Yesterday, for the first time in fifty-four-years, I did not prepare a turkey dinner for dozens of people. I’ve always been the cook and the storyteller, the keeper of the memories and the person who can be counted on to fill tummies on special holidays. I started young. One year in Africa we found a turkey and somehow, we killed and dressed it and we had a delicious traditional dinner with all the trimmings. People still talk about that Thanksgiving.
Yesterday since my children were visiting other in-laws, other grandparents, and I really don’t know many people who would normally invite us over, I made mashed potatoes and a coconut pie. My offering felt so paltry. I was grateful for the invite by the woman from whom we had bought our home last year, but it left me feeling flat and regretting our move. All I could see were another twenty or thirty years of pity invitations rather than a community where I took charge and made others happy.
As I was walking Coconut in the early morning we met an elderly woman we see most days. She was in her seated walker with her ancient shepherd, gray around the muzzle, obviously in great pain because of arthritis or other conditions as they trudged in the under twenty-degree temperatures.
“What are you doing for Thanksgiving?” I asked since we trade a few niceties most days.
“Oh, just staying with my dog,” she replied, visibly cold, anxious to be on her way.
“But are you having a turkey meal? What can I do to make your holiday special?”
I knew that the shelters and churches open to the less privileged, or those simply not wanting to be alone for a traditional Thanksgiving meal, would not allow her dog inside because he was not a service animal.
“I’ve got so much food,” I exclaimed. “Come inside, I can make a lovely meal for you; our boys can play.”
“That’s very sweet of you,” she whispered, obviously embarrassed that I thought she could not afford a nice meal or was going to spend the holiday alone. “We’re all set. I’ve got my boy. I celebrate Thanksgiving every day with him. We don’t need much.
Seeing her shy smile, the love she shared with her companion of many years, made me realize that even though my Thanksgiving wasn’t the huge production as in years past, I too had a dog, one who loved me when I felt alone in my new town. At that moment the house devoid of turkey smells, the lack of frantic cooking to get things ready in time, the missing family members didn’t matter. What mattered was that I had a somewhat warm home, no matter what you do, houses built in 1875 will never be warm in every nook and cranny, I had enough to eat, a cell phone to call my family and friends, and, most of all, my dog.
Coconut sent her on her way with one more kiss. I allowed her to give him a doggy treat I knew was not good for him because of the brand, but it made her happy and one treat wasn’t going to kill him. Besides, it was Thanksgiving.
I went inside feeling blessed with my interaction with the woman whose name I don’t know. Just a woman hobbling with her dog in any weather at all times of the day. I decided that despite the horrible week I’d had, and if you’ve ever had a failed hard drive you know it was an awful week, I had all the Thanksgiving I needed. I had Coconut. My little rescue dog who chose me a year ago and who continues to rescue me when I am on the wrong track. Dogs are special. They key in on your mood. They listen without whining. They lick away tears. They just are.