Nathan’s third-grade teacher said Thanksgiving was about being thankful for blessings. She said blessings are the good things in life and after explaining, assigned the class to write about what Thanksgiving means.
He didn’t think he had much to write. Classmates made fun of his grass stained jeans and old style shirts. They laughed at his shoes, hair, and small size. One boy said his Mom didn’t love him because she was never around. The fact was, Nathan hadn’t seen his mother in four years and the boy might be right.
That night Nathan lay on his bed, looking at a blank sheet of paper. He chewed his pencil while his mind wandered
After a while he wrote, “On Thanksgiving we watch football. I like football. Dad likes the Chicago Bears.”
Nathan remembered last year’s Thanksgiving game. His dad sat on the couch next to him with a large bowl of potato chips in his lap. There were two mugs of frothy root beer on the coffee table. Every time the Bears made a first down, they’d grab their mugs and cheer, “I’ll drink to that!” and clink their mugs together. This always made Nathan giggle since he felt grown up like Dad.
Thinking about last year’s Thanksgiving brought another memory. Nathan’s dad took him to his grandparent’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. It was supposed to be a happy visit. Instead it degenerated into a four hour lecture about why his Dad hadn’t found a wife. His grandmother said “I told you” more times than Nathan could count. Grandma recalled she’d warned that girl wasn’t good for Dad. She reminded him how that woman had hurt Dad, leaving with his money and with no mother for his son.
Nathan sat at his place at the table, quietly munching turkey and eager for grandma’s pumpkin pie with homemade ginger ice cream.
Nathan wrote, “We have turkey and pumpkin pie and homemade ice cream on Thanksgiving.”
He tapped his chin with the pencil’s eraser. This was hard. He enjoyed watching football with Dad, but that wasn’t only on Thanksgiving. They did this every time Dad could be home to watch a game. Only the root beer and potato chips were extra.
Writing some more, Nathan continued, “On Thanksgiving Dad doesn’t mind if I don’t make my bed. I can read comic books and draw. Sometimes Dad draws with me. I like that.”
Dad recently got a girlfriend and they included Nathan in their activities. Money was tight so for the past three months they’d done things that didn’t cost much. They’d gone fishing, bowling and watched children’s videos. Dad’s girlfriend made Nathan laugh and even taught him how to play Uno. Her name was Becky and Nathan was about to add her to the Thanksgiving list when the front door opened.
Nathan jumped from his bed and clambered into the front room where his dad and Becky had just come in. The two took off their rain soaked coats and then his dad paid the babysitter, who left for her own apartment in the same building. They hugged Nathan and asked how his homework was coming along.
“You smell like water!” Nathan said.
Even though they laughed, Nathan could tell something serious was happening. Their eyes were watching him closely as though they were trying to read his mood. Uneasy silence filled the room as Dad and Becky looked nervously at each other.
Nathan felt the tension.
Finally Dad squatted and said, “Son, Becky has something she needs to talk to you about. It’s very important.”
Dad went and busied himself in the kitchen. Becky took Nathan’s hand and led him to the couch.
Nathan studied her expression. Her eyes were anxious and moist. She chewed her bottom lip while thinking of how to start. “Nathan,” Becky softly said, “I want you to know I love your father very, very much.”
Nathan didn’t understand why she’d tell him this and his insecurities surfaced. With wide eyes Nathan blurted, “Are you going away?”
She started to say something, stopped and then looked down, catching an errant tear with a finger. Finally she whispered, “Do you want me to go away?”
“No. Who would play cards with me?”
Becky smiled a little. “Nathan” she began again, paused to breathe deep, and then continued, “Do you know I’ve grown to love you, too?”
“I guess so.”
More silence. Becky cleared her throat while staring at the floor. Finally she looked Nathan in the eyes. “Tonight your dad asked me to marry him.”
Nathan didn’t know how to respond.
“But he said you have to be OK with it first.”
“Because if I marry your dad, that would make me your mom.”
“Really? You can do that?”
“I want to be your mom, Nathan, if you want that, too.”
“Then marry Dad! Marry him right now!”
Becky laughed, “We can’t right now. We have to plan everything. But we’ll do it if you really want it.”
“Come on, let’s tell Dad!” He said, tugging her off the couch.
He pulled her into the kitchen. “Dad! Becky wants to be my mom!”
Nathan’s dad looked up from the counter and, always the kidder, said, “Does she?”
Nathan nodded and answered, “Uh huh! She says if you marry her, she’ll be my mom!’
His dad glanced at Becky, who was letting her tears flow, and winked at her. “So this is OK with you, son?”
“Yes!” Nathan said with a jump.
Nathan’s dad smiled like a little boy, put his arm around Becky’s shoulders and told her, ‘Looks like you’re in the family.”
After Nathan and his dad returned from driving Becky home, Nathan added to his homework, “Thanksgiving means I have a mom.”