A Thankful Memory

The smell of pecan pie can drift through thin wooden walls, and even time it seems. I walk up the tired old steps and into the guestroom. It is empty, void of a large canopy bed, and two comfy couches. A single cardboard box rests on the floor, the last of what must have been a hundred. I pass by the box, and walk over to the window; now without curtains. Outside, uncut grass sways gently in the fall breeze; a once plentiful apple tree is going bare.


20 years ago, my brother and I hopped out of a Station Wagon, full of energy and excitement. Our cousins greet us with just as much vigor; smiles and pokes all around. My Grandfather’s yellow lab let’s go a few barks, in celebration of our arrival. Our parents hug their siblings, and say “How have you been?” We race into the kitchen where Grandma—who smells of cinnamon and apples— is waiting to hug me so tight that I can smell nothing else. Granddad picks me up, even though I am almost too big, and presses a new little pocket-knife into my hand, saying “I think you’re about old enough now, don’t you? Just don’t tell your mother or your brother.” I put the knife in my pocket, and grin to know it’s there. My brother, my cousins and I play pirates in the guestroom. Leaping from bed to couch to bed, waving our umbrellas and curtain rods like swords. I get to be Captain, because I’m the oldest of us. My little brother questions how eight is any better than seven, but rules are rules. It doesn’t take long for the delicious smell of food to call to us from downstairs. It’s amazing we got down so fast without breaking our necks.





I turn from the window, and pick up the cardboard box. There is no telling what it holds: nic-kacs, blankets, scrapbooks, pocket-knives? I close the guestroom door behind me as I leave and the steps creek and moan at every step I take.






We burst into the kitchen like a herd of buffalo. Our aunts, and our mothers, and our grandma too all look up from their cooking and preparation to shoo us away. “Dinner will be ready soon. No, you can’t have a cookie! Go play outside, we’ll call you when it’s done.” So we dig an old leather football out of the shed and toss it around to the best of our abilities; our hands are too small. The yellow lab barks and chases after us, playing tug-a-war with sticks. We run and shout and laugh, until my mother calls us in: “Dinner is ready, kids!”


I pass the kitchen, where I’m sure I smell perfectly cooked turkey, and I swear I hear my grandma voice, demanding I wash my hands before dinner. But everything is bare, no turkey in the over, no Indian salt and pepper shakers on the counter…no grandma.





The sound of a football game on the TV can be heard from the porch, along with the yells and boos and cheers of our fathers, uncles, and granddad. One of my aunts calls the men from their couches in the den, and Granddad shuts off the TV.




I walk into the dining room, one last time, and the aged oak table still remains, where nothing else does. I set the box on the table, and put my hands to the wood, I can still feel the heat of freshly cooked food, and the sunlight coming through the window.

We eat at the kids table over in the corner, I gobble down threes slices of turkey, one spoonful of dressing, and two buttered rolls, before I finally hear the magic words: “Who wants pie?” I have two slices, though my stomach can hold neither; a slice of pecan and a slice of apple. After dinner we stick around to watch the rest of the ball game; our home team wins. Then we go outside to say our goodbyes; everyone hugs. Grandma kisses my cheek, tells me to be good. Granddad whispers in my ear “Remember, our little secret.” I clutch the knife in my pocket. As my father drives away from that worn farmhouse— down the long dirt driveway, into the sunset— I see the shadows of my grandparents sitting on the porch-swing.

Now as I set the box in the trunk of my new ford truck, I pull out the Sold sign that I bought from the hardware store. The hammer slams into the spike with a muffled thump, until the sign is secure in the ground. I call my tired yellow lab over, he hops into the passenger seat. As I drive away I think of my grandparents, and this house, and the thanksgivings I’ll never have again; and in my review mirror I think I see two shadows sitting on the porch-swing, and I smell apple pie.





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