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It was two days before Thanksgiving, and Charlie was determined to make it a happy experience for her father. In Montana, she had always been the one to prepare the Thanksgiving meal, so it was no novelty to her to do all the work herself.

Before Chuck and Charlie's arrival, Vera and Jerome always spent Thanksgiving in a restaurant, for she was too preoccupied with Arnold's care to take out the needed time to prepare an extensive meal. This year, however, Vera looked forward to a genuine home-cooked Thanksgiving. She made a halfhearted offer to help Charlie, but Charlie insisted that she had everything under control. Besides, Maggie was there to help. Charlie omitted to tell her grandmother that Maggie was absolutely useless in the kitchen, but she didn't really want Vera's help. Charlie had done this by herself many times before, and was confident that she could do it again.

Charlie wrote out the menu and made a shopping list of the needed ingredients. Thanksgiving meal would include a twenty-two pound turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, baby carrots, broccoli and cheese casserole, baked beans the way her father liked them, baked macaroni and cheese, candied sweet potatoes, hot rolls, turkey gravy, pumpkin pie, apple pie, butter cookies, cheese ball with crackers and sliced sausage as an appetizer, iced tea, cranberry juice, and decaffeinated coffee. It was a lot for a fifteen year old to manage, but she had a schedule that had worked ever since she was old enough to cook.

Even though Charlie was an ardent vegetarian, Chuck had insisted that no matter what, they would always have a Thanksgiving turkey. Charlie agreed as long as it was a free range bird. It was the one meal in the entire year where she actually intended to eat meat. To make the meal even more special for Chuck, she was going to allow sliced sausage to go along with the cheese ball and crackers. For Charlie, it was a generous concession.

The pies, butter cookies, casseroles, stuffing, baked beans, and candied sweet potatoes, Charlie intended to prepare today and tomorrow, while the rest she would do Thanksgiving day.

Eager to take part in the preparations, Maggie followed Charlie to the supermarket as she did her Thanksgiving shopping. Maggie had never done a day's cooking in her life, so she watched Charlie with curiosity and excitement.

Vera was patiently waiting for the girls to return home from the supermarket so she could leave for the nursing home. Chuck was in his room, quietly reading his Bible, when Charlie and Maggie burst through the front door, their arms full of grocery bags. Both were chattering excitedly about turkey and and pumpkin pie, when they heard Chuck shout from his room,

"Charlie, could you and your friend hold it down a little?"

"Sure, Daddy!" shouted Charlie, putting the grocery bags on the kitchen table.

"I'm going to be at Mullen-Overholt, if you need me," said Vera, kissing Charlie on the cheek, and gathering her knitting bag as was her routine.

"See you later, Grandma," waved Charlie, as Vera went out the door.

"What are we going to bake first?" asked Maggie, excitedly tying on the apron her Mom had lent her.

"Well," replied the teenager, "let me check the schedule. Thanksgiving is the day after tomorrow, so we need to begin thawing the turkey right away. Thanksgiving morning, I'll have to get up early to start cooking it so it'll be ready by two o' clock."

"Two o' clock!" exclaimed Maggie. "You're going to eat that late?"

"Sure, why not?" asked Charlie. "It's tradition. Besides, it's such a large meal, that it takes a lot of time to prepare. Then everyone eats so much that you only need a small dinner."

"Oh," replied Maggie.

"Doesn't your family have Thanksgiving?" asked Charlie, readying the ingredients for the butter cookies.

"We used to," replied Maggie, "but Dad says there's no reason for it since Wayne's not home to enjoy it."

"That's too bad," replied Charlie, wondering if she should invite Maggie and her parents to share Thanksgiving with them. "Maggie, do you know why Thanksgiving is such a special day?" asked Charlie, measuring the ingredients into a large mixing bowl.

"Our pastor said it's because we're supposed to be thankful," said Maggie.

"That's right," continued Charlie. "On Thanksgiving, we celebrate God's blessings by remembering all that He has done for us."

"Wouldn't it be nice if God did something nice for Dad and Mom?" asked Maggie, hopefully.

"He already has," smiled Charlie. "God gave them a sweet daughter like you."

For that, Charlie had to receive a hug from a beaming Maggie.

Later that day, Charlie asked Vera and Chuck's permission to invite the Downen's for Thanksgiving. They weren't overjoyed at the thought, but since Charlie was the one investing all the time and energy, they gave their consent.

This Thanksgiving promised to be one everyone would remember.

"Now we exhort you, brethren... comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men."
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:14 ~

"Give thanks unto the LORD, call upon His name, make known His deeds among the people."
~ 1 Chronicles 16:8 ~

end of chapter
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