Standing out in the bitter cold looking in, the little orphan boy longed for a place to call home, for a family to love him, for a mommy to cuddle him, and a daddy to tuck him into bed at night. But, there he stood, in the sleeting rain, shivering and all alone, peering in through the low set window, hiding from view, not wanting to be seen. His Thanksgiving dream from that old broken wishbone he had found near the enormous garbage bins last year, was to know what it would feel like to belong. His wish came true as he peeked over the window ledge, into a merry home bustling with energy.
It appeared to the boy that everyone was having a marvelous time, soft music playing, voices carrying on conversation, the laughter of children could be heard, a fluffy cat curled up near the hearth, a golden retriever lingering at the feet of the older man lounged in the recliner, waiting to be noticed, to be scratched around her soft ears. His eyes met those of the beautiful dog just for a moment and then wander over to a massive table spread with the finest foods. His mouth beginning to water at the site of the exorbitant dishes, imagining the taste of just one small bite of that juicy, delicious drumstick.
The evening began with a toast, as the older man stood up from his comfortable position, held up a glass of sparkling champagne, and shared a message of hope, of thanksgiving, of love to all in the room. A toast to times past, a toast to the present moment of the gathering of family and friends, and a toast to all that yet lies ahead. The elderly man continued his speech, reminding all that there is so much to be thankful for every single day. As we celebrate the life we have been given with those we love, great fellowship, and wonderful home cooked food. In unison, with raised glasses, each shouted out a hearty “Amen!” drawing the fluted glass to their lips, allowing the coolness of the fizzy champagne to trickle down their throat.
Each year we all stop to take time out of our busy lives and celebrate our families. Gathering together in a cozy home, the fire place all aglow, amazing aromas filling the air as we unite around a table spread with oven roasted plump turkey, seasoned stuffing, creamy mashed potatoes, the perfect giblet gravy, golden yams smothered in melted butter, dark brown sugar, with toasted marshmallows. A bowl full of bright holiday cranberry sauce garnished with orange zest. The freshest, crisp green salad with a raspberry vinaigrette. Golden bread rolls steaming as they are sliced open and filled with whipped honey-butter. And the favorite among the children – deviled eggs with a dash of paprika. Another table boasting the finest wines, rich creamy egg nog with a sprinkle of nutmeg and a shot of rum, a punch bowl filled with a mixture of cran-apple and orange juices mixed with sprite and adorned with sliced oranges, cinnamon sticks, and chilled in ice.
When we have had our fill and couldn’t possibly take one more delicious bite, grandmother replaces the dishes set out for our incredible feast with delectable pies. There is Father’s famous chocolate bourbon pecan pie, grandmother’s old fashioned pumpkin pie, Auntie’s hot cinnamon apple pie, a cream cheese filled pumpkin roll sprinkled with powdered sugar, a bowl piled high with vanilla whipping cream to garnish every serving. And if that were not enough, more wine and eggnog are passed around, the music and merriment continue as games are played, conversations continued, laughter filling the air. Every belly full and content, every heart hugged in love, joy in the brightness of every eye.
The ragged little orphan boy, his wish granted, a memory to take back to the streets. A memory to carry him through as he endures yet another year alone under the stars. Scavenging for food from the streets, taking hand outs, reaching into bins for any crumb thrown out by a passerby. But, content he is, knowing no other life. As he turns around hearing the soft padding of feet following him, he recognizes the beautiful golden retriever from his view through the frosted window that Thanksgiving night. The little orphan boy smiles like he has never smiled before, his heart skipping a beat, tears fiercely pouring down his weathered cheeks, he wraps his arms tightly around the neck of the warm creature. He leans in as the animal sits down, the boy kneeling, their eyes meet.
Is this what it feels like to belong, to be loved, to feel love for another, to matter? The dog nudged the little boy back up to his feet. Turning around, the dog began to walk away, the boy frozen to his spot on the snowy sidewalk. Tears sliding off his chin, wiped away by a mitted hand. The dog peered back at the child, encouraging him to follow with one look from her eyes. The boy began to slowly move forward, unsure of venturing further, but longing for the warmth and love of this creature. The dog walked on, the boy trailing behind, timid, afraid of the unknown.
At last, they reached the front steps of that beautiful home, a Christmas wreath decorating the bright red door, carols filling the air, Christmas lights softly twinkling in the darkness of night. A gentle bark from the golden retriever and the front door was promptly opened, the warmth and smells of fresh baked sugar cookies wafting out the door. The generous smile across the face of a beautiful little girl greeted him. Her hair tied up in a big red bow, a smudge of frosting on her cheek. She reached out with the tenderness of soft fingers to grasp the ragged, mitted hand of the little orphan boy and pull him in.