Thanksgiving is days away and many folks have shopped for traditional foods to prepare for guests. Others will go to someone’s house and still others will eat out with family and friends. Thanksgiving Road has stories about folks who go back to Stoneridge, GA, their hometown, for different reasons. Some others arrive there for this one Thanksgiving.
“A Very Bella Thanksgiving”, my story, is about a young woman who has been away from Stoneridge because she became pregnant after she graduated from high school and didn’t want the father or the small town to know. Can you say “Secret Baby”? Anna left because she knew she and her baby’s daddy were not ready for marriage, though he and his parents would have insisted he marry her. Anna’s parents have spent holidays with her and Bella, Anna’s daughter, but now Anna’s parents don’t want to travel because of her daddy’s health.
How will Anna’s relatives react to Bella? Will Anna be able to keep the kid’s daddy and his parents from seeing her and guessing too much?
Bella is an adorable four-year-old I patterned after my own daughter when she was that age.
This trip from Birmingham seemed both longer and short than the last time Anna had driven this route. This time she was headed home for Thanksgiving. Five years ago she had been eighteen and pregnant. So much had changed. Bella’s angelic voice sang “Jesus Loves Me” from the back seat. Nothing pleased the mama in Anna more than hearing her child sing, but her daughter had sung since they left her apartment an hour ago and showed no signs of dozing off. At least it keep both of them awake.
“Baby, could you sing something else for a while?”
“Yes, ma’am! ”
Seeing her nod, Anna braced herself. Bella’s grin warned Anna that she should have been more specific.
That angelic voice shouted, “Something else, something else” to the tune of “Jesus Loves Me.”
She tried to outlast Bella, but after ten minutes she gave up. “As lovely as this song is, could you sing a different song from Sunday School?”
“Yes, Mama. Granny loves ‘Jesus Loves the Little Children’. ”
“That would be nice.”
Outside of Montgomery the singer stopped singing to whine, “I’m sooo hongry, I could eat the south end of a north bound mu-el.”
Anna struggled not to laugh at the expression Bella had learned from her grandpa. “Eat the gold fish in your baggie.”
“Ma-ma! Then I’ll be sooo thirrr-sty!”
“Drink the juice in your Sippy cup.”
“Then I’ll haff to go to the baffroom!” The hands in the air shrug was so Bella and so true.
Since Anna had been sipping iced tea from her own adult Sippy cup a break sounded like a good idea. She wasn’t giving in to her daughter, she really needed to stop.
As though Bella had read her mind she bounced and shouted “McDonald’s, one mile!” She could read well, so Anna thanked her lucky stars Bella wasn’t reading all the signs beside the road. Otherwise she’d have to answer questions about grown up stuff to a kid not in school yet.
As Anna pulled off the highway and into a McDonald’s parking lot her cell rang. She punched the speaker on her steering wheel to avoid hearing Bella whine to talk to Granny. “Hi, Mama.”
“Hey, Granny! We’re coming to have Thanksgivin’ with you and Grandpa!” Bella freed herself from her seatbelt faster than Houdini could have and scrambled over the seat like a monkey. “I’m so happy! I missed you!
“I missed you, too, Bella Bambina,” Mama said, laughing as she always did when she said the name of Bella’s favorite cartoon character. Mama refused to call her Caroline, which suited Bella just fine. When her grandpa told her that Bella meant beautiful, she insisted everyone call her Bella, even her preschool teachers. Who was the kid’s mama to argue with the such logic?
Anna managed to let her mama know they would need stops and would not arrive in Stoneridge in the five to six hours it took her daddy to make the drive, even allowing for bathroom breaks and leg stretching.
Bella danced her way into McDonald’s, her strawberry blond curls bouncing, and entertained the four people in line and anyone else who could see her. “I’m goin to see my granny and grandpa!” She twirled. ‘i’m goin’ to —”
Anna clamped her hand over the tiny mouth that could alert any weirdo that she and the child were travelling and where. Indignant, Bella opened her mouth as if to bite the offending hand, probably a reflex action, but Anna leaned low and whispered in her ear, “Don’t you dare!”
Twenty minutes later they had stopped in two of the restroom stalls and washed their hands enough to kill every germ in Alabama and Georgia. Bella had eaten her kid’s meal and half of Anna’s fries. She’d be wound up, but maybe riding would lull her to sleep for a while. Dream on.
Follow Mary Marvella on Twitter @mmarvellab