93: Pop-Up Thanksgiving

93: Pop-Up Thanksgiving

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Food and Love

Pop-Up Thanksgiving

One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.

~Luciano Pavarotti and William Wright, Pavarotti, My Own Story

What a year it had been! Our twelve-year-old daughter Sally had been diagnosed with leukemia in early winter, and we had all been thrown into a world that we did not know even existed: one filled with chemotherapy, complications, and hospitalizations.

When Sally developed a fever the week before Thanksgiving, we were all disappointed to go back to the hospital, but hopeful that she’d be home for the big feast we had planned. Her grandmother would be flying in from California and the menu had been developed and debated and amended on the phone by everyone in the family: Broccoli casserole or green bean casserole? How about both? Cranberry sauce with whole berries or jellied? Apples in the stuffing? Now the menu was on hold as we headed back to the pediatric ward.

The detour was easier to accept when Sally’s hospital friend Mary, unlucky enough to have a fever of her own, was admitted to the room across the hall. Both girls were out of danger but needed to be monitored.

As the holiday got closer we could smell the homemade desserts in our minds, and picture the table laden with food and family, but going home seemed less likely. Then, on Thanksgiving morning, the doctors gave us great news: they would give Sally and Mary a “day pass” to David’s House, the home-away-from-home for sick children and their families, next to the hospital. This felt like a “Get Out of Jail Free” card to all of us. Our two families hurried out in teams to the grocery store and to check out the cooking facilities.

David’s House is a warm, welcoming place, and the kitchen is a cook’s dream, with multiple ovens, range tops, refrigerators, and surfaces to prepare food, all in a light-filled space. Mary’s parents and sister, my husband, and Sally’s sister Kathleen pitched in to make the best meal ever. My mother arrived to the sounds of pots and pans and running water, and the smell of chopped onions and minced garlic, followed by the delicious scent of turkey just beginning to roast.

While the food cooked, I went to my car and pulled out all the decorations that had been planned for our home and had been riding around in my trunk since I bought them. Sally, Mary, and I set up multiple elegant tables to fit us all.

With so many handy cooks, the food all came out at the same time and we arranged it as a gorgeous buffet on the long counters. It looked like something from a magazine layout: the huge turkey with the crisp golden skin as the centerpiece, the roasted fall vegetables in beautiful shades of orange and yellow, the creamy gravy, and what seemed like every kind of cranberry sauce there is. What was even better was how it smelled — like home! The warmth and gratitude of this celebration that we had pulled out of nowhere seemed to mix with the rich smells of the food that we prepared all that afternoon.

Just then, the front door opened and an older couple and a younger man walked in, each wearing a look of shock and exhaustion. The young man explained that his wife had gone into early labor with their twins and needed to be hospitalized unexpectedly. He and his wife’s parents had been directed to David’s House as a place to stay for the night. Their plans had been to check in before going out to find a turkey sandwich somewhere. We led them into the kitchen where, to their great surprise, our beautiful homemade banquet was ready and hot. “Welcome!” we said, “to Thanksgiving!”

The three families sat down together for a meal that we would all remember long after Sally and Mary were cured. It was not the Thanksgiving that we had planned or expected, but it was one that we would never forget.

~Jane Brzozowski

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