I pulled the curtains back just enough to watch cars park. People up and down the street were getting loads of visitors complete with casseroles, deserts and drinks. Parking spaces were at a premium and some were being forced to park on neighboring blocks and trek to their destinations; no one seemed to consider this as undo punishment. Not a frown anywhere to be seen; just smiles and out and out laughter.
I let the curtains fall back into place and turned my back so the tears could roll freely. As if anyone would notice. My house was empty and dark, parallel with the ache in my soul, even though it was only noon. My car was tucked away in the garage so friends wouldn’t feel sorry for me and offer me an obligatory meal. I didn’t care for pity, except for maybe self-pity.
Thanksgiving Day alone. Again. You’d think my kids would bury the hatchet and make up. My son wouldn’t come if my daughter did and vice versa. How can a mother choose between her off spring? Actually if they got together I feared they really would bury the hatchet. Hard core hate had been boiling between them for years. Misunderstandings can be fatal. I never listen to either side of the story anymore, I don’t want to be involved or accused of taking sides.
Sitting in my lazy boy I poured another glass of wine. Wine and tuna sandwiches, that was my menu today. Why cook for a holiday I had no empathy with? What did I have to be thankful for today? Don’t give me that bull about being alive. Sometimes that’s actually no comfort, just banal sentiment that can be easily reversed.
Oh, dear. I’m almost out of wine. I couldn’t survive today without spirits. Off I headed to the nearby convenience store. In back, where I parked, three men were filling up water jugs from a hydrant. They appeared tired and worn out, in need of some refreshing. They were the age of my kids, mid-thirties or so. They were still in the parking lot after I purchased my wine.
I carefully got into my car, slightlyafraid of being ambushed by the three vagrants, at the same time hoping to be ambushed, after all maybe physical pain would remove my emotional agony. Then out of nowhere someone asked, “Do you guys need a good home cooked meal?” I looked around to see who had said that, and was shocked to learn it was me. The three men hefted their back packs and eagerly climbed into my Sedan, gratefully accepting my kindness without hesitation. Introductions were proffered and handshakes passed out by Joshua, Pete and Juan.
At home I was embarrassed to have nothing elaborate to offer them. Remember, I was eating a tuna sandwich by myself on Thanksgiving Day. My embarrassment was combined with embarrassment that I was embarrassed for having nothing good to eat for men that shopped from garbage cans (you can only understand that If you are as slightly inebriated as I am).. A can of beans and rice would be a gourmet meal if served on plates with real silverware and a beverage in a glass. I apologized for not having the usual over indulgent Thanksgiving meal and whipped up something only a mother could do at the last moment. My guests were profusely appreciative as they helped where they could. And between preparations they individually showered and shaved in the guest room, cleaning up after themselves. More than my own kids did. The bathroom actually looked fresher after they were done than before they started. Cleaned up, they were nice looking young men, and smart. I couldn’t understand why they were homeless. They explained it was their calling to roam the country looking for people to help. This definitely took me by surprise. Who was helping who here? They were smart but slightly mixed up.
We talked for hours about family, friends, and God. They had more insight into that divine being than I had, speaking of him more as a personal acquaintance than some distant phenomenon. They offered up prayers for my family and me before they finally said their concluding thanks and walked out the door. Out of my life. Out of the saddest day of my life. Saddest day turned pensive, turned warm. It had sustained me to have company today. Five hours after I had gone for more wine, wine that had never been opened, I watched three backs walk into the sunset.
I was back in my lounger, next to my forgotten tuna sandwich, alone again, when the door chimes ruptured my reverie. Without waiting for me to answer my son and daughter broke through the entrance arm in arm, followed by their families and—tons of food. Really, I couldn’t eat another bite. I reached for my wine glass and quickly downed the last drops.
“You guys aren’t here to draw me into your absurd squabble, again are you?” I blustered out, fearing a repeat horrible family feud on my terrain. A premonition out of place with the gleeful expressions on their countenances and the banquet they were carting in.
“No, we were worried about you, we tried to call several times and when no one answered we got together and decided our fight was silly and we agreed to disagree. We didn’t want you to be alone on Thanksgiving so we combined our menus and ……Walla!”
Once again tears rolled down my soggy cheeks. It was then I noticed the time on the grandfather clock by the door; and the sunshine that poured in the window around the closed curtains. I’ve only been in this chair for twenty minutes. My sandwich was still refrigerator cool. I must have dreamed the whole afternoon’s activities. I roamed through the house in shock. Nothing had changed; no dishes in the dishwasher from the meal I thought I had served hours ago, no discarded food cans, and no towels in the laundry from recent bathers. I had never gone anywhere, never had any visitors. It had seemed so real. It had to have been real, but lacking evidence I had to assume it had been nothing but a very, very remarkable dream, or the beginning of mental instability.
As my kids laid the dining room table with the lavish spread of edibles I answered the phone; since it was ringing that seemed the appropriate thing to do.
“Mrs. Watson, you left your wallet here. I tried to flag you down before you drove off with those three bums. I was afraid they had carjacked you, I was about to call the police.” It was the convenience store manager. I heard my kids gasp just before I collapsed on the floor, the phone receiver at my side; “Mrs. Watson? Mrs.Watson?” emanating from the speaker.
Outside Joshua, Pete and Juan who had returned to sneak a peak in the window, smiled contently, joined hands and ascended upwards.