Today's post is a Thanksgivng story I wrote for a children's magazine. It was published several years ago. Children's magazines are always looking for holiday stories. They are overwhelmed with Christmas and Halloween tales so look for another holiday on which to center your kid lit story. The odds of it getting accepted will be much greater. But send it many months prior to the holiday. Now, here's my story aimed at middle grade kids--8 to 12 year olds. But maybe you'll enjoy it, too.
A Feast For Oscar
By Nancy Julien Kopp
shouted three boys in the back row of Miss Edwards’ fourth greade class.
“What else?” our teacher asked.
“How abour sweet potatoes and cranberries?” Melissa Martin asked.
We were listing foods people usually eat for Thanksgiving. Thinking of all those good things made my mouth water and my stomach growl like a hungry lion. I raised my hand and waved it back and forth so Miss Edwards would call on me.
“Yes Tim,” she said.
I added my Thanksgiving favorite. “How about stuffing for the turkey?”
Nearly everyone in our class named something—everyone except for Oscar Livingood.
Miss Edwards strolled between the rows of desks. “Oscar, what will you have for this special dinner?” she asked.
Oscar ducked his head and mumbled words that sounded like, Cereal, I guess.”
The class roared with laughter. I laughed long and hard at what Oscar had said. Oscar was a real comic.
Miss Edwards held up her hand for quiet, then asked Oscar, “Are you sure?”
Oscar kept his eyes on the desktop. “Pretty sure. That’s what we have most nights.”
Miss Edwards patted Oscar on the head and returned to the front of the room.
We waited. What would she say now?
“Take out your English books and turn to page 67.”
That was it. She never mentioned Oscar’s strange remark. Instead, she erased the long list of foods on the chalkboard and the subject of Thanksgiving dinner was dropped.
I walked home from school alone that day. I couldn’t stop thinking about Oscar. The guy had a funny name and it sounded like he ate funny, too. Maybe he wasn’t trying to amuse us, maybe he was serious.
I ran into the house letting the screen door slam behind me I cringed and waited for Mom to yell “Don’t slam that door!” but she didn’t say a word. She was at the kitchen table writing.
I grabbed an apple from the bowl on the counter and peered over her shoulder. “Hey Mom, what are you doing?”
She smiled but kept on writing. “I’m making a grocery list for Thanksgiving. There are so many extra things to buy when you create a super-duper, fantastic feast like we’ll have next week. Your Gran is coming and so is Uncle Pete.”
I said, “Get lots of good stuff. I’m saving up to eat enough for two people.” Mom’s list included all my favorites—turkey, cranberries, pumpkin, potatoes and sweet potatoes. On and on it went. “Yum, I can’t wait for Thanksgiving.”
“We have a lot to be thankful for ,” Mom said. “Not everyone can afford to buy all these extrea things for a holiday dinner.”
Her comment made me think of Oscar, and I didn’t like the picture forming in my mind. Would Oscar and his mom sit at their table with nothing but two bowls of cereal? I shook my head a little to clear the picture away and went upstairs to start on my homework.
The next day I watched Oscar Livingood. He needed a haircut and his clothes looked pretty worn and raggedy. Most days, Oscar faded into the background because he didn’t have much to say.Maybe that’s why I never paid much attention to him before. Now, all I could think of was the bowl of cereal he’d eat for Thanksgiving dinner.
On Monday morning, Miss Edwards announced that the class would make up a basket of food for a needy family for a class project. By the day before Thanksgiving, cans and boxes rested in the basket our teacher had provided. Even Oscar slipped a can of soup in with the rest. Miss Edwards would add a turkey at the last minute.
We held a drawing to determine who would go with the teacher to deliver the basket. I drew one of the lucky tickets, and so did Oscar. After school, we climbed into Miss Edwards' van. She stopped at the market to pick up the turkey and we were off to visit the family whose name had been given to us. They kenw we were coming, but even so, their faces lit up with happiness when they opened the door. The mother and father thanked us over and over, and three little kids fingered the big basket.
On the way home, I said to Oscar, “It’s good to help people who really need help, isn’t it?
Oscar grinned and pushed his long hair off his forehead. “They’ll remember this Thanksgiving for a long time. They’ll know somebody cared.”
Suddenly, the bowl of cereal popped into my head again. “Oscar, who are you going to be with tomorrow>”
:Just my mom.”
That night I tossed and turned in my bed while I dreamed about giant boxes of cereal marching in a parade. When I woke up, I knew what my plan for the day would be. First, I’d talk to Mom and Dad and tell them about Oscar and his mother. Next, I would walk down to Oscar’s house and invite them to join us at our dinner table.. I wanted him to know somebody cared about him, too. Oscar was not going to eat cereal on Thanksgiving Day.