For The Holidays…

Photo Source: Vivian Maier

I used to hate Thanksgiving. Used to be all alone, nobody to see, nothing to do but get a turkey sandwich at some sleazy diner, no family to go home to… well, I have family, downstate, but they don’t want nothing to do with me, you dig? And that’s ‘cause of the troubles I got in a few years ago. I don’t blame ‘em. I mean, I was in bad shape. But that’s another story.

Anyway, like say I used to hate Thanksgiving, and being all alone. But wait’ll you hear about my Thanksgiving THIS year!

So I got on at the Greek’s place a few months ago. Mostly washing dishes, but some line cooking here and there. That kind of thing. I’m doing good, checking in with my PO, taking my prescriptions, showing up early at the Greek’s and staying late…doing my best, you know? The Greek likes me well enough, and he gives me a little extra here and there, lets me work a little longer when he can…and every so often he spots me a little something from the kitchen. That’s the last thing I’d ever want, and it kills me to be in that position. But the Greek, he insists, and I ain’t too proud to take a little help if I need it.

I got a room in a four-flat at Milwaukee and Halsted, right by the Blue Line. I got a borrowed bed and a borrowed chair, a record player, a hot plate and that’s it. It ain’t much, and the neighborhood is rough. But it’s all mine, and I’m keeping up. It ain’t one of them towers on Lake Shore Drive, but next to where I was, I’m doing good.

So it’s the day before Thanksgiving. I’ve been mopping dishes for the Greek during the breakfast rush, and the lunch rush is on the way. I’m about to do some mopping around my sink when the Greek comes over, and he tells me he’s giving me the rest of the day off, and all of Thanksgiving off, AND the day after Thanksgiving off! With pay! I tell the Greek I can’t do that, but of course I know he ain’t going to take no for an answer, so I say thank you, the both of us smiling like a couple of clowns, and I get ready to grab my bag and go home.

When I reach into my bag, I see the Greek has already loaded it up with a couple of cans of tuna, some bread and some mayo, a couple of jars of milk and fixings enough to make two turkey sandwiches and some stuffing for Thanksgiving. And at the bottom he’s thrown in a ten dollar bill. I’m feeling so good when I see all this I almost start crying. The Greek, he sure has been good to me. I go over, pump his hand like mad and say thank you over and over again. He tells me I deserve so much more, doing such a good job and being such a good kid. By the time I let go of his hand, I got a tear streaming down both cheeks, and I gotta turn around and run out because I’m too embarrassed to stay around.

So I get outside, and it’s terrifically cold. You know how those Chicago winters are. But I’m feeling so good from the Greek I don’t even feel it. I just feel warm all over, even without a coat. I could have gotten on the el, but for whatever reason I felt like walking. I’ve got my bag, and now its way heavier than it was, thanks to the Greek, so I sit down on a stoop for a few minutes to rest.

And I’m sitting there, and all of a sudden, out of nowhere, this kitten comes over to me. I’m just sitting there, and the kitten comes from out of nowhere, and looks up at me and starts mewing at me in this squeaky little voice. Like it’s trying to tell me something. I reach out to pet it, and the kitten starts rubbing its head on my finger, then it starts rubbing its head against my leg. You believe that?

I picked the kitten up, put it on my lap and gave it a scritch on the head. And the kitten turned a circle, flopped into a little ball and started purring like crazy. Like it liked me! It was just a little gray thing, so cute and happy. I got up, carefully holding the kitten, and started looking around for someone to ask about the kitten.

“I think she likes you!”

The super of the building I was resting at came down the steps. “I seen that kitten come around here for two days now. I ain’t seen no signs about her around the neighborhood or anything. Looks like she’s a feral. Whyn’t you take her home?”

I couldn’t quite believe what I was hearing.

“Really? You really think I should?”

“Sure, why not! She needs a good home. And she’s taken to you! Hold on just a second…”

The super turned around, went back into the building and returned with a leash.

“I got this ‘case I had to take her to the shelter. But this is even better than that.”

The super clipped on the leash, and the kitten was mine.

Once again, I started crying. I thanked the super, we exchanged Happy Thanksgivings and I kept walking home. I got to my flat, opened my bag, took out one of the cans of tuna the Greek gave me, opened it and threw a little down on my lap for the kitten. She was so tiny! I picked her up, held her and decided her name was Mittens. Because of the little bits of white on her paws. I set Mittens down and she started eating tuna like she had never eaten before. So I got a bit more, put it down and she kept going.

I had a little myself, and I poured a little milk out on a plate on the floor. Mittens lapped that up, then I poured some more and she lapped that up. Then she jumped back on my lap, flopped into a ball and started purring like crazy and licking my hand with her little sandpaper tongue. And she was with me for all three days of my Thanksgiving vacation, and I cried the whole time I was so happy; happy to have so much and to have a friend to share it with.

I made two turkey sandwiches and warmed up stuffing on my hot plate and had milk for Thanksgiving. I ate Thanksgiving dinner with Mittens, and for the first time in a few years I wasn’t alone on Thanksgiving…

  1. what a heart-warming story. it brought tears to my eyes. you have a real talent! also, you’re awesome for including the amazing vivian maier in the post. love her! you’ve got a new follower!

    • Meredith, you have made my night: thank you so much. I wasn’t planning on raiding the Vivian Maier catalog twice in such a short span, but her work certainly inspires! Thanks again, and come on back: new posts every Monday and Thursday…

      • my pleasure! i’m so glad i stopped by. i will definitely be reading more! and, yes, vivian is among my biggest inspirations. i just wish she were alive to see how loved she is!

  2. WOW! Brian! I have no idea how you found me, but I’m so glad you did as I’ve loved reading your blog!
    You write from the heart, and I love that. Lottie

  3. You are too kind, Lottie, thanks! New story every Monday and Thursday. Come on back!

  4. What a wonderful and heart warming story! I’ve just signed up to receive your blog via email. Can’t wait to read future posts. 🙂

  5. Reblogged this on brian westbye and commented:

    Sorry, all! Between the day job and getting ready to host Thanksgiving, I wasn’t able to get anything new done for today. I’ll be back, probably for Friday, but in the meantime here’s a little seasonal love from last year. Happy and Safe Thanksgiving, all!

  6. Dear Brian,
    I’ve been sitting here for 3 minutes typing….and backspacing. I have so many feelings in response to your post!!!….that I just can’t seem to form a coherent reply.
    I just can’t say how much I love this story. The Greek was your “woodwork” angel.(The kind that come out of the woodwork when you need them)…but you summoned him. Funny how good things happen to us when we are doing our very best. Not expecting…just working. Not blaming….just working.
    I am so proud of you, even though I don’t know you. I love that you tell this story. It lights me up.
    Happy Thanksgiving !!!!
    Love, Lis

    • awwwwwwwwww…blush! Thank you so much! This one is fiction, but of course, there’s always a grain of autobiography in there. I’m so glad this one connected: hope it speaks to the season…

  7. A true expression of what it’s really all about. I love your humanity pieces so much and I still get the feeling they’re personal stories. For a second I was cleaning out my daughter’s room for you to live in! I must throw some love to that photo..great.

  8. Deliberately Delicious said:

    What a lovely story to share at Thanksgiving!

    • Thankyaahh! It was fun to revisit this one. Glad it’s held up.

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