The day started tense. Not what Marie wanted on her day off work.
The family all knew that there was to be a “proper” Thanksgiving dinner. And then Dad said he was going to join the lads at Dave’s to watch the game.
“On Thanksgiving?” asked Mom. Marie winced at the edge in her mother’s voice.
“Yeah. Is that okay?”
“No. No, it’s not. This is a family day. You should be home with your family. Helping me, your wife.”
“But, well, what help do you want? Need?”
Quickly, Marie spoke up. “Mom, I can help you if you want.”
“You stay out of this, girl. Your father should be the one helping.”
“Oh, for God’s sake! If I’m not allowed to go to Dave’s, what is it you want me to do?”
“Just stay out of my way. Everyone can stay out of the way. I’ll do it all myself.” The kitchen door banged shut behind Mom.
Dad’s face was tight. He looked at Marie, was about to say something, then glanced at the closed kitchen door. “I’ll be in the basement,” he said. “There’s probably something on TV.”
Marie nodded. Her brother, Liam, previously engrossed in his phone, ignoring those around him, now spoke up; “TV? Hey, Dad, I’ll come down with you.”
The room fell silent. Marie cracked open the kitchen door. “Mom?”
“Go away. I’ll be alright.” Marie heard tears in her mother’s voice. She shut the door quietly.
Left alone, Marie looked around for something useful to do. Something calming; there was a slight tremble in her hands. She put music on at low volume and set to sewing a badge onto the leg of her jeans. It was harder than she expected; both the denim and the badge were thick, it took force to get the needle through. Soon she was absorbed in a repetitive struggle.
Indeed, it was a “proper” Thanksgiving dinner. The main course had it all; roast turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, corn, and green bean casserole. Marie anticipated pumpkin pie for dessert.
So far, the meal had been quiet. The storm hadn’t yet passed. There was more “Please” and “Thank You” than was usual at the family table. And less chat.
After clearing away the dinner plates and debris, Mom looked around the table and, with a catch in her voice, asked if anyone wanted to say what he or she was thankful for. They had done that each Thanksgiving since they came to America. Mom seemed to want to establish some family traditions, put down roots. She looked across at Dad.
Dad hadn’t been saying much.
“Well, okay, I’m thankful that we’re all here together,” he started, speaking into the empty air over the table. “The money’s good, the living’s easy. It’s a nice house. And, of course, thank you for the meal, dear.” Lowering his eyes, he nodded to Liam. Liam had been leaning back in his chair, replete for now, looking more likely to doze off than to contribute.
“Eh, me? Oh sure, it’s fine. Good Internet. I like the cars; jeez, three litre engines! College is okay too. And thanks, Mom. Over to you, Marie.”
Marie looked at her Mom’s tired face. This is what the two men were thankful for! Mom deserved better. She pushed her chair back and stood. Three faces looked up at her in surprise. She had their full attention.
“I’m thankful that we’re all here together and for the good times we’re having in America.
“You remember when we were in Limerick and Dad said that he had a job offer in England? It was a good job, and he wanted to take it but was worried about the family. Would he work for the week in England and just be home at weekends? Mom and him talked it over, and in the end, it was Mom who said no, we’d all move over, even though we’d have to find new schools and everything.
“And that’s what we did! Mom found us a house to rent and sorted out the schools. And Dad worked long hours; we only saw him for a bit in the evenings and at weekends.
“You remember when we were in Bristol and Dad said that he had a job offer here in America? It was a promotion, and he wanted to take it. We all talked about that move; it was a big step for us all. And in the end, Mom encouraged him to take it and said that we’d all come with him. I had to give up my job in Tesco, and Liam would have to finish school in the US.
“And that’s what we did! While Dad got started working with the Americans, Mom dealt with the realtors and sorted out Liam’s entry into college. She had such a hassle getting them to accept his British qualifications.
“And America has been good to us. Mom likes this house and the neighbourhood — do you remember all the apple pies from the neighbours when we moved in! — and Dad likes his new role at work. After only a couple of years, I’ve got promoted at Kroger’s, and Liam will be finished at college soon. It’s all good!
“See, we’re a team. Dad’s the needle pushing ahead; Mom’s the thread pulling us together. We’re a quilt. Our team is here, in this house. No man is an island…”
Marie trailed off. Dad looked odd. Then he started to laugh. After a while, with a few hiccups, he stopped.
“That sure is a stretch,” he finally squeezed out.
He looked over at his wife, smiled, looked directly into her eyes, and put his hand on hers. “Go team,” he said. And she smiled back at him.
Gordon Pinckheard lives in County Kerry, Ireland. Retired from a working life spent writing computer programs and technical documents, now freed of constraints and encouraged by Thursday Night Writers (Tralee), he can write anything he likes to entertain himself and — hopefully — others. His stories have been published by Daily Science Fiction, Page & Spine, Gemini , Grindstone, and Flash Fiction Magazine.