That's Life: Memories of Thanksgiving KindnessBy Phyllis McGuire
10:20AM / Thursday, November 28, 2013
Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the blessings that have been bestowed on us. And like most holidays, it is a time that awakens memories.
After depositing the basket on the kitchen table, Daddy said, "There's more" and went into the hall of our apartment building to fetch a package. "Mommy," I screeched with delight when father opened the package and I saw a turkey that was bigger than any mother had set on our table in my seven years. And everything was a gift!
At the time, my father was struggling to support our family — my mom, two sisters and myself — and someone had submitted his name to a charitable organization so that he would receive a Thanksgiving basket. It was the only time we had to depend on the kindness of others for a festive holiday meal.
Many years later, as a widow, I spent a Thanksgiving alone. Both my children were spending the holiday with their in-laws. Though I knew at least two of my friends would have invited me to go with them to celebrate Thanksgiving with them in their relatives' homes, I did not want to put them in the position of having to ask permission to bring along someone who was just about a stranger to their hosts. So, I pretended I had other plans.
It seemed unpatriotic to not eat turkey on Thanksgiving so the week before the holiday, I bought a small frozen turkey breast and stored it in the freezer.
Keeping to a family tradition, on Thanksgiving morning I watched the Marcy's Day parade on TV. When the parade ended at noon, with Santa appearing in his sleigh, I took the turkey breast out of the freezer. I figured it would take only two hours to thaw, and with an additional hour or so to roast, I should have been eating dinner around 4 o'clock.
At 4 o'clock, however, the turkey breast was still like a block of ice. At six o'clock, too hungry to wait any longer to eat, I popped a hamburger patty into the broiler. It was the first time I did not eat turkey on Thanksgiving day.
One year, I invited my family — six people in all — to celebrate Thanksgiving with me here in Williamstown. Since they do not live around the corner, the plan was for them to stay for the weekend.
With a guest room that sleeps three — twin beds and an open-up hassock — and a spare bed in my bedroom plus a king-size open-up couch in the living room, I am able to accommodate six overnight guests.
The day before Thanksgiving my son, Christopher, called from his apartment in Virginia and asked if it would be all right if he brought a friend with him to our family gathering.
"Please, Mom," he said. "Her fiancee broke up with her yesterday and she has nowhere to go for Thanksgiving. She's upset and I don't want her to be alone."
What could I say but "Tell he she is welcome here." But when I hung up, I asked myself where will she sleep?
I called a friend and asked if she had a cot I could borrow "No, Sorry," she said. I received the same answer from another friend. I went for a walk hoping the brisk air would loosen any ideas that were stuck in my brain.
When I returned home, I saw a moving van in front of the condo building in which I live. A young man was pushing a cot toward the door.
"Are you moving in,?" I asked.
As it turned out the young man had rented the condo unit next to mine. Stepping out of character — no doubt emboldened by my predicament, I blurted "Will you be using the cot this weekend?
The young man replied, "No, I was going to put it in the storage space in the basement. You can use it if you want."
Thanks to the kindness of a stranger, my unexpected guest had a place to sleep. And the guest who came into my home a stranger, was a friend when she left.