The First Thanksgiving

By Lizabeth S Tucker

Mark McCormick stared sadly at the carcass of the turkey from Thursday's dinner.

"What's up, kiddo?" Milton Hardcastle asked, stopping to watch his young friend's mournful face.

"I just hate to pitch this out."

"You've stripped the meat off to the bone. Unless you're planning to make soup from the bones, it's time to round-can it."

"Yeah, I guess so."

"It's just a turkey, McCormick."

"I know, Judge, but this was the first time I've ever celebrated Thanksgiving."

"You got turkey and dressing in the house of many doors, didn't you?"

"Oh, sure, we also had lumpy mashed potatoes and cranberry out of the can. Definitely a big holiday wing ding." The younger man shrugged. "I didn't think you'd understand."

Hardcastle sighed. "Explain it to me."

"Want a soda?" McCormick asked as he reached into refrigerator and grabbing a can for himself.

"Yeah, I'll have some root beer." If the retired Judge had learned anything over the last two years of living with McCormick, it was to let him explain in his own time.

After popping the top and swallowing a healthy portion of cold liquid, Mark dropped into the chair next to the kitchen table. "You know how you always have memories of Christmas from when you're a kid?"

"Sure, the presents, the food, visits to Santa Claus, hoping it will snow."

Mark smiled. "I have those, although after...well, after I turned five, the presents became one present, something usually bought at the local Five and Dime. But I don't remember Thanksgiving being a special day, ever."

"No family get-togethers? No turkey browning in the oven?"

"Nope. As far as family went, it wasn't very pleasant when we did meet up with each other, so we certainly didn't pick a day of the year to do it. Although sometimes my mother's family would make duty visits around Christmas. Believe me, we were both glad when they left."

"Why, if you don't mind me asking?" The Judge joined Mark, sitting across from him.

"Oh, they would try to convince Mom to give me up to the nuns at Catholic Services. Every year it was the same thing...get rid of the little bastard and you can start your life over again."

"What did she say to that?"

Mark grinned. "That was usually when Mom would show them the door." The smile slipped away. "But sometimes, in the middle of the night, I would hear her crying. That was our usual Christmas holiday. Maybe that's why we never celebrated Thanksgiving. Or maybe it was because she didn't have much to be thankful for."

"Yeah, she did, Mark. She had you. A child is the best reason to be thankful. Even if you didn't formally celebrate that particular holiday, I guarantee she was very thankful for your presence in her life."

"Maybe. I hope so, Judge." Mark sipped at his drink. "Anyway, I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciated being included in your Thanksgiving feast."

"There's no where else you should be. Happy first Thanksgiving, Mark."

A rosy blush on his cheeks, Mark's smile was sweet. "Thank you, Milt. That...that means a lot."

Hardcastle cleared his throat. "So can we trash the turkey skeleton now?"

As an answer, Mark picked up the carcass and dropped it into the garbage bag. "Bye, birdie. You were delicious!"

November 2006