if a photo is worth 1000 words : story 3

Friday, February 1, 2013

It was her first Thanksgiving alone and she asked everyone to bring a dish. It didn't have to be homemade, though she hoped that somehow the sweet potatoes would taste like her mother's and that a miracle would occur and the turkey skin would crackle saltily like her grandpa's. But that was wishful thinking and she tucked the memories away next to the few letters she kept hidden in her sock drawer. You have to grow up. Her mother had said. She had grabbed her shoulders, made her look her in the face. You hear me? You can't keep pretending that anything will change. Nan, stop making believe, please. Well, she had grown up alright. Grown up just enough for high heels and lipstick so red it had made her grandmother blush. That's what everyone wears now, gramma. She had laughed and added another swipe, peering in the mirror scrubbed clean. Her grandmother had shook her head. Oh, Nan. When did you grow up?

She set the table, smoothing the white cloth thinly over the enormous wooden table she had miraculously managed to fit in her apartment. It was ridiculous in size compared to her kitchen, especially with the extra leaves in, but she needed wood in a city of metal and stone. She placed her plates, vintage look-alikes, carefully in their places. Forks found spots next to spoons and she placed a small name tag in front of each seat. Molly. Peter. James. Georgia. Harrison. Jonathan. Elisa. Carolyn. Isaac. and lastly, Nan.

The timer beeped again and she pulled out a pumpkin pie, hardly daring to look until it sat on the counter. She had whipped the cream earlier and with a satisfied sigh, placed the lopsided pie on the table next to the stuffing she had made. The little space, cramped and crowded and painted that awful cream, looked happy and even festive with the table made up and a string of lights around the room. She hesitated for just a moment, then hurried back into the kitchen. After rummaging through the cabinet, two shakers, a salt and pepper in the shape of pilgrims, found a spot at the center of the table. She would have wanted you to have them, her grandpa had said sadly as they packed up her grandma's things. It had felt bittersweet to take them and somehow in owning them, she knew that her grandma was truly gone. I'll put them out every year. She had kissed his cheek and said goodbye before he could cry.

She stepped back to survey the room and breathed deeply of the beginning scents of the season. Outside, it was snowing, which only reminded her of Thanksgiving Day at her grandparents. She peered out the window, secretly praying for more than a few inches and pulled the shades open wide. This was no time for a room bathed in shadows. Music. She needed music. Was there even Thanksgiving music? Her laptop was still on the counter and while the rolls finished cooking, she searched for a Thanksgiving playlist. It ended up being solely Vince Guaraldi and she wasn't sure if that was a good or bad thing. The timer beeped, again, and the crescent rolls were soon sitting on the near empty table. If her mother could have seen her with boxed rolls, well...

A heavy knock filled the room and she smoothed her skirt, brushed her hair back. She threw open the door and ushered in people with hellos and happy thanksgiving!'s, making the dance between greetings and bringing their plates to the table. Soon, the small apartment smelled like November in the country and the space glowed. The last friends arrived and they all sat down at the table, in a sense reverent at the first Thanksgiving alone. It only felt right to say grace, and even though she didn't know what many of them believed, there was no discomfort at the few words of thanks they each uttered before breathing in the smells of the dinner. Yes, the turkey was a little dry, and maybe the potatoes were from a box, but all together, the food tasted like memories and that enough was home.

What are you thankful for? She asked, in between bites of turkey and cranberries, when she really wanted to ask, What do you miss most about Thanksgiving at home? The group of friends swapped answers and questions across the table and Nan found herself shaking off the melancholy of the morning. Laughter racked her stomach and she passed dishes to the other end of the table, gripping tightly to this small group of friends who had found each other. It was not the same as last year, no, but the quiet of the day was swiftly turning into the bustle of the evening and the room flickered from candles.

More pie? Peter asked, holding her own pumpkin. I really shouldn't...she started, and shook her head, adding a second piece to her plate. Forks littered the plates holding nothing but crumbs and they all lingered at the table, taking a few more bites of pie or sipping a second cup of coffee. Happy Thanksgiving! Carolyn raised her glass of bubbly and they all cheered. The echoes of the sentiment rang in the apartment until January.

What are those? Molly asked, laughing at the funny figurines on the table. Nan smiled and shook her head. Happy Thanksgiving. She cheered again, quieter now.

Outside, it was still snowing.


  1. Oh, wow. This is beautiful. Each of your pieces is wonderful, Hannah. Well written, and hitting so close to home because growing up is something hugely on my mind.

  2. I hate to say the same thing on every post, but Hannah, this is beautiful. I'm not just being polite, it's truly amazing. If you ever write a book, or a book full of stories like this, make sure it gets published because I want to buy it and read it. :)

  3. Right when I saw this post in my google reader I exclaimed "Yes!!" quietly to myself and situated myself in my seat as I drowned out the chatter around me to read your story. I SO look forward to your posts and your stories are just so amazing and move my heart. SO good, Hannah. Really. Can you please have a book published someday? :)) I'd be proud to own your work.



  4. So, I'm 18 now, and honestly, this made me sad. It's just a very real thing, and you've simplified it down to whats hitting my heart a lot these days. you get it, and your writing it down is such a good thing. love you hannes.

  5. So very glad to have stumbled onto this. I'm rather grown up now you see but my mind hearkens back to childhood memories of time wasted on lying in the lawn daydreaming, of hours spent writing stories and of nights lost to dreams of someday. You never really grow up because you hold onto memories of childhood forever. They're part of your life -- of you. <3

  6. wow. this is so raw and real. how do you have time to write these?