Cranky Cranberries A Thanksgiving Story
I had never been an angry person, but I threw the can of cranberry sauce in the trash can very hard. I was cranky, and believe it or not, at that moment I blamed the cranberries. What’s worse is it was my company’s cranberry sauce. No I’m not crazy, I was just tired.
Tired, and a long way from home. My name is Charlie, Charlie Morrell, and I’m the President of What Cranberries? Inc. It was my Grandfather’s company originally, and I got the idea of doing something different with it. I’ve had nightmares about that day since.
My idea seemed good at the time, creating something different. A line of non traditional cranberry foods, like cranberry salsa. The board loved it. The board consists of Dad, Uncle Grover, my Wife Hilda, and my cousin Sally.
Several months later, at that moment I regretted it. I was in Texas trying to find a jalapeño supplier and a rare and random snowstorm meant I couldn’t get out of Texas in time for Thanksgiving. I couldn’t believe Wisconsin was clear and sunny, and Texas was covered in snow and ice.
Like most families, Thanksgiving is big for us, and I had never missed one. Here I was, the Monday before Thanksgiving and my flight Wednesday wasn’t going to happen. I did a call to Hilda, and then to everyone at once on a shared call. Everyone reassured me that it would be okay. Sally, my cousin and surrogate big sister went into protective mode and found the best place where I was to eat Thanksgiving dinner.
Dad reminded me, “We can do a video call, you’ll mostly just get out of carving the turkey. Uncle Grover can do it. I may even let him use Bertha.” Uncle Grover smiled, Bertha was the name we gave the electric knife he was so fond of using. Aunt Viv doesn’t like the noise so he doesn’t get to use it much.
As much as they tried to reassure me, I still felt miserable. It didn’t help that even though I signed the supplier that morning, I felt uneasy about the agreement. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something didn’t sit right. They were nice enough, maybe it was just the mood I was in.
It happens some times that, you can be very blessed, and ungrateful. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was being that way. All I saw for a moment was what I was going to be missing, in the process I missed a lot. Had it not been for the snowstorm I wonder when I would have seen it.
Craig Harp was the owner of the company I had signed with for the jalapeños, he was the owner of Bear Fire, the name of the food company. I liked the name because originally cranberries were also called bearberries, because colonists had seen the bears eat them. When I saw him that morning, he was in a suit, and looked uncomfortable. That afternoon, I went for a big lunch to feed my bad mood, and I saw him again.
It was the little diner beside my hotel, a hole in the wall is what Mom would call it affectionately. She loved little out of the way delis and things like this. I saw Craig, but this time he wasn’t in a suit, he was in a shirt and jeans, with grease stains all over the shirt. I did a double take, but I was sure it was him.
What I wasn’t sure of was whether to get up and talk to him or not. He made it easy, he came to me. “Good afternoon Charlie, I’d shake your hand but I’m a mess. My main truck broke down outside and I was trying to fix it. Finally stopped to get a bite to eat. Can I sit with you, I think we need to talk.”
“Charlie, I was dressed up this morning, the wife’s idea. She told me to impress you, and I’ll be honest I thought she was right. Now, I think I was given a second chance to do this right. Everything I told you this morning is true, we’re big enough to deliver everything I promised, that’s why I showed you all the financials, and a lot of the verifications you normally wouldn’t see. I wanted you to be sure you could trust us.”
“What I didn’t share is, we desperately need your business. Last year, a fire torched a lot of our equipment and part of our main building. We used most of what we had to rebuild, insurance covered some, but not enough. I had to streamline some things, but we need your business to come back to full strength, that’s what I didn’t share.”
I didn’t completely understand why he was telling me now. He was right, it didn’t make a difference to the agreement, but I can’t say it would not have affected my decision. What I wanted to know now was why he decided to tell me now. He could have explained the meeting fairly easily.
“Because it didn’t feel right. It felt like I was hiding something from you. Like I said, it doesn’t affect the agreement, but I didn’t want to get off on the wrong foot. Plus, it’s Thanksgiving week, sort of a bad week to have something distracting you from appreciating things.”
