A Thanksgiving Story
“I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.” – Henry David Thoreau
Kensi sighed and shifted in the driver’s seat. Their Thanksgiving Day plans were ruined when a ten-year old shipment of rocket launchers lost during the invasion of Iraq showed up in a restaurant supply discount warehouse near Butte Street Junction. An employee looking for turkey fryers saw something and said something.
“Just over an hour Kens, just over an hour,” Deeks told her. NCIS and the FBI were alternating shifts. The FBI was taking nights and mornings, NCIS was working afternoons and early evenings. Deeks found the upside to all this– they were free for the rest of the long weekend.
Kensi was fuming over lost dinner plans. “This just blows.”
“Yes it does.”
“Why are you so calm about this?”
Deeks looked at the clock in the SUV. 8:54. “Sixty-six minutes and we’ll get you something to eat.” Something that wasn’t in his beach cooler in the back seat that, at one point, included two Subway footlongs, a bag of double chocolate Milano cookies, a bag of Rold Gold whole wheat pretzels, a Jell-O Oreo cookie pudding snack pack and a bag of Kit Kat minis. At one point- because they both ate their footlongs, he ate the pretzels and she blew through everything else. He honestly wanted to know how she wasn’t in a sugar coma. “I know there has to be a peanut butter cup somewhere.”
“I don’t want a peanut butter cup to eat. Do you know what I want to eat?”
“Kens, stop torturing yourself. I called Des. He’s open until 2AM. He knows we’re coming in late. He has turkey, he has potatoes, and he saved us some crab cakes. He has a table waiting for us. We’re going to have a nice meal in a nice restaurant.”
“We eat there all the time.”
“The food is good. They have everything.”
“You know what he doesn’t have?”
“I’m sure you are going to tell me,” Deeks answered, knowing what was coming.
“Pumpkin and parmigianino reggiano soup. Spanish octopus salad. Roasted turkey breast and don’t you dare tell me we’re having turkey later.”
“I mentioned that at three o’clock. I learned my lesson.”
That didn’t stop her. “Sage stuffing. Mashed yams. Cranberry sauce. Gravy.”
“I’m pretty sure they’ll have stuffing, yams, cranberry sauce and gravy.”
Kensi just kept going with her tone changing from annoyance to longing. “A chocolate brownie in chocolate mousse with a drizzle of raspberry and some hand-churned ice cream.”
“I know. The Saddle Peak Lodge Thanksgiving menu was on your refrigerator since Labor Day.”
“The day after Labor Day. I made the reservations the day after Labor Day.” Kensi sighed. “I bet they’re serving dessert right now.”
“We’re going to San Diego tomorrow, we’ve got brunch reservations Sunday morning at Torrey Pines, we’ve got dinner reservations Friday night at The Marine Room. Saturday is a spa day before we visit your friends. They’re barbecuing a pig on a spit Saturday night as one does two days after Thanksgiving. You don’t have a spit with a pig and neither do I- this weekend is a win for us,” Deeks explained.
“I know, Kens, I really do. But you were nice enough to call my mom and she and Joe are using the reservation. I will be grateful for that forever.” He dropped by the restaurant Tuesday and gave them his credit card number for the dinner with the promise that his mother would never see the bill.
“I was happy to do that,” Kensi said with a genuine smile. “I like your mom.”
“And she likes you. She’ll be sending you a lovely box of Godiva chocolates when we get back.”
“She doesn’t have to do that. Tell her not to do that.”
“She wants to do it. Besides, she was going to send you a fruit basket but I explained that the fruit of choice in the Blye household was chocolate covered cherries.”
“No sharies,” Kensi teased.
“I know better. So, where is your mom this year?” Deeks knew but getting Kensi off talking about her missed meal would make their late meal a little better.
“Spa weekend in Scottsdale,” Kensi said with a smile. “She wanted me to go with her but understood I had other plans.”
“You two should take a long weekend after the first of the year.”
“She sort of mentioned going to The Biltmore in Santa Barbara in January.”
“You should go.”
Kensi sighed. “The job.”
“I’ll cover for you. We’re here because Sam wanted time with his family and Callen is family.”
“Do you think Michelle is a good cook?”
“I have a feeling Michelle is good at anything Michelle decides to be good at,” Deeks said. He patted Kensi’s right hand with his left. “I know someone like that, too.”
“I can’t cook.”
“You can cook. You tell me all the time about making dinner with your dad when you were a kid.”
“He could cook,” Kensi was beaming with pride. “I made the occasionally edible meal. My dad, he could cook.”
“I bet he could.” Deeks was pretty sure there wasn’t much Don Blye couldn’t do. “What was your favorite Thanksgiving with him?”
