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That's Life: Memories of Thanksgiving Kindness

By Phyllis McGuire
iBerkshires Columnist
10:20AM / Thursday, November 28, 2013
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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.
 
I still remember the year, my father brought home a basket filled with what we considered luxuries — dates, figs, tangerines, pfeffernuse cookies as well as fresh and canned vegetables.  

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.

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