The next morning was a buzz of activity. Renee crawled out of bed at eight o’clock and proceeded up the stairs to help with getting breakfast ready. Her parents and April were already in the kitchen. Thanksgiving hymns filled the air from the sound system in the living area.
“Happy Thanksgiving!” Dad gave Renee a big bear hug. She squeezed him back. After he released her, Mama handed her a recipe card.
“Could you make the coffee cake?” She hurried back to dressing the turkey for dinner that afternoon. Renee reached into the high corner cabinet and grabbed a mixing bowl from the top shelf. She retrieved the rest of her baking supplies and placed it all on the island.
“You’re so blessed that you’re tall.” Mama looked up at Renee. “I always have to stand on chairs to reach the top shelves.” Mama was only five foot and two inches, seven inches shorter than Renee. The young woman often was called upon to reach items on the highest shelves for her mother. Mama had told her that it was a good thing that David was tall. He was six foot and three inches in height. In his photos online, his slender body made him look even taller. Renee had asked him what he and his family did for Thanksgiving. He had replied that since his family was spread across the country, they didn’t really celebrate the holidays much: no big meals and only small gifts on Christmas morning.
Renee gave a final turn to the batter and then spooned it into the greased pan. She crumbled the topping over it and slid it into the preheated convection oven, closing the door and setting the timer for thirty minutes.
“You are going to make bacon, right?” April grinned over her shoulder as she stirred the orange juice.
“Absolutely!” Renee grinned back and pulled open the fridge. She grabbed out two packages of bacon and slit them open with the kitchen shears. After placing racks in two baking sheets with raised sides, she laid out the bacon. She slid the pan into the lower door of their two-door convection oven.
“Yay!” April gave Renee a side hug and bounced up and down a little. Pooh Bear and Roo, feeling the excitement, began yapping playfully. They grabbed up their dogs, hurried to the living area, and began dancing to the music. Pooh Bear and Roo wagged their tails, Renee’s dog giving her a wet kiss on the nose. She laughed lightheartedly, happiness bubbling up inside.
After removing the bacon a few moments later, Renee helped her mother lower the rack in the bottom oven to make room for the turkey. Just as they slid the door closed, the timer on the top oven beeped in their ears. Renee opened the door and pulled out the coffee cake.
“Wow, just on time.” Dad beamed. “I just finished the eggs.”
“You are right on.” George laughed as he and Jay walked inside. He turned to Renee. “We took care of Cinnamon for you this morning. I figured you would want to help with breakfast.”
“Awe, you guys are the best.” April grinned as Renee grabbed her brothers in a group hug.
“Alright! Where is Bobby?” Dad placed the steaming bowl of eggs on the dining room table.
“I’ll find him.” George walked out. Both boys soon entered the dining room just as everyone was pulling out their chairs. They all took their seats. Renee felt immense joy as they grasped each other’s hands and bowed their head for prayer. Once Dad said “Amen”, chatter broke out as they dug into the food.
Carol and Edward arrived around noon. Renee hurried to the door to greet them and took Anne in her arms. The baby was growing fast. She was already eight months old. She could eat some soft, light foods already. She carried Anne to the living area where she had set up some soft-sided blocks and plastic jingle bells on the floor. She was going to take care of her sister’s baby for a little while so Carol could help Mama and April in the kitchen. She set the little girl down on the soft, clean rug. Anne could not crawl yet, but she could sit up and scoot herself across the rug. Renee got down on the floor with her and rolled one of the jingle-bell balls over to her. Anne squealed with delight! She bounced up and down on the floor and grasped the ball. She jerkily shook it twice and then tried to stick it in her mouth. But it was way too big to fit. Renee half-listened to her mom and sister’s conversation while she kept track of the baby.
“I can’t believe you guys are going to have another baby already!” Mama was saying. Renee was surprised. That was the first she had heard of it.
“Yeah, we find out the gender just before Christmas.” Carol sounded ecstatic. “We’re planning on announcing it at dinner on Christmas.”
“That’s amazing!” Renee glanced over to the kitchen, and then quickly returned her attention to the baby. She was excited for her sister and brother-in-law. Children were a blessing from the Lord. She grabbed a couple of the fabric blocks and began stacking them against each other to form a wall. Anne grinned and swiped at them with her hand. She knocked down a portion of the “wall” and laughed maniacally. Renee grinned. She continued playing with the baby for a while before the little one started wiping her face with her hands. The blonde young woman grabbed the soft blanket from the couch, swept up the baby, and eased into the rocking chair near the fireplace. She turned on some gentle, classical music on the sound system, using the Bluetooth on her phone. Anne snuggled under the blanket, laying her head just under Renee’s chin. Renee loved children. She hugged the baby close and rocked gently.
“You are so good with her.” Mama wiped her hands on her apron as Renee entered the kitchen. She had just laid the sleeping baby in her crib in her parents’ room.
“I just try my best.” Renee smiled modestly as she clicked on the baby monitor. “Where’s Dad, Jay, George, Bobby, and Edward?”
“They’re target shooting at the range.” April looked up from checking the turkey. Renee glanced at her watch.
“They better get back soon. Aren’t we eating in about an hour, around five?” She began peeling potatoes over the trash can.
“That’s what we’re aiming for.” Carol slid a Dutch apple pie, a pumpkin pie, and a mincemeat pie onto the middle rack in the top door of the convection oven. Mama slid the sweet potato casserole with crumb topping on the bottom rack before Carol closed the door. Thirty minutes passed and the five male family members entered through the garage door.
