If you remember, we left poor Dandy lost in the woods on his way to his grandmother’s for Thanksgiving dinner and he has just met a very intimidating creature. Will Dandy be eaten or will he make it to dinner? Read on to find out!
The Cat: Pt. II
“W-w-what do you want?”
The cat seemed to smile, that odd sound still coming from his chest. “I’ve been watching you little hedgehog. I had thought you lost your way.”
“And what makes you think that?” replied Dandy, standing up as tall as he could muster.
The cat stretched in the sun and began to walk a circle around him. “Only that you’ve circled that tree about three times.”
Dandy looked at his toes for a moment and then back at the golden face. “What of it?” he asked, trying to sound much braver than he felt.
“Well I thought that maybe you could use some help.” said the cat.
Dandy blinked. “You mean… you don’t want to eat me?”
The cat laughed, a hissing sound that wasn’t particularly pleasant. “My dear little hedgehog, I wouldn’t even attempt to eat you. Hedgehogs are too prickly for eating. And considering today is Thanksgiving day and I believe your family is waiting for you in my garden shed, I thought I would show some holiday hospitality.”
Dandy eyed him suspiciously. “How do I know if I can trust you?”
The cat chuckled. “You don’t. But my name is Charlie if that is any solace.”
“I’m Dandelion. Everyone calls me Dandy.” the hedgehog offered.
“Excellent. Shall we go then? I wouldn’t want you to miss your Thanksgiving dinner.” the cat began to walk away through the trees. Dandy hesitated for a minute, thinking over his options, and then adjusted his satchel and trotted along after Charlie.
They walked a little way through the trees, not really talking and Dandy could hear the sound of the river slowly fading away.
After a while, Dandy decided to try a conversation. “So you live in the garden?”
“Yes,” Charlie replied. “All my life.”
Charlie’s tail swished across Dandy’s nose, making him sneeze.
“My mother’s mother came with the farmer and his wife who live in my house. My mother was born in the garden and I was born in the garden with my brothers and sisters. But I was the one who got to stay.”
Dandy thought for a moment, “Do you know my grandmother? She probably knew your mother.”
Charlie shook his head slowly as they plodded along. “No I have not had the pleasure.”
At last they reached a gap in the forest that Dandy recognized as the overgrown lane. “I know where I am!” he exclaimed. “We’re almost there!”
Charlie smiled at his enthusiasm.
Just a little further along the path and Dandy saw the garden wall. He began to scurry faster and was running when they reached it. He slipped under a gate covered in tangled vines as Charlie leapt over it.
“Grandmother!” he called as they reached the shed. Another hedgehog in a blue flowered apron and the most beautiful hedgehog wrinkles you’ve ever seen came through a hole in the door. “Dandy!”
Dandy was caught up in a hug when he felt his grandmother tense and realized Charlie was sitting behind him.
“Oh, Grandmother, this is Charlie. He lives here in the garden and helped me find the lane today.”
Grandmother smiled, “Well thank you for helping my boy, Charlie.”
Charlie bowed his head, “A pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Hedgehog. I will let you to your supper. Goodbye Dandy.”
“Goodbye Charlie. And thank you!” Dandy called after him as the long golden tail disappeared down the garden path.
“Come in come in!” urged Grandmother. “The potatoes are ready and waiting!”
They scurried into the garden shed, across the floor and under the potting bench where Grandmother made her home. Inside, Dandy was met warmly by his mother, father, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins. Thirty two hedgehogs in all. The hugs and greetings could have lasted forever but Grandmother clapped her hands and got everyone settled around the table.
“Let’s pray.” She said and all thirty two hedgehogs bowed their heads. “Thank you, dear Lord, for the food on this table. Thank you for all of the family around this table. And thank you for a safe place to put this table. Amen.”
“Amen,” echoed everyone and the eating began.
Dandy could hardly keep up with the plates being passed around! There were the promised potatoes and cranberry sauce. There were at least three different kinds of cheeses, four kinds of nut crumbles, a duck, a pheasant, green beans, creamed corn, white rolls and cornbread muffins. And oh the pies. Pumpkin pie and raspberry pie and blueberry pie and boysenberry pie and pecan pie and even a lemon tart. But you need a lot of pie for so many hedgehogs.
There was more than enough food for each hedgehog to fill their stomachs and as they ate, they told stories. Grandmother told the story of how she and grandfather came to the shed from over the mountains and made their home here. Aunt Matilda told the story of when Dandy’s father spent the night in the farmer’s wife’s kitchen because of a dare. Dandy’s mother told the story of the time Dandy was caught in the carrot patch and had to be rescued from the farmer’s supper. And they all laughed.
When the plates were empty and cleared away, Dandy pulled out his violin. He began with some rousing melodies that had the hedgehogs dancing across the garden shed floor. Then he played a nice long waltz and finally he played his Grandmother’s favorite hymn. Thirty two voices joined together and sang:
“It’s a gift to be simple. It’s a gift to be free.
It’s the gift to come down where you ought to be.
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
Will be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend, we will not be ashamed,
To turn, turn, will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.”
Every year, the hymn signaled the end of their Thanksgiving celebration. They spent the next half hour packing up pie plates and saying their goodbyes. Grandmother had acorn lanterns for everyone to light their way home.
Dandy was the last to leave.
“I am so glad you could be here, my boy,” Grandmother said as she wrapped Dandy in one last warm hug. “Be safe!”
“I will,” Dandy replied and picked up his acorn lantern.
He left the shed to see that the first snow in the wood had begun to fall. The ground was only starting to become white and the flakes shimmered in the light of his lantern. Dandy hugged his coat closer and smiled. Silently he thanked God for his family, especially his Grandmother, and for his safe little house in the Wild Wood. Because it was a gift to be simple and free, like the song said. And the memories of the combined voices of his family kept him warm all the way home.
Happy endings are my favorite. I hope your Thanksgiving has a happy ending! Have a great holiday weekend!