Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner

       The dreaded announcement crackled over the airport's loudspeaker: "Due to heavy snow," a man's voice droned, "no flights will be arriving or departing until further notice."
I slumped back in my seat in the terminal. A plane was visible through the windows of the gate area, wind-swept snow swirling about it. Across from me a woman muttered, "But it's Thanksgiving! Everyone's expecting me home."
I nodded silently. I knew how helpless and disappointed she felt.
Everyone was expecting me, too—Mom, Dad, my sister, Angie, her two kids and her husband. I'd been away too long. And now this! A snowstorm paralyzing the airport. How long would I be stuck here, only a 160 miles from home? A few more hours? Overnight?
I glanced at my watch: 10:00 A.M. I was scheduled to arrive home at noon. Mom's to-die-for Thanksgiving dinner would be served promptly at 4:00. I called home on my cell phone. Told her the situation. "Not to worry, Cindy" she said. "Turkey's not in the oven yet. If we have to, we'll have Thanksgiving tomorrow."
"No way!" I said. "Eat on time! All of you.  I'll have leftovers tomorrow—whenever I get there. All right?"
She didn't answer.
"Promise," I said. "I'll call back as soon as I hear more."
"All right."
After I shut my phone down, I realized a handsome man with startling brown eyes was sitting next to me. "I had to do the same thing," he said. "Call home. Tell them I didn't think I'd make it—my mom, dad, and grandma."
"I'm so disappointed I won't be home I could punch a wall," I said.
"Me, too. You headed for Moline International?"
I nodded. The warmth in his brown eyes sent a little tingle rippling through me.  "My hometown's Davenport. Yours?"
"Rock Island. Just across the river from you. I'm Brett O'Connor."
Was I simply happy to see someone from close to home among the hundreds of strangers stranded at the airport, or had this man's sudden appearance and good looks rocked me a little?
I smiled. "Cindy Boyd. Why are you traveling on Thanksgiving Day?"
"I work for a marketing research firm. I travel about once a week. I always plan things so I'm home for weekends and holidays, but this time a snowstorm's fouled things up. It happens sometimes." He shot a glimpse at my ringless left hand. "You?"
"I've missed being home for Thanksgiving and Christmas for the last three years," I said. "I decided that had to stop."
"Good for you."
I explained that I worked for a large engineering firm In Chicago, at first an exciting and challenging job, but as I continued to climb the corporate ladder my work schedule had become more and more demanding, sometimes seventy hours a week.  "So I handed in a six-week's notice," I said. "I was going to tell everyone today—I've quite my job. I'm going to move back home. To my roots."
"Oh, wow," he said. "Quitting a good job these days takes nerve—I mean, with the job market like it is."
"I've got a little money saved, I've got good contacts around home, I'll find something. Maybe I'll start my own consulting business."
"I admire you," he said. "I really do."
"I have an older sister who married her childhood sweetheart right after high school. They had two children right off—and I thought how foolish. Now I'm thinking how wonderful."
He nodded. "Funny how life changes your mind sometimes, isn't it?"
We both smiled. We laughed a lot as we chatted more about ourselves. We were both the same age. Thirty-five. He was an only child and wished he had a brother and a sister. He concluded by telling me he'd never been married.
"Me, either," I said.
"Simply haven't found the right person."
"I haven't had time to think about it," I said.
And then that man's voice droned again over the loud speaker telling us the snow was getting worse. No flights would be leaving until tomorrow morning. Every stranded passenger in the airport seemed to heave a giant, exasperated sigh.
"We're stuck," Brett said.
"Looks like it."
We both called home. Tears misted in my eyes when I told Mom I couldn't be there until tomorrow. She assured me there'd be plenty of leftovers. When I put my phone away, Brett's eyes met mine. My heart gave a little jolt. "How about having Thanksgiving dinner with me?" he said.
"In an airport? You're kidding."
He stood up. Held out his hand. "Hamburger? Fries? Milkshake?"
I smiled. I dropped my hand into his. His long fingers closed around mine as he firmly but gently pulled me up to my feet. That tingly feeling rippled through me again, more intense this time. "Sounds like a perfectly lovely Thanksgiving dinner," I said. Suddenly the snow and the delay—none of it mattered quite as much anymore.

The End
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