Thanksgiving morning was crisp and cold, and Hannah was up early, despite Adam's warnings, to put the turkey in the oven. She had never cooked a turkey this big, and remembered last Thanksgiving, which she had spent, alone at a Denny's. She'd been so depressed that she'd left without even eating, and on her way home, had passed a shelter. She spent the rest of the evening serving food to the homeless, and decided unless she had a family, that would be how she would spend the holidays from now on. It was easier to be thankful when you weren't focused on your own troubles and your own lonesomeness.
Now, she was surrounded. Her life had been hijacked by seven men. She hummed as she worked and looked so forward to sitting down at the long, and crowded table with her brothers. She couldn't wait to watch them dig into those pies she had made them. She loved watching them gleefully consume the food she made for them.
She fought her way through a coughing fit. Resting her head on the table when it was over.
"You sound healthy." Crane said stepping into the kitchen.
"I've felt better." She admitted.
"Maybe you should stay in bed." He said.
"It's Thanksgiving!" She told him. "It's our first Thanksgiving together." She grinned at him.
"You are such a girl." Crane said shaking his head.
"You say that like it's a bad thing." She smiled, and he turned and poured himself a cup of coffee.
"What are the McFadden Thanksgiving traditions?" She asked as he set a cup in front of her.
"Well, let's see. Brian burns the turkey and then there's the traditional Thanksgiving cursing. It's quite a display - Brian's really perfected it over the years. Then we have the grumblings: This turkey is dry; why'd you cook it so long; I told you; you never listen. That's followed by Adam's traditional Thanksgiving Lecture/Sermon: "Brothers should be grateful. Brothers are all you got. Brian works hard. Shut your mouths and eat." You know, very traditional stuff." Crane grinned at her.
"Sounds just like a Hallmark card." She said.
"Oh, but it gets better. After dinner is the traditional football game." He told her.
"That sounds very American."
"Well, there's just one thing . . . the football game is generally played inside the house. We put away all the breakables and have at it."
"This is a newer tradition - this one was not started by the original Adam McFadden." She said.
"Well, he wasn't opposed to it. It was Kate McFadden who had the problem with it - so we never played indoor Thanksgiving football until we became sad little orphans." He made his face pathetic.
"It's in my nature to side with Kate on this one." She told him. "Although that 'sad, little orphan' thing is a good try."
"Good morning!" Adam and Brian came trooping in. "It is freezing out there. The milk froze in the bucket!" Adam said.
"Thank God for hot coffee!" Brian said pouring himself a cup. "I'm making traditional Thanksgiving pancakes, Hannah. You just sit back and enjoy the morning." He moved closer to one of the pies.
"Get away from that pie, Brian!"
"It's Thanksgiving, Hannah. You said they were for Thanksgiving." He smiled at her.
"Well, I suppose you have a point. We could sacrifice ONE for breakfast - just one." She grinned at him, as he leapt up and grabbed a pie, a fork in his hand.
"I like her, Adam. I mean it. I really, really like her!" He told his brother.
Thanksgiving was filled with traditions old and new. She handed out their new shirts, and laughed at their surprise.
"It isn't Christmas!" Daniel said.
"No, but I'm thankful for all of you." She said. "And I wanted to do something to show it."
"Thank you!" They said, and she watched Adam's eyes shine with pride.
They ate turkey, which was declared the best they'd ever had and feasted on pies. It was nearly eight o'clock when they began pushing the couches and tables out of the way for the traditional indoor football game. She braced herself trying to decided if it would be better to wait it out upstairs than watch the violence unfold in the livingroom. But instead of breaking out the football, Daniel lifted his guitar, and Ford his fiddle. She looked up surprised, as Adam held a hand out to her.
"I thought the tradition was football?" She asked confused.
"Some traditions change over time." Adam said with a grin, pulling her to him. They danced together as the Brotherhood played and sang. She rested her head against Adam's shoulder and felt sudden tears spring to her eyes, but then Brian cut in, and she danced with him.
"You're a good dancer." She told him.
"Well, now you know who taught Adam." He grinned. "Thanks for making such a good dinner." He smiled at her. "I could never keep that turkey from getting dry."
"I cook it upside down." She told him.
