A Grateful Heart

By Rose Ann Sinay

A Grateful Heart

“We’re going to a movie, and then out to dinner for Thanksgiving,” I replied, smiling brightly when my friends asked what my husband and I were doing for the holiday. Our son was living in Spain at the time, and our daughter had gone on a two week vacation to Arizona after graduating college and ended up staying–indefinitely. We were alone for the holidays for the first time.

“Come to our house,” our neighbors said. “Plenty of room and more than enough food.”

And all your family, I thought enviously. I was feeling sorry for myself and guilty for feeling that way. I wanted to be with my family. Our friends were wonderful people, but Thanksgiving meant sitting around our dining room table with a centerpiece of yellow and orange mums, listening to our children banter, argue and share stories. It was our small family being together. It was tradition.

I knew I didn’t have to worry. The kids were in good places. Our daughter was hosting dinner for her new friends out west. And although my son would not be celebrating Thanksgiving in Spain, I was sure he was happily eating his favorite Spanish fare. I was begrudgingly grateful for that.

There was no reason to buy a turkey for just the two of us, so when I went grocery shopping, I tried to stay away from the holiday section, I could see (from a distance) the hoard of women surrounding the freezer bin, rolling the turkeys around like bowling balls, trying to find the biggest one that would feed their entire, extended brood.

But that bin kept tugging at me like a magnet. I didn’t need the bird, but I wanted it; it was Thanksgiving for goodness’ sake! I gave in. I joined the fowl frenzy and chose a medium sized bird, complete with its pop up timer for perfect results. I threw a couple bags of fresh cranberries into my cart to keep the turkey company in our freezer until needed. After all, as my husband said, we could have Thanksgiving in March or July, or whenever the kids could make it back to Connecticut.

When I got home, I threw an old straw wreath wrapped in orange and brown plaid ribbon on the front door. I arranged a few pumpkins on the porch steps, but it still looked wrong–not our usual fanfare. The kids’ over-the-top, decorating touch was not there. Anyone driving by could see there was something missing. How could they not?

Thanksgiving morning arrived. I had been awake since 5 am wallowing in the fact that it was the first time since my children had been born that I had not been in the kitchen, preparing to get “Tom” in the oven. Get over it, I told myself. I got up, got dressed and started my everyday routine.

At 7:30 the phone rang. “Mom, I need help,” my daughter said from almost 2,500 miles away.

“What’s wrong,” I could hear the panic in her voice.

“Do I have to take that thing out of the turkey?” she asked. My little girl was preparing her first holiday dinner for her boyfriend and three other friends. I didn’t know whether to be happy for her or sink further into my funk.

“You mean the bag with the giblets?” I laughed. “Yes you do. And rinse the cavity well.”

“Oh gross,” she whined. “I don’t have any rubber gloves.” I thought I heard a quiver in her voice.

I lightened up, immediately. We stayed on the phone for over an hour as I walked her through the steps of preparing Thanksgiving dinner. The pumpkin pie was store bought, but the rest of the meal would be a traditional feast. It almost felt like I’d spent the morning cooking.

Later that afternoon, when we arrived at the theater, I was surprised to see it nearly full. We scooted between scrunched knees and the backs of seats to find two empty chairs. I caught sight of a few familiar faces before the lights went out. It appeared we weren’t the only couple without a house full of relatives to feed. I don’t remember what movie we saw, but I do remember laughing–it was a comedy–it felt good.

After the movie, as we waited for a table at a local restaurant, I recognized another couple who had been sitting in the row in front of us at the theater.

“You look familiar,” I said.

“We were saying the same thing about you,” the woman replied. “I think our son’s soccer team played against your son’s team.

We talked, non-stop, and declined a table for two, waiting until a table for four was available. We talked about our children, how fast they’d grown up, how proud we were of them, and how much we missed them. It was their first time alone, as well. My new friend and I ate steak, while our husbands devoured their turkey dinners. We smiled at each other; we understood.

The light was blinking on our message machine when we arrived home. The first call was from our daughter. “Hey, Mom and Dad, Happy Thanksgiving. Thanks for the help this morning, Mom. Dinner turned out great, but I like it better when you cook everything. Miss you so much.”

The second call was from our son in Spain: “Uh . . . you’re not home. You must be out having dinner at someone’s house. No Thanksgiving dinner here. My mouth is watering for some turkey and stuffing and mashed potatoes…oh well…I’m sure yours was good…maybe next year.” He missed us, too.

Those two messages were what I needed to hear. It’s not their place at the table or a roasted Butterball on a single day that connects us; it’s the essence of family, tradition and what we hold dear to our hearts. We can share the love from anywhere. And for that, I am truly grateful.

About this writer

  • Rose Ann Sinay Rose Ann Sinay is a freelance writer typing away in sunny North Carolina. Her articles/stories have been published in The Carolinas Today, The Oddville Press and The Brunswick Beacon.

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17 Responses to “A Grateful Heart”

  1. Erika Hoffman says:

    I identified. We have four grown kids and a couple of years ago none came home for Thanksgiving. We went out and ate alone and suddenly I remembered Thanksgivings decades ago before the kids, and I recalled how much I liked being with my husband, and it all was okay. Thanks for rekindling those memories and for writing in such a readable way!

  2. Connie Denihan says:

    Because we didn’t live near family after we were married, we usually celebrated with friends. This was normal for us. Now that we are empty nesters and our kids have their own traditions, we are still celebrating Thanksgiving with friends. It doesn’t matter where or with whom you spend Thanksgiving, it is all about remembering how blessed we are. I agree with the writer that a good movie and dinner out is a wonderful way to celebrate!

  3. Rose Ann says:

    Erika, thanks for reading and for commenting:) I’m glad it doesn’t happen often that we can’t get together as a (grown-up) family, but if we can’t we know we can adjust. LOL–we have to! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

  4. Pat Marino says:

    Beautifully written! I love the sentiment!

  5. Britt Sinay says:

    I think these feelings are universal as everything changes with time and you expressed them so well

  6. Tammy Rohlf says:

    You captured the feelings of so many families that can’t be together for the holidays and even though apart we still have that wonderful connection no matter where we are!
    Happy Thanksgiving!!

    • Rose Ann says:

      Thanks for the kind comments, Tammy. I don’t know whether to be happy or sad that you can relate, LOL. Have a special holiday whatever you do.

  7. Luisa Pollard says:

    Loved your story!!!
    We have some many blessings to be grateful for,whether our loved ones are sting close by or across the miles. The heart knows no boundaries.
    With a Grateful Heart

  8. Janet Grillo says:

    My eyes filled up as I read A Grateful Heart. Even though your children call your heart still aches to see them. It’s even worse when you have grandchildren! Well written, it really hit home. Maybe we’ll go to a movie this year!

    • Rose Ann says:

      Ah. . . The grandchildren!! You’re right, they make it even harder. Better make that a really good movie! I know your beautiful family will all be thinking of you!

  9. Kailey says:

    I deny, and you can’t prove, ever having to call you for advice for cooking the turkey :) We missed you too.

    PS- I still hate removing that silly bag of “whatever-it-is” from the turkey.

  10. Colleen Wenthen says:

    So true! Beautifully written! Happy Thanksgiving 🍗

  11. Mary Ann Crimi says:

    Thank you, Rose Ann, for sharing your Thanksgiving memories and reminding me that although we can’t be geographically there, our kids are always in our hearts.

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