards along the way to see if somebody had a giant chicken I could buy. Sure, I could wring it”s neck, pluck it, and wrap it in plastic.
My mind was racing. I did not want to tell my mother I forgot the turkey. I started calling people I knew in Nosara; “Hi, This is Micki’s daughter. I’m on my way to Nosara. Do you happen to have an extra turkey I could borrow? In fact, I’ll pay you double.” One lady said, “Give it up. You’re not gonna find one. Break tradition. Stop in Garza and buy some nice fish.”
As I pulled up to the house, Mom and Papa Nuevo came out to greet me and help unload the car. My smiling mom, anxious to see the twenty-two pounder I bragged about asked, “Where’s the turkey?”
With sweating palms and a flushed face, I blurted, “It’s the neighbor’s fault! I put it in her freezer and she went out of town. The place was locked up tight!”
“You’re lying. You forgot the turkey!”
I might as well wear a sign around my neck that says “I’m lying.”
“No, really. It’s not my fault. She must have forgotten I needed it and went to Nicaragua without telling me. I swear. So, Mom, wanna break tradition and have some nice mahi mahi for Thanksgiving?”
“No! I want turkey. Come on. We’re going to Rusvel.”
Rusvel is the owner of Super Nosara where we have been regular customers since 1991. He has built his business around the gringo community, importing all sorts of products he never even heard of until the North American invasion. Mom, affectionately known as “Micki Mouse” at Super Nosara, marched up to the hard-working proprietor and barked, “Rusvel! You have a turkey back there?”
He shook his head with a pensive look, stared at the floor for a few seconds, then brightened. “I can have one here by tomorrow morning!” Mom and I jumped up and down doing the happy dance. Rusvel said to come at 10:00 a.m. and he would have a turkey for us. At this point, never mind the price. We knew it would be high – yeah double or even triple – but we didn’t care. No way we were having fish on Turkey Day.
When I got home to Atenas, my neighbor was sitting on her porch. Before I even got out of the car, she shouted: “Hey! You forgot the turkey.”
“No, no. I didn’t forget it. I didn’t want to bang on your door at 5:00 a.m. the day I left, that’s all.”
She smiled and said “You’re lying. You forgot it.” (Was that sign still around my neck?)
Sigh. “You want to come for a nice turkey dinner? Let’s get that bird out of your freezer this minute.”
Pura Vida and Happy Thanksgiving!