Thanksgiving’s changes

Thanksgiving remains visible in my rear-view mirror, tempting this account of a most unusual and memorable experience.

Betsy awoke feeling ill on the morning of the big day, which meant that we had to cancel a planned trip to Charlotte to share dinner and overnight stay with Katie, our eldest daughter, and her family. Would Betsy recover in time for us to make the trip the next day to gather with all three daughters and their families for our annual gift exchange?

Shortly before noon, I decided that sick or not, soup and toast would not do for our Thanksgiving dinner and made my way to our friendly local cafeteria, expecting to order some turkey and trimmings at the takeout window. I was in for a surprise. The parking lot was full, and a line snaked out the door. Inside, hungry people filled the place, slowly winding their way through an endless queue of humanity reminiscent of a busy weekend at Disney World.

I hurried to the second entrance, which leads to a small anteroom and a counter where one may order food to take out. The tiny space was filled with grim-faced customers who pointed me into the larger adjacent room and a line of at least 40 or so other take-out customers. I joined it at its end, grateful to be wearing comfortable shoes.

My one hour and 50 minute wait for my turn to place my modest order offered me a microcosmic picture of my town in all its diversity, ethnic and otherwise. With the image of Norman Rockwell’s family gathered around a table laden with a bountiful meal in my head, I pondered the various reasons so many people might choose instead to celebrate this special day at the local cafeteria rather than at home. Lonely or unattached people, I can understand. What of all the others?

Up ahead in the distance, I could see take-out customers leaving bearing huge quantities of food, numerous plastic bags whose contents looked as if they could feed a neighborhood, let alone a family. They were heading to home, presumably.

So was I. Betsy was able to come to the table later that evening for a warmed-over turkey dinner at our family table. And together we gave thanks. Next morning, we drove to Charlotte.

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