Chapter 24: Thanksgiving Dinner

Decorating the Thanksgiving table was always Daisy’s favorite task because Grandma Rose had boxes full of decorations, tablecloths and knickknacks from all over the world to pick from. Rose never rushed her either, so Daisy could take her sweet time sorting through all the knickknacks and get as creative as she liked when it came to the table.

The first thing she needed to do was put the slats in the table. Grandpa Joe panicked when he saw her swinging the slats around over her head. He ran to her side as quick as he could. “My God girl, you’re gonna kill somebody waving those slats around in the air like that! Here, let me do it.” He took the slats and carefully slid them into place and helped her find additional chairs to go around the table for the, soon to be arriving, guests.

“Thanks, Grandpa.”

“You’re welcome darling, now try not to kill anybody out here, would ya.” Joe wiped his brow and headed for the kitchen muttering something about Daisy being the number one safety hazard of the universe.

Daisy happily returned to her boxes. She found a maroon tablecloth and a matching maroon candle set that looked really nice. She also dug up the turkey shaped sugar and creamer dishes. She found a little pilgrim toothpick holder and a flower vase that had pilgrims and Indians painted on it. Well, she had to admit that the painted vase looked a little gaudy, but it was a Thanksgiving item so she pulled it out anyway. She pulled out Grandma’s best china, her delicate wine glasses and cloth napkins. Each piece she carefully set out. Daisy took her sweet time and fixed the table with every Thanksgiving decoration that matched the maroon table cloth.

When she was finished, she stepped back and smiled. It had taken her all morning to fix the table properly. If Connor knew how long it took her, he would probably tease her the rest of the day about it. “But I’m not telling,” she decided to herself. When she was completely happy with her design, she called Grandma to come look.

“So… what do you think Grandma?”

“I could not have done a better job myself.” Rose kissed Daisy’s forehead. “Now, can you help me in the kitchen?”

“Sure.” They wandered off to the kitchen to work on the vegetables together.

Grandpa Joe was sitting at the kitchen table, reading the paper, waiting for the turkey moment. So when the buzzer finally went off, he yelled at the top of his lungs, “Don’t anybody touch that turkey! It’s mine! I’m the turkey man remember!” He raced the ladies to the oven and got there first. Rose and Daisy leaned over his shoulder trying to see when the doorbell rang making them all jump sky high.

Daisy ran to the front door excitedly. “Hey, Coach Peggy you got here just in time! We think the turkey is ready! Grandpa Joe is checking it right now!”

Peggy gave Daisy a big bear hug at the door and walked in sniffing the air. “It smells wonderful in here!”

Daisy peeked around Coach Peggy’s shoulder and noticed another lady behind her.

Peggy turned around saying, “I hope it’s okay if I brought a friend. I believe you already know Cindy Victor, Andy’s mom?”

Daisy smiled at Cindy Victor, “We are very happy to have you Ms. Victor.” Daisy reached out to hug Cindy. Daisy rarely ever saw Ms. Victor but once she got a good look at her, she could see the resemblance between Cindy and Andy. They were both tall and slender with dark hair and mysterious eyes, maybe Italian. Daisy didn’t really know their family origin but she did know that Cindy owned an Italian restaurant and normally worked odd hours, therefore she was rarely seen near the beach where Daisy lived.

“Andy is planning to be with the Langley family all day. I didn’t really want to spend Thanksgiving alone so I called Coach Peggy. I hope another person is not too much trouble for your family,” Cindy questioned cautiously.

“No, it’s no trouble at all. We have a ton of food and a very large table Ms. Victor. Please come in, and make yourself at home.” Daisy, led the ladies through the dining area, to the kitchen, where most of the action was going on.

Rose and Joe were leaning over the turkey still examining it. Rose wanted the juice for the gravy, and Joe wanted her to leave it alone. They were having a bit of a spat about how to get it out of the cooking pan and onto the platter without making a mess.

Daisy watched them, thinking, “They have this same fight every year. You’d think they would get over it. Why are they so possessive about a turkey? I just don’t get it!”

Finally, Grandpa Joe won and proudly walked off with the turkey to the dining room. He wanted to be left alone so he could carve it correctly without any ladies leaning over his shoulder distracting him.