“They were all pretty good,” Kensi told him with a smile. “But when I was 13 was the best.”
“Now I want sharies.”
“Mom was gone. Dad was deployed on an undisclosed mission that I later learned was looking for a war criminal in Bosnia. He left just before school started so I was staying with the McBride family. They had four boys, one girl and the girl, Jess, just left for college. The boys were not happy. They were going to move the Nintendo into her room and have their own game room.”
“And you ruined that.”
“I did. They were good guys, though. Matty, Billy and Dave are all Marines, two are JAG lawyers, Billy is a pilot. Mike is in law school.”
“Lemme guess, then he is going to join the Marines.”
“He’s thinking about it,” Kensi said with a knowing smile. There was no chance Mike McBride wouldn’t join his brothers.
“So you moved in with the McBrides.”
“Mrs. McBride was a really nice lady and a terrible cook. She overcooked everything. She set SpaghettiO’s on fire one night. She had a baked potato explode in the microwave. Just not good.”
“So how could this be your favorite Thanksgiving?”
“Mrs. McBride was a bad cook but a very smart woman. Every Thanksgiving, she had a local restaurant cater a big dinner at the local high school for all the families who either didn’t want to cook or had missing loved ones– deployed or other.”
“Everyone had a family dinner with families they knew. That’s so nice.”
“It was. Before the dinner, they had a little cocktail hour. The adults had cocktails, we had sodas and Shirley Temples.”
“Oh, I can just see a young Kensi Blye with her Shirley Temple.”
“Ginger ale,” Kensi said with a smile. “My dad always had a ginger ale because people thought you were having a cocktail but you were perfectly sober.”
“Your dad was training you for the scourge that is teenage boys.”
“Yes he was,” Kensi chuckled. “Anyway, they would blink the lights and everyone would go sit at a nearby table. This year was different, there were assigned seats. That never happened before, so I was with Master Sergeant and Mrs. McBride, the five kids, and Mrs. McBride’s sister. I wound up sitting next to Jess and an empty seat.”
“Why did they do that?” Deeks had an idea that he hoped was true.
“A group of servers pushed out carts with the bread plates, rolls and salads. I look at the server for my table and it’s my dad. I nearly wiped out everyone’s very nicely prepared Waldorf salad jumping into his arms.”
The story ended the way Deeks hoped. “Awesome.”
“All the servers were spouses, parents or children of someone at the different tables. He sat with me, had his arm around my shoulder when we weren’t eating and was just there. It was great.”
“When was he expected home?”
“Early December. It was the best Thanksgiving ever,” Kensi smiled at Deeks and his heart flipped. A happy Kensi smile is now worth seven plus hours of her complaining about their ruined Thanksgiving. “What was your best Thanksgiving?” Kensi asked.
“Oh easy. 1990. The one where I shot my father.”
“You asked for best. He was gone after that Thanksgiving. Nobody was beating me or beating my mom after that Thanksgiving. It was rough for a while but it has been over 25 years of him not ruining the holiday by being drunk or furious that the Lions didn’t cover the spread. That was the best. Favorite or happiest, no. Best, yes.”
“Bad phrasing on my part, Counselor,” Kensi conceded quietly. “OK, happiest Thanksgiving. Wait, do you even celebrate Thanksgiving?”
“Well, Happy Daddy Departure Day isn’t really a holiday. And on some level, my mom still had fond memories of the non-drunk and disorderly dad so that made things hard. We tried a normal at home Thanksgiving the next year and that didn’t work. Trying to make new memories in the same house, eating the same food– bad idea.”
“Trying to make better memories is never a bad idea.”
“Agreed but not there. The following year Mom had a pretty good job and decided we were going to have dinner out at a fancy restaurant. Well, fancy for us, not Spago or anything. We’d have a new tradition, new memories. The Valley Inn was a good idea in theory but it was a lot of families with six, eight, ten people around a table, a few young couples who didn’t fly back east or up north for the holiday and Mom and me shoved in a corner table for two. Plus she made me wear a suit since that’s what good families did when they went out for their holiday meal.”
“Never said she didn’t. Dinner wound up being really expensive and I’m not the biggest turkey fan so she spent a lot of money for me to load up on stuffing and,” Deeks stopped. Bringing up food would only set Kensi off again. “Well, the usual. Anyway, the next year we set up our own tradition. Thanksgiving on Tuesday.”
“Tuesday. No crazy traffic with people rushing to get wherever they’re having dinner. No trouble getting a reservation. No overly expensive price fixe menu. We’d go to a nice sit down restaurant and have a nice meal. Mom likes Five Crowns. We’ve been going there for years.”
