She wondered why her wheelchair wouldn't move back from the table, then she looked down and saw the wheels were locked. The table was bright with colors and candles, turkey and cranberries, but she'd had enough. Too much noise. She liked to watch the little girl making faces and hear her laughter. But the man was still talking about football with the older boy, so loudly that she couldn't ignore them. "…into overtime. Hey, any more stuffing, Mary?"
"Yes, just a minute." The woman turned to her, and spoke louder. "I cooked the turkey upside down to keep the white meat juicy, just like you taught me, Mom. Remember that?"
She turned and nodded and smiled, but she didn't remember cooking a turkey that way.
"And I made the sweet potatoes the way you always did, too. With brown sugar and pecans, not marshmallows. That's become a family tradition, Mom."
Pecans? What was she talking about?
The tradition I remember, Isabel, is that you would always come over if I didn't make it to church. If I was sick, or the sidewalks were too icy, you would always show up smiling. You would read the passages they read in church, and then we would talk about them. And have some tea maybe...
"And of course everyone goes shopping tomorrow. Remember how you always used to take me? Would you like to go to the mall tomorrow, Mom? I don't want to miss the sales, and I could help you buy things for Christmas. The kids gave me plenty of ideas..." The woman looked at the children and the girl giggled.
Of course I was a little shocked when you started inviting those neighborhood boys into your apartment, Isabel. They weren't big, but they were so raggedy-looking. And rough―and you were just a young woman. And you kept it up, even when they stole from you. That worried me quite a bit. I wasn't surprised when the other tenants started talking about you, Isabel, and not in a nice way. What surprised me was that you kept doing it, even after I warned you. But I didn't go along with them when they were trying to kick you out. That went too far. That's when I came over and had lunch with some of the boys at your place. They weren't such bad boys. They didn't know how to sit still, or mind their language when a lady was present, but they seemed softer when they were at your table, Isabel. It even made me think that was the kind of place where Jesus would be. I was so sorry when they made you move. But really more sorry for those boys, and me...
"I heard John quit his job and is going back to school, Mom. Your nephew John, who lives in Colorado, you remember. Ann's son. Your sister, Ann?" She nodded, but... "Oh, and have you heard Helen's big news?"
I didn't hear right away that you'd been killed, Isabel. When you didn't show up that snowy day after I missed church, I wondered, but I never imagined it was that. I guess I just thought God would always keep you safe, even if you did keep inviting in people like that, sticking your neck out that way. Because you were just such a good girl, Isabel. God had to be watching you close. When I heard, I couldn't believe it. Murdered. I cried for a long time, cried and prayed harder than I ever did before...
"The Detroit game's coming on―is everyone as stuffed as I am? So who you bettin' on, Billy-boy?"
"Maybe we should just go to Marshall-Field's, Mom, so we don't have to walk around so much. How does that sound?"
Who are these people, Isabel? I don't think I belong here. And I'm tired, Isabel... so tired...
"Momma, Gramma's got her eyes closed... Mom!"
"Shh, honey, let your grandma rest."
"That's the tryptophan kickin' in! Heh heh..."
"But Momma, I tapped her arm and she didn't wake up."
"That's OK, I think she's done. Here, take this into the kitchen."
No, not yet, Isabel. We have to wait a little longer...
"Gramma's awake!" Then softer, closer, "Gramma? You said Isabel. Who's Isabel?"
She looked at the little girl thoughtfully. "Isabel..." she began, then cleared her throat and smiled. "Isabel was like a daughter to me... and a mother.... When I first met her, she...
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