The ladies congregated in the kitchen to work on the various other dishes that were still in the making. The doorbell rang again and Daisy ran off to get it. “It must be Connor this time,” she hoped.

Sure enough when she opened the door, Connor and Davis were standing there, all grins with their arms full of packages. “Happy Thanksgiving baby Daisy,” they said together.

George was hiding behind them with a six pack tucked under his arm. “Yea, Happy Thanksgiving little Miss Greene.”

Daisy, overjoyed at their arrival, hugged the three of them and let them all in. “Happy Thanksgiving,” she giggled out in return. She could see that their hands were full of packages so she quickly ushered them to the kitchen.

Davis kissed Grandma Rose on the cheek and gave her the flowers first. “Thank you for having us Grandma Rose. Do you have a vase somewhere I can put these in for you?”

“Oh, look. Aren’t they beautiful, Davis. Thank you!” Rose took the flowers and smelled them. “They’re lovely.”

“Roses for Rose.” He smiled.

Daisy spoke up, “I found a vase in the Thanksgiving stuff this morning let me have ’em.” Daisy took the bunch of roses and ran off to the dining room to find the pilgrim vase she’d stumbled across earlier.

Davis turned to Peggy and pulled out her gift. “This is for you,” he said almost too quietly to be heard.

Coach Peggy beamed a sudden smile. “Thank you, Davis. I wasn’t expecting a gift.” She opened the small package curiously. “Oh, I needed a pair of these.”

“Yea, well, I saw them at the mall and I uh… thought you might like ’em.” He smiled bashfully.

“I like ’em.” She smiled back.

Davis laughed lightly, unsure what to do next. Then he remembered the six packs. “Hey George, where’s the beer?”

“Here…” George held it out to Rose.

“Great,” Rose took them, “Joe will be wanting this when the Turkey Bowl comes on TV.” It took her a minute to rearrange things in the refrigerator but she managed to find space. “There we go,” she mumbled quietly to herself.

In the dining room, Grandpa Joe was leaning over the turkey, whispering tenderly to it as he carved it very, very carefully. When Daisy entered the room to see Joe with his turkey in this way, she wondered if she should leave the room and not be in there. Grandpa Joe and his turkey were in a world of their own, and obviously they did not wish to be disturbed. As hard as Daisy tried to be quiet, eventually she gave way to laughter. Grandpa Joe looked up from his work irritated.

“Turkey carving is a very delicate procedure. I need complete silence, go back to the kitchen.” Joe pointed in the direction of the kitchen with his knife.

“Sorry, Grandpa. I’m just getting this vase.” Daisy grabbed the vase quickly and ran back into the kitchen to stay with the “normal people”.

In the kitchen, Rose had given each lady a task. They were all laughing and working together happily. Daisy went to the sink where Connor was leaning and filled the vase with water and roses. “Where should I put them? I don’t know if I’m allowed back into the dining room, Grandpa is in his annual ‘Turkey Mode’ right now.”

“Oh, the ‘Turkey Mode’,” Connor chuckled. He’d been chased out of the dining room on enough Thanksgivings in the past to know what that was. “I’ll give ’em to Rose. They’re her flowers anyway.” Connor took them and went into the pantry where Rose was digging around for a certain pan she needed. “Here Rose, can you put these where you want them?”

She looked up from her intense digging. “That was so sweet of your Dad to bring flowers. He has never done that before. I didn’t know it was in him.”

Connor smiled knowing that Davis had only brought the flowers because he’d been told too. Coach Peggy seemed to really like her gift as well. He wondered what his next “cupid move” would be as he returned to Daisy’s side for his next dinner preparation assignment. “So Daisy girl, what are we working on now?”

“Well, my job was boiling this corn. It looks ready so maybe we can pour out the water, put it in a bowl and take it to the table.”

Connor poured out the water and Daisy brought the bowl over and they filled it with the corn. Then she ran to the dining room table and placed the corn bowl down as quickly as possible so as not to disturb Grandpa Joe and returned to the kitchen as fast as she could.

Upon reentering the kitchen, Daisy overheard Davis and Connor explaining the run-in at the mall with the irritation brothers to Coach Peggy. She took it all in with a worried expression.

