Jim Frayne stared out the window of his Philadelphia apartment. It was Thanksgiving Day. The weather outside was warm and sunny. Not the typical weather he was used to in the middle of November.

He sighed. What he would give to be back home in Sleepyside, New York. He could almost taste Helen Belden’s roast turkey, dressing and mashed potatoes. The Belden Thanksgiving Open House was one of his most favorite events of the year. This would be the first open house he had missed since he came to Sleepyside ten years ago. That had been the first major holiday he’d celebrated with his knew family and he had been so worried about how he would adjust to it. Thanks to a hurricane that almost destroyed the Bob-Whites’ recently remodeled clubhouse he found he had little time to worry about that.

He sighed as he remembered that Thanksgiving week so long ago. He, Brian and Mart Belden had worked long hours racing to repair the roof to the clubhouse. It hadn’t been an easy task and it wasn’t made any easier by Trixie volunteering them to patrol the Preserve for his father. The look on Brian’s face when he realized that Trixie had found a way to buy his car was worth all of the Ben-Gay he had used that week.

It was also the first time he really recognized his feelings for Trixie. He knew she was something special, but when she started acting goofy about Ben Riker, the green-eyed monster had reared its ugly head. There was a reason why he had worked his muscles to the bone working on the roof. Every nail he pounded he pretended was Ben Riker’s head.

Ben was an okay guy. He could be a nuisance when it came to playing stupid jokes on people, but Ben really did enjoy Bobby Belden, and Bobby Belden at age six was quite the handful. And over the years Ben had matured and only played the occasional joke. Now he instigated jokes because people expected them. It had become a challenge for the Bob-Whites to try and catch him in the act.

Jim sighed, wondering again why he had decided not to head home for the long weekend. Classes had ended yesterday and he was caught up on all of his projects and assignments. He had been working non-stop on his dissertation for his PhD and only had to do the final editing and double check the bibliography. He was scheduled to defend it in January. He chuckled as he remembered his advisor being shocked that he was so far ahead with it. No one finished their dissertations early, especially a month early. Well, he’d always been told he was an overachiever. He never saw it that way. He just thought he was being practical.

He sighed. He had turned down several invitations for Thanksgiving dinner. Instead, he would be helping out at the local Boys and Girls Club. Every year the kids at the club would prepare a Thanksgiving meal for their families as well as others who did not have a place to go for the holiday. Local businesses donated the food and several parents and volunteers supervised the kids. This year Wheeler Enterprises sponsored the entire event. They had also donated a substantial amount of money for a Christmas project the kids would do. After dinner they would decide how they would use this donation.

Still staring out the window, he sighed one last time. Shaking his head as if to clear it, he said to himself, “Jim, you made the decision to stay here, now quit wallowing in self-pity and go have some fun.”

He grabbed the keys to his car and headed down to the Boys and Girls Club. When he arrived, he discovered that quite a few people were already there. The kids had done a great job of planning the event. Jeremy Wiggins made Jim look disorganized. He had worked out a down-to-the-minute schedule for the event and surprisingly all of the kids agreed to it and were working to stay on it.

He parked his car in an empty space and glanced over at an unfamiliar vehicle. It was a brand new fifteen passenger van. He knew the board of directors had put a new one on their wish list, but he hadn’t realized they had raised the money to fund it. He paused to admire the sleek new vehicle. Okay, it wasn’t really sleek. Fifteen passenger vans could never be described as sleek. It was nice though and would work perfectly for the club.

He entered the club and was surprised when he didn’t see anyone around. As he headed through the recreation area he heard several giggles. Looking closer he noticed shadows in the corners of the room and saw a foot or two sticking out from behind the computer desks. He wondered what they were all up to, but continued to head toward the kitchen, hoping that the kids wouldn’t disappoint him by not following through on their assigned tasks.

He pushed open the door and was shocked to see no one there. He sighed with relief when he smelled the turkeys cooking in the ovens. At least someone had done their job. He tried to keep his temper in control, hoping there was some logical explanation.

He started to head toward the storage room when he heard the faint sound of a bob-white. Startled he looked around. Was he imagining things? There was a park nearby. Maybe a quail that lived there had lost its way. He was headed outside when he heard the sound again. This time it was louder and there were more of them. The door to the storage area opened. Before he knew what was happening he was surrounded not only by Bob-Whites but their parents and siblings.

After exchanging greetings and hugs, Jim just stared at his extended family, overwhelmed that they were here.

“What are you guys doing here?” he asked.

“Well,” Trixie said. “We decided that if you couldn’t make it to the open house, we’d bring the open house to you.”

“When you asked Wheeler Enterprises for the donation, you mentioned how you would be staying here this weekend. I could hear in your voice that despite the plans you were making, you didn’t want to miss the open house,” his mother explained, pulling him into another hug.

“When Madeline mentioned it to me a week later. I decided we could break with tradition,” Helen Belden said. “It didn’t take much convincing.”

“Yeah,” Mart said. “I’m relieved I don’t have to stand and park cars all afternoon. Maybe I’ll even be able to get warm out of the oven turkey this year instead of cold leftovers.”

Trixie socked him in the arm for old time’s sake and said, “You’ve suffered so much. I know for a fact that Moms always put a plate of food for you and Brian away before she even set the food out. And I don’t recall you ever starving.”

Jim removed himself from his mother’s embrace and walked over to Trixie, where he nonchalantly draped his arm around her shoulder and drew her into him. She offered no resistance. In addition to everything else he was thankful for this year, he was thankful that Trixie wasn’t dating anyone. The moment he saw her come through the door he realized how much he missed her curls and her bubbly personality. He had been hiding his feelings for her all these years because he didn’t want to distract her and knew it would be difficult to have a long distance relationship. The time had come to start showing her how special she was. He just hoped it wasn’t too late.

Helen Belden clapped her hands. “There’s a lot to be done if we are going to be serving dinner here in four hours. Where are all of my helpers?”

A group of about twenty kids gathered outside the kitchen door. Quietly they had waited while their favorite volunteer was reunited with his family.

“We’re here and ready to help out,” Jeremy said.

The adults consulted the lists that had been prepared and then stepped aside to let the kids take over, answering questions and offering advice as needed.

Jim thought for a minute and then asked, “How did you guys get here? I didn’t see your vehicles in the parking lot.”

“Well,” Matthew Wheeler said. “We were waiting for the new van. It arrived last week. I was worried it wouldn’t get here in time since I special ordered it.”

Jim looked puzzled. “Is Wheeler Enterprises branching out so much that they need a van like that?”

“No,” his father replied. “We’ve donated it to the club. It took longer because I wanted to make sure it had all of the available safety features including a back up beeper and rear view camera.”

Jim’s face reflected his astonishment at the gift. For the longest time he sat and observed the activities going on around him. Moms, Carolyn Lynch and Madeline Wheeler were directing the kitchen activities. Dan, Brian and Mart were working with a group of kids setting up all of the tables while the girls helped with the tablecloths and centerpieces.

The dads had gone outside to survey the parking situation and much to Mart’s relief decided that there was not need to have anyone outside directing traffic.

It was the perfect Thanksgiving. A blending of old traditions with new friends.


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Author Notes

Happy Thanksgiving, WVGirl!!! You asked for it and you shall receive a Thanksgiving story. I really didn’t want to work this morning anyway.

A huge thank you to Jo for doing a very quick edit. It was greatly appreciated.

And as always thank you, Mal who never says no when I ask her to do something with my stories. I really appreciate all you do.

Word count 1,595


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