Sunday, November 29, 2020

Rosemary for Remembrance

A short story by Mary M. Isaacs

She looked at her table, which she had just finished setting. The burgundy tablecloth was one of her best; there were matching burgundy candles in the crystal candlesticks. She had spent over an hour polishing the silver and washing the best china, after getting it down from the cupboard over the refrigerator. Now she straightened the silver at each place setting and made sure the water glasses had no spots. She wanted everything to look perfect tonight. The dining room had been cleaned and dusted earlier, the windows washed, and the chairs polished. It looked as lovely as she remembered from all Thanksgiving dinners past.

Suddenly the doorbell rang. She turned away from the table expectantly, whisking off her apron as she hurried to the door. She looked through the peephole and then opened the door with a welcoming smile. A man in uniform stood there, holding a small arrangement of flowers. “Holiday delivery for Andrews?” he asked.

“Yes, that’s me,” she said, looking at the flowers closely. Red and pink carnations were mixed with small tea roses, with fir, rosemary, and dried statice scattered throughout.

“Kind of an unusual combination, isn’t it?” the delivery man said. “But it looks pretty, and it sure does smell nice.”

“Thank you,” she smiled warmly as she took the arrangement from him. “Wait a minute…” and she picked up a twenty-dollar bill from the small table by the door and handed it to him.

He looked surprised. “Twenty bucks?” he asked, looking at her.

“It IS Thanksgiving Day,” she said. “I really appreciate your being able to deliver the flowers fresh today.”

“Well, thank you! And Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!” he said, smiling broadly, and then he turned to walk back to his van.

She closed the door while admiring the flowers. They were just right. Carrying them carefully to the dining room, she placed the arrangement in the exact center of the table. It went beautifully with the tablecloth and the candles in their holders. She knew she had chosen well, even though she had ordered them sight unseen.

All at once she remembered the food cooking. While putting her apron on again, she hurried out of the dining room and into the kitchen. Her track record for cooking turkeys was uneven at best, so for this special occasion she played it safe by ordering a fully cooked one. She had picked it up earlier at the grocery store, during its shortened hours, along with ready-made gravy from the deli.

She checked the potatoes on the stove and the sweet potatoes in the oven. The pie had been made the night before and was sitting on the sideboard, ready to be cut and served. The pouches of frozen petite peas were boiling away on the stove–everything was nearly ready. All she needed to do was pull it all together at the last minute…

* * * * *

At last everything was ready. She carried in the turkey, on its platter, and set it on the sideboard in the dining room. The bowls of mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and peas she set on the table, each with its own silver serving spoon. Cranberry jelly glowed in a cut glass dish. The gravy was in a small pitcher, ready to be poured out. Everything was in its place.

She hung up her apron behind the kitchen door, smoothed down the skirt of her best dress, and sat down at the table. After glancing at the empty armchair at the head of the table, she bowed her head and spoke her father’s favorite prayer aloud. In the silence that followed, she could almost hear her mother’s voice echoing the final “amen”.

As she sat alone at the table, she felt the memories of many Thanksgiving dinners wash over her. The smells were right, the food looked perfect, and the table decorations were as beautiful as ever her mother had arranged. The only difference was the flowers–and she had chosen those specifically for this day. Rosemary for remembrance…she thought. Other years would be different, but for this first Thanksgiving meal without her parents, she wanted to honor and remember her loved ones in her heart, by herself.

As she lifted her glass in thankfulness for their lives, and toasted her parents silently, she felt again the warmth of their love and affection for her; the close family circle that remained unbroken in her memory, even though they were no longer there.

That was something she would remember every day, not just at Thanksgiving.

Mary M. Isaacs — copyright, 2018

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