“I will write up a report to the sports officials letting them know that these boys are bothering our team members. Talking to Coach Timbers doesn’t appear to have done any good.” Peggy sighed. “I hope a report will end this thing. We will find out a great deal at the next cross country meet.”

Daisy’s concerned eyes went to Connor. He wrapped his arm around her gently. “Don’t let it scare you, Daisy. It’ll work out. You’ll see.”

“Yea, don’t worry Daisy Ray. We have made the police aware of what these guys have said.” Davis gave Daisy a reassuring smile from across the kitchen.

“Kay.”

Everyone made their way to the dining room table with whatever dish they’d helped prepare and took a seat at the table.

Grandpa Joe, at the head of the table, cleared his throat. “As you know, I’m not much for pray ’in. My son, Raymond and his lovely wife Daisy used to do all the pray ’in around here. Now that they’re gone, well, there’s no one left to do it, so I uh, I’ll just say, that I have a lot to be thankful for and they are all right here at this table. And uh, I hope Raymond and Daisy and of course, dear Debbie, are all having a great ole time in heaven.” Joe sat down quickly all red faced.

Rose looked down the table at her husband and smiled at him. It was always hard for him to mention Raymond’s name, but she was glad to hear her son’s name on a family day like this one.

“Don’t be shy everybody, dig in,” Rose announced.

Each person picked up whatever dish was in front of them and started passing things around.

“Grandpa, can I have a leg?”

“Sure Connor, pass your plate over here, I’ll fix you right up.”

“How about you Daisy Ray, would you like white or dark meat?”

“White meat, thanks.”

“How about the rest of ya…” Joe’s eyes searched the bunch.

“I’d like white meat too, please.” Cindy held out her plate.

“Joe, ya know I had an experience not too long ago with prayer. May, I share it with you?” Coach Peggy ventured.

“Sure, go right ahead while I finish getting turkey on everybody’s plate.”

“Well, as you might already know, I went with the Langley’s to visit Coach Timbers a while back. We went when one of Coach Timber’s girls knocked Maria over in a race.”

“Yea, I remember Daisy and Connor talking about all that mess. What happened?”

“As you can imagine, it was a very upsetting event that we had to straighten out. I was absolutely furious, and that Mr. Langley picked up on it and he prayed the most refreshing prayer. I really felt God’s presence at that moment. I don’t think I will ever forget it.”

“Is that so, Coach Peggy? I’m glad to hear it. I remember when Raymond and Daisy use to pray at the table. I never really knew what to say myself but it was real nice hearing them pray,” Joe encouraged the conversation further as he ate. “I wish I knew how to pray like that.” Joe sighed.

Daisy looked at Connor for a brief moment. She always liked to hear about her parents, even if it was only little tidbits like this at the table. It stirred her deep in her heart somehow. She couldn’t really explain it, but Connor understood.

“Your parents sound like real nice people, don’t they?” he whispered in Daisy’s ear.

“Yea, they sound so interesting. I wish I knew more about them,” she whispered back in a dreamy tone.

Davis had a studied look on his face. He was thinking deeply about what Coach Peggy said. He decided to risk it and say out loud what was on his mind. “I use to go to church with the Langley’s. You’re right about Matt. He did have a special way of pray ’in,” Davis admitted as he looked down at his plate.

“Well my goodness Davis, you used to go to church with the Langley’s? When was this?” Coach Peggy asked truly interested.

“I uh… don’t normally talk about it. I used to go with Debbie… you know… before she died.”

“Oh, I see. Why don’t you go now?” Peggy queried.

“Psst. Hey Cindy, can you pass the rolls over here?” George whispered across the table.

“Sure, there ya go.”

“Thanks.”

“It’s sort of a long story really. You see, my Debbie and Daisy were friends with Vanessa. Vanessa was a real sweet Christian, even back in her school days. She led Debbie and Daisy to the Lord. Then Debbie and I married, and I followed Debbie in a decision for Christ and Daisy married Raymond. Vanessa married Matt.”

“Oh, I had no idea Davis. What happened then?”

“Well, for a while everything was great. We all went to the same church and all started families around the same time. We all went to the same cell group. Matt… he was… a real good cell leader…” Davis looked down at his plate and blinked the tears back in. “I’m sorry. Pulling up these particular memories is still…. sort of hard.” Davis blinked his eyes again, forcing them to stay dry while he stirred his food around on his plate.

