Chapter 18: Giving Thanks
You busy Thursday? Joey asked. He was sitting in science class, and Amarea was somewhere. He dreaded this conversation, but he didn’t really have a choice.
Nope, Amarea replied. She was sitting in the hallway. She was supposed to be in math, but she really didn’t care and no one seemed to care either.
Not doing anything for Thanksgiving? Joey asked.
Nope, she replied blandly. She tapped her toe impatiently against the wall.
Really? Joey asked.
It’s just me and my folks, Amarea rolled her eyes.
So? Joey questioned.
How much turkey could we eat? Amarea shot back.
Want to come over to my house? Joey asked.
Just me? Amarea asked.
No, the whole family, Joey said cheerfully.
Why? Amarea shot back.
I don’t know, Joey shrugged. My mom wanted to know if your family would like to come, so I thought I would ask.
So this is your mom’s idea, she said.
Yes, Joey replied.
That makes sense then, Amarea said.
What makes sense? Joey shot back.
You know you wouldn’t ask me unless you were forced into it. Amarea crossed her arms, her toe was beating against the wall.
No one is forcing me into anything, Joey sighed. I thought you might want to come over.
Not really, Amarea replied.
A door opened, and a teacher peered out. He looked at Amarea and closed the door.
Well, it sucks to be you because your parents have already said yes, Joey smiled.
What? Amarea kicked the wall. Then why did you even invite me?
The door opened, and the same teacher looked out, “Kindly refrain from doing that,” he said. Amarea just rolled her eyes. The teacher disappeared through the door.
I thought you would want to be invited, Joey replied.
Great, Amarea called out. She was holding a detention slip.
It will be, Joey said. My whole family will be there.
Really? Amarea crumpled the slip and threw it into the corner.
The ones that are close enough. My sister, her husband, and her kids are coming, my Aunt Judy, and my folks, Joey said excitedly. It’s usually a really fun day.
I guess if I have no choice, Amarea shrugged. She picked up the detention slip and smoothed it out.
You don’t, Joey replied.
Thanks for inviting me to something I have to do anyway, she said. She read the detention slip, under the heading “Description of violation or behavior” was written, “Disturbing the class from the hallway.” Amarea sighed. She really wanted to kick the wall. Actually, she really wanted to kick Joey.
You are truly welcome, Joey beamed.
On Wednesday, Amarea slept in until noon. She was wide awake at seven, but wanted her parents to think she wasn’t feeling well, so she stayed in her room until noon. She walked into the kitchen clutching her stomach and moaning, but no one was home.
Well, that sucks, she thought.
All that acting and no one to see, Joey replied.
Amarea jumped. Joey?
Who else? He replied.
Where are you? She asked looking around the room.
Behind you, he said with a smirk.
She turned slowly and saw Joey sitting in the living room grinning.
Good morning sleepy head, he called out.
What are you doing here? Amarea asked, only slightly annoyed.
I thought you’d want to help with the decorations, he smiled broadly.
Decorations? Amarea’s brow furrowed.
For Thanksgiving, he replied, it’s a tradition.
Joey stood and picked up a large box. He carried it to the kitchen table.
“Supplies,” he answered Amarea’s questioned look. He started to unpack the box. He had paints, brushes, paper plates, and a large white paper tablecloth. He spread the tablecloth out and squirted a puddle of brown paint unto a paper plate.
“Give me your hand,” he said, grabbing Amarea’s wrist.
“Wait,” she squealed trying to pull away.
“Too late,” Joey said as he pushed her hand into the puddle of paint.
“Ew,” Amarea said, squishing the paint between her fingers. “What am I supposed to do now?”
“Make hand prints,” Joey said, releasing her hand and squirting orange paint onto a different plate. It didn’t take long before they were both laughing and covering the tablecloth with prints.
“I think that’s enough,” Joey declared, looking at Amarea. “Now we let it dry.” He went over to the sink and began washing his hands. Amarea stood behind him and waited for him to finish, even though the sink was large enough for both of them to wash at the same time.
“You know they have Thanksgiving tablecloths that you can buy,” she said.
“Wouldn’t be as fun,” Joey replied, “besides, it’s a tradition.” He walked into the living room and plopped down on the couch. Amarea followed him and grabbed the remote. She hit Fav1 and a Thanksgiving Spook-tacular began. Joey was amused at the fact she was sitting on the opposite side of the couch. They sat in silence through the entire hour long show.
