Thanksgiving morning I woke up to my older brother, Micah, accidently wandering into the room I was sleeping in, shocked at my ability to sleep until ten in the morning. I tried to simply roll over and ignore the holidays, but the aroma of homemade cinnimon rolls and cranberry bread forced me out of bed as I wandered the twenty paces to the kitchen in a sleepy daze.
This was going to be the first Thanksgiving my entire family was going to share together in two years. Not only that, but the Green family was also going to be coming over to our house, for the annual Martinkus-Green holiday extravaganza. These were all things that I didn’t totally think about as I picked away the crust of my cranberry bread and drank my orange juice. The preparations seemed to be finished for our mid-day meal and the excitement was winding down.
“When are the Greens getting here?” I asked my mom.
“Well, I’d say you’ve got about three hours,” she responded.
It was about then that my brother piped in, “Abbey, do you want to go for a quick run before lunch? I’ll show you a sweet park near downtown, and we can explore it!”
Though I do not run, ever, I thought that the idea of exploring an unknown place sounded exciting and before I knew it I was promising my mom we’d be back before one, and pulling out of the driveway in a little red truck. We sang to the oldies station at the top of our lungs as we barreled down the interstate the twenty or so miles it takes to get to Dallas from Carrollton where I live.
The park was absolutely gorgeous. The trees were just beginning to change, and the colors were extravagant. The oranges, reds, purples, greens, and yellows hung over our heads as we ran through the the lush fields that ran alongside a rocky creek. It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, and though it was in the heart of the city, it was like an oasis of peace and quiet. It was like a dream, neither hot nor cold, and not a soul around. Stone stairways climbed rolling hills, and forgotten formations of rock were hidden behind overgrown areas of greenery.
An hour later we found ourselves climbing back into the little red truck to leave, but instead of turning left and going back to the interstate, Micah said he wanted to show me something else, and we turned right into Turtle Creek and Highland Park. We drove atop brick streets looking at mansions that had fountains in the front yard, statues to welcome their guests, guard towers, stone archways, and marble driveways that mocked the cement sidewalks outcasted by their towering iron rod fences.
But as we traveled down Maple avenue something strange happened…
“This is the line between the richest of the rich, and the poorest of the poor,” Micah said.
Quite literally on the left side of the street was a massive empire built by capitalism, and on the right stood what we can spare through the hands of welfare. Highland Park Mansions on the left, Maple avenue projects on the right.
A group of kids standing around with no shoes on stood on the right side of the street while a man watered his perfectly kept lawn on the left. Uptown lofts leasing for between one and two grand a month on the left, and on the right side a group gathers around a dumpster digging for who knows what, and in the middle, our little red truck, driving so metaphorically between the two.
We got back to my house before one o’clock and the Greens had already arrived, along with my brother-in-law, and a few friends of mine from college. Though Thanksgiving used to be a formal affair in my younger days, now we just pull out the plastic cups and plates and have at it buffet style and sprawl out all over the house. We loaded plate after plate full of food, and refilled soli cup after cup with Dr. Pepper as we told stories, and enjoyed one another’s company. After lunch we played our annual culs-de-sac game of football out n the front yard, and my team took home the Martinkus-Green Heisman, and bragging rights for the coming year.
All the while my mind kept wandering back to those kids in the projects who had so little, and who live in the shadow of mansions.
As if on cue, when we went back in the house after our two-touch game, my brother asked me if I wanted to put together some plates of food for the homeless, and go give them out.
So Micah and I went into the kitchen and started to put together plates, and we caught the attention of everyone else. Matt, Philip, Gonzo, and Sam all decided that they wanted to go too, and so each of us towered a plate high with as much food as it could hold, grabbed a water bottle, bagged up some cookies, and borrowed the keys to Mrs. Green’s van.
Before you knew it the six of us were on a homeless hunt in a Mazda mpv. To the untrained eye it might’ve looked like we were a bunch of teenagers trying to score some drugs in the hood, but quite the contrary we were a mini-van on a mission to feed the hungry.
After driving up and down ally ways, under bridges, and all up and down the more ghetto part of loop twelve we ended up meeting three men, Shelton, Eddie G. and ‘The Rabbit.” We stumbled upon a homeless camp tucked away in the woods behind a strip mall, and gave them some food.
It was a very solemn, sweet time. No one really said much as we watched the hood turn back into suburbia on Northbound I35. I just kind of reflected on life and thought about the real meaning of thanksgiving. I thought about how we typically eat our Thanksgiving meal, and surround ourselves with those who love us and don’t take a moment to love others. And how we rejoice in all of our blessings without sharing even a bit of it. It was a real eye opening time that I find hard to put into words. I think that it’s best explained by the metaphor of Maple Avenue.
Who’s going to cross the street ?
My older brother said to me when we got home that night, “We may not be the salvation army, but I think we should all give all we can.”
I think that’s the real Thanksgiving.
The Giving part, more than just the Thanks.