By Beth Kennedy from Foul Play at the PTA, July 2011, second in Laura Alden’s PTA Mystery Series
My young son, nestled snug in his bed, looked up at me. “Tell me a story. A Thanksgiving story.”
“Thanksgiving?” I opened his top dresser drawer and pulled out socks and underwear for the next day.
“Yeah.” Oliver wriggled down into the blankets. “About the olden days, when Grandma was little.”
The socks and underwear went on top of the jeans and shirt he’d chosen earlier. “I have a good story about your Great-Grandmother.”
“Great-Grandma Chittenden?” My pajama clad daughter, Jenna, stood in the doorway. Since a dot of toothpaste at the corner of her mouth told me she’d done that chore, I waved her in. She plopped down on the foot of Oliver’s bed and crossed her legs.
I sat on Oliver’s desk chair. “This happened a long time ago, before anyone had invented cell phones or microwave ovens, before DVDs and before television.”
The kids were frowning. Clearly, it was difficult for them to envision such a world.
Smiling, I picked up one of Oliver’s stuffed animals – a long-eared dog – and flopped its ears around. “This particular Thanksgiving all the Chittenden relatives were coming over to your great-grandmother’s house for dinner. She was a little girl at the time, barely six years old, and she was nervous about meeting all her aunts and uncles and cousins.”
“Did they come by sleigh?” Oliver asked.
Jenna stirred. “They had cars, didn’t they, Mom?”
I blinked and saw the black-and-white pictures pasted into photo albums. Long cars with rounded hoods and chrome in places you wouldn’t think chrome could be. “Yes, they had cars. But when Great-great-grandma was taking the turkey out of the oven, it started to snow. Hard. There was so much snow that most of the relatives stayed overnight rather than take a chance on the slippery roads.”
“Did they have enough beds?” Jenna asked.
“No,” I said. “It was just a small farmhouse. There were so many people sleeping on the floor that if you walked across the living room you’d have stepped on a dozen different people.
The children were wide-eyed.
“Your great-grandmother was told that her Great Aunt Eunice, who was a very quiet, elderly woman, was going to sleep in her bed. Your great-grandmother took the quilt her mother gave her and settled in to sleep on the floor.
“But your great-grandmother, though she was a good little girl, had a habit of talking in her sleep. In the middle of the night she said, ‘Get out of my bed!’ Great Aunt Eunice was so surprised that she got up, helped your great-grandmother back into the bed, and laid down on the floor herself. When morning came, your great-grandmother sat up, took one look at her great aunt, and said, ‘Did you fall out, Auntie?’
“‘No, I did not, young lady,’ Great Aunt Eunice said. ‘You told me to get out of your bed.’
“Your great-grandmother went very still. She knew she was going to be punished for being rude to a guest. Maybe her parents would even tell Santa! Her lower lip began to tremble.
“‘However,’ Great Aunt Eunice went on, ‘my lumbago, which has plagued my lower back unmercifully for months, is much better. Thank you, my dear.’ She kissed your great-grandmother on the cheek and never again had any back troubles.”
“Cool.” Jenna slid off the bed. “I like stories about Great-Grandma. ’Night, Mom.”
Oliver rolled onto his side. “That was a good story,” he said sleepily. “Will you tell it to us again next year?”
I kissed his forehead. “You bet.” And would every time they asked, forever and ever.