“There they are.” April turned the heat down on the potatoes so they wouldn’t boil over.
“Oh, yeah.” Dad swept into the kitchen and kissed Mama. “Can’t go without me making my famous stuffing.” He grabbed the gluten free bread from the counter and began cutting it up into cubes. He then tossed it together with celery, butter, onions, herbs, salt and pepper, and his special ingredients, chopped apples and dried cranberries.
About an hour later, they all sat down at the dining room table. Renee had set out the delicate china and glass goblets. Each year, the family took turns saying what they were thankful for. They went clockwise around the table. Dad started.
“I’m thankful for Just before Renee’s turn, small sounds started emanating from the baby monitor.
“That’s Anne.” Edward jumped up and hurried to retrieve his daughter.
“I’ll wait until he gets back.” Renee grinned. Only a moment later, he returned with the baby.
“I’m thankful for our magnificent Lord and my little niece.” She wiggled her fingers at Anne. She smiled groggily. The thanks kept going around the table until everyone was finished. Then they dug into the food. Renee piled the food onto her plate. Mmm! Anne echoed her sentiments as Carol spooned some mashed potatoes into the baby’s mouth. Silent filled the air as everyone was busy eating. Renee couldn’t help thinking about what it might be like next year if David was still a part of her life. Maybe they would be close to engagement by then. No, don’t think that far yet. You’re still working on the “friends” part. She returned her thoughts to the meal. Renee pushed the remains of her gluten-free roll around in the leftover gravy on her plate and popped it into her mouth. She was stuffed.
The family gathered in the living area and lounged on the furniture. Bobby pulled open the cabinet on one side of the fireplace and grabbed a small controller. The fifty-inch TV above the fireplace came to life with a press of a button.
“Hey, Renee! I’ll beat you at Mario Kart!” He grinned and chucked one of the Wii remotes into her lap.
“Oh, yeah?” She plopped down next to him. “Just watch and eat my dust!” The game started and they both focused on the screen. After jostling around the other vehicles, Renee and Bobby passed first place back and forth like hot potatoes. At the end of the race, Renee’s agile bike zipped ahead of her brother’s cart and passed the finish line first.
“Aha! Still got it!” She gave Bobby a high-five.
“Let’s go again!” Bobby bounced on the couch eagerly. He chose another track and they raced again. Bobby won that time. They played for almost an hour before Mama called out that she was going to cut the pies.
Renee savored the last bite of gluten-free apple crumb pie and licked a little swab of whipped cream off her finger. This Thanksgiving had been great. Tuesday couldn’t come fast enough.
After giving April one last hug, Renee watched as the silver vehicle pulled out and drove away.
“Alright. Let’s go!” She called out to her parents. They walked into the garage to Dad’s vehicle and climbed in. Butterflies settled into Renee’s stomach as they drove towards Casnovia. The brown scenery whizzed past the window. Snow had yet to fall this year. She hoped they would get some in time for Christmas. Soon, they passed signs for the town and they took the instructed exit off the freeway. The little town came into site. The coffee shop was just off the right of the main street. Dad rolled into the parking lot and Renee scanned for David’s vehicle. David had messaged her a little before they left that he was driving a gray Subaru Forrester. There was not a single vehicle bearing that description in any of the spots. After parking, Renee and her parents approached the glass doors and entered the coffee shop.
“Dad and I are going to go ahead and order some drinks for us.” Mama and Dad approached the counter. Renee hovered by the window, watching for David. Soon, the vehicle bearing the right description pulled in and parked. Renee exited the coffee shop and went to meet David at the car while her parents watched from the window.
The door opened and the young man slid his lanky legs out from the car and stood. He wore jeans and a heavy work coat. His blue eyes looked kindly down at her from under his wide-brimmed cowboy hat. Renee smiled.
“Hey.” She felt a little bit shy, even though she had been talking with him online for a while.
“Hi.” He smiled back. Renee felt happiness brimming inside her. They entered the coffee shop.
“Do you like coffee?” He asked. Renee stood next to him at the counter.
“Not really, but I like hot chocolate.” She replied.
“I don’t care for coffee either. Dark chocolate is way better.” He turned to the cashier and placed his order. Then she ordered. After grabbing their steaming cups, they joined Renee’s parents at a table near the window.
David and Renee’s parents did most of the talking, though Renee participated as well. She often did not talk much the first time she met someone face-to-face. She observed how he responded to her parents. She was quite pleased with his respectfulness.
“So, if you had to choose between them, would you pick horses or dogs?” Mama queried.
“Horses, no question.” David leaned his red and black flannel-clad lanky body against the metal back, his long legs tucked under his chair.
“I’ve always loved horses.” Renee smiled wider.
“Me too.” He rested his eyes on her face, then turned to Dad to ask him another question. They sat talking for a long while. Darkness soon resided outside the window.
“Wow, we’ve been here a long time.” Mama exclaimed.
“We’ve really enjoyed getting to know you better.” Dad shook David’s hand as they stood. The four continued conversing as they grabbed their coats and left the building.
“Would you like to meet up again sometime next week?” David turned to Renee. She nodded.
“Yes, I would!” She pushed the last button through the hole on her coat. David grinned.
“Alright, we’ll figure out when and where sometime in the next few days.” He headed towards his car. “I enjoyed meeting you.” He called over his shoulder. She grinned. “Me too!” She called back to him.
© 2020 Tori Leumas