BELONGING

Hello Neighbor! A Holiday Story from Kansas City

By

Angela Cravens

– VOL. 8

Our “Hello Neighbor!” series is an ongoing collection of short stories from the heart of our neighborhoods and the people who make them home.

As Told By Fred in Kansas City:

This holiday season, I enjoyed one of the most unusual Thanksgivings of my life. 

To tell the whole story, I have to back up a bit and share that I’ve been hosting movie screenings every couple of weeks at our little theater in Bellerive. Usually I’ll try to show a comedy that some people may not have seen before. I’ve met some really nice Mac residents at these events. 

Recently, Raj, an Indian college student, showed up. He brought a big shopping bag full of a dozen popcorn bags he had popped in his microwave. I couldn’t believe it. I thought that was just about the nicest thing anybody has ever done. The next morning, I thought about it again, picturing him standing next to his microwave and taking the time to pop all that popcorn. So I sent him a text, thanking him again for coming to the movie and bringing all of that popcorn. I also mentioned that I’m a tennis player and asked if he might like to play sometime. A week later, I was playing doubles tennis with Raj, his roommate Abhi, and their friend Vishnu. 

I learned that everyone had only been in the US for a couple of months, so I invited everyone over for their first real American Thanksgiving meal when the holiday rolled around. I did it up right, too. From the Chex mix and mulled cider before the meal all the way to the coffee and pumpkin pie finish. I’m 58 years old, and this was the first turkey I’ve ever cooked in my life—thanks to watching a couple of YouTube videos. I certainly gained a new appreciation for all of the hours of hard work and love that have gone into every holiday meal I’ve ever eaten, whether prepared by my mother, my wife, or my sisters. 

Well, my 19-pound Tom turned out just fine and it looked great, too. Until I tried cutting into it. Hey, where’s the breast meat? The joke was on me. I roasted the turkey upside down! My guests didn’t know any better because they had never seen a turkey before, but I had no excuse. I’ve seen at least 57 of them. Anyway, Raj and Abhi, and Raj’s brother Sam visiting from Austin didn’t judge me. As I passed out the silverware, they reminded me that they eat with their hands! I had to tell them what each item was, which you pour gravy over, and everyone enjoyed the whole meal. 

Soon after that, my new friends insisted on taking me to their favorite Indian restaurant along with a few other friends, all students at University of Missouri, Kansas City. They wanted to introduce me to a whole bunch of different foods that they enjoy back home in Hyderabad. They had to tell me what each food was, how to eat it, how to dip it, or whatever. No silverware needed. Although they let me cheat with a spoon. We had the best time.