The doorbell rang at three. Prompt as ever, never fashionably late or irritatingly early, Mack and Ivy with their children stood on the front porch, father and son in formal suits, ties, chic dresses on both mother and daughter (not too revealing—almost churchgoing, Carole thought. Don’t they go to Christ The King every Sunday?). A woman with a dour expression, maybe a natural state, lips downturned, stood behind them. She was only a little bit taller than the two kids in her charge.
The rain had stopped earlier in the day, and a bit of sunshine was poking through the lessening cloud cover. A crisp chill was forecast for the next week, and that meant temperatures approaching freezing, maybe even a snowfall. The area received one giant winter storm each year, two if the residents were lucky.
“This is for you,” Mack said to Carole and Martin. He held out a wrapped rectangular box, the green paper dark like fir, a sparkling bronze ribbon tied around the gift. “Not from us. It was on your stoop when we arrived. We brought the wine!”
“And it’s getting awfully heavy,” Ivy said. She carried a brown bag in both arms.
“Worth the sacrifice, Honey. Two bottles of the best Pinot Noir, and two of the Chardonnay Ivy can’t seem to live without.”
“Come in, come in,” Carole said, brightening her expression after being nudged in the back by Martin. She took the gift box and noticed a small card attached, the size of a florist’s greeting, in an envelope. “How mysterious!”
She gave Ivy an air kiss.
“Kids?” Mack said with theatrical sternness.
“Hello and Happy Thanksgiving Mr. and Mrs. Belloon!” Both Chelsea and Parker chanted this at the same time, sing-song, and smiled at Martin and Carole.
“Happy Thanksgiving to you both. My that’s a pretty dress, Chelsea,” Martin said.
“And you look quite handsome, Parker,” Carole added. “Our home is your home.”
“Don’t give them that much leeway,” Mack said. “Most of the time they’ll be into something mischievous before you know it. Kids. Remember what we talked about?”
“Be thankful.” Both kids raced into the house, gravitating to the room where the television was on playing the football game. The sound of football changed to laughter and then canned, tinny, cartoon shrieking echoed forth.
“I told them they could finish watching the parade. Sorry,” Ivy said. She certainly didn’t sound apologetic. She didn’t make eye contact with her hosts. “Theresa, would you please keep an eye on them and warn both that the adults may be in shortly to watch the football game. No talking back either.”
“Yes, Mrs. Ivy. Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for including me. It smells wonderful in your home.”
“You’re very welcome,” Carole said. “I only hope it’s as delicious. Let me take your coats.”
With the box almost forgotten in her hands, Carole gathered the coats and Ivy’s purse and took them to the guest bedroom off the living room where she deposited everything on the bed. The box felt light. A box of feathers, Carole thought. More bird imagery flew into her head. She took the card out of the envelope and read the printed words. The script was fine, distinctive, beautifully wrought cursive.
Open after grace when all penitents participate—the thankful will be chosen—a gift given!