Happy Thanksgiving!

November 27, 1896
Edith Bowen

It snowed overnight. I looked out my window and it was as if the world beyond was a perfect portrait of a winter holiday. The ground was covered with a thick blanket of powdery white snow. It glistened in the morning sunlight without even a single set of footprints to mar the vision.

Every year since my parents death, I have dreaded the holiday season. While everyone else gathers with family I sit by a fire in solitude. Smiles, hugs and kisses are passed around and I have only myself to wrap my arms around. The tears cried are of joy and happiness, but not mine. Mine are sad and lonely tears longing for the days long past when I too had a family to love.

This year is different. I still miss my family but for the first time I am understanding family is more than blood. My friends are my family now, and for a change I have some. Sarah and Anna met me in the hall just outside my room. They were both smiling and so was I.

“Have you looked outside?” Anna asked.

“Yes, it’s beautiful.” I said.

“It’s almost like being home.” Sarah said.

“Does it snow often in Colorado?” I asked.

“Only half the year.” She replied.

We started down the stairs together.

“Where are you from, Edith?” Sarah asked.

It has been a long time since anyone asked me that question and an even longer time since I had thought about home. I was in too good a mood to allow bad memories to ruin it.

“I don’t remember.” I lied.

“That’s so sad.” Anna said.

I smiled at her and squeezed her hand.

“All of that was a long time ago, this is my home now.” I said.

“You’re right. Home is where the heart is.” Sarah said.

“I like that.” Anna replied.

“My mother used to say that when I was small.” Sarah said.

“I wonder why.” I said.

“She was far from any home she had ever known.” Sarah replied.

I nodded thinking of the simple truth in the words. We take with us all that we are in every step. Home is not a place but a feeling and the feeling comes from within us, from our strengths and weaknesses, and our hopes and dreams. If we cannot find peace and comfort in our own skin then we never shall.

I joined the kitchen staff for the day. It was Mr. Rollings suggestion I continue to practice what I had learned about measurements by helping with the large meal for Thanksgiving. I had no objection, surprising, I enjoyed the experience of baking. Not only did I learn, but I had fun doing it. Perhaps someday I will have a kitchen of my own.

The kitchen was busy all day long. Our girls rotated in and out helping in bits and pieces until at last the grand meal was prepared. Potatoes were mashed, gravy was boiled, turkeys were roasted, corn was shucked, pies were baked and rolls were buttered. It smelled like heaven. Of course no such day can go without incident and there were several to be sure, but I think one in particular will always belong to this Thanksgiving.

Victoria arrived late for her turn in the kitchen. No one wanted to make an issue of it so her tardiness was ignored although far from unnoticed. Timing being an issue, it should have been no surprise she burned her apple pie. It would have been ignored as well had she not thrown it across the room hitting Belinda square in the chest.

Belinda screamed as the hot fruit and juices soaked through her dress and burned her skin. I would have sent Victoria to her room and had Margaret tend to Belinda were it left up to me, but unfortunately for Victoria, Mr. Carrington was standing in the doorway at the exact moment she threw.

“Edith tend to Belinda. I will deal with Miss Mathewson.” He ordered.

I had not the courage to argue although I firmly believe holidays should be free of punishments. Deep down I knew Mr. Carrington was correct not to overlook such ridiculous behavior but would it really matter to wait until tomorrow? I think not but it is his kitchen.

I enlisted Margaret to assist Belinda and the two of the disappeared into the wash room. Meanwhile Victoria shrank back against the wall as if it could protect her from Mr. Carrington’s wrath. If anything it merely ensured she had no place left to go. Mr. Carrington grabbed a large wooden spoon off the counter as he closed in on the frightened Victoria.

“Turn around.” He commanded.

“Please, I’m sorry sir.” She pleaded.

“Turn around.”

She turned to face the wall. Mr. Carrington reached down and grabbed the hem of her skirt and pulled it up in the air. He then raised the spoon high in the air and swung it down to connect with a loud clap underneath her skirts. She jumped in response.

Mr. Carrington repeated the effort a dozen times leaving Victoria in tears and massaging her buttocks while jumping up and down like a little girl. Mr. Carrington stood there in front of her with the spoon still in his hand, lecturing her about safety in the kitchen, when Mrs. Carrington walked in.

“Mm… It smells good in here ladies. What’s cooking now?” She asked.

She was clearly oblivious to Mr. Carrington and Victoria by the wall. Without thinking I replied.

Mrs. Carrington looked confused until her eyes found Mr. Carrington holding the spoon menacingly at Victoria. Mr. Carrington turned around to look at me, shocked by what I said I think and when his eyes met with Mrs. Carrington’s they both smirked. The other girls began laughing and even Victoria had a rueful smile on her face. I blushed, embarrassed by my thoughtless remark.

A short while later, with the tables sat and everyone gathered, the meal was served. Mr. Carrington appeared happy and Mrs. Carrington was too. I looked around the room feeling content myself and I noticed not all the girls were smiling. Several of the freshman girls were not only sad but crying quietly in their seats.

I should have realized before, but I had not. Many of these girls were experiencing their first holiday away from home and family. I felt their tears as if they were my own because in a way they were. I glanced at Mrs. Carrington and her eyes shared my concern. In past years there had never been so many girls and as a result these days had been better managed. I pushed my chair back and stood up to the room.

“On the first Thanksgiving, the Pilgrims were far from home. They huddled in a dining room with friends and strangers, taking refuge from the cold winter outside, much as we are doing today. While there are no native Indians offering us food, there is a native family from these parts who offers us this shelter and the food on our table. The customs here may be different from those you are used to, and the scents and sounds may not be those which are familiar, but that is no different than those early Pilgrims either. They learned today was a day to be thankful not mournful.

And so, we should all remember no matter who or what we are missing today we have much to be thankful for as well. Be thankful, those you love are warm and safe. Be thankful, you are with friends. Be thankful for the warmth and food provided here for us all. Be thankful, for all that you have, not just today, but everyday.” I said.

Glasses were raised and clinked and while the sad looks did not disappear, there were less teardrops falling. Dinner was served and all was well. We laughed and we cried and we smiled and we frowned, but most of all we were thankful for each other.

After dinner I gathered with my new friends, Sarah and Anna, Elizabeth and Penelope, and Margaret. We talked about school and teachers and the futures we hope for. I listened with warmth in my heart and for the first time in a very long time, I felt at ease. All these years alone and finally I have a new family to call my own. Our sisterhood shall last long after we leave the halls of Carrington Manor and no matter the miles that come between us or the choices we make in the years to come, we will always have each other, sisters by choice, Primrose Girls forever.

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