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Open House

Thanksgiving represented the time of year my mother opened our home to strangers. It was when Mister Charlie carried a van-load of visitors to our place, those who couldn’t afford turkeys. People down on their luck, with kids. Working-class folks, humble enough to drop their names into a wooden box at the Methodist church, asking for holiday help.

Mister Charlie threw the van door open, out jumped a mess of kids. They darted across eighty sprawling acres of alfalfa and fescue like freed prisoners. They played with our goats, teased the chickens, climbed trees, and swung on my tire swing.

Mother and four other ladies cooked like Hebrew slaves, preparing the biggest spread you ever saw. And when it was suppertime, Mister Charlie hobbled to the door and called us in with an honest-to-goodness trumpet.

I was a glutton. One year, I ate so much I vomited in the pasture. There were simply too many casseroles to sample.

At the end of the evening, one of the men sitting in our den asked Mother why she opened her home on Thanksgiving.

“Well,” Mother said, topping off his strawberry wine. “I don’t do it for you.”

Mister Charlie interjected, “She does it for the Lord.”

“No, I don’t,” Mother said. “My husband’s dead and it’s lonely out here. Sometimes, the kids and I go days without saying two words. And well, I don’t want to be alone on Thanksgiving.”

“Dammit,” Mister Charlie said, raising his glass. “No one can fault you for that, honey.” Everyone joined in raising glasses, because they knew very well what loneliness was.

And how nice it was not to feel it.



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