“It’s okay. We can talk about something else if you’d like.”

“No… no… I want to tell you about it, Peggy. Actually, this is the first time I ever got this far into talking about it before.” Davis coughed in an attempt to clear his throat, then he finished the last bit of his tea.

Rose walked around the table with a pitcher of tea. Davis held his glass out to her, and she gave him a refill.

“Thank you, Rose.”

“Go on Dad, it’s good to talk about Mom.”

“Connor, you were always such a good boy. I don’t know how you got through it as well as you did.” Davis gave Connor a baffled look.

“Well, between Grandma Rose and Daisy, I think I get enough estrogen in my diet, Dad.”

Everyone chuckled lightly.

Davis choked back a sad chuckle. “You have a point there. They are always fussing over you about something, aren’t they?”

Rose and Daisy smiled real big, obviously touched by what was being said but made no comment.

“What happened next, Davis?”

“Well, like I said… life was real good back then. Maybe it was too good. I don’t know what happened really, things just started getting messed up. Shortly after Daisy Ray was born, her parents, Raymond and Daisy were killed in a horrible car accident. It was… a terrible time for all of us, but we were handling it. We were getting through it slowly…”

“I’m sorry to hear about your parents, Daisy Ray.” Peggy smiled sadly in Daisy’s direction.

“I was only six months old when it happened, Coach Peggy. I didn’t know them like Davis and my Grandparents did. It hasn’t been as hard for me as it’s been for them.”

“Then a few years later, my Debbie, she died of cancer. I don’t know what to say. It was such a hard time for me and Connor. I got so mad about it all. Matt tried to visit me. He, uh, tried to pray for me. But, I, uh…. I wouldn’t let him. I told him I didn’t want to pray to a God that would let my sweet Debbie die like that. It was a mean thing to say to Matt, I know it. He was only trying to help, but I was… I was just so… so… damn mad. I didn’t want to see the Langley’s. I didn’t want to go to church after that either… I quit.”

“That was a very painful thing to go through, I’m sure.”

“The word ‘painful’ sounds so weak compared to what I was feeling, Peggy. I don’t know if there is a word for how I felt. I’m sorry. I guess I’m ruining everybody’s meal with all this crap of mine. Maybe I should shut up.”

“No Davis, you go right ahead. We all understand how you felt. Connor is right, it’s good to talk about it.”

“Dang it Connor! I know I was wrong to ignore you like I did! I know I was wrong to avoid all our friends like I did! But I just…. I just… I just couldn’t go to church and sing and smile and pretend to be happy! I wasn’t happy! I wanted to die! I wanted to be with Debbie and just plain die. I’m sorry to talk like this, but the word ‘painful’ just doesn’t cut it when your wife dies right there in front of you, and you can’t do a dang thing about it.” Davis threw his fork down on his plate and just stared at it.

After taking a few heavy breaths he resumed, “I’m so sorry I held you back Connor. I didn’t want to keep you from your friends, from going to church, but I just couldn’t go!” Davis looked over at Connor. He sheepishly made eye contact with his son to see if Connor could understand his angry outburst.

“I understand, Dad. Really I do. I didn’t feel like singing either. I felt just like you did back then.”

“Back then, huh? Does it seem that far back to you, son?”

“It’s been five years, Dad.” Connor took another helping of potatoes then passed the bowl across the table to Joe.

“I remember every minute of that last day with Debbie,” Davis stated quietly.

“I remember Mom too, Dad, but I want to live in the now, not in the past. I don’t think Mom would want you to mourn her absence forever. She’d want you to have a good life and move on, Dad.”

“Hey, can I have some more of that green bean casserole please?” Peggy whispered in Rose’s direction.

“Sure, here ya go.”

“Thanks.”

“Davis, if you want to go back to church, I’ll go with you. Maybe that would help you get the ball rolling again.” Coach Peggy only thought in terms of forward motion. She couldn’t help it really. She’d just had too much sports training to think any other way. Why sit on the bench when you knew how to run? Get up and move, that was her philosophy.

