Kimberly finished her treatment at the rehab facility in time for the holidays, and left a week before Thanksgiving. Even though most of her relatives had been contacted in advance, no one came to pick her up. The only place she could think of going was her oldest sister's house. While Rose had physically distanced herself from Kimberly's issues, she'd heard all the stories from other family members. When she pulled into her driveway and saw her sister sitting on the front porch, she wasn't sure what to think at first.
"You look well." She said after getting out the car.
Kimberly gave a small smile as Rose walked up, then stepped aside as she unlocked the front door and motioned for her to come inside. Rose's house was an epitome of warmth and relative solitude. A single-story with a spacious backyard and garage, the interior was nicely decorated with matching furniture sets, rugs, and artistic wall decor. On their way to the kitchen, Kimberly noticed several canvases displayed in the living room and stopped to look at them.
All the pictures were from Grandma Jocelyn's seventy-ninth birthday party. Kimberly wasn't in a single photo. At the facility, Dr. Lincoln had felt it best for her to keep direct contact with her family members at a minimum. Now that Kimberly saw the pictures for herself, she felt guilty for being the reason she had to miss it. No making or distributing invitations. No planning on who would make the cake or take Grandma out. No finding a great outfit from her closet or reminiscing on all the birthdays she lived through.
Rose came out of the kitchen with two cups of ice water in her hands and found Kimberly staring tearfully at the canvases.
"You still have time to see her." She said gently. "She'll be at Mom's house for Thanksgiving. I know she'll be happy to see you."
"Will she?" Kimberly asked as she sat on the couch and accepted the water. "Will anyone? You didn't."
"You've got work to do," Rose told her "but you don't have to do it alone. If you're serious about staying sober, I'm here for you."
"You'd trust me?" Kimberly asked. "Just like that?"
"Trust is earned, Kim. You're a long way from that, but since you're already here, and it's late, you might as well settle in for the night."
"Thank you..." Kimberly said as she continued drinking her water. "I...I really hadn't thought about where else to go or what to do."
"Consider me a step in the right direction then."
Rose showed Kimberly her spare room, and found some old clothes for her to sleep in. Before she got in the shower, Kimberly emptied her pockets and looked at the business card Dr. Lincoln had given her before leaving. The front had the numbers for the clinic along with her office. On the back was her cellphone number.
"Just in case." Kimberly whispered.
The next day, Rose put Kimberly to work. The last of the preparations for Thanksgiving included volunteer work with her church members, so both women were up at seven. They got dressed in black tennis shoes, blue jean pants, and plain red t-shirts, then made the twenty minute drive to the Solid Rock Missionary Baptist Church.
For Kimberly, nervousness about being recognized by anyone was forgotten the moment she left the car and walked inside with Rose. There were unfamiliar faces everywhere. Adults her age and over. Teenagers. Toddlers. Month-old babies. Everyone was in the church's spacious kitchen, all wearing the same outfits as her and eating from the numerous McDonald's bags on a designated table up front. No one knew who she was. They all greeted her with a wave, a smile, or a hand shake.
"Are these all the church members?" Kimberly asked Rose after they'd gotten their food and started eating.
"Some," Rose replied between bites "but not all. This is the church's drill team. It's a lot like fraternities stepping, only with Christian overtones. Lots of the adults are parents or matrons, and you already met Sister Johnson. She's the director."
"Wow," Kimberly said softly. "And you all do this every year?"
"When we can."
After breakfast, everyone helped clean up, then headed outside. The church's pastor was present and lead a prayer. Meanwhile, two identical white vans pulled up. Once the prayer was done, the drill team separated and boarded the vans based on which squad they were in. Kimberly and Rose got into the van with the left squad and once everyone was seated and accounted for, they were off.
The drive lasted an hour, and it was to another larger church. A banner in front of their doors read Annual Thanksgiving Feast.
"Jesus Christ." Kimberly whispered as the vans parked.
There had to be hundreds of different drill teams present. Everyone wore jeans, tennis shoes, and a variety of colored shirts representing their home church. Kimberly learned quickly that they were there to feed, not be fed. Sweet potato, cherry, and pecan pies, peach cobblers, turkey, ham, and green bean casseroles were among the many dishes set out on tables that had been lined up near the church's entrance.
Kimberly, Rose, and the remaining Solid Rock church family were given hair nets and gloves, and spent the next two hours serving a seemingly endless line of people. The work was a great help to Kimberly. Between the sunshine, the old school gospel music playing over the speakers, and the smiles she saw on the faces of those serving and being served, her mind had no time to wonder if anyone was looking over her shoulder with distrust. Here, there was no alcohol to tempt her. Only sodas and fruit drinks. And Kimberly was happy that she didn't have to worry about it.
When Solid Rock was done, another church family took their place. Kimberly moved with everyone else to a set of blue tents that acted as a break area on one side of the host church's building. They spent a half hour getting their own meals, stretching, and using the bathroom, then it was back to the vans and back to the church.
Back at Rose's house, Kimberly's nervousness returned once she got out the shower. After she changed t-shirts and put on a necklace with matching earrings, she called Dr. Lincoln.
"I won't know what to say," Kimberly told her.
"Anyone. What if they don't want to talk to me? I can't just pretend everything's okay now."
"You won't have to pretend." Dr. Lincoln explained. "Recovery takes time, Kimberly. It's not just about not drinking anymore. It's about giving everyone, including yourself, time to heal. If your family members don't want to listen when you try to apologize, leave it be. Everyone won't be accepting or open-minded. Remember to take things one day at a time."
"You're not done, remember?"
"I'm not done." Kimberly repeated.