Giving Thanks by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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Thursday is Thanksgiving. This year, some folks—Cubs fans, for example—have a lot to be thankful for while others among us may feel (albeit for different reasons) a little less than thankful. But whatever one’s level of gratitude, it behooves us all to acknowledge Thanksgiving for what it is: a remarkably uncommercialized expression of some of our most important and enduring values: family, community, fellowship, togetherness. Talk about good timing!

I have a friend in town—many of you know him, I’m sure—who is doing something wonderful this Thanksgiving. He happens to be a chef and he happens to own a certain High Street restaurant on the ground floor of a certain famous Hotel. Furthermore, as it so happens, he has decided to open his restaurant on Thanksgiving Day and to provide anyone who wants to come with a free—yes, free!—Thanksgiving dinner: turkey and all the proverbial trimmings, right down to the pumpkin pie for dessert. Did I say it was free?

I asked my friend the obvious question: “Why are you doing this?”

“I’m from a big family—there are nine of us—so to me, Thanksgiving is about family and this place, this town, is my family.” (I know what he means.) He went on: “Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I want to pay it forward in the best way I can. I like the feeling, I like the cooking, so…you know, the usual Kumbaya,” his voice trailed off, as if he didn’t really want to talk about it.

“So who comes?” I prompted.

“Oh you know: some of my regular customers, my staff, probably some kids from the college; some folks from Herron Point; some folks who have no other place to go.”

“How many do you figure to feed?” I asked.

“Last year we had about twenty. This year, I’m thinking we’ll have close to fifty. One of my staff is bringing her whole family!”

“Who’s going to cook?”

“Me. The staff will be here to help with seating and to help clean up, but I want them to enjoy dinner, too. Maybe I’ll have my son help out at the carving station and my daughter can be the hostess, but I want to be in the kitchen.”

“Free?”

“Free. Not even any tipping. Just show up.”

Another of my friends, the bartender, was listening. “Are you coming?” I asked. He nodded, then said, “yeah, I want to give back…,” then his voice trailed off, too.

“Who pays for all this?” I asked.

“Well I buy all the food, but then last year, some folks stopped by and dropped off a check to help….”

“Did you ask for contributions?”

“No. They just wanted to help.”

John Cheever, one of my literary lions, once wrote a wonderful short story called “The Worm in the Apple.” It was a tale of a family—the Crutchmans, I think—who seem to be, at least on the outside, absolutely perfect. Convinced that there is no such thing as perfection when it comes to families, the narrator pokes and probes around the edges of this particular family looking for the worm in their apple. But guess what: he found that although the Crutchmans indeed had their fair share of problems—a divorce here, an addiction there—in each case, everyone in the family just played the hand they were dealt with love and devotion to each other and in the end, there just wasn’t a worm in their apple. Things were, in fact, just as they seemed: as perfect as they could be. Like any good union should be.

But back to my friend the chef. “What will you do you do after everyone goes home?” I asked.

He shrugged and said, “I’ll probably go home and watch a football game. Fall asleep. The usual…”

By now, I understood he didn’t really like talking about Thanksgiving. He just likes doing it.

There is no worm in this apple, folks. Doors open at 1 pm.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, and the Philadelphia Inquirer. “A Place to Stand,” a book of his photographs, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015. He is currently working on a collection of stories called “Musing Right Along.”

Letters to Editor

  1. Steve Quigg says:

    Jamie, you are a heck of a writer to make me sound humble! Just wanted to throw a phone# and address out if anyone is interested. The Kitchen at the Imperial, 208 High Street, (410) 778-5000 Ext 1.

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