We gather together to ask the Lord's Blessing·
I couldn't get that line out of my head, no matter what I did. Well, it was appropriate enough, I suppose, given that it was Thanksgiving day, but still. There's something very aggravating about not being about to get a snippet of something to go away. Kind of like the chorus to 'It's A Small World'. Yikes. Well, the other one was gone now….
I hummed that stupid song under my breath as I opened the oven to check out ol' Thomas. I love the smell of roasting turkey; apparently so does everyone else, because I heard this chorus of "Ah…" and "Oh…" from the living room that I knew had nothing to do with the game they were watching on the tube.
"Disney?" A much-loved, amused voice asked as warm hands settled on my shoulders.
"It was a defense mechanism that back-fired," I countered. "Grab the potholders for me, would ya?"
Jim handed them off to me, then stepped back to let me pull the bird all the way out. I eyed it critically then decided it could do with a little more "crisping" time, and brushed some more seasoned butter over it.
"Yeah--I just want the skin a little more crispy. I love it like that." I grinned at him and he grinned back, more than well-aware of my little idiosyncrasies. I mean, after this long, how could he not be?
He smiled at me again then, more gently this time--a smile of love, then turned me around. "Happy Thanksgiving, Chief." Large, strong arms wrapped around me, pulling me back against his chest. I snuggled against him for a minute, loving the feel of him against me. He leaned down and nuzzled my neck for a minute and I could hear his voice again telling me that to him this was the most sensual pleasure in the world: burying his face in my neck and hair.
"Happy Thanksgiving to you, too, big guy." I leaned into the embrace, then reluctantly pulled away when the timer on the microwave dinged. "Duty calls, man."
"Anything I can do?"
"Make sure the table is set, and find out what everyone wants to drink."
"Gotcha." He stole a kiss from me, then headed back into the living room.
I turned back to pull a steaming dish of sweet potato casserole from the microwave.
* * * * *
I love Thanksgiving. I love everything about the season, and I love the sentiment behind the holiday. Imagine being a bunch of pilgrims--voyagers--all alone, not knowing if you were going to survive. Barely making it in your new world and unable to return to the old. Then some natives come a long and help out…. Yeah, yeah. That's the shortened version. But it's a nice one, and basically sound, fact-wise. But back to why I love Thanksgiving, like the early pilgrims, I have so much to be thankful for anymore that it's hard to know where to start, to count, so I don't. But you can bet that I offered up a long prayer in thanks when I got up this morning.
Jim carved the turkey up and got everyone rounded up and to the table while I pulled everything else out and got it set up. Smartest thing we did was taking out the old oven and installing a double one. I would never have gotten all this stuff done otherwise.
I set the last dish--corn pudding, because it always reminds me of my mother--on the table and collapsed happily into my chair. "That's it, folks. Let the gorging begin."
Everyone chattered as dishes were passed and plates filled. Jim played footsie with me under the table while we waited for the stuff to circle back to us, and I sighed in contentment. There was truly no other place I would rather be.
"I'd like to make a toast," Simon spoke from the other end of the table, startling me out of my own rambling thoughts. "To Jim and Blair, for hosting dinner this year…and to Blair, especially, for cooking it all!"
"Here, here!" Six other voices chimed out. Jim gave an embarrassed smile, I grinned.
"My pleasure, guys. Who's doing dish detail?" A loud rumble of mock-groaning broke around the table and I grinned again. "Hey, I cooked. Therefore, I don't have to clean up."
"Clarice and I will," Amanda stated, smiling. Poor baby, she was so pregnant she looked about ready to pop. Darryl sat next to her, all smiling pride at being a daddy in the next couple of weeks.
"No, Clarice and *I* will," he rumbled quietly. "Your back will be killing you if you try."
And so it went, back and forth, around the table. Bits of conversation here and there, sighs when folks decided they were too full for more turkey, groans when they tried to eat it anyway.
I watched everyone, ever the observer, though I hadn't had that title officially in a long time. Simon, no longer on the force, just retired last year. Joel Taggart; with us again this year after losing his wife of six years earlier in the spring. Henry and Clarice Brown, who didn't have any family in the area, but considered us a good substitute. Darryl and Amanda; the former a huge, strapping young man, bigger than his daddy, who was nearly done with law school. Amanda, as I said, nine months pregnant and looking double that.
Always Jim. I've loved this man for so long, through so much, I can't even imagine what life would be like without him. And I know that love is returned. I've never for a single minute doubted it. Never. He's my reason for being, my cause for thanksgiving.
