Reflections on Thanksgivings Gone By
(Charlie Ferris, the leader of Frank's party, has joined the Ryans for Thanksgiving. Everybody tries to talk Johnny into making a toast.)
MAEVE: Tell them what you were telling me this morning!
JOHNNY: (shrugs) Well, ah, before any of you was up this morning, Maeve and I were down in the kitchen looking at that big huge turkey. I was saying how much we really do have to be thankful for. I mean, when my father came over from the old country, he had eight dollars and a strong back, as they say. And when Maeve came over after the war, we didn't have much more, and it's just amazing to me how good life has been to us since that time. I mean we've always had our health, we've got five beautiful children...
JOHNNY: And it's...well, lately things have been going awfully good for us. But I'm just sorry that Kathleen and Siobhan couldn't be with us today, but we've got Pat. (puts his hand on Pat's shoulder).
MAEVE: My son the doctor. (raises her glass, as they all laugh)
JOHNNY: And we've got Mary...
MAEVE: Who is beyond compare.
(They toast again.)
JOHNNY: And we've got Frank, who has always been a special source of pride for us, because he's kind of living proof of everything we've always believed: that if you work hard and you don't give up, and you live your life by the principles which you've been taught, then you'll do well and get ahead. And now I'd like to make a special toast to our son, Francis Michael, who has never let us down.
(Frank looks very guilty.)
(Bucky and Seneca are with Nell in her hospital room. Bucky is talking on the phone while Seneca is uncorking a bottle.)
BUCKY: I know, Mother. We wish we were with you too! Ah, has Grandfather proposed the toast yet?
BUCKY: I'll tell her. I think Seneca's about to do the same thing here. No, she's telling the truth, she's up and out of bed and she looks terrific. Uh, okay, love to Dad too. Oh, what do you think about the football game? (laughs) Seneca said the same thing.
BUCKY: Well, okay mother, goodbye! (hangs up, and breaths an exaggerated sigh of relief) Talk about a marathon. You know, between us, we were on for over half an hour?
NELL: Well it was almost as good as being there.
SENECA: (hands Nell a glass) Nell.
NELL: Oh, thank you. Well, if you have to spend Thanksgiving in the hospital, the trick is to have your husband as the attending physician.
SENECA: You bet. Bucky?
(Seneca hands Bucky a drink.)
BUCKY: Oh, I said I'd tell you that Grandfather began his Thanksgiving toast with you.
SENECA: Well, Henry and I had the same idea. (to Nelle) To you, with the hope that you know how thankful we are to be together today.
BUCKY: I'll drink to that.
(They raise their glasses.)
NELL: (noticeably forlorn) Thank you, both of you.
(Bucky and Seneca look at each other, worriedly.)
BUCKY: Say, are you alright?
NELL: Yes, I was just thinking of Oliver.
BUCKY: The dog?
NELL: (laughing) Yes. I woke up early this morning and I was remembering Thanksgivings, and there was Ollie, with his head on my father's foot at dinner.
BUCKY: Seneca, have you seen pictures of Oliver?
SENECA: Are you kidding? Nell used to carry around a picture of him in her wallet.
NELL: Let's see, I was five years old when my father brought him home, so that would mean he was ten when you were born.
BUCKY: And I was in the first grade when he died.
NELL: He was sixteen years old and stiff and totally blind, and he refused to admit it. He would have made a marvelous field dog but my father wasn't a hunter, so Ollie took it all out on the squirrels and the rabbits. (smiles) He'd track a rabbit for twenty miles just for the fun of it. (They laugh.) He hated squirrels with a passion. (They laugh.) He spent most of his life trying to figure out how to climb a tree. When I came home for Thanksgiving my junior year of college, I knew it was gonna be my last visit with Ollie. It was very warm and on Thanksgiving Day my father and I sat in the sun on the terrace and I was scratching Ollie's ears and he was grinning, the way he did when he was absolutely content. And a squirrel skidded across the steps. Ollie couldn't see a thing at that point, but his nose was almost as good as ever, and he got up on his old stiff legs and he was off that porch before we knew what he was doing. The squirrel headed straight across the yard for an old maple, with Ollie right behind him, and my father and I could see what was going to happen. The squirrel jumped and Ollie crashed head on into that tree and collapsed. He couldn't get up. And my father knelt beside him and Ollie just lay there and was too embarassed and confused and in pain, and my father looked at me and said, "I'd be so grateful if he'd just admit what's happening to him."
(There is a brief silence.)
NELL: I thought about that for a long while this morning. Ollie's buried on the hill behind the house. I'd really like to climb up there one day next summer and visit his grave. (to Seneca) Will I be alive next summer?
SENECA: I hope so.
NELL: Something's easier. I don't understand it but I don't want to pretend anymore.
(Pat, Bob, and Johnny have left to go help fix the heat, etc. of the tenants whom Nick has tried to drive out of the apartment buildings he wants to sell by turning off their utilities, leaving Maeve, Mary, Frank, and Delia alone at the Ryans'.)
MAEVE: Oh, we've had so many fine Thanksgivings in this place I can hardly sort out one from the next. Except maybe the first one.
MARY: When you and Da were just married.
MAEVE: Hmmm...I was all of seventeen. I had the answers to everything. (to Mary) Not unlike someone else I know.
(Mary laughs it off.)
FRANK: (in an Irish brogue) Ah, you come by it naturally then, ay Mary?
MAEVE: Ah, yeah, that Thanksgiving changed my life. I wasn't at all sure in my own mind up 'til then that I wanted to remain living in America.
MARY: You weren't?
MAEVE: Not that I didn't love your father. He dazzled me, beyond belief. But he plucked me away from my home and brought me here. Not that I'm sure I could have ever really gone back, not unless I persuaded him to go with me.
(Delia comes up behind them and joins the conversation.)
DELIA: Maeve, I don't understand. What was wrong?
MAEVE: I missed my people - my mother, my father! I was only seventeen, remember. America was a very strange place.
FRANK: How long had you been here?
MAEVE: Oh, just a couple of months. I was barmaid and John was tending bar. And Old Man Donnell, he had a pretty good idea that I was just about dying of homesickness, so he and his Mrs. invited us up for Thanksgiving, and they devoted the whole day to making me feel at home.
MAEVE: Dear man. He knew a homesick girl when he saw one. (laughs) Oh, they fussed over me and got me to laugh and to talk about home and before I knew it, I was having the time of my life and I was over the hump.
FRANK: Ah, it's a good thing for us, hah?
MAEVE: What I didn't know, of course, was that you were on the way already, which was probably why I was feeling so strange.
(Everyone but Frank laughs.)
FRANK: Blame it all on me.
MAEVE: It was the one and only time you ever caused me any trouble, generally speaking!
(Frank grins mischievously. As if in answer to what Maeve has said, the phone rings. It's Nick Szabo, calling to subtly lay the groundwork to blackmail Frank.)
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