There’s always room for one more

Brother balances the tinfoil-wrapped plates on his lap while I crank up Mama’s big Mercury, even though I’m not quite old enough to drive. The smell of turkey, dressing, and sweet potatoes fills the car. Brother looks a little scared as I mash the pedal to the floor slinging a little driveway gravel as we roar toward town.

He still gives me that same look when I drive.

We’ve been sent off to deliver plates to those who might otherwise not have a Thanksgiving dinner. Mama’s orders. I’d do anything she asked just so I could drive.

But that wasn’t the point. And I knew it. I was even a little bit proud Mama trusted me to take Brother and make the rounds.

One by one we knocked on doors, hugged necks, put the plates on the kitchen table. “Have a happy Thanksgiving,” we sang out as we headed off to the next stop. Only when the last plate was in the hands of its recipient did we head home to eat our own dinner.

There was always room for one more at Mama and Daddy’s table, and there was always at least one. One who couldn’t get home for Thanksgiving. One who had no family. One who had nowhere else to go. And if they couldn’t get to the table, well, the table would just have to go to them.

Even if it had to be delivered by a 15-year-old girl with a lead foot racing down the road belting out “Holiday” along with Madonna, petrified little brother in tow.

It’s hard to believe more than 30 years have passed since Brother and I careened around town windows down and radio up singing about making things better and coming together. Many of the people who once pulled a mismatched chair up to our table have long since passed on. What never dies are the stories they shared.

We used to travel from community to community for dances. (My grandmother suddenly blushes and giggles like a schoolgirl.)

I thought she was a Hollywood starlet passing through town.

What was that crazy fellow’s name? Vidmer? What kind of name is that?

Tell the one about the snake!

There was that time at the hunting camp …

Remember the picnic down by the river?

Play the piano for us! St. Louis Blues!

Maybe one song …

and on and on and on …

That’s what you get when you pull that extra chair up, the piano bench, the card table, and open your home to an old friend or someone new. Good times. Great memories. Something to really be thankful for — an open mind and an open heart.

After all, there’s always room for one more.