After the teacher dismissed the class, Karen gathered up her books. She smiled at Sue across the aisle and said, “Thanksgiving vacation is finally here.”
Sue frowned. “I suppose everyone’s thankful for a vacation from school.”
Karen laughed. “I’m thankful, and I’m looking forward to a great holiday.”
As they left school, Karen said, “I can hardly wait for tomorrow. My grandparents and Aunt Emily and Uncle Joe’s family are coming. And my cousin Marilyn gets to stay until Sunday.”
Sue glanced at her soberly. “You’ll sure be busy all weekend.”
“I’ll say. Marilyn’s a lot of fun. It’s great to have a girl cousin my age.”
“I wish I had a cousin any age,” Sue said.
“Our family gets together every Thanksgiving—” Karen stopped, suddenly realizing Sue wasn’t excited at all about the holiday. “What are you doing tomorrow?” she asked cautiously.
“Does your mother have to work on Thanksgiving Day?” Karen asked.
“Uh-huh. Thanksgiving is a very busy day at most restaurants.”
“Oh,” said Karen, “then where will you be having Thanksgiving dinner?”
“I’ll eat at the restaurant with Mom when her shift ends.”
Karen was silent. She felt almost guilty for the busy, fun-packed Thanksgiving holiday she was expecting to have, while Sue would have to spend most of the day alone. But telling Sue she was sorry would probably make her friend feel worse, she decided. When they paused in front of Sue’s house, Karen just smiled and said, “Happy Thanksgiving.”
Sue tried to smile. “The same to you,” she mumbled and hurried up the walk.
As Karen hurried on home, a sadness came over her. Sue’s already lonely, she thought. Maybe I should have just said, “See you Monday.” But lots of people have to work on Thanksgiving—doctors, nurses, bus drivers, firemen, policemen, cooks, waitresses. Maybe Sue’s used to being alone on Thanksgiving.
“I’m glad you’re home, Karen,” Mother greeted her. “Will you get out our best silver and polish and wash it for tomorrow?”
“Ummmmm!” Karen paused to savor the aroma. “The smell of mince pies baking makes me hungry.”
By the time she had finished the silver, Mother had a pie ready for her to take to the Carvers. Karen felt content as she carried the warm pie to the elderly couple who lived on the corner.
“Happy Thanksgiving from our family,” Karen greeted Mrs. Carver.
“A home-baked pie!” Mrs. Carver exclaimed, her face glowing. “Thank you so much. Being remembered makes Thanksgiving very special.”
“Do I smell mince pie?” Mr. Carver asked, getting up from his chair.
Karen smiled. “Hot from the oven.”
“Warm mince pie’s my favorite.” Mr. Carver’s eyes twinkled. “If you don’t mind, I’ll have a piece right now.”
As Karen left the Carvers, she thought about what Mrs. Carver had said about being remembered. Then she thought of Sue.
When she arrived home, holiday preparations again dominated her thoughts. And by the time she’d straightened her dresser and made room in her closet for Marilyn’s clothes, she was almost too tired to think. “I can hardly wait for morning, though,” she told her reflection in the mirror just before she said her prayers and crawled into bed. “Marilyn will be here for the whole weekend!”
But with the lights out, Sue’s loneliness again intruded into Karen’s thoughts. “I wish I could give her a happy Thanksgiving,” she murmured to herself, her troubled thoughts keeping her awake. Somehow, such a wish seemed like asking Heavenly Father to help the poor while selfishly refusing to help them yourself. Then, smiling suddenly to herself, Karen turned on her lamp and set her alarm.
Karen was already in the kitchen the next morning when Mother got up.
“Karen!” Mother said, looking surprised. “Are you up early to help me stuff the turkey?”
“Whatever you want me to do,” Karen replied. “But I’ll need some time off this morning.”
“Time off? On Thanksgiving?”
Karen told her mother about Sue and about the plan she’d made last night.
Mother gave Karen a big hug. “I think your plan will make Thanksgiving more meaningful for all of us.”
Karen telephoned Sue’s mother and told her about the plan.
“Thanks so much, Karen,” responded Mrs. Anderson. “You have no idea what it means to me to know that Sue won’t be spending most of Thanksgiving alone.”
As soon as breakfast was over and Karen had the dishes washed, she put on her coat.
“With all the work to do around here,” her brother Bill protested, “where are you going?”
Karen grinned. “I’m going after an extra pair of hands.”
Karen rang the bell three times before Sue, still in her bathrobe, answered the door.
“Aren’t you ready?” Karen asked.
“Thank you for your invitation, Karen, but I couldn’t intrude on your family, especially on Thanksgiving.”
“You’re my friend. You won’t be intruding.”
“Thanksgiving is a family day,” Sue insisted.
“On the first Thanksgiving, the Indians weren’t members of the Pilgrims’ families,” Karen pointed out. “Thanksgiving is a day of friendliness and thankfulness.”
“Maybe it was—a long time ago,” Sue said. “But holidays change like everything else. Besides, your cousin’s coming.”
“Marilyn is my friend as well as my cousin. You two will like each other.”
“You haven’t planned for me.”
“When there are sixteen people, there’s always room for one more.” With a mischievous twinkle in her eye, Karen looked as grim as she could as she added, “I should warn you, though, we’ve been assigned the dishwashing detail.”
Sue laughed at that, relaxing a little. “Sounds more fun than frightening.”
“After the last dish is done and put away, you and Marilyn and I can plan what to do Friday and Saturday—that is, if we have any strength left.”
Sue’s eyes began to sparkle. “Don’t make it sound so gruesome. You know you’ll love every minute of it.”
“Only if you’re helping,” Karen said. “Knowing you were here alone would spoil my day.”
Sue’s enthusiasm suddenly evaporated. “But I forgot—I want to be with Mom today too. She only has a short time when we can celebrate Thanksgiving together.”
“We’re eating at noon. You’ll be ready to eat again by the time your mother gets off work.”
Excitement danced again in Sue’s eyes. “I’ll be ready in a wink.”
“Good,” Karen said. “I promised my brother I’d bring back an extra pair of helping hands.”