Tag Archive for: Thanksgiving

The sun has no voice, surely, so I must have imagined that call.  It summoned me outside as it continued its ascent in the bright, early hours of the morning after Thanksgiving.  The striated rosy and berry pinks of dawn over the hill behind had just faded, giving way to near-blinding illumination from a cloudless sky.

Probably will be too cold out here, I grumbled, unsure about accepting this invitation as I wrested open the porch door and stepped out in my tattered old yellow robe and slippers.  Still, lured by the crimson tints still clinging to a few determined trees in the woods behind the house and the bleak grace of the towering bare trees farther up the slope, I longed for some different air. I took along my book and coffee, and, of course, the dog, who frets if ever left more than about 14 inches from my feet.

The porch is shuttered for winter, like a beachside pub in the off season, its colorful flower pots retired to storage and cheery cushions stashed in the garage.  But on this particular morning, there was an odd, welcoming draw in its lean openness.  To wrest one of the creaking old iron chairs around sideways was the work of a moment.  There!  Now I could read without squinting straight into the rising sun, and I perched.

A chilly breeze denied the sun’s promised warmth, and I hoisted the collar on my old bathrobe higher around my neck, inhaling deeply, once, twice, then three times, not entirely sure why this perch inspired the deep breathing exercises.  The sun settled on my right cheek and hand, holding in place like the lingering touch of someone familiar.

The dog, in his elevation some seven inches above ground, struggled to settle.  His requisite security patrol around the visible perimeter completed, he sat briefly on the concrete, then for a fraction of a second on the grass, before he came to stretch up and position both paws gently onto my thigh. This telegram read:  The grass is wet and the concrete is cold.  What shall we do?  Appreciating his dilemma, I plucked one of his beds off the floor of my adjacent office, dropped it on the porch concrete, and sighed with satisfaction along with him as he jumped in. He curled up with face toward the sun and gaze toward the woods, from which despicable aliens like turkeys or deer might always encroach. There being none in sight, he closed his eyes.

With fresh clarity bestowed by the warm light and wafting winter air, I could admit why I needed that deep breathing.  I let that discomfort stand up on two feet and sat with it, staring into the trees, my finger holding my place in the little book I was ignoring.  Thanksgiving Day was a tough one, a low-key version of the holiday, or what I sometimes call an “off year”.  I desperately missed my late parents, who loved rowdy family groups and festive holiday gatherings.  I missed my extended family, all understandably occupied with other branches of their own families, an inevitable calendar result of these holiday rotations.  Memories of earlier holidays, especially before some of the beloved had left us, scrolled across my forest view like old movies on a screen, and my eyes briefly welled with tears.  I tried one sip of coffee, now completely cold and slightly bitter.

Hard to say how long I sat there, the sun steady in its grasp on my cheek, like a comforting palm.  As I felt my chest relax, I closed my eyes and thought, shoot, I could doze, sitting right here.  And I remembered, with gratitude and for the umpteenth time:  There is nothing that begins to ease sorrow more readily than staring it right in the face.

The dog raised his head, nose twitching briskly to re-examine potential threats signaled on the breeze, and it seemed best not to doze where one could inadvertently slump forward onto concrete.  The hard day of lingering loss was behind me, a bright new morning begun, with groceries to procure and a table to set for guests coming later.  The peaks and valleys of the holidays, sometimes so closely knitted it is hard to distinguish between them, can take on different tones when an interval to sit still and breathe is afforded.

Thankful for the call of the sun and carrying the feel of that warm palm with me, I started back into the house.  Time to be up and at it.  And if the call comes again tomorrow morning, I’ll be listening.


Thinking about your Thanksgiving toasts? Making a list of all the things you’re grateful for?  I’m adding new entries this year, a cadre of stalwarts who deserve way more credit than they likely ever get.

Friends, I give you the Grocery Workers on Thanksgiving Week.  Will you join me in raising a glass?

Here’s to the lovely woman in the friendly green branded shirt motoring past me on a mission.  Even at that speed, she noticed me frozen in place in front of the canned fish, searching with furrowed brow for smoked oysters.  Brakes applied, she offered assistance, unasked:  “Help you find something, ma’am?”  Of course, the oysters were right in front of me, a fact she kindly neglected to point out.

And raise your glass high to her colleague, similar shirt with hair net, who appeared magically out of nowhere, a retail EMT dashing to the scene of the emergency.  Ignoring the grocery-aisle speed limit in my typical infernal hurry, I tilted the cart just slightly, like a race car on two wheels rounding the final turn.  A six-pack of beer (bottles, naturally) on the lowest cart shelf chose this moment to leap toward freedom, crashing loudly on the floor, each occupant rolling in the direction of its own choosing.  “Are you OK, ma’am?” she inquired kindly, stooping to chase the rollers I hadn’t yet caught.  Oh, yes! I mumbled, mortified.  Just wondering if any of these are going to blast a top and spray me any second now.  She patiently checked each cap as she returned them to captivity in the carton, securely placed in the deep part of the basket.  “They look OK, but get them to check them one more time when you check out,” she advised.  If her look indicated concern about anyone who would shove a cart at that speed, she was too nice to mention it.

Hail and thank-you to the butcher, who volunteered, unsolicited, to check the stock room for the particular bone broth I sought.  If our gravy tomorrow is any good, it’s all down to him.  “How many would you like?” he asked, breaking open the carton of containers.  Are you kidding, I wonder silently, I have no idea, counting on my uber-chef sister-in-law to coach me on gravy.  Like all the greatest cooks, she rarely mentions specific quantities.  “Three!” I chirped, a wild guess, and reached for them.  Yet he wasn’t finished assisting.  “Can I get you a basket for these?”  Who ARE these people, I’m thinking at this point—escapees from a remote monastery populated by saints?

Finally, lift those glasses high for the smiling young man bagging the purchases at checkout.  Efficiently wedging the last bag into the cart, he looked me in the eye and inquired, “Is there anything else I can do for you today, ma’am?”

I stared at him for a splint second and wondered—where does all this COME from? A great retail operation that actually hires and trains for customer service—a business that manages, all news reports to the contrary, to have plenty of staff on the busiest day of the year?  The friendliness endemic in our lovely small town?  The heritage that embraces all celebrations (and the preparations they require) in our beloved American South?  Some combination of all of these things?

Nope, I got it! I assured him, adding, Happy Thanksgiving! with the biggest smile my exhausted self could muster.  And thinking all the while:  You and your friends have already done so much more than you know, restoring my faith, today of all days, that customer service is not really dead, that kindness still exists among strangers, that there’s a chance I’ll actually having decent gravy for my family.

And you don’t know it, I said silently to his back as he turned to push a cart for another customer and I waited for the glass exit door to slide open, but I’ll be toasting all of you tomorrow.

Note:  G-ma receives no benefits from any commercial enterprises associated with her stories.  She is delighted to acknowledge that the story shared here occurred at Publix in Hendersonville, Tennessee.  Cheers to that team!