By Erika Hoffman

The day before Turkey Day, an editor friend wrote and asked what I was doing for Thanksgiving.

None of my four kids were coming home. Three are married and don’t live nearby, and two of them had plans with in-laws; one an overseas trip to take, and the oldest, a manager, works in the restaurant business a couple of states away. So, Thanksgiving for me wouldn’t resemble a Hallmark greeting card this year. My husband and I planned on eating an early buffet out. Below is how I replied:

One can’t have everything every holiday, and so it’ll be fine; a quiet day will be good. And – I am very blessed today – literally.

I have a woodsy backyard. I love the tall oaks, leafy maples, and blooming camellias. I sit out there often with my little dachshunds and listen to the birds sing as they flutter in and out of the birdhouse and perch on the cedar birdfeeder and flutter into the branches of the peach tree.  Often, as I compose my stories or read books on the writing craft or just a plain, old, good John Grisham tale, I hear the staccato tapping of the woodpeckers on the hollowed-out tree directly behind the chair where I sit and my dachshunds laze. This huge tree has been dead for a while. I’ve been meaning to have someone cut it down for the longest time. Today, it fell on its own, and it toppled and shattered my Adirondack teak chair that the dogs and I occupy most sunny days, like the beautiful North Carolina day we had today, the day before Thanksgiving.

Today was so pleasant I was about to saunter out there with them and sit on that very same Adirondack chair, but as I placed my hand on the doorknob, the phone rang. A phone call from someone I’ve not heard from in a year kept me from leaving the house. The woman who called is my age. Her mom was my maid and babysitter when my four children were young. Every year Flora phones me about this time because I think she wants me in her thoughts as the advent season begins; I always gave her mom a nice monetary gift for Christmas, and after her mom died and my kids were grown, and I’d moved from that town, I continued to send Flora money for the holidays, as a remembrance of her mother.

Often, I find the phone call somewhat off-putting and resent it a bit, but I always acquiesce and send a check. Well, today Flora and I ambled down memory lane, and she told me how her mom was one of the deacons at their AME Church, and how her mom had influenced so many young men to turn into better people, and how she wanted me to come to a service there honoring her mom, and how her mom thought of my kids as her grandkids. I remembered how much Virginia had done for my children and when I got off the phone, I felt good about writing Flora a generous check – once again. I didn’t resent it at all or feel that I’d been duped into giving to her. (It’s been 16 years now since her mom passed and about 20 since Virginia worked for me.)

When I put down the receiver, I felt good. I felt connected. I felt remembered. I felt blessed that Virginia had come into my life so long ago and helped me raise my four young kids. I felt joyful to be able to write the check.

After I did and put it in the mailbox, I thought I’d better take the dogs out, and we went into the backyard, and there lay the rotten, fallen tree over my chair, which had been sundered in half, and large pieces of the trunk had been flung helter-skelter in the yard.

The fallen tree hadn’t been there this morning or later when I looked out the window thinking about going out to read in the sun. It had tumbled during my time on the phone with Flora. Had I been seated in the chair with the dogs asleep on my lap as usual, I’d have been killed. The dogs, too! I thought: Good thing, lucky thing Flora kept me on the phone for an hour!

Serendipitous! I’m not one usually to believe in angels or divine intervention, but today stunned me. I’m still in disbelief at my good fortune.

So, although tomorrow is not the “perfect” Thanksgiving, I am tremendously thankful tonight for a call that comes but once a year that stops me in my tracks and reminds me of folks in my past, and that perhaps there is Karma in this world. Good karma.

About this writer

  • Erika Hoffman

    Erika Hoffman

    Erika Hoffman is a mom of four, a grandma of three, a pal to a dozen or so great women, and she likes to write.

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12 Responses to “Happenstance?”

  1. Claudia M Frost says:

    I enjoyed Erika’s very honest reflection about her ongoing conflicted connection with the daughter of her late housekeeper whom she has such fond memories. So glad that phone call kept her safe.

  2. Nancy says:

    Virginia was your earth angel and she continues her work from heaven.
    What a blessing!
    We’re thankful for her and you, too.

  3. Jamie Weeks says:

    Such a nice way to begin the holiday season-pondering giving, thankfulness, and the ripples created by blessing one another. Lovely story.

  4. Maria Frangakis says:

    What a wonderful story! So glad Flora called you and that you are still the same generous person you’ve always been.

  5. Another great story, Erika, and a good reminder to be grateful for the things that really count.

  6. Donna Atwater says:

    A wonderful story based on reality and truth, which always sets us free. Thank so much Erika for sharing such these amazing life experiences!
    You are the best!!!

  7. Since I don’t believe in karma but do believe in Divine intervention, I’m thankful you’ve lived to write another great story!

  8. Cora Brown says:

    It’s wonderful to hear from a person who is able to appreciate the simple (and finer) things in life. Erika’s “glass half full” outlook also reminds us that silver linings can be found in almost every situation. I enjoy and appreciate Erika’s thoughts.

  9. Carol Trejo says:

    Another awesome reminder that some distractions that seem to slow us down happen for a reason. What a great reminder for me to be thankful for the angels working overtime to protect my loved ones. Thank you for sharing your wonderful story!

  10. Rose Ann says:

    Happy Thanksgiving, Erika! Thanks for reminding us the true definition of true, raw gratefulness! I look forward to your thoughts on life every month!

  11. Linda O'Connell says:

    Your story has proof of Virginia all over it. Lovely.

  12. Eileen Williams says:

    I do believe in what I have heard called “God winks” and believe you had one. You just need to look for them. Than you for reminding me to look for them

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