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The Thanksgiving That (Almost) Wasn’t

A Short Story:

It started off well enough. Jan got up early to get the turkey in the oven. She had time to make a steaming hot mug of cocoa before the rest of the family stirred. She had just sat down and opened her Bible to read this morning’s passage.

Then it began.

There was a loud pop in the kitchen followed by an acrid smell. Jan jumped up and ran into the kitchen to see what had happened. Her nose led her straight to the oven. When she opened it, the element wasn’t glowing bright orange, and the heat was rapidly dissipating. Her first thought was, “Oh, no! Now what?”

Tim’s day off from work began with Jan shaking him and telling him that she thought the oven might be broken. “Broken?” Tim asked, followed by the classic question, “What did you do to break it?”

Tim sighed, pulled on some old clothes and trudged out to the garage to gather some tools. While Jan chewed a nail that she had just had manicured, Tim used his limited skills to figure out that the stove element had burned in half. There went the turkey dinner.

“Can’t you fix it?” Jan asked Tim. Tim stared at her incredulously before uttering the word, “No. And nobody who stocks parts is going to be open on Thanksgiving. Can’t you just microwave the turkey?” Jan gave him a withering look before covering her face with her hands and muttering, “I’ve got to think of something we can eat before your parents get here in two hours.”

Enter child number one, a teenage male, always hungry, generally clueless about logistics and slow on the uptake about what’s going on. “Hey, what’s for breakfast?” After being pointed to the cereal shelf, Chad grumbled about how Grandma always make bacon and eggs when she’s visiting.

While Mom was still bristling about that comparison, child number two entered, a tween girl with braces. “Mom, why didn’t you wake me up for the parades? You know I wanted to see the parades!”

While Dad was trying to tell Ashley that Mommy was busy with a broken oven, child number three came running into the room in his footed pajamas, crying. He grabbed Jan’s leg and shouted, “Mommy, I think I’m going to be sick.” That was followed by a generous gift which started down Jan’s comfortable outfit, sprayed onto the kitchen floor and counter while she rushed him to the sink, and even managed to share a few projectiles onto Chad’s chair and Daddy’s tools.

Somewhere in the chaos, the in-laws showed up an hour early ready to eat a hot meal and then hoping to relax with their grandkids: an uncommunicative teenager, a miffed granddaughter and a feverish grandson.

Over a quiet table filled with traditional Thanksgiving goodies such as cold peas, peanut butter and jam sandwiches, a cranberry dish (because the refrigerator still worked), and olives (because Grandpa likes them no matter what), Tim asked his father, “So how’d your checkup go, Dad?”

Grandpa raised his eyebrows and looked at Grandma before replying, “Not good. The doctor said that the same problem I had a few years ago is back … but worse. To be frank, he told me I might not be here next year.” The silence that had reigned got even more oppressive — until Grandpa spoke again.

“But I’ve been thanking. No, Ashley, not thinking — I’ve been THANKING. When you realize that life is fragile and precious, it can help you to be even more attuned to how many blessings you truly have. In fact, I started realizing that I had so many blessings in my life that I had to start writing them down just to keep track of them.”

And Grandpa pulled a sheet of paper out of his pocket and placed it on the table. He adjusted his specs and started reading his “thanking list” as he called it. After reading about 40 items, he said, “I’ve got plenty more, but maybe someone else would like a turn.”

Jan said, “Well, even though the oven is broken, we DO have food to eat.”

“And a roof over our head,” said Tim.

“I’m thankful for teeth that are getting straighter, even though my braces hurt at times, “ said Lily.

Chad said, “And I’m glad you guys came to visit. I always like it when you come.”

Little Seth who was curled up on the sofa in a blanket said in a small voice, “And I’m thankful for Mommy and Daddy.”

Grandma said, “And I’m thankful that I’ve gotten to spend 47 years married to the most wonderful man in the world.”

The mood changed. The tension lifted. Someone suggested that everyone get a piece of paper and start making their own “thanking list” as Grandpa called it.

Later that night, Jan picked up her Bible so she could read the passage for the day. As she read through the passage, her eyes focused on the words, “In every thing give thanks, for this God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” She looked up and said, “Thank you, God, for helping us to really make this a day of Thanksgiving.”

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