“Do you think Matt Langley would pray with me now, after all this time?” Davis cracked a slight smile at the thought.

“Of course he would!” Rose responded.

“I don’t see why not,” Peggy added.

Cindy Victor bravely entered the conversation, “I know my Andy just loves the Langley’s and their church. He’s crazy about that Maria. She’s just the sweetest girl. She got healed of some kind of terminal disease. Some kind of cancer wasn’t it? Boy, when she got healed, my Andy was so happy. He has been going faithfully with them to church ever since.”

“Do you go to church with them, Cindy? I have never heard you mention it until now,” Coach Peggy asked.

“No, no, no, I don’t go, only Andy goes. I don’t know if someone like me would really fit in. I have never been married or anything, but I have Andy. It’s hard to explain,” was Cindy’s sober reply. “They invite me to Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners every year but… ya know, church is always tacked on the end of the invite. So I uh… never go. I don’t want to have to be forced to say anything about myself that would, ya know, embarrass Andy. ”

“Well, shit, there’s got to be single people at church, Cindy, and I’m sure some of ’em got kids too. Hell, I ran around so much when I was younger, I might even have a few kids around somewhere that I don’t even know about.” George chuckled. “I have never been to church a day in my life. I have always been sort of curious about it. I’ll walk in with you, if you think that would help,” George offered as he took another ear of corn from the bowl in the center of the table.

“That’s very kind of you, George, but I don’t want to mess up Andy’s reputation with all my junk. He’s doing so well with everything. I am so proud of him. If the church people knew I was his mother, maybe they would lose respect for him. I wouldn’t want that,” Cindy replied as remorse over errors unknown to George flash across her face.

George looked at Cindy thoughtfully. “Well, I bet I got more skeletons in my closet than you do. I still say we could go and sit together. You don’t have to share anything with anybody if you don’t want to. If somebody bothers you, I’ll tell ’em to go clean their own closet out and leave yours alone.” George grabbed the butter and smeared a generous spoonful across his corn then chomped down on it with true appreciation for good food all over his face.

“That’s sweet George, thank you.”

“Well, I have to say that I know firsthand that everybody at this table has been invited to the Langley’s church tonight for the Thanksgiving service, and personally, I’d really like to go,” Connor threw in.

Everybody looked around at each other thinking about this new idea. The only one not looking up was Davis. He’d returned his eyes to his plate. You could tell that this was a painful conversation for him. Peggy was sitting next to him, and she could feel his turmoil. She reached her hand out under the table and touched his hand for the first time ever in their whole relationship. She was not quite sure what he would do. She was pleased to find that he grabbed it wholeheartedly. He held it tightly there in his lap while he thought about all that was happening at the table.

Then Davis looked up at everybody. “Okay, I’ll give it a try. I guess, I sort of owe Matt and God both an apology anyway.” Davis looked back down at Peggy’s hand in his and patted it gently.

“Me too,” each person responded one at a time around the table.

“It’s unanimous!” Connor hollered out triumphantly.

“I think it will be fun to go to church. I want to see where my Mom and Dad met and got married. I want to find out why they liked church so much.” Daisy looked up at Connor with a hopeful expression.

“Well, who is ready for some cake? Daisy, bring that cake out here and get the ice cream from the freezer would you dear?” Rose began moving empty dishes to the side so there would be a spot for the cake and ice cream.

“Good idea, Grandma. I want some cake.” Daisy jumped up from the table, took her plate and headed for the kitchen.

“Hey, I want some cake too,” others agreed.

“I’ll help you, Daisy.” Connor picked up his plate and followed Daisy to the kitchen.

In the kitchen Daisy began digging around getting all the items needed. Connor stopped her and held her hand for a moment. She looked at him wondering what he meant.

“Daisy, I’ve always wanted to take you to church.”

“You have?”

“Well yea. Maria and Mark and Andy all go. I use to go too when I was little.”

“Why haven’t you ever said anything about it?” Daisy studied his face for a moment to find the answer.

“Uh, I don’t know. My Dad and all… I just didn’t know how you felt about our parents dying.” Connor’s eyes met hers slowly. It was clear that he was afraid of what she might say.

