My morning has been consumed by cleaning and packing in preparation for our Thanksgiving trip back home. In honor of the holiday (and in lieu of an actual blog post, since I’m short on time), here is a very short story I wrote a few years ago. As you will see, it is quite timely. Enjoy and have a wonderful holiday!
In My Mother’s Garden (A Thanksgiving Story)
In my mother’s garden, when the air turns cold and the morning dew becomes frost that crunches beneath my father’s footsteps as he leaves for work, the Japanese grasses begin changing colors. Bending and stretching beyond the clusters of wilting daisies, drooping lavender, the grasses fade from green to gold, blinking and shimmering as they turn their faces to the late autumn sun.
I come home for the weekend, in a car packed full of dirty laundry and clean clothing choices, different options for each different day, and find the backyard sparkling like El Dorado, the air pulsing and throbbing with a golden glow.
It is November, and the thriving grasses, dancing and willowy in the cool afternoon breeze, remind me of corn husks, of dinners at a Texas table, rolled tamales, spiced meat. The ground outside was brown and brittle, the river surface coated with fallen leaves. We wore shorts and bulky sweatshirts, played football in the yard. The dogs ran around the house, trotted over the wooden deck, paws slapping the cold wood, they barked at nothing and we listened, their curious voices echoing over the water.
Here, in my mother’s garden, the seasons change much faster, the heavy saturated air of summer retreating, running, hiding from the brisk evening of fall. Winter creeps up in an instant, closes the door, locks us inside. We huddle beneath blankets beside the fireplace. We drink hot chocolate, warm tea turned cloudy from skim milk. We cook Thanksgiving dinner, my mother moving through the kitchen like a programmed machine: sauerkraut in the crock pot, chop the celery and onions, stuff the turkey, pumpkin pie was done the night before, don’t peel the potatoes too soon or else they’ll brown. I help by being in the way, standing in the middle of the kitchen without a task. Here, I’ll wash that spoon. Hand me that whisk, I’ll stir the gravy. Outside, the Japanese grasses cast their blinding golden glow across the yard, as the sun begins to set and dinnertime approaches.
It is warm in the basement, where my mother has pushed two tables together. Each place is set with fading china dishware, pink flowers rimming a plain white plate. The black and tan cloth napkins I’ve brought with me do not match, but this dinner is informal and my feet are cold because I’m not wearing any socks.
We fill our plates with mashed potatoes. The turkey is moist; the green beans are seasoned with lemon juice, which burns the small cut on my lip. We have forgotten to say what we are thankful for. Everyone’s mouth is full of food, and as we eat, the sun goes down and evening turns to night. The Japanese grasses in my mother’s garden no longer glow and sparkle. Huddled together, they shiver against the cold night air.