“You keep saying that,” Amarea said, “and I’ve met your family. They are far from the traditional side of life.”
“True,” he admitted, “But there are certain things we always do.”
“Ok,” she said, “Besides the funny tablecloth, what else do you do for Thanksgiving?”
“Raisins and M&Ms,” he replied.
“Sounds yummy,” she said.
“It’s actually quite funny,” he said, “you’ll see tomorrow. Let’s finish this tablecloth.” He got up and went over to help her up. She ignored his offering and stood up without his help.
“There’s more?” she asked half-heartedly.
“We’ve got to turn all these hands into turkeys,” he replied, “grab a brush and the black paint. You can do the feet.”
“Fun,” Amarea said sarcastically, though she did think it was fun once Joey showed her how to paint the feet. Joey made the turkey’s waddle and beak. When she was finished, she put a small dot for each eye.
“I have to admit, this looks pretty good,” she said, as she admired their work. “Where did my parents go anyway?”
“They went to get some stuff for tomorrow,” Joey replied. “My mom put them in charge of the centerpiece.”
“Huh?” she asked.
“Don’t ask,” he replied, “they have directions.”
Amarea’s parents came home shortly after Mrs. Moore picked Joey up. Amarea stared as they unpacked a pumpkin, a pineapple, bananas, lemons, oranges, coconuts, broccoli, blue and yellow corn tortilla chips, and a jar of mango chutney.
“They said it was a tradition,” her mom laughed as Amarea picked up the coconut.
“Here’s the recipe,” her father said, as he handed Amarea a folded piece of paper.
“Recipe?” she asked.
“Yup,” he replied, “apparently, we are to cut open the pumpkin, mix up the ingredients and make a salsa type dip for the chips.”
“Broccoli?” Amarea asked.
“Nope,” he replied, “the broccoli, lemons, oranges, and coconuts are all decorations around the pumpkin.”
“Mrs. Moore said something about using them in drinks,” Mrs. Dustin said.
“Broccoli?” Amarea questioned again.
“I’m not really sure what that’s for,” her father replied. “I guess we’ll see tomorrow.”
“Joey mentioned raisins and M&Ms,” Amarea said. “Did they say anything to you about raisins or M&Ms?”
“Mrs. Moore did mention she hoped no one brought raisins,” her mom said, “but it was more of an off handed remark than an actual request.”
“It wasn’t on the list,” her father added.
“I guess we’ll see tomorrow,” Amarea conceded.
Thursday was an overcast gray day. Amarea expected the rest of the day to be gray too. She had hoped to sleep in until ten, but at nine, her dad, bounded in her room and happily suggested she get showered and ready to go. She didn’t even have time to play the sick card. She took an extra-long shower; her mom had to tell her twice to hurry up. The second time Amarea called back that she was conditioning her hair. She heard her mom laugh through the door.
Amarea was not sure what to expect when they arrived at Joey’s house. Little paper turkeys lined the steps. A big smiling turkey flag flapped in the breeze.
I bet the one in the oven isn’t so cheery, Amarea remarked.
Probably not! Joey called back. I’ll be down in a sec.
Joey appeared at the door before they had a chance to ring the bell. “Welcome, Happy Thanksgiving!”
Mr. Moore appeared behind Joey, “Happy Thanksgiving!” He said warmly, embracing Amarea and her family. Joey got squished into Amarea.
“Hello,” he said as his face was pushed against hers. He could feel heat rise from her cheek.
“Welcome, Happy Thanksgiving,” Mrs. Moore said as she joined the hug.
“Hug!” someone yelled and three children joined the hug.
Joey could feel even more heat as he turned his face to look at Amarea. His lips brushed her cheek.
Well, this is only slightly uncomfortable, Amarea said dryly.
You’ll get used to it, Joey smiled. He inhaled deeply, she smelled so...so what? She smelled like Amarea, he realized.
When the hug broke up, Amarea took a deep breath. The three children clambered around her feet trying to get her attention.
Joey put them in order, oldest to youngest, and introduced them to Amarea. “This is Emma, Jehn, and Meghan.”
Amarea shook each of their hands. Meghan was a bit hesitant, but eventually she extended her hand.
“You’re head looks fuzzy,” Jehn said. “Can I touch it?”
“Are you an alien?” Emma asked.
Amarea just laughed and bent down to tickle them. She watched as Joey hugged a woman. “Where are Jameson and Michael?” he asked.
