The Perfect Meal

She spent hours, days really, preparing the Thanksgiving dinner. She planned the menu that included all the trimmings, down to the famous stuffing and pie recipes from long-standing family secrets.

The table was set with the best dishes. Her grandmother’s candlesticks adorned the table, as did the traditional turkey platter she received years ago as a wedding present. She made sure there was enough room for everyone, even if it meant putting up a card table for the younger set.

Her children and grandchildren were expected around the table, traveling from near and far. The anticipation for making this holiday a perfect family experience consumed her thoughts as she tucked the napkins at each plate.

And then the day arrived. In they came, two children, three grandchildren, assorted spouses and cousins. Hugs were exchanged. Coats and mittens went flying as the kids ran to greet grandma and grandpa.

Everyone oohed and awed at the smells wafting from the kitchen. They praised all the preparations she had made. She whisked them out of the kitchen as a few attempted to snatch an early bite of the bird.

The little ones got right to making the turkey drawings for grandma, which she promptly placed on the refrigerator door. Someone popped a CD in the player and holiday tunes interlaced with the conversations about family, work, school, boyfriends – a catch-up time, if you will.

As they made their way to the dining room and the feast placed before them, each person was shown to his or her seat at the table.

Dishes heaped with food were passed around as plates were piled with the offerings. But each time a dish came to the 5-year-old grandson, he declined the food. Rather than make a fuss, his grandmother asked what he wanted to eat.

Matter-of-factly, he replied, “I’m thinking a peanut butter sandwich would be fine.” Just like that, a 5-year-old had reduced the family feast to a sack lunch.

Was grandma upset, angry? Not really. She asked him why he didn’t want any of the traditional Thanksgiving food. The wide-eyed little guy said his friend at school had told him that he was going to have a peanut butter sandwich for Thanksgiving and that “we don’t have no turkey.”

Everyone got quiet. Her grandson got his peanut sandwich. And when she went to the kitchen, wiping tears from her eyes, she vowed that her grandson’s friend would have turkey and maybe even a ham for Christmas. It was a promise she made as she replaced the lid on the peanut butter jar.

Please open your hearts and wallets for someone this Christmas. The Salvation Army, the House of the Carpenter, Head Start, the Soup Kitchen, the 18th Street Center – the list is long if you want to help.

Heather Ziegler can be reached at