I realized what had made me so uncomfortable. Craig was bothered by it from the beginning, and I had picked up on it. I also liked that he was bothered by it, he was an honest man. In business, I had made my share of mistakes, but this guy realized his pretty quickly and fixed them. I could do business with a guy like that.
We had a great lunch, I even offered to help him with the truck. “I’ve had to work on a few cranberry trucks back home.” Between us, we got it running enough to get it back to his warehouse, which was right beside the family home. I laughed when he told me, “I thought I was the only guy who lived within walking distance of the business.”
“We bought ours mainly because it was close to the business. Something my Dad had done when he ran it. Grandpa had his house first, so he built the business near it. We’ve got a lot in common.”
He introduced me to his wife Gale, and their three boys Mark, Hank, and Ned. We had a wonderful dinner. It was a lovely evening. By dessert I had told them my story about the snowstorm and how it all went so crazy. I wasn’t as cranky anymore, but still a little homesick.
Gale looked at Craig and said “Hank Douglass.” Craig smiled big and repeated the name to her. He looked at me. “Charlie, be backed in the morning and be downstairs with everything at 3 am, can you do that?”
I nodded, and he said he’d better get me back to the hotel to get what sleep I could. Normally I’d ask questions, but I didn’t. It wasn’t that I was afraid of being rude, or anything noble like that. I wanted to go to sleep hoping I had a shot at being home in time for Thanksgiving.
The truth is, I didn’t get much sleep for the anticipation. I was down in the lobby actually about 2:30, Charlie showed up about 2:45. “You are in a hurry to get home, let’s see if this works.”
The if worried me, but I was committed. We drove for three hours, and pulled into a little municipal airport in a town I didn’t even catch the name of. There wasn’t time to ask questions now. Craig put me in Hank Douglas’ office with my bags and said he’d call me tomorrow to make sure I was home.
I’d like to tell you that it was a simple flight from there to home, but it wasn’t. What did happen was Hank’s small plane got me to another town, which got me to another town, and you guessed it to another town. From there I got a flight out of Texas thanks to a favor or two they all owed Hank Douglas.
Hank Douglas was a character it turns out. He was a war veteran, business man, and local hero who quite literally had saved someone from a burning building. No one could say no to Hank, and while I didn’t know Hank directly, I knew one of Hank’s friends, and that was good enough.
I flew in to our home airport a little after eleven that night. By ten minutes to midnight, I was standing in my living room, hugging my wife and kids. Janie and Justin were so glad to see me, and I started to cry. “What’s wrong Daddy, are you okay?”
I hugged my little girl and smiled. “Honey, Daddy is better than okay. This morning I thought I wouldn’t get home for Thanksgiving, and well Daddy was cranky. Tonight I’m here in our home, with our family, and I’m truly thankful.”
Justin, our 5 year old genius, sighed. “Daddy that would have been awful, you had missed the turkey, and the parade, and Granna’s Cranberry cake, and everything. What would you have done without all of that.”
It was a moment to teach my son what I had to be reminded of earlier in the day. I picked him up from my leg and hugged him. “Honey, believe it or not, I could miss all of that and I’d be okay. What I was cranky about wasn’t dinner, or the parade. I like all of that, but I was sad because I would have missed you, your sister, and Mommy.”
“I’m thankful, not for all the stuff we do on Thanksgiving, but for who we do it with, and for Who gave me all of you. On Thanksgiving, we thank God, not because of a good meal and some fun stuff, we thank Him because He has given us so many blessings. What does Gramps always say when he does the prayer, the last part?”
Justin smiled, he liked knowing answers. He repeated it word for word, though with a cute little lisp that his Grandpa didn’t have. “He says Lord, thank You for giving us You, our family, and our country. Thank You for not only giving us reasons to be thankful, but the ability to give thanks freely.”
It was a great day, family was together, the food was good, and the parade was fun. All in all, there was only one person who had a momentary cranky moment, Uncle Grover. He was still planning on using Bertha until Aunt Viv said “Put that away! Charlie will carve, and he’ll use the good knife that’s quiet.” Thankfully she followed it up with a kiss, and nobody was cranky when the cranberry cake was served.