When Isobel was a kid she would help her mother set the table for Thanksgiving dinner, making mental notes of what she would do differently when it came time for her to host. The holiday combines two of her passions, eating and decorating, so it has always been her favorite. She appreciates it even more as an adult because it doesn’t require her to stay up late setting out gifts for her kids.
This year she has set up a long rectangular table under a tent in her backyard with a white knit tablecloth and linen runner. Her inspiration for the decor is early twentieth century English countryside, so she has brought out her brass candelabras and the blue and white porcelain china she usually has on display on her kitchen. The tall floral centerpiece combines green and white hydrangeas with curly willow branches for a touch of whimsy.
The temperature outside is uncharacteristically cool for an autumn night in Miami, making it rather pleasurable to dine al fresco by candlelight. By the time Iso is ready to sit down and feast, the candles have melted down to white stubs and all of her guests have already finished eating. While Marge and Emilia, Xavier’ mother and Emmie’s namesake, walk around picking up the empty beer bottles and crumpled up napkins, Iso pours herself a glass of red wine and walks over to the buffet table, ready to dig in.
“Babe, everything was amazing,” her husband assures her as he sips his favorite scotch and smokes a cigar with his father and sister.
“Thanks, Baby. By the way, our daughter seems to think she’s getting a pool in her backyard soon. You wouldn’t know where she got that idea, would you?”
Xavier immediately takes a sip of his drink, trying to figure out the smoothest way to respond.
“Now where would she get a crazy idea like that?” Xavier asks with a big smile. His father laughs to himself and takes a puff of his cigar.
She can tell that the scotch and cigar smoke have reached her husband’s brain, so she shakes her head and moves on to the buffet table. With all of her guests served, Isobel picks up a large blue and white dinner plate and prepares for her tradition of feasting of the scraps of her Thanksgiving dinner. Having tasted the turkey and savory side dishes while preparing them earlier, she begins by filling her plate with desserts.
Only a sliver of sweet potato pie remains, left there by Esthie who decided to go inside with Dominick after her family began interrogating them about their plans for marriage. She had thought that being pregnant would take the pressure off her this Thanksgiving, but it only prompted more intense questioning. Willing to sacrifice the last piece of pie to avoid another conversation about her future, she excused herself from the table to go put her feet up on the couch.
Once there is no more room on her plate, Iso takes a seat next to her father, Edward. He has been on a strict vegetarian diet since his heart surgery, so Thanksgiving has become a spectator sport for him. She pats him on the knee when she sits down and her heart sinks when she feels how skinny his thigh has become. Memories of bashfully hugging his thick legs when she was a little girl flood her mind as she places her napkin on her lap and takes a sip of her wine.
“So, how did you like the vegan pumpkin pie I made you?” she asks.
“Aww Izzie, it was the best pie I ever had, but I told you not to make anything special for me,” he says. With a USMC cap and camouflage shorts on, Edward Egret stands out amongst the the more formally dressed dinner guests. His wardrobe used to be dictated by his wife, but after his health issues began, he decided to dress for comfort. His penchant for tube socks and old sneakers drives Marge crazy, but Iso loves seeing her father’s rebellious spirit reflected in his quirky clothing.
“I love you, Daddy,” she says, giving him a kiss on the cheek.
Isobel has experienced just enough of life’s difficulties to make her appreciate the sweetness of moments like this. As she spoons caramelized sugar over a fluffy piece of flan, she realizes that she is surrounded by everything she is thankful for.