“Who Stole Turkey Day??”
by Sandy Kay Slawson
Caroline Fleming thought she might scream if she heard the term “Turkey Day” one more time, especially if one of her kids said it. When had she failed as a mother? “Happy Turkey Day,” her twelve-year old son Ethan yelled as he entered the kitchen. “Ahhh!” She’d done it. She’d lost her mind. Caroline sank onto a stool at the island and let her forehead drop into the palm of her hand. Two sets of feet slapped on their plank flooring when her other two children raced into the kitchen.
“What’s wrong? What did you do to mom?” sixteen-year old Logan said.
“Why are you blaming me? I didn’t do nothing,” Ethan said.
“Mom? Are you okay?” Fourteen-year old Lizzy approached Caroline and patted her shoulder. “Mom?”
“Yes. I’m fine,” Caroline pulled herself together and stood. Her children’s attention switched from her to the countertops filled with all their traditional Thanksgiving Day foods— fruit salad, yeast rolls, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, corn bread dressing, spinach casserole, Jello-pineapple and marshmallow mould, cranberry sauce, sweet potato pie, pumpkin pie, apple pie, and a huge turkey with stuffing in the oven.
“Woo-hoo! Let’s hear it for Turkey Day.” Logan bent to smell the apple pie. “M-mmm, cinnomony appleish goodness right here, baby. How much longer before can eat, Ma?”
“Yeah, how much longer, Mom?”
“The kitchen’s a bona-fide disaster. Do we have to clean this mess up? I want to plan my Black Friday shopping trip with Kaylee,” Lizzy said. “If Lizzy gets to go to her friend’s house then I do, too,” Logan said with a crack in his young man’s voice.
“Mom, can I ask a friend over?”
Caroline stared at the fruit of her womb. How had she failed to this extent?
“Children. You know I love each of you with all my heart, but at this moment, I need space.”
Their cherubic, innocent faces may have fooled a stranger, but Caroline hadn’t been fooled in a while. One by one her shocked children left the room with a shake of their bewildered heads.
Caroline stood in the middle of her mess and cried.
“Hey Honey, what’s up? Why the breakdown?” Caroline’s husband Bill pulled her into a hug.
“We’ve…we’ve…raised…ingraaates—“ Caroline sobbed into her husband’s oxford shirt.
“Calm down and tell me what’s going on.”
“They…they…keep…calling…this …turkey daaay—“ she grabbed a paper towel, wiped her eyes, and blew her nose. “I’ve told them and told them and told them. This day isn’t about turkey. It’s about thankfulness to the Lord for our many blessings, but I think they’re too spoiled to realize how blessed we are. How can we help them learn to be grateful? They’ll grow into thankless, selfish adults before we know it. What kind of parents will we be if we let that happen?”
“Wow. I thought all I had to worry about is the ball game today,” Bill said with a chuckle.
Caroline burst into fresh anguish.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t joke when we have such a serious problem on our hands.”
Caroline wiped her wet cheeks. Hormones were not her friend on a day like this. With a forceful exhale, she determined to get her emotions under control and work with her husband to find a solution.
“Any ideas?” Caroline said, though she saw Bill’s wheels turning as he studied her early morning work on the counters.
“You’ve created quite the feast here, honey. It looks and smells fabulous.”
“You won’t like my idea. Actually, I don’t like my idea, but we may have to take extreme measures to fix this problem,” Bill said with his brows dipped low.
“Listen first then give your opinion second. We won’t do it unless you agree.”
Two hours later…
Caroline and Bill sat at the dining room table in the midst of a brutal game of gin rummy, when hunger brought the children out of their electronic induced comatose states and back into the real world.
“Hey? Where’s lunch? Where’s all the food and turkey and stuff?” Logan said.
“Yeah, we’re starved,” Ethan said while he grabbed his belly and bent as if in pain.
Lizzy went to the kitchen then darted into the dining room again. “Mom? Where did the food go?”
“Oh, are you hungry? There’s sandwich stuff in the fridge. Help yourself,” Caroline said. “Gin rummy. I win.” Caroline did a victory dance in her chair.
“Aww, man. Want to play two out of three?” Bill said.
“Sandwiches?” The three children’s unified voices rang out in utter disbelief.
“Is this some kind of joke? Who stole Turkey Day?” Logan asked.
Bill shrugged. “Of course not, if you’re hungry you can make yourself a sandwich.”
“But what about Thanksgiving dinner?” Lizzy said.
“Oh, so now it’s Thanksgiving dinner? It’s gone to people who will really appreciate the planning, time, money, and effort that went into it. To people who might be truly thankful for a blessing such as a nice meal your mother worked extra hard to prepare and a warm, dry place to eat it. To people who might be thankful to the Lord who gives us way more than we deserve,” Bill said. He shuffled the cards.
“But we can be thankful, too,” Ethan said.
“You can be, but you aren’t. Get your shoes on. Your mother and I want to take you somewhere.”
Thirty minutes later on the other side of the tracks, Bill pulled the family SUV into a space behind an old decrepit building. The kids studied the graffiti on the brick walls as they walked around the building.
“What is this place?” Ethan said.
“Are we in danger?” Lizzy drew closer to Bill.
“This is a homeless shelter,” Caroline said.
“Homeless shelter?” All three children repeated.
Bill reached the front entrance. A line had formed around the other side of the building and ended somewhere inside.
“Excuse us, please,” Bill said to the scruffy, dirty, man who blocked the entrance. At first the man turned a scowl on Bill, but when he saw the kids, he moved aside.
Bill led them past tables full of other scruffy, dirty, people—men, women, and children. When they reached the serving tables, A man in an apron greeted them.
“Mr. and Mrs. Fleming, I’m so glad you were able to come back to help us. I see you brought some extra hands with you, too. Mrs. Fleming your dishes have been a hit. I can’t thank you enough for sharing your abundance with us.”
“Kids, this is Mr. Andrews. He runs this place. After we’re done with the lunch line and clean up, maybe he’ll show us around,” Bill said.
Caroline studied her children as they finished their tour of the shelter. They’d really stepped up today. Once they got some food in their bellies, they buckled down and worked as hard as anyone. At first Lizzy had been scared of the rough looking men, but after a while even she relaxed and began to enjoy herself.
When they arrived back home that evening, Caroline flopped in her chair and laid her head back. She hadn’t worked that hard in years.
Caroline opened her eyes and found her three children lined up in front of her.
Logan glanced at his siblings and they nodded. “We want to apologize. We’re sorry for being such brats. You and Dad and…God have done so much for us we should have been more thankful. We’ll never call it Turkey Day again. We’ll give credit where credit is due, to God. We’re thankful for everything He’s given us and for you and dad, too.”
By the time Logan finished his speech, Caroline had started to blubber again like that morning. Except this time her tears were from joy.