It was my young teenage happy secret. I didn’t want anyone to know it because I didn’t want anyone to make fun of me, or laugh, or worse, to not understand. My secret was this: Thanksgiving was my most favorite day of the year, the day I looked forward to more than the last day of school, or Christmas or even my birthday. I held the secret close to my young heart and smiled at it all through November.
I was too thin and too tall for my age, and I wore wire-framed glasses. The boys called me "four eyes toothpick." But I had one good quality. My hair. It was brown and thick and I found a way to make it curl softly. So the night before Thanksgiving I rolled it into seven socks, then went to the family bathroom, locked the door and poured a glassful of water over my head.
I locked the door because my dad had come upon me doing this thing with the water, and it had enraged him so that he carried on, “What are you doing? Don’t ever let me see you doing such a fool stunt like that again. Going to bed with wet hair, you’ll catch pneumonia.” I had so much to lose when he made this pronouncement that I did the most singularly dishonest thing I had ever done in my life. I said, “OK.” He would never understand, or care or listen that I had to pour the water on my hair so it would curl and look pretty. From then on I locked the door.
I woke up on Thanksgiving morning tingling with private happiness. I had one skirt and sweater and they were clean and ready at 2 when my parents, brother and sister and I crowded into my father’s Nash and left for Thanksgiving.
There were three other families who rotated with my family hosting the celebration. Those three families were friendly and kind. “Come in, come in.” As soon as I could get away I slipped into the dining room to check out the seating. A table for the grown-ups, a smaller table for the younger children, and there in the corner a card table with three chairs. The chairs were for Maxine, a college girl, beautiful and gregarious, and Dick Sutton, a high school guy so good looking it was like gazing at a movie star. The third chair was for me. Me, who would be included in the conversation as if my input was important, as if I was one of them, as if I wasn’t a mere child. Maxine and Dick Sutton had no idea how much I revered them.
After dinner all the kids except my little brother were sent to the movies. The others received movie money from the dads. I held out my hand and my dad gave me a nickel and a dime. One of the other dads said, “Harry, give her more than that.” “No, that’s all she needs.” He didn’t need to know I had saved 12 cents on my own to go with it. I sat there in a grown-up movie with Maxine and Dick and shared Milk Duds.
After the movie one of the men brought us back for more turkey and dressing. Someone asked, “How was the movie?” “Good,” I said, although I had understood very little. Then it was time to say goodbye and get back in the Nash. I put my arm around my little brother while he slept, smiled at Seattle going by in the dark, smiled at my sister, but mostly I smiled at Thanksgiving.