“Jameson had some things to finish up before graduation. Michael decided to stay home and keep him company,” the woman said.
“The girls are huge,” Joey said.
“That’s what children do,” she replied with a laugh.
“This is Amarea,” Joey said, leading the woman to Amarea.
“Hello, Amarea,” she said, extending her hand. “I’m Joey’s sister, Miriam.”
Amarea shook her hand. She was going to ask the obvious question when the front door flew open, and Aunt Judy strode in.
“Happy Turkey Day,” she said, “the party can now begin!” Aunt Judy threw handfuls of confetti into the room.
“She does that every year,” Miriam said, laughing. She shook her head and confetti fell to the ground.
“Why?” Amarea asked.
“Who knows,” Miriam said, still laughing. “She thinks of herself as the bringer of good gifts.”
“Good gifts?” Amarea asked.
“Raisins,” Joey answered. “Let’s go help set up the centerpiece.”
“Nice to meet you,” Miriam said, as Joey led Amarea away.
There is no way she is your sister, Amarea said, she’s like 40.
Let’s just say, Joey began, I was the unexpected surprise in the family.
“It looks great,” Amarea said when she saw the tablecloth. Little turkey name cards were placed in front of paper turkey plates with napkins rolled up and stuck in corn napkin rings.
“My cousins made the name cards and napkin rings,” Joey said. “It’s all a part of the tradition.”
Joey placed the salsa filled pumpkin in the middle of the table. He poured the chips around the pumpkin. He sprinkled the broccoli on top of the chips. “Let’s go slice these up,” he said, grabbing the bag of lemons, oranges, and coconuts.
In the kitchen, Amarea took a knife and began slicing the oranges. Joey chopped the lemons into wedges. It took less than five minutes to complete the task. “Now the fun stuff,” Joey said, picking up the coconuts and a large bowl. “Follow me.”
Amarea followed Joey into the garage. She watched Joey secure a coconut into a large metal vice. She jumped when he brought out a large ax. “What are you going to do with that?”
“Break open the coconut, of course,” he replied.
“Seriously?” she asked.
“Of course,” he replied. “Your job is to hold the bowl under the coconut and catch all the milk that comes out.”
“Are you crazy?” she asked. “I’m not going to hold anything near that ax.”
“Trust me,” Joey said.
“You are crazy,” she replied. “What if you miss?”
“That’s just all part of the tradition,” he said. “Have you ever met my Uncle Two Fingered Neil?”
“What?” Her voice cracked.
“Just kidding,” he said, laughing. “Just hold the bowl and catch the milk.”
“Can’t you just set the bowl on the floor under the vice?” she asked. “Or on a chair under it?”
“Now what fun would that be?” he asked. “Be a man, hold the bowl.”
“I am far from a man,” she replied.
Joey looked her up and down, Amarea blushed.
“Fine, whatever,” she said, holding the bowl under the coconut.
“On three,” he said; Amarea nodded, “one, two.” Joey swung the ax and cracked the coconut in two.
Amarea screamed. “I thought you said on three?”
“I knew you would pull the bowl away,” he replied.
“Smart man,” she said.
“That was easy, wasn’t it?” he asked.
“I guess,” she admitted.
“Only six more to go,” he said.
“What are these for anyway?” she asked.
“Cups,” he replied.
“NO!!!” Mrs. Moore screamed from inside the house.
Joey began to laugh.
“What’s wrong,” Amarea said, almost dropping the milk.
“Don’t spill any of the milk; it’s the best part,” he replied.
“Is your mom ok?” she asked.
“Raisins,” Joey replied.
“Raisins?” she asked.
“Aunt Judy has managed to add raisins to the stuffing again,” he replied. “My mom hates raisins, and every year Aunt Judy manages to add them to the stuffing without her knowing.”
Joey carried the coconuts back into the kitchen. Mrs. Moore was holding a pan with a hot pad. She was trying to pick out all the raisins and toss them into the garbage.
“Come on,” Aunt Judy said, “everybody loves raisins in stuffing.”
“Ya, mom,” Joey said. “It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without the raisins.”
“It’s tradition,” Amarea said.
Mrs. Moore looked at Amarea and laughed. “You win again, Judy.”
The food smelled terrific and tasted even better. The coconut drink was delicious. The salsa was amazing, especially with broccoli.
