The Wilfred family was known for their chain of grocery stores from cities to small towns in southwestern Virginia. The chain’s claim to fame was favorable deals with farmers for fresh meats and produce at prices that were affordable to customers. Their initial catchphrase was “food so fresh you’d think you were in the farmer’s garden”. Years later it would be changed to a shorter version – “fresh from the farmer’s yard to your table”.
The patriarch and head of the business, Peter, passed away 10 years ago – leaving a trail of chaos from the business to the family. It would be the family end that caused the most trouble, separating siblings, Felicia, Kach, and Monica like oil and water. The disagreement began with who should run the business after Peter passed away. Then it was about how to deal with the mounting debt Peter had with the business. And when the company went belly up, fault was passed around along with hurtful comments and insults about issues so personal, they won’t be included here.
Then the matriarch, Sarah, passed away. She was the only semblance of glue that held the family together. Well, at least she tried. Her family role had been of a homemaker. She chose to stay out of the business arena, because she didn’t know what to do. She left it up to the children – mending conflicts between them whenever they arose. And when the business was dead and buried, her new role was of an intermediary who kept in contact with her children – keeping each abreast of the happenings of each other’s lives, without actually talking to or seeing each other. Now this link was gone.
Fortunately, Sarah had pre-planned and paid for her burial as well as left a will. Leaving it to her family was a chance she did not want to take. She knew that they would argue and bicker, and nothing would get done. She didn’t want her commitment to the grave to last longer than it had to just because someone couldn’t decide what color casket or what flower to choose.
At the funeral, the siblings did not communicate. They walked in the processional appearing grief-stricken, and a unit, though those closest knew better. Each sub-family maintained its own space without communicating with the others. They retained this distance at the cemetery and the repast. After all guests had left, the reality show of the Wilfred family began. First there were arguments about who sat where at the cemetery and who had to stand. Then the dispute moved to which parent loved which sibling more. But no one mentioned the root of the family dysfunction – the family business.
Things did not settle down until Aunt Olivia stepped in. She pulled the siblings into the den, giving her two cents on the nonsense that has become the Wilfred family drama. She urged the siblings to make peace before it’s too late. She talked about unforgiveness and how Jesus was the Prince of love. She even took it to the point of scripture about loving God, but hating your brother. Something must have struck a cord because Monica started to cry and then left. Felicia silently followed suit. Kach remained with a scowl on his face and a “hmph” to Aunt Olivia’s admonishment. After a few moments and the burning hole she bore through him, he left as well.
In the weeks that followed, the Wilfred siblings did little to adhere to Aunt Olivia’s advice. What discussions took place were more or less in regards to the things that Sarah had not included in the will. Surprisingly enough, the siblings did not argue or fight. Instead they cordially agreed on who would take or handle what.
A month before Thanksgiving, Monica decided to extend an olive branch to her sister and brother. Her suggestion was for the families to come together for Thanksgiving dinner at their childhood home. Felicia quickly got on board, but Kach was slow to agree. He finally does, but with a grumble on who will do what. Monica creates a list of recommendations on what needs to be done and what food items need to be bought. She emails it to the others. And once again with amazement, the siblings had equally agreed.
The day of testing comes, and the 3 families arrive almost in unison to the homeplace. The siblings and their counterparts take bags and boxes inside, and begin to handle their tasks. Felicia and Monica handled the food preparations while Kach set the table and made the place look more festive. After everything was said and done, the house smelled of turkey, stuffing, and sweet spices. And the place was beautiful. Monica couldn’t help but shed a tear at the sight and scents. It reminded her of Thanksgivings past. She pulled out her cell phone to take pictures of the setting as well as her family and extended ones.
Dinner conversation consisted of small talk. Brief questions and answers about work or the latest event in the news. In the silence, forks and knives could be heard clanking against plates. Every now and then, someone would comment on how well the food tasted. The only distraction to this routine was when one of the children brought a stuffed bear to the table. When Kach saw it, his eyes grew the size of saucers. He rose from the table and gently took the bear from the child. Then asked where it had been located. The child pointed to one of the spare bedrooms down the hall.
This spare room in actuality was Kach’s old room. When he entered, it was like he was a kid again. He opened the closet and found a box with pictures, drawings, and awards that his parents had kept over the years. The thing that caught his eye was the picture of him, Felicia, Monica, and Peter playing with the garden hose when they were supposed to wash the car. That gigantic green station wagon. Sarah was the photographer and she made her mark – literally. A piece of her index finger was in the shot. Kach felt an overwhelming emotion of longing and missing for his family.
Kach grabbed the photo and returned to the dinner table. He began to pass it around while asking Felicia and Monica if they remember the incident. Of course they did. Kach started telling his side of events with Monica and Felicia adding their portions. By the time the story was told, everyone at the table was laughing. The photo was the trigger needed to jumpstart the family towards peace. The siblings began to share stories about summers, school dances, and stealing each other’s clothing (and this did include Kach when the dangling earring phase was hot). They laughed and even cried when some of the stories included Sarah and Peter. By the end of dinner, there was an unspoken warmth and closeness that filled the air.
While cleaning up and washing dishes, the siblings acknowledged their feelings, continuing to reminiscence about the times of old. Felicia started the ball rolling with apologies about things said and done in the past when Peter passed away. Monica and Kach each gave their own, with all offering forgiveness too. And with a smile on his face, Kach pulled his sisters into a bear hug saying “I love you”. The sentiments were returned. And for this they were all thankful.
From my family to yours, have a happy and safe Thanksgiving!XOXO, Melanie Dawnn
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