Thanksgiving

Despite living in Wilmington, Delaware for over a decade, Moira had never understood the point of Thanksgiving. She was a proud Scot by birth and she came from a long line of proud Scots. Not that she was unfriendly or anti-social, her knitting circle and reading group were always well attended and her role as librarian was highly respected.

She had moved to the US from Linwood in Renfrewshire when her husband died. Her only daughter being, at that time, herself a widowed single-mother in Wilmington. For a few years, Moira had spent Thanksgivings with her daughter and grandchildren, always a bit bemused at having another major family festival so near to the one she saw as more traditional – a secular Christmas. But, when in Rome, she told herself.

Then three years previously her daughter had remarried to another man in the armed forces and was off to live where he was based in California. Moira looked at the climate charts and decided that she was most decidedly not going to move to anywhere like that. She liked the climate in Wilmington, it made her think of her childhood home.

So for the last two years Moira had not celebrated Thanksgiving and had been happy to stay at home for the holiday, Skype with the grandchildren and catch up with her reading. This year, however, it was not proving so simple. Anna, who attended both Moira’s knitting circle and her reading group, started asking about what she would be doing for Thanksgiving.

“Oh, it’s not my festival is it?” Moira said, and gave a short laugh. “It’s for you who had ancestors here in sixteen hundred and frozen to death. The ones who had a big party with some local inhabitants who helped your ancestors survive. Or something like that. Nothing to do with me, really. I’m Scottish.’

Anna had put down her knitting, a sharply orange and cream acrylic and wool mix which she was turning into a bolero, and stared in disbelief.

“Now where do you get that from? My ancestors didn’t move to the United States until early last century. In fact, if only the descendents of those who were at the original Thanksgiving ever celebrated it then I would think it had died out as a custom long since.”

Moira’s lips twitched into a tight line.

“You have been brought up with it, Anna. You were born American.”

The other woman stared a little.

“Part of Thanksgiving is celebrating a welcome to those from other cultures – even Scots,” she added tartly.

“It is a classic family festival,” Moira said, “and my family is in California not Delaware.”

Anna looked as though she was going to argue but instead gave a small sigh and returned to her knitting.

Thanksgiving came and Moira had enjoyed a brief Skype with her family and was just wondering what to eat when the doorbell rang. A little irritated as today was not a day she had planned for visitors and so her usually immaculate bun was replaced by a cascade of unruly wavy hair, Moira answered the door.

Outside stood Anna, her husband their children and the grandparents. All of them burdened by savoury smelling boxes or bags. Moira opened her mouth to speak and Anna gently grasped her arm and led her back inside her house. As Anna’s family unpacked the well-cooked, Thanksgiving meal with all the trimmings, Anna hugged Moira.

“The local inhabitants have come to save you and celebrate,” she said, “and we are not taking no for an answer.”

It was the best kind of Thanksgiving for all of them – but for Moira the first of many more.

E.M. Swift-Hook

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