“Dessert,” Mr. Moore announced, handing a big bowl of M&Ms to Mrs. Moore. She carefully counted out seven M&Ms and placed them beside her plate. Joey was next, he picked out two. Miriam grabbed a handful, as did each of her children. Emma paused only a second before placing most of them back into the bowl. Miriam laughed and patted her back. Amarea’s parents both took a handful, as did Aunt Judy. Everyone set their M&Ms beside their plates.
What’s going on? Amarea asked.
Just take some M&Ms, Joey grinned suspiciously.
Seriously, what’s going on? She frowned.
Another tradition, Joey smiled broadly.
Amarea loved M&Ms. Joey knew she loved M&Ms. How could he do this to her? It wasn’t fair. She took the bowl from her mom and selected five red M&Ms.
Chicken, Joey teased.
You only took two, Amarea shot back.
Good point, Joey grinned.
“Now, as everyone has chosen their lot,” Mr. Moore began, “we will go around the table and say one thing we are thankful for per M&M.”
Joey’s cousins pulled papers out of their pockets. They were prepared with all the things they were thankful for.
“I have 36,” Meghan bragged.
“Then you can go first,” Mr. Moore said. He slapped Joey’s hand back as he tried to eat one of his M&Ms.
It took several minutes for the cousins to finish their lists. Joey went next.
“For family,” he ate one M&M, “and friends,” he winked at Amarea as he ate the other M&M.
Amarea’s parents went next. They laughed as they tried to think up things to be thankful for. Towards the end of their pile, they started popping M&Ms into each other’s mouths after they announced something to be thankful for. It was cute to watch them. They were still in love after so many years. Amarea hoped that one day she could pop M&Ms into the mouth of someone she loved. Joey winked at her again, and she turned a deep shade of pink.
“You’re up,” Joey said to Amarea.
“First,” she said, playing with the first red M&M, “family.” She ate the first one. “Second; health, third; old friends, fourth; new friends, and fifth;” she paused trying to think of something good, “raisins in the stuffing.” Everyone laughed.
Time passed quickly. Amarea helped clean up the kitchen while the boys watched football.
“Another tradition,” Mrs. Moore said, and then laughed. “The guys clean up after Christmas dinner.”
“Yeah right,” Aunt Judy said, “if you can call that cleaning!” They both laughed at some inside joke.
“One year they put the leftovers back in the oven,” Mrs. Moore began. “We left for a weekend trip and when we returned, well, you could say the kitchen was quite ripe.” She laughed.
It was good to laugh. It was good to be a part of something good.
“Remember the year,” Miriam said, “when they put all the scraps in a bag beside the garbage can?”
“The big black trash bag stuffed with wrapping paper,” Mrs. Moore added.
“And the neighborhood dogs tore up the bag and dragged garbage all over the neighborhood?” Aunt Judy said, “How could we forget?” They laughed again.
“The best year,” Aunt Judy began, “was when they decided we would all eat on paper plates, so they wouldn’t have to wash dishes.”
“The carpet!” Miriam exclaimed, “I forgot about the red carpet!”
“Red carpet?” Amarea asked.
“Judy makes this incredible red jello with marshmallows, nuts, raisins, carrots, all this good stuff,” Miriam replied.
“Mr. Moore, with his plate full of jello, decided to move to the living room to watch TV,” Mrs. Moore said. “He got half way there when his plate bent in half, and the whole pile of jello fell on the carpet. He decided to get the carpet steam cleaner and clean it up.”
“Except he didn’t pick any of it up first,” Miriam laughed, “so basically the jello spread all over the carpet, dying it a bright red.”
Amarea and her mom looked at the carpet. There was no visible stain.
“I wanted a new carpet for years,” Mrs. Moore said. “I got it that year!” Everyone laughed.
You were right, Amarea smiled.
About what? Joey asked.
Today was a lot of fun, she admitted. Thanks for inviting me.
Thanks for coming. Joey put his arms around Amarea and gave her a great big hug. She blushed, not really sure what to do.
“It’s called a hug,” Joey said putting her arms around his back.
“Oh,” Amarea said, returning the embrace. Amarea rested her head on his chest and breathed deeply. He smelled so good.
“Ahem,” Mr. Dustin coughed. Amarea jumped. “Time to go. Thanks for a wonderful day,” he said shaking Joey’s hand when he had detached himself from Amarea.
“Anytime, sir,” Joey said.