“That’s where you were Tuesday.”
“I thought about inviting you, I really did. It’s just…”
Kensi shook her head. “It’s what you do with your mom, that’s nice. I like it.”
“Yeah, well, she was expecting you so if you’re making your pre-Thanksgiving plans for next year…”
“I’ll pencil you in.” Kensi smiled. “So any favorite?”
Deeks watched Kensi do the mental math of his life. “You would have been at the Public Defender’s office.”
“Yep. The bar results were mailed out the Friday before Thanksgiving because really, isn’t Thanksgiving the best time to hit your folks up for a loan so you can retake the bar review class and the bar exam if you fail.”
“No, I didn’t fail. Got home from work on Monday night and there was the letter. I looked at it for a long time, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best.”
“Congratulations, Martin Deeks, attorney at law.”
“Something like that. My mom sent me a text to call her when I got the news– good or bad– but the call went straight to voicemail. So I had an idea. I had to bring the letter into the office the next day to make a copy for my personnel file for Vi.”
“Head of the office. Violet Skye Williamson. Second generation hippie,” Deeks smiled at the memory of Vi hugging him and offering him some of her organic tea to celebrate. Tiny women and their tea has been a theme in his life. “I didn’t have any cases on the calendar, she gave me the afternoon off. I took the letter to Macy’s, bought a semi-cheap frame, stuck the letter in the frame and got it giftwrapped. The frame was like twelve bucks but the wrapping was nearly ten. Worth every penny.”
“You gave it to your mom.”
“Have you noticed that when we go out to eat with her she always excuses herself after she orders and goes to the ladies room?”
“I did notice that.”
“Mom’s been doing that for years. I had the gift in my messenger bag. It was sitting at her place setting when she got back.”
“Marty Deeks, attorney at law and a very good son.”
“Something like that. She opened it and just started crying. Twenty-five years old and I made my mom cry for all the right reasons. She told me that my becoming a lawyer was her greatest achievement. She brought up a successful son.”
“She brought up a good son, that’s a great achievement. A great achievement for you too.”
Deeks’ phone rang. Looking at the caller ID, he told Kensi “Speak of the devil.” Answering he said, “Hi Mom.”
“Marty, please tell me you didn’t pay for that dinner.”
“How much and I’ll send you a check.”
“You’ll do no such thing. Wait, I’ll put Kensi on. Tell her how good dinner was.”
“No Marty wait…”
“You’re on speaker Mom, say hi to Kensi.”
“Kensi, thank you so much the dinner reservations. The meal was amazing and my son won’t tell me how much dinner cost so if you can send me a copy of the menu Marty said you had hanging on your fridge, I can send him the money.”
Deeks shook his head and Kensi nodded. “First, it was my pleasure to pass the reservation to you. Second, I’m looking at a rather pleased with himself Marty Deeks right now so I think I’ll keep my menu. But tell me, how were the desserts?”
“Amazing and probably very expensive. Marty, Joe and I had cocktails. You shouldn’t have to pay for us.”
“Not have to Mom, want to. And we’re good.”
With a loud sigh, Deeks heard his mother say, “If you two won’t tell me how much the bill was, at least let me take you two to a make-up dinner.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Kensi said as a knock came on the driver’s side window.
“Mom, we’re going to cut this short. Our relief just arrived and I have to feed a hungry Kensi. Talk to you soon,” Deeks quickly hung up as Kensi rolled down the window. “Jonas Ambrose, as I live and breathe, how did you score this sweet assignment?”
“I’ve finished dinner with my family and will be back home just after the Black Friday shoppers stampede the local box store. Couldn’t have a better assignment.” Ambrose retained his annoying smirk.
“Says the man who has eight hours of work ahead of him,” Deeks said with a knowing smile. “If you’ll excuse us, we’re off to food and fun. Enjoy the homeless man by the streetlight. He seems to enjoy using the Volvo over there as a urinal.”
“No movement near the depot. KOST has Christmas music if you’re bored,” Kensi said before gunning the engine and hitting the road.
The roads were mostly traffic free. A few tie-ups around shopping areas– Black Friday was turning into Black Thursday night– before parking near Seaside Murph’s. Walking to the restaurant, Deeks looked at Kensi that Thanksgiving. Not for the first time, he remembered where they were over the last few years and was filled with gratitude.
“What are you thinking?” she asked as they got to the restaurant. “You’re like a million miles away.”
“No, I’m right here with you. And for that, I’m incredibly thankful.”
Happy Thanksgiving from wikiDeeks!
Tess DiCorsi is a wikiDeeks contributor. You can read more by Tess HERE.