Marge Klindera spent decades teaching home economics to kids in Illinois. But in the early 1980s, after she had retired, she was looking for another way to pass along her knowledge.
That's when she decided to join a Thanksgiving call center — where thousands of panicked home cooks call every year, hoping for last-minute guidance in cooking their dinner.
"We like to say we kind of deal with turkey trauma," Klindera, now 79, tells her longtime coworker, Carol Miller, on a recent visit with StoryCorps.
The pair of holiday-hotline experts exchanged stories from their many years answering the desperate questions of questionable cooks.
"I always remember the call from a young bride," Klindera says. The caller had been whispering into the phone, and when Klindera asked her why, she says the young bride responded, "Well, I don't want my mother and mother-in-law to know I'm calling you, but they're having this argument about which was the right way to do things."
"She was very relieved when I told her it was her mother who had the right solution," Klindera remarks.
"Yeah but she had to go tell her mother-in-law she was wrong," Miller laughs.
Miller, for her part, recalls a man who'd wanted to pop the question on Thanksgiving — by putting a diamond ring in the stuffing, then putting all of that inside the turkey.
"So, you know, I convinced him that that wasn't a good idea for a number of reasons. We decided together that he should tie it on a drumstick, get down with a platter on one knee and propose," Miller says.
"Every year I think about him, and it's my wish that some day maybe he might call and say, 'Hey! We made it for 30 years.' "
It's not always the hapless betrothed who are calling in, Klindera says — often callers are just lonely, looking for ways to talk to someone, even if only by phone.
"It really is heartwarming to hold their hands," Klindera says. "We're kind of like their mom or their grandma."
"I think that's one of the best parts about our job. They are so grateful that you're there," Miller agrees.
"People say, 'You mean you've given up Thanksgiving for all these years?' And I never feel like I've ever given anything up."
"It makes them feel good," Klindera says, "and it certainly makes us feel good, too."
Audio produced for Morning Edition by Liyna Anwar.
StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.
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