Today we American’s join together to celebrate one of the biggest non religious Holiday’s of the year – Thanksgiving. Filled with tradition, family, friends, food, football and parades. We gather with intentions of sharing all of the good we find in our lives, to give Thanks for our freedom, our bounty of food, those we love and those we have loved and lost. It is centered around the meal and the collection of those people who are important in our lives. Some Thanksgivings are memorable, some are not. Some are filled with laughter and joy, some are just another Thanksgiving. Some you never forget.
There is one Thanksgiving forever etched in my heart. It was about 1967 and I think I was about 11 years old. It was the first Thanksgiving without my dad and our “happy” family. My parents had split that summer, my mom packing all five of her daughters in the car in the middle of the night after another battle with my dad. We spent the rest of the summer being split up and staying with relatives until mom could find a place for us to live together, near our schools and the town we knew. When she found the place that was just barely in her financial reach, she moved us all in together and there we attempted to regain a sense of family. My four sisters, mother and me. It was tough for all of us. We had been given donated furniture and beds. Sheets and blankets on the windows. My mother applied for and was denied Food Stamps. She wasn’t around much, for good reason, she was always working, pulling extra hours, tables, whatever she could do. Food was scarce, clothes were washed almost daily because we didn’t have enough. We all tried as best we could to adjust to the big changes that my parents difficult marriage had inflicted on our lives. It included a major disconnect with both sides of the family. No one wanted us. My dad’s side hated my mother, my mom’s side was mad at her for leaving. Neither side offered us anything, we were on our own. Aunts, Uncles, cousins and grandparents carried on, without us.
I remember one Saturday I was really hungry and was rummaging through the kitchen looking for something…anything to eat. There was a box of Bisquick, Orange juice, sugar and I got to thinking maybe I could make something out of that stuff. So, I went to work reading the directions and replacing ingredients. I came up with orange biscuits covered in sugar! Of course memory tells me they were delicious but honestly, I do question that now. Anyway, that’s how we lived and somehow, I for one, didn’t really like or dislike it. It was sort of adventure, a surprise and my earliest recollection of how resourceful I am. Forever being the one to think out side of the box.
But Thanksgiving was just around the corner, all of my school projects told me so. Teachers all a chatter about the history of Thanksgiving, cut out leaves, turkey’s, pilgrims, pumpkins, squash plastered all over the school. I wondered where we were going for our Thanksgiving Dinner and asked my oldest sister. Her answer crushed me ” we are staying here because neither side of the family wants us to come.” I wanted to see my cousins, I wanted to laugh and play with them, I wanted to sit with them at dinner. Then the realization; what were we going to eat? Mom barely had enough to make the rent, surely there wasn’t enough money for a Turkey Dinner.
It was the night before Thanksgiving and I was alone with my two younger sisters while my two older sisters and mother were off somewhere that I don’t recall now. A knock at the door, a big booming knock. I was surprised and scared, who could be knocking at our door? Was it my dad? Did he come to see us? Suddenly I was excited at that possibility. Peeking through the blanket covering the living room window I saw two men holding boxes. Asking who they were through the door, they replied with their first names only. Knowing full well I shouldn’t, I did, open the door. Both men stood there still holding the boxes for a moment and then one of them said ” we brought these boxes for you “. I didn’t get it at first, then the other man tilted his box so I could see inside. It was a Turkey! My eyes gave away my shock and surprise, they both smiled and the other box was tilted to show me its contents, Stuffing, Squash, Gravy, Cranberry Sauce, Beans and PIE!!! One more box brought milk, juice, fruit and cookies. I allowed them to enter our meager living room and set the boxes on the sofa. They said to have a great Thanksgiving and left.
I distinctly remember going through those boxes, the abundance of food was amazing to me! Who were those men? Why did they bring us all of this food? But we had food! We had Thanksgiving Dinner delivered to our door. I was in shock, I was giddy and I called my mother at work to tell her the wonderful news! After getting yelled at for calling her at work and especially for opening the door to strangers AND letting them in the house, she calmed down and got really quiet when I told her my tale of the two men with boxes.
I honestly don’t remember even eating that Thanksgiving Day dinner. I do remember the men and the boxes of food. For years I wondered, every Thanksgiving Day, who those men were. I’ve always kept it to myself because it was such a hard and difficult time in our lives and I’ve never wanted to remind my mother or sisters of the hardship and sacrifices we endured.
A few years ago I got the courage to ask my mother who those men were. I knew she knew them but never knew HOW she knew them. Turns out that the restaurant she worked in was the place that these two men would, for years, take their dinner break from cruising the beat as Police Officers. They were “regulars” at her counter, they saw the bruises my father had gifted her, they watched her struggle and fight to stay afloat with five daughters alone on waitress pay. These two men, Police, were witness to my mother’s life struggle of being a single parent in the days when it wasn’t as common as it is today.
I will forever be grateful and Thankful for those two Police Officers. Not only did they purchase Thanksgiving Dinner for a woman and 5 children out of their own pockets, they made a forever impression on a young girl about giving, sharing, kindness, compassion and the spirit of gratitude. I will never know or meet them but I will always remember them. Where ever they may be now, heaven or earth, I thank them with all of my heart and soul. My Thanksgiving Police.