The air was crisp and nipped at my nose just in the slightest. I didn’t mind one bit. It was Thanksgiving Day, after all, and we were doing that thing that we used to do every year when I was just a puppy growing up in Forest Hills.
“Holy hot potatoes, look at that Cindee,” the tan puppy who stood next to me cried out, nudging me in the ribs and pointing to the humongous Snoopy balloon floating overhead.
“That is way cool, Mylo,” I shouted to be heard over the crowd that had packed in around us.
I couldn’t help but stare open-mouthed in wonder, letting the magic draw me back in, but on this Thanksgiving Day, I was lost, remembering our first Turkey Day in New York.
We had come to the city when I was a pup of about Mylo’s age and that first Thanksgiving was much different than the one today. We celebrated alone, without family or friends. It was a different time in my life indeed.
Snoopy had passed us by, and now a large marching band from someplace called Michigan was approaching. With a lull in the action upon us, I stared across Central Park West at the spacious lawn that spread out before us. It was a place we had come to play at often.
A warmth spread across my face, and a gentle tingling sensation began at my ears and slowly spread throughout my whole body. I looked up in time to see a giant snowflake descending toward the earth. It didn’t come straight down. No. It danced the tango, then shimmied to the left and twirled to the right until at last, it landed on the very tip of my nose.
“OMG! Did you see that Mylo,” I giggled then turned towards the young dog, only he wasn’t there?
It was a different dog. One with a familiar face and smile. It was …
“First snow of the year,” she said.
I couldn’t help but stare. I was stunned. Here she was standing in front of me. Her fur is black with beautiful tan accents. Daddy had called her a Jack Russell mix, but to me, she was simply and beautifully …
“Who else would it be kid?”
It had been so long since I had heard that voice. I promised myself I would never forget it, and I hadn’t.
She was my friend, my companion, and my mentor. Cosita had accepted me into her home as a sister and she was the one who taught me patience and love. She also taught me to chase the mail person and threaten to bite them, but somehow that seemed to go against her mantra of love, so I kinda ignored that teaching.
“What are you doing here?”
I was still a little befuddled and being a curious dog, I needed to ask.
“You are stuck in the past, Cindee. Thinking about all you have lost. I am here to help you get unstuck.”
I looked at the terrier mix and tilted my head, still not getting why she was here and wondering what had happened to Mylo. If he had been dognapped, I should probably be sounding the alarm instead of talking to a memory.
“Oh for goodness sake Cindee, I am the ghost of Thanksgiving past,” the black and tan pooch blurted out.
“I think you got your holidays mixed up Cosita,” I answered, the bewildered expression on my face giving away my feelings.
“I couldn’t wait until Christmas,” she grumbled.
I felt my ears droop, then begin to flop about in the breeze.
A giant spiderman hovered overhead, casting a shadow over us. I closed my eyes and focused on the darkness, remembering a conversation I had heard between Daddy and Aunt Liz. They had been talking about how sometimes older people might lose their minds and end up in a special home. I just needed a moment to pray that I wasn’t going to end up in one of those special homes.
I opened one eye and peeked to my left. Cosita was still there.
“Cindee, I know you are listening!”
“Humpf,” I blew out a blast of stale air and turned to look at the older pooch.
“What are you afraid of, Cindee?”
“Tell me, Cindee.”
“You know me Cosita! The wind scares me, my reflection in the mirror terrifies me, and even a leaf blowing across the lawn is enough to paralyze me. I am afraid of everything!”
The black and tan pooch fell silent for a moment, then stared deep into my eyes. I could feel her poking around in my soul, searching for the one thing that has been holding me back.
“Share with me Cindee,” she asked, breaking the silence with a loving tone and a sweet gentle smile.
I glanced over her head and stared down Central Park West. Tom Turkey was quickly approaching and behind him was Sponge Bob in a Santa hat.
“Please? I am almost out of time!”
I couldn’t stand to hear Cosita plead but bringing myself to bare my insecurities was almost overwhelming. I looked into her sad eyes and the damn burst.
“The last time I saw you … my last memory of you was watching cancer take you. That last day, you were so weak, you couldn’t keep your eyes open. My heart broke that day, and it was never fixed.”
I closed my eyes and felt a warm tear drop roll down my cheek. My soul was shattering all over again.
“You have memories, Cindee. Keep them close to your heart and be joyous and thankful. Share them and I will live on!”
“I don’t want any stupid memories … I want you!”
“Memories are not stupid, Cindee … and I am right here!”
My eyelids slowly opened. Blinking away the tears, I found myself looking into the deepest honey-brown eyes I had ever seen. Mylo’s head was cocked to the right, and an expression of deep concern covered his face.
“I am so sorry Mylo, I was just having a daydream,” I said sheepishly while lowering my eyes to the ground so I wouldn’t have to look at him.
The puppy burst out laughing, then leaned over and planted a giant kiss on my cheek.
“This ain’t no daydream old lady!”
“No,” I questioned him.
“No! Behold, I am the ghost of Thanksgiving present!”
I felt my jaw drop. Disbelief washed over me. I turned to glance at the parade in time to see Sponge Bob disappear, to be replaced by a band from Montana playing “Frosty the Snowman” as they passed by.
“It’s not easy losing those we love,” the puppy said leaning over to whisper the words into my ear.
Mylo had managed to capture my attention, drawing me away from Central Park West and to his soft, comfortable gaze. When did this young pooch get so wise?
“I know losing Smudge and the boy this year has been difficult,” Mylo breathed the words quietly, delicately, then put his arm around me.
The boy. My favorite human. Having to watch cancer take him too had been difficult and brought back so many of those bad memories. Then Smudge, that poor hamster dying of heartbreak.
“What good is life, if we just keep losing the ones we care so much about?”
I spat the words out much more violently than I meant to. I could see Santa and his sleigh drawing closer. The stupid parade was almost over, and I was missing it.
“Don’t you remember what you taught me, old lady? Life is about each moment. It is about the love that we can give and receive! It is about the beautiful memories that will endure forever through stories from one generation to the next.”
I looked at him. Stunned. My own words were being used against me. Another band was in front of us, playing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” and he was. He was right there. My time with the Ghost of Thanksgiving Present was about to run out and I still had so many questions.
“Thanksgiving Future is next isn’t he,” I asked, remembering the Dicken’s classic.
“Have you learned anything, Cindee?”
I looked at the puppy who was waiting expectantly for my answer. It was as if everything depended on it.
“We need to be grateful because each moment is a gift to be cherished. Not just cherished, but to be shared … thankfully. That is why it is called Thanksgiving right? A day to remind us to be thankful for all the other days … so we don’t forget?”
“Look, Cindee! Look!”
Mylo was hopping up and down wildly pointing down the street. I didn’t need to ask. I knew the answer. Thanksgiving Present was gone. At least the one that I had been talking to. The real thanksgiving is always present in our hearts. As long as we are thankful and filled with love, we are alive. I didn’t need the Ghost of Thanksgivings Yet to Come to convince me, I already knew!
I sucked in a deep breath of crisp cool Thanksgiving air, then turned to see what had Mylo in such a tizzy. The parade had reached its conclusion, and as always, the finale was a group of people holding bright red balloons, reminding us of the most important thing we need to do with out lives …