He must have known I was thinking about him because a large, warm hand came up to cover mine, his thumb caressing the back of my hand slowly. "I love you," he said quietly, his eyes shining at me.
"I love you," I returned, at sentinel-level. "Remember our first Thanksgiving?" I asked in a more normal tone.
"Yeah," he smiled. "You were still getting over the last of the effects of the Golden."
"Took you a long time, didn't it, Sandburg?" Simon's voice, breaking into the memory.
"Yeah, it did." I shook my head. "A lot longer than it should have." I squeezed Jim's hand. "You cooked dinner that year."
"And nearly poisoned all of us," Joel chimed in, the shadow of a smile on his face.
"It wasn't *that* bad," Jim protested, his eyes twinkling. "Hey, everything was cooked."
I rolled my eyes, laughing. "How about the year that Darryl decided to do the pumpkin pies?"
I swear, if it weren't for his dark skin, the kid would have been crimson to his toes. As it was, I could nearly feel the heat radiating off him.
"What's this?" Amanda leaned forward as far as she could, eyes snapping with curiosity.
"'This' is the story of the pumpkin pie with out the spice," I started, grinning at the younger man. "Darryl decided he was going to surprise all of us and make the pies for dinner one year, god, about eight ago, wasn't it?" There were nods from around the table, so I kept on, "except he didn't ask anyone about doing it, didn't check for a recipe. Thought that he'd seen his mom make 'em enough times…." Simon and Brown were laughing now, and even Joel was grinning broadly. "He made them without a single spice in there. Just pumpkin and eggs."
"Come on, man, I was sixteen. What sixteen year-old knows about baking a pie?"
"True enough," Simon said, "but you could have checked the recipe."
Amanda had tears streaming down her face she was laughing so hard. Darryl shifted in his seat, then gave up and laughed with the rest of us. "They were better the next year," he muttered.
"Yes, they were, and we all thanked god for it," Jim intoned, his eyes twinkling.
* * * * *
We spent the next hour sitting there, trading stories about the many thanksgivings we'd spent together; sharing memories of the different cases that had impacted all our lives, and just sharing good times together. Joel seemed a little less sad, and I was glad that we'd managed to cheer him up a little. The death of his wife had hit him hard, and it hurt to see a good friend hurting so badly.
Darryl and Clarice went to start the dishes and Henry and Simon followed to give them any assistance. Amanda waddled off to the study to take a nap, so Joel, Jim and I went and sat in the living room, to watch the end of the ball game.
I put my head on Jim's shoulder and watched, idly, while my brain ran at its usual 1000-miles-per-hour speed. All the things I had to be thankful for were here, in this house, right now. Good friends, good memories and Jim. I shivered with emotion, thinking about how many times we'd been in danger, all of us, and how many times we'd had tough spots to persevere through. How we'd supported each other, been there for each other. I thought about the friends who'd moved on to other places, other lives; and other friends and some family members, who'd been lost over the years. My heart tightened at the thought of ever having a Thanksgiving without Jim--of feeling like Taggart was feeling right now. I squeezed the hand I was holding, hard, and Jim turned and looked at me.
We've always had a silent communication and it served us well this time. I wouldn't add to Joel's pain for anything, but I needed Jim to know--to *really* know--what he meant to me; how thankful I was for him, for our life together. I squeezed his hand again, and he returned the pressure, his eyes caressing my face.
Loud laughter from the kitchen broke the moment and I smiled gratefully, the feelings a little intense to hold for long. I'd just gotten to my feet to get us all a beer when Amanda waddled back out of the study, a strange expression on her face.
"It's time," she announced to the room at large, and things got very, very quiet.
* * * * *
"All *RIGHT*!!!" Simon sounded nearly delirious when he bellowed that into the phone. "Okay, tell me again…right…right…okay…yeah…Congratulations, son. Congratulations."
He hung up the phone and turned toward us, joy and delight shining on his face.
"Well?" Jim broke the silence.
"It's a girl. Nicole Louise Banks, born at seven-twelve p.m, weighing eight pounds, three ounces and twenty inches long." He shook his head and from where I was I could see his eyes tear up. "I'm a grandpa," he whispered then.
"Congratulations, man," I said, patting him on the shoulder. "Talk about your Thanksgivings memories--now we can add this humdinger." Simon smiled at me, one of pure happiness that just spread across his face. Echoes of congratulations moved around the room as we all sighed a collective sigh of relief.
We gather together to ask the Lord's Blessing·
Yep, it's irritating to have that running through my head again…but it *is* Thanksgiving…and it's *so* appropriate.