“Okay, Mum, are you going to say grace?”
“Of course.” Anna had always said grace every Thanksgiving. This year, despite all the changes, her daughter Mary had worked so hard to make their Thanksgiving perfect; Anna was determined she would somehow do her part too.
Searching for inspiration, Anna looked around the table. Karen, her youngest, had a wrestler’s grip around four-year-old Josh as he belly-laughed and tried to lunge for the turkey.
“Hurry!” Karen pleaded.
Her brother, Dave, a little bleary-eyed from too much pre-dinner, big-game beer, was trying to smile alertly and failing rather miserably. Joyce his wife was looking uncertainly at the casserole of possible unmentionables she had created. Cooking was so not her thing.
Mary was repeatedly taking her daughter’s hands off the silverware while they waited. Steve stared at the uncarved turkey steaming on the platter, like it might fight back when he took a knife to it.
The older grandchildren were smiling like angels while they kicked and poked under the table.
There were 11 gathered around for the feast – all Anna’s children, their spouses and their offspring. Mary and Steve and Krissy; Dave and Joyce; Karen and Michael and Jayden, Josh, and Julie.
Tim wasn’t here. Tim would never be here again.
“Mum?” Mary urged.
Anna obediently bowed her head as though to pray, but she had nothing in her. Instead her mind spun back over years; smells and sounds were her wayposts.
Pumpkin spice…the slight warmth and brush of his skin against her arm as Tim lifted and sniffed her first attempt at pumpkin pie. “Well. I don’t know…it might be risking my life, but I’ll try it.”
A throb of cold light as the nurses raced her to the delivery room. She lay on a hard gurney, as some fool shouted, “Don’t push!”
The chill of ocean water spraying her skin as she dandled toddler Mary in the waves while Tim laughed and snapped photos…she still had to get all the old pictures in albums.
The smell of hot sweat and feel of good earth on her fingers as she and Tim planted trees in the then-barren yard of their tract home.
The silence around the table as they waited for Anna to pray. The silence of the hospital room when it was done.
“Mum?” Karen asked. “Should we…?”
Outside, sun broke from clouds and the shaft of light threw a pattern of shadow and light across the faces around her. Her life. The magnificent richness of her life.
Anna laughed, and grabbed the water glass Josh nearly knocked over.
“Good food, good drink. Good God, let’s eat!” Anna declared.
And as they all laughed and passed food and dug in, Anna whispered. “Thank you.”