[Before we begin, Thanksgiving is a holiday that i have mixed feelings about. The historical mythology of Thanksgiving often hides the truths of what really happened 500 years ago and the ensuing impact on those people who lived in this part of the world at that time. However, from the family perspective…I’d like to share this story with you.]
Thanksgiving is a very humbling time of the year for me. It prefaces Christmas Season, always more than important in my life…but Thanksgiving is the beginning of The Season…
As a kid, my Mom would start “shopping” December 26 for the following year’s Christmas. When I was 13 she was an SIFK (Single Income, Five Kids). Money had yet to start growing on trees in the United States. She never “had Christmas” as a kid. That recurring life experience changed her…and then me forever…
When you have one job, five kids and no pennies in a bank, you are forced to be creative…you sacrifice this for that…
My step dad, passed away two months earlier at 46, after a few years of struggling with the after effects of Rheumatic Fever, long hospitalizations and a tough end to a simple but strong man.
His death was no surprise. We knew he would pass away “soon,” from the time I was 9 or 10. The occasional talk of keeping “you three boys together” but will have to go to an orphanage…was not regular conversation but there were periods when it was discussed. I fully understood what it all meant and I imagined that I could somehow personally stave off that possible experience.
That “belief,” that drive to fight, was in reality mostly unimportant to our economic reality. I simply did everything I could to fight to “keep the family together.” That meant an unusual childhood, growing up faster than you… could. But the alternative…knowing that no one would adopt three brothers from an orphanage…well…that was what had to be avoided…
Mom worked as much as she could, but this year was the scariest of all for me. The number of “life lines” was dwindling quickly.
Thanksgiving morning arrived. Mom always skimped for weeks so she could make a big table full of food at Thanksgiving as far as a meal.
This particular Thanksgiving I was outside across the street playing with friends. No school today. The neighbors were only a little better off at this time, than we were…but this day was “no school” and I was always grateful for such days.
A station wagon pulled into the driveway and parked behind ours. Five people got out of the car carrying bags.
My heart pounded with fear. I literally thought, “who died?”
We all hustled over to see what was happening. Any time anything out of the ordinary happened, your heart would pound in those days. Three of the five were in Boy Scout uniforms. The other two were adults. They smiled, said nothing, got in the car and left.
I raced into the house and there was Mom pulling out groceries onto the dining room table.
I still have this dining room table today. I retired it this year. When people saw it recently, they must have wondered if I was doing OK financially. Obviously Kev understood nothing of Interior Design….That table has never been refinished. All the wear and tear have stories behind it. The table itself was put together by my Dad. It was the place that everyone had to come to everyday. It was part of the magnet that kept us together.
As long as I saw that table…our family would remain intact… or at least that was my belief…
And there it was, the biggest turkey dinner I’d ever seen.
“We’ll be having left overs for a week Kevin Lynn!” I can hear her now.
Turkey, mashed potatoes, milk…everything.
We’d never had strangers help us before. It was as painful as it was appreciated. Mom always refused “assistance.” We once did literal food stamps for a week. It didn’t sit well with her or me. It was just inherently wrong to ask someone else for their stuff.
I remember the one and only day we used “food stamps.” Official government issued fake red colored money that told the girl in the checkout line at Jewel that you were to be pitied. That part didn’t sit well with Mom either.
That story for another day.
Today was amazing. The boy scouts not only brought food but clothing! Two grocery bags were packed with pants and socks for all of us. None of it would fit but all of it was incredibly necessary!
The Turkey was “ready.” Having helped (watched) my Mom on past Thanksgiving’s I knew it could take a day or two to make a Thanksgiving Dinner happen.
Not today. It was ready. We set the table. An hour later we lit the candles, called the kids in….
It must have hurt my Mom all week, knowing that there would be no Thanksgiving at our house. Through everything in the past, she never let that happen. She always made it happen…Today she couldn’t make it happen. It wasn’t possible.
Someone who cared…someone who knew we were desperate…made it happen. We never knew who.
The hard part of the story was, of course, that life was as dire as it ever had been…and we’d been here before…lived here…on the edge…but this was the moment in life where we didn’t know how the story would play out…. It was a tremendously important day in my life.
I don’t recall feeling hope, but being truly grateful for the kindness of people who didn’t even know us.
Helping when you don’t have to. Helping when someone can’t possibly reciprocate. That is real giving. Or at least it is to me… And there’s more to this story, but for now, I leave you to prepare for your own Thanksgiving. No directive to make someone else’s day or anything…but…I mean…. if you had the time or inclination…………………………. fine….go ahead… it’s kind of cool actually. You end up feeling grateful as well…