“Connor, I don’t know much about God. I have heard a few Bible stories and the creation story, that’s about it. It seems to me that if God made us, why would he kill us? I don’t think God killed our parents. Cancer took your mom, not God. And a bad car accident took my parents, not God.”

Connor took another step closer to Daisy and put his arms around her. “Do you really think that?” he whispered. “Do you really think that? You don’t think it was God?” he whispered again.

“Connor, I don’t blame God for anything that happened to our parents even though I don’t understand it. If you don’t know something then it is just better to say you don’t know than to make something up and blame it on God. Do you want to know what I like to think God did do?” Daisy asked smiling up into his tear filled eyes.

“What’s that?”

“I prefer to think that God made us neighbors on purpose. I never knew my Mom, but I knew your Mom. And while she was here she was a good Mom to both of us. When she left this earth you took her place in my life. Connor, you have always been around for me. I think God did that. We were not left alone. I would like to know more about God. He seems good to me. He put us together.” Daisy then rested her head on his shoulder.

“Yea, we were not left alone. We have each other. He must be good. Thank you, Daisy,” Connor whispered into her hair.

“Thank you for what?” Daisy asked quietly into his shoulder.

“Thank you for not being angry and blaming God for all the bad things that happen around us. I don’t want to be angry with Him anymore about my Mom. I want to let it go. I want to love you, Daisy. I want to go to church with you and find out about God with you. I think you are the sweetest girl in the whole wide world,” Connor whispered as a tear ran down his face.

“I love you Connor Bailey. You are the very best thing that has ever happened to me. We can find out about all of this together.” Daisy looked up at him and wiped his tear.

He smiled down at her, refreshed by her simple perspective. “Daisy, I got you a present at the mall this morning. Do you want to see it?” he asked, hoping she would want it now.

“Really?” She stepped back to see what he was getting out of his back pocket.

“Well, the box got kind of smashed from me sitting on it. Sorry about that. But I don’t think that will mess up the gift any.” He held out a little square smashed box to her. “I hope you like ’em. It took me a long time to pick ’em out.”

Daisy leaned against the sink with Connor’s arm still around her shoulder while she opened the little box. “Oh, they’re beautiful! Thank you Connor! I love them!”

Connor laughed freely now that his tears were gone. “Do you really like ’em?”

“Yes, I don’t have anything like them at all!”

“Well, I know that. You’ve worn the same pair of hoops since I pierced your ears two years ago.” Connor laughed again.

“Yea, I remember that. Grandma Rose got so mad at you for piercing my ears.” Daisy giggled at the memory.

“It’s impossible to say no to you when you beg and cry like you did that day.” He kissed her forehead as he slipped the silver hoops out of her ears. He hooked the stems back into the little holes and slid both of the hoops onto his finger. Then he took the new earrings from the box and put them into her ears. He stepped back to see how they looked. “You make everything look good Daisy.” He smiled.

“I don’t have anything to give back to you,” Daisy said, suddenly sad again.

“Yes, you do.” He held up his hand and showed her how the silver hoops fit his ring finger perfectly. “I’ll wear these.”

“They do look like a ring when you wear them like that but still Connor, I want to get you a real gift. Can I have some of the money we earned from working at your Dad’s place to get you something too?”

“You can have anything you want from me.” He hugged her tight.

They stood there for a quiet moment, in the middle of the kitchen, comforted.

“Oh no.” Daisy suddenly jumped.

“What happened?”

“The dessert. Everybody is waiting for the dessert!”

“Oh, yea!”

They quickly got the dessert things out, took them to the dining table and began dishing out everybody’s choice.

No one really noticed how long it had taken the kids in the kitchen because they had switched to the topic of sports. Whenever this particular bunch got on the topic of sports all sense of time was lost.

Grandpa Joe suddenly slapped the table declaring, “If we’re gonna be gone tonight then I better get the VHS set up so it will record the Turkey Bowl on TV! We can’t miss the Turkey Bowl!” And he ran to the TV room to set up his TV to record the game.

Everyone resumed their sports discussion over dessert. They talked about their jobs and sports all the way until 6:30. Then Connor suggested that they all leave for Central Christian church.

“That’s my boy. He is never late for anything,” Davis stated proudly.

They made a long train of cars, all heading to the same place, Central Christian church. They all walked in together and took an entire row in the back.

 

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