Sean Pearce Nelson was very solemn. His Poppa had told him this was a special day and he knew it had to be 'cause everyone was here, even cranky old Uncle Jiggs.
Poppa said that this was a ‘nversry and a day to be thankful for…cause we should be thankful on Thanksgiving Day…
We sure have a
lotta food to be thankful for…
His eyes roved over to the the table with the desserts spread over them.
Poppa's right. There is a lotta food to be thankful for.
He looked around at the huge table that had been set up in the Great Room of the Nelson house. There were so many people here, more than he could ever remember. Even more than at Christmas and that was a lot. Poppa and Momma and Aunt Edie, although she looked so sad today. She looked sad a lot lately. Momma said somebody special to Aunt Edie had gone away and she was sad about it, but Momma wouldn’t answer any other questions about it. When he asked Poppa, he had told him to ask Momma. Sean sighed. Sometimes grownups were so mixed up about things!
Caitie was sitting with Uncle Lee and RC and Nana Helen. Caitie and Uncle Lee were going to get married at Christmas, and Caitie was looking so ‘mooney –eyed’ lately. She hardly had any time for him anymore but RC was gonna ‘splain it all to him… soon, he had promised…
Uncle Chip and Aunt Matty and Alex, Kit and Drew, with Uncle Lucius were sitting together. Kit liked Uncle Lou. He talked to the dolphins and they answered him and Kit thought that was something really special. She was too little to understand that Uncle Lou was just fooling her and all of them. He couldn’t really talk to the dolphins, no one could. Not even Poppa. And if Poppa couldn’t do it, then Uncle Lou surely couldn’t, since Poppa could do anything.
Sean looked down the other end of the table when he heard someone laugh really loud. It was Uncle Tony and the Chief. He liked the Chief, he was a lot of fun, and Uncle Tony always teased Poppa ‘bout everything. And most of the time, Poppa didn’t get mad, which pleased Sean to no end. Uncle Tony had even promised to teach him to ride a horse just like the cowboys do in the movies. He'd even promised to take him to his ranch in Texas if Poppa and Momma would agree.
Sitting at the other end of the table with Poppa was Uncle Jiggs. He looked unhappy, but Sean could never remember Uncle Jiggs ever looking happy. All he did was be grumpy and make a lot of noise, all the time and it seemed to him that the more noise and the grumpier Uncle Jiggs was, the less anyone paid any attention to him. Right now, he was making a lot of noises and talking to Poppa, and Poppa wasn’t even paying any attention to him. There was Doc Jamie sitting next to Momma, and they looked like they were watching Uncle Jiggs, and laughing. Sean hoped that Uncle Jiggs didn’t see that. He’d be mad, real mad.
There was some noises and people coming from the kitchen. Maria and her whole family was helping serve the dinner. Once all the food was put on the table, they sat down at the table with everyone else. Sean watched Uncle Jiggs get red in the face, and he pulled on Poppa’s arm, and got him to give him a limited bit of attention.
Then Poppa straightened up and tapped the glass, to get everyone’s attention. Clearing his throat, he said loudly, “Ahem!!!”
Everyone got quickly quiet. Sean sat a little straighter. He was proud of his Poppa, all the time, but especially at times like this.
Harriman Nelson, founder of the Nelson Institute and designer of the Seaview, stood at the head of the table, inwardly amazed at this Thanksgiving. He had wanted this to be special, for several reasons, and wanted to gather all those who meant the most to him, family and friends alike, to share it with him.
He smiled at the gathering and began. “First and foremost, thank you all for coming. Most of you know that I tend to like to keep holidays somewhat low-key, but this Thanksgiving is one that I wanted to share with everyone here. Most of you don’t know this, but this is a special Anniversary for me. Jiggs is probably the only one here at the table who knows. So, I want to thank him here and now for coming to this celebration of ours tonight, since his own family had their earlier today down in San Diego. I, ah, convinced him to come up for a short while for a second dinner and sent Gil down in the helicopter to pick him up. Lee has volunteered to fly him back in the FS1.”
