It was afternoon on Thanksgiving Day and I was walking through the Central Park with Lydia, my girlfriend of ten years. It was cold but the sky was light and sun was doing its best to warm us. It was sort of a tradition to take a walk before the dinner. One year with my side of family, the next with Lydia’s.
This year, we would celebrate alone as we have recently moved to New York and our families stayed behind in Ohio. We were barely getting by and couldn’t afford the plane tickets home. The dinner was to be a small roasted chicken with potatoes and cranberry sauce. You can’t forget the cranberry sauce no matter what you pour it over.
We walked slowly, her arm linked with mine. The silence between us was stretching uncomfortably. When did it so awkward to be together? We met in my final year at college. She was a freshman and stumbled upon me the very first day. She was like a bright star shining upon me whenever she walked by and I knew I had to have her by my side. We held it together through my first job and her studies, through her first job and my second and third, through the tough times our families gave us.
And then one day, I noticed the small changes. We weren’t talking as much anymore, we hardly ate together and she was looking so tired and sad. I tried to ask her few times, but she always just shrugged and left the room. I knew something was up, but didn’t insist on finding out. I was stupid.
That day, I suggested we’d go for a walk like we used to back in Ohio and she agreed. But even as we started out, I felt more chill coming from her than from the weather. She kept quiet from the moment we stepped outside and I couldn’t help but think: This is it, we’re finished.
She was just about to say something when I spotted her. An elder woman was sitting on a bench near the pool. She had a pair of knitting needles in her hands and a mass of redness on her lap. She stopped for a moment and flexed her fingers. No doubt they were frozen in this weather and without her wearing any gloves. She pushed the glasses up her nose and brushed few strands of grey hair from her face.
“Nan…” I whispered and couldn’t help the pang of pain stabbing my heart. Something about the woman reminded me of my grandmother and I suddenly wished I was twelve again. I let go off of Lydia’s arm and slowly walked towards the woman. I heard Lydia call my name, but ignored her. My mind was back when I was twelve and my mother took off with her lover, leaving me with nan to take care of me until my dad got back from his service overseas.
“Paul…? Paul!” I tried to call my boyfriend several times but he wouldn’t listen. I watched him as he approached some old woman. I have never seen him behave like this. Paul was always a little distant. When I first met him, he was such an airhead. He walked right into me on my very first day of college, his nose buried in a book, headphones in his ears and glasses askew on the bridge of his nose.
When we collided, the book fell from his hand and I read the title: “Little women”. I remember I laughed and asked if it wasn’t early for doing homework for literature. His expression was priceless as he blushed deeply and said he wasn’t taking literature lessons this year. He genuinely liked the book. When he fumbled with his headphones, he accidentally pulled them out and the phone blared to the whole world Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. I instantly fell in love.
The three years of college after he left it were hard, but he visited as often as he could and we spent as many holidays together as we could. Eventually, I moved in with him after I graduated and gotten my first job. Back then, we still lived in Ohio and life was simple. We enjoyed the little things together, had friends and family around us.
That summer, Paul was offered a job in one of New York’s most prestigious labs. It was an opportunity he cannot let pass. And I knew it, so I quit my job and followed him here to support him on his journey to become the researcher he wanted to be. But after moving here, he was told he was going to work as an intern for no pay but experience for at least half a year. I have gotten a job as a junior manager in travel agency and we were barely scraping by.
Paul was always at work and I tried to make as many overtime as I could get away with to earn more. We hadn’t had a proper talk in weeks and I felt like he was pulling away from me. And to that all, a pregnancy test came positive for me. We lived in small studio with hardly enough room for the two of us. We couldn’t fit in a bird cage, let alone a baby. Not to mention that we were relaying completely on my salary and I couldn’t afford even one sick day off. I hadn’t told Paul about the baby yet. I was trying to decide what would be the best.
“Nan…” He whispered and talked towards the woman. What did he mean by that? His grandmother died when he was twelve and he was really broken up about it. He would tell me stories about her for weeks every year the anniversary of her death came up. Even till now, he visited her grave at least twice every year. Whatever he felt when he saw that woman, it must have been hard on him.
I automatically reached for his shoulder and squeezed it. He needed my support and I knew I’d always give it to him no matter what.
“Lydie…” He turned to me, calling me by the name only he could use, tears streaming from his eyes. “She looks just like nan did before she died. She was knitting a red sweater when she had the stroke.” His voice was sad and broken.
Old woman’s POV
I don’t know how long I have been sitting in the Park. Long enough to feel the cold biting my fingers. I came to the Park often to knit ever since my partner of forty years died and it just felt too lonely and stuffy in our big house. We could never raise a child and without her, my life was empty.
When Rebecca was still alive, we would often come to the Central Park to feed the birds and watch young couples having picnic with their children. We would just walk around before stopping at a cafe for a one cup and a slice of their famous cheesecake. Oh, how we loved the cheesecake! The café closed that summer though and a club was opened there. Nowadays, young people were standing around at all hours, drunk and worse.
A young couple was walking nearby and I took a look at them as I straightened my glasses. The man was tall, wrapped in a cloak, had glasses that were broken and then repaired with tape. The woman was shorter, with long brown hair. She had big brown jacket, bigger than she needed really and I remember thinking it must have been the man’s.
The man stopped and looked directly at me. I looked quickly away, hoping he hasn’t noticed my stare. He continued looking at me though and then started to walk towards me. His wife, or girlfriend called him but he hasn’t stopped and just continued towards me. I looked up and saw tears in his eyes. I was shocked. What have I ever done to this poor lad?
“Nan…” He spoke the word and I shook my head. “I’m sorry, dear, but I’m afraid you are mistaken.” He nodded and smiled. “I’m sorry, ma’am, you just remind me of my grandmother very much.” I noticed an accent, Midwest maybe?
“That sweater you’re knitting…” His eyes fell on the needles and red wool I had on my lap.
“Oh, this?” I smiled and stroked the soft threads. “It’s for the local orphanage. The kids there are growing ever so fast!” I remembered how just the day before one of the kids asked me to make him a red sweater. “I was going to give it to them before Thanksgiving, but I guess my hands aren’t as quick as they used to be.
The man looked lost for some time. His girlfriend, Lydie he called her, came to him and I could see a genuine concern on her face. She started to apologize to me for intruding. I couldn’t help but smile and said it was alright, after all, I had nothing better to do anyways.
After that, they invited me for a coffee to warm up. We have talked for a bit and at the end of the day, they invited me to share the Thanksgiving dinner with them. I watched them, the warmth the woman had in her eyes when she spoke to him, the way he looked at her when she wasn’t paying attention. There was so much love between them, though they seemed to have forgotten it.
We met few more times after that. It was good to have company after so long. Eventually, Lydia told me she was pregnant and both she and Paul had decided to keep the baby. Paul had finally finished his six months as an intern and was quickly promoted to researcher.
I have thought about it for some time and finally decided my house was too large for me alone and offered them to move in with me. Most of the house is theirs to use now. Lydia had twin daughters since they moved in and I often substitute for a grandmother / nanny now that she had to go back to work.
God has sent the two of them to me just as they sent me to them. Life is good. And now it’s time to put the turkey in the oven and prepare the Thanksgiving table once again…