Not for Sissies

Saturday was delivery day for the fifty-odd Saint Vincent de Paul Thanksgiving baskets that have consumed all my energies for the last month or so.  The day started terribly, achingly early, with the alarm going off before dawn.  From there the morning was a blur of activity.  I think the bits and pieces, images and sounds still whirling in my head can best be communicated in the form of a montage.  Cue the music–Eye of the Tiger, of course. 

Raw wind blows through the open gymnasium doors as I walk in dressed in multiple layers and laden with my client list, paperwork and miscellaneous supplies…the guys are already rolling tables into place and huffing and puffing as they bring box after box of produce…onions, garlic, potatoes, yams, squash, apples, pears, oranges, grapefruit…

 The snack table is being set up with donuts and hot drinks…we’re still taping client  numbers to the tables as the first sponsors arrive with their food donations…a line of people stand at the long tables, bagging produce for each client family…questions come at me like a spray of buckshot: “What’s this cord for?  Where should I put these cans of corn?  Where is table number 50?  How many onions per family?  Here’s my food, but I’ve forgotten what family number it goes to.  Can you come here for a minute?  I think we’ve got a problem. Have you seen my little brother?”…

I start humming Eye of the Tiger and head toward the corner of the room, which is filled with a mountain groceries contributed by the parish school children…someone will have to put all that food in the pantry…the pace escalates, and more and more helpers haul in baskets full of food and set them on the tables, then stream back out into the cold for more…Duke tries out his best French humor on Jacqueline, a native French speaker: “What happens when five Frenchmen walk into quicksand?  Quatre cinq!”  Jacqueline laughs tolerantly and continues bagging vegetables…we sweep through the room, making sure every basket has a turkey, produce, and enough other food to complete a meal, adding items to baskets where necessary.  Does #38 have a turkey?  Check.  Stuffing mix in #18?  Check.…at 9:00 the baskets start going out the door for delivery…I think some of these boxes are too heavy…one of the older volunteers sinks into a chair at the front desk with an exhausted gasp.  “It’s my knees,” he says….

The extra produce is set aside for the Carmelite nuns up the street…finally, all of the deliveries are done…the tables are broken down, the floor is swept…Michael and I head out with the last two baskets in my car…at the first house five tiny kids and a very large dog hop around excitedly: “Mom!  Where’s our turkey?”  They burrow into the bags of food like squirrels and chorus “Thank you!” as we leave…then the guys at the sober living house up the street come out and help us carry their food inside, talking all the way…

And I take a deep breath, and let it out, and Thanksgiving baskets are over for another year.  Michael and I head down to Portage Bay Café for a well-earned breakfast, starting with Mimosas and continuing through French toast, sausage, potatoes, and chorizo.  And when we’ve warmed up, and rested a little, and filled our hollow bellies, I think that maybe I’ll actually be ready to start in on the Christmas baskets next week.  But right then, I just head home to collapse on the couch. 


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