Stark looked at him, something of a smile on his face. Chewing hard on his omnipresent unlit cigar, he nodded his head up and down several times.
Nelson continued. “Of all of you present here, he’s the one who has known me the longest, from the time that a second classman took a very young, very scared plebe under his wing and began to ‘show him the ropes’ as it were.” He paused and clapped a hand on Stark’s shoulder. “Thanks, Jiggs.”
He looked around the room again. “He also, after we were both in the service for a while, was the one who would listen to the ramblings of a crazy man with a dream. A dream of a boat like no other.” He laughed, “Of course, he told me it couldn’t be done, that the Navy would never allow it, that it was crazy, that I was insane, and that I should stop dreaming about it. Well, as Jiggs well knows, I didn’t stop dreaming, in spite of some setbacks and because of all the help I received, we're here today. It was twenty years ago today, ladies and gentlemen, that I submitted my resignation to the Navy, to begin what was called Nelson’s Folly. I never will forget that headline." He shook his head in light laughter. "I haven’t regretted a day of it, and I have a great deal to be thankful for about it.” He paused, taking a sip of the drink on the table in front of him.
“So, when I realized that this year was the anniversary of that day, and that it would fall on Thanksgiving, I decided to have you all here to celebrate this event." He stopped for a moment and looked into the face of each person at the long table. "As I look out at all of you, I realize that without my crazy dream, I'd be a very lonely old man right now. Edie and I are all the family we had, and if it hadn’t been for the dream of the boat, we probably would still be that way. Instead, we have this family that has come together here, because of the boat and the insane dream I had." He looked right at Karen, "I have a wife, whom I dearly love, and would never have known, but for Seaview. And I have a son, that is in and of itself a miracle."
"And then there are all of you, my 'sons', 'daughters', and friends, whom I would not have in my life, if not for a wild dream. And as I look at all of you, I can’t help but think that you all would be in very different places, if not for the boat. Fate has a strange way of reminding us sometimes of how things could have been so different if but for one catalytic event. So I have a great deal to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, as we all do." He smiled slyly. "And If I were to take the time to thank each one of you individually, the little ones at the table would be sleeping before we ate, so I will do that with each of you in private in the coming week. To put it simply, I thank all of you, for being here, for becoming part of my family, for helping me to make my dream come true. It goes beyond the boat, the men, the idea…It is the individual contribution of each and every one of you that has made the Institute what it is, and made the boat what she is. Thank you all very much, for all of it… And I hope that we can continue on for at least another twenty years times twenty in what we are doing here.” He raised his glass… “Thank you!”
The entire group raised glasses in salute to the thanks, and then Nelson looked down at Sean and said, “Now, I will turn this over to my son, who has been sitting here patiently, listening to his father ramble on. I do believe he has something he wants to say.”
Sean Nelson pulled himself up to his almost eight-year old height, and moved towards his father’s chair. Harriman Nelson stepped back, and let Sean stand in front of him. He looked at his mother, and took Karen’s hand in his. Nelson let his hand lie on Sean’s shoulder, and bending down, whispered in his ear, “Go ahead, Sean…”
Sean nodded, and looked around the room. A nervous smile played on his small face. “I told Poppa I wanted to help him with today, and he said I could say ‘Grace’. So Momma and I looked in lots of books, and we tried to find the right prayer.” He sighed, “It was hard, but we finally found something.” He looked around the table again, “I want everyone to hold hands.” One by one, the entire group were joined in hand to hand clasps. “That’s good. Now, bow your heads.” Silently, the group bowed heads, and Sean continued, disregarding the giggles of some of the younger members of the group.
“God, it’s Thanksgiving. It’s a happy day for everybody, and because of everything that Poppa said, ‘For all this, we give You Thanks…Amen…”
He looked at Karen and Harriman Nelson and smiled. “Okay, Poppa, now you can carve the turkey!!!”
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