The house was filled with the aroma of roasting turkey. Every burner on the stove was covered with a bubbling, simmering pot. Pumpkin and mincemeat pies were cooling on the countertop, covered with light tea towels. The table was set for one.
She was miles away from her family and friends, in a country that didn’t share the significance of the fourth Thursday in November. Her acquaintances thought of turkey and mincemeat as Christmas foods, and pumpkin pie was exotic. The few people that she’d mentioned her cooking plans to had looked at her oddly. She’d had to order some of the ingredients online.
The phone rang. It was her mother. She put on a bright, cheery voice, detailing the meal she was making and omitting the number of people she was expecting to come. Her mother shared the same details, but rattled off a list of aunts, uncles, cousins, and neighbors that would be stopping by. “We’ll miss you!” her mother trilled. “I’d better let you get back to it.”
Against her will, she felt her eyes well up with tears. She blinked them back angrily. She would not give into this. It was not a mistake to come here. She would prove them all wrong. She had created a new life for herself here, one where she was a capable adult. An adult who could make her own Thanksgiving dinner.
Besides, everyone knew that the leftovers were the best part anyway.
The doorbell rang. She left the kitchen to answer it. Standing outside her door were the three co-workers that she’d told about the dinner. They were each holding a bag. “Are you going to let us in?” they demanded. Puzzled, she stood aside and they swarmed into the apartment.
“You pre-empted us,” one of them said, laughing. “We’ve been planning this for weeks.”
“We even ordered some of the ingredients online,” said another. “Do you know how hard it is to find canned pumpkin over here?”
“So imagine how we felt when you said you were cooking a Thanksgiving dinner,” the third said. “You totally ruined our surprise for you!”
“Don’t say ruined,” the first one chastised. “We just had to change it a little bit. I hope this is okay,” she said. “We brought extra so that you can still have as many leftovers as you want.”
“I don’t know what to say,” she said. “I had no idea you guys were even thinking about this.”
“That means it worked!” said the second one gleefully. “Look in the bags, see what we brought.”
“We even brought extra dishes and cutlery, just in case,” added the third. “We didn’t know what you already had, and it’s not like we could have asked.”
“Let us take over from here,” the second one said. “You must be exhausted. It’s not like today was a day off for you, and just look at everything on the stove.”
The first co-worker was already pulling out orange and red decorations, tossing them around the table. “I’m so glad we timed it right. We were afraid that you would have finished already by the time we got here.”
“No, you timed it perfectly,” she said honestly. “The turkey only needs another ten minutes or so.”
“Good, then that’s the perfect amount of time to start on the wine,” the third one proclaimed, pulling a bottle of champagne out of the bags. She popped the cork and poured four glasses. “Here’s to new traditions – even if next year it won’t be a surprise.”
“Here’s to new lives and new friends,” the second one said. “May they continue long.”
“Here’s to the surprise actually working!” said the first.
“Here’s to all of us,” she said quietly. “Here’s to my first new Thanksgiving.”