"It happened on accident the first time, but it was so juicy. You got to flip it at the end or it won't get brown, but if you cook it upside all the juice runs into the meat."
"You are brilliant!" He said with a grin.
"Next year, you can make it. We'll surprise them all." She said.
"That's a deal, Sis." He said and kissed her cheek, just as Crane cut in, to dance with her too.
They danced until the stars appeared and then ate some more and sang. Everyone of her brother's danced with her; even shy Ford, and clumsy Guthrie. She was overwhelmed with happiness and contentment.
Later that night, they'd each sat down with her and showed her which picture of their family was their favorite. Each one, had a story to tell, and by the time she'd heard from her six brothers, it was late. They all crawled towards bed, but slowly reluctant to let the evening end. She climbed the stairs and crawled into bed, exhausted. Adam had gone out to check and make sure the lemon trees were covered to protect them from the frost, and he came in later bringing an icy chill with him.
"Brr!" She said. "I can feel the cold on your shirt."
"Good, maybe you won't steal it from me." He grinned at her.
He disappeared into the closet and came back holding a small photo album.
"I didn't show you my favorite." He said softly, and she sat up. Reaching out, she rested her hand against the side of his face, smiling up into his eyes. He leaned forward kissing her, and then turned his attention to the book, sitting down next to her the pictures between them.
They flipped slowly through the small album, until he stopped on a picture of a tall man wearing a white hat holding a baby in his arms. A beautiful red-haired woman stood beside him. The man was looking at the child in his arms, a grin on his face revealing dimples, and the woman smiled up at the man, a look of love on her face. Only the baby faced the camera, his bright dark eyes outshining the grin on his tiny face.
She pulled the picture out of the album. "Oh, Adam! This is my favorite! This one."
"Mine too." He said. "It sort sums up that piece of my life."
"I'd like to put it up where we can see it." She said softly. "If that's alright with you."
"Yeah, I'd like that. Maybe we can get it made bigger." He sighed running his finger along the picture. "They were good people. You would've liked them, and they would've loved you so. It makes me sad to think they'll never know you." He looked down at her.
"I feel like I know them. And it is nice now, to have a picture too. You look like him, Adam. His smile - you smile the same."
"I try to be like him. I try really hard. He was such a good and patient man. He was so loving too. You'd think, a man like him would be a tough guy, and he was, but he was so sweet too - especially when it came to our Mama - especially when it came to the babies."
"You just described yourself." She said.
"Oh, I don't know about that." He blushed embarrassed.
"I do." She said. "Your brothers are right, Adam. He would be so proud. He is proud. They both are."
"Thank you, Hannah for today, and for being patient with me. I'm still sorry about . . ."
"Oh, that's over and done. Let it go." She said setting the photo album aside and propping the picture up on the nightstand beside her.
"I know. I'm really thankful for you. You can't know how much . . .I never thought . . ."
"I'm thankful too, and not just for you. I'm thankful for all these brothers you thought would scare me off. I love all of them, I do - even Brian - maybe especially Brian. Having a family is the one thing I wanted more than anything. This time last year, I was standing all alone handing out food at a soup kitchen. I am thankful too, Adam. You can't know how much."
Later, she slept contented in the circle of his arms, but he laying awaking gazing at the picture she had propped up on the night stand. He could see his father's face gazing on the baby in his arms. He could see the look of love on his mother's face as she watched both of them together. His own happy, contented smile; a baby loved completely. He could even see the slight curve on his mother's stomach where his first brother slept, waiting to be born - his strongest supporter for all the difficult days that followed this picture.
The moon shed its silvery light over the golden brown hills that surrounded this ranch. It shone on the old oak planted high on a hill by his great grandfather. It poured it's light over the rose bushes they'd planted as boys in memory of their mother. It illuminated the faces of his brothers who slept tucked into their beds warm, and safe; loved - the orphans who were not really ever orphaned. It spread a beautiful shimmery glow on the face of his wife who slept peacefully in his arms. He kissed her cheek and she smiled briefly, joyful even in sleep.
He closed his eyes, but he did not dream. All his dreams had already come true.
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Happy Thanksgiving to All -
Orphans and Brothers Alike