By Claire Burianek

Holden arose from bed, wiping the sleep from his eyes. Checking his bedside clock, he saw that it was 8 a.m. on November 24th– the day before Thanksgiving. He rolled out of bed and sleepily shuffled into his bathroom to get ready for the day. His family was coming to stay through the weekend—just as they always do—and they would be arriving soon. 

As he walked downstairs, he felt stares from the portraits on the wall of family past and present. He was comforted knowing they were watching over him. His mother provided him with a bowl of oatmeal upon his sitting down for breakfast.

“How are you darling?” she asked, “are you ready for everyone to be here?” He nodded hesitantly, already almost finished with his oatmeal.

“I know you miss her,” she added. “We all do… but we must try our best to make this a festive celebration of what we still have.”

He mumbled, “sure mom, thanks for breakfast”, and went upstairs to watch out the window for his family to arrive. As he sat on the worn window seat, he found himself pulled back into childhood memories.

He recalled his favorite childhood Thanksgiving, when he was just 10 years old. Aunt Demetria arrived late for dinner, but when she did, everyone rushed over to her to welcome her in from the cold. Despite everyone around her, she made a beeline straight for Holden and made sure to hug him before anyone else. He had never felt so special. 

Holden was snapped out of his reminiscing by his mother calling for help with the pie. He loved to bake with her, and the time passed quickly. Soon, they were leaving the pie to bake in the oven, the spiced scents of cinnamon and nutmeg wrapping them both in a warm embrace. He sat down on the couch next to the kitchen, soaking it all in, and found himself dragged once more into the vault of his memories.

He remembered last Thanksgiving quite vividly. There was snow falling outside, much earlier in the year than usual and his favorite aunt was relaxing with everyone after dinner. Demetria suddenly remembered she had left small gifts for everyone at her house, only a few blocks away, and left to retrieve them. He had always wondered what her gift for him might have been.

The sound of cars honking and children hollering brought Holden back to the real world. His family had arrived! He ran downstairs to greet them and help bring their suitcases inside. All his favorite relatives were here: grandma Gracia, cousins Todah and Alden, baby Asante, aunt Autumn, and grandpa Jadon. 

In an instant, he was swept into the warmth of a thousand hugs, and he took it all in with great gratitude. Aunt Demetria may be gone, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t celebrate her memory with everyone else who loved her.