Happy Thanksgiving, sweetheart. It's just a little after six in the morning here. My husband is awake, but all the kids are still fast asleep. In a little while, they will wake up and I will start cooking, and the house will be warm and filled with scent of Thanksgiving dinner cooking. We are having turkey. Personally, I'd rather have tofurkey, but I am overruled. We eat early in the day, around 2:00. Three places are missing at our table. Alex lives too far away to be able to come home, at least for now. It would be great if he and his little family could be here, because they are great cooks! Haha. And I would love to be able to give him a big hug, because I miss him, and his little girls.
Another of the missing places is Nana's. This is our sixth Thanksgiving without her, and I miss her as though it was yesterday. I'm a grandmother myself, and never quite get over the feeling of being an orphan since I lost my mother.
And then there is your place. This is the hardest thing, because I don't know where you are. Are you here with us somewhere? Do you have a Thanksgiving meal? You are 30 years old now, and I wonder if you prepare it yourself. Are you with people who love you, and people you love? Or are you sad and lonely?
Are you here?
I remember that first Thanksgiving after you were kidnapped. The headline in the morning paper read, "No Thanksgiving till Kayla is Home." On that day we had an abundance of food, which people had brought to us, but no table set. It was a day like the others had been since you'd been taken. The volunteers who had come all the other days came on Thanksgiving as well, and we all watched and waited for you to come home. I thought surely the kidnapper would let you come home for the holidays. On that day also, the newspaper printed an article saying that the Hayward police had authorized the San Francisco police to take a suspect in for questioning. This was the first lead I'd heard of, and I thought this must be it! But I was distraught over where you might be. If he had kidnapped you and the police had him in custody, what if he had left you tied up somewhere, and you didn't have access to food and water? But it wasn't him, wasn't the guy who'd kidnapped you. He'd been in a very public place on that day, so he could be ruled out.
Now, 21 years later, it isn't true that there has been no Thanksgiving. Every day I give thanks for what I do have. I give thanks for my family, for your brothers and sisters. What I do have, the love I can still hold in my hand, has become all the more precious, all the more to be thankful for, because I have learned that it cannot be taken for granted. I give thanks also for you, for having had the chance to have you in my life for almost ten years, to have been able to see your beauty, your sweet spirit, to have been touched by your love.
We live near an elementary school, and there is a little girl I see walking there in the mornings, with her mother and her brother. She has pale blonde hair, which hangs straight down, just chin length, and she loves to dress in pink. Every time I see her, my heart stills because she reminds me so much of you that it takes me right back to you. All the time I see little girls in the grocery store who remind me of you. I see them often from the back, and their hair and the way they dress conjure you up in my heart like a flower bursting out of the frozen earth in full bloom. They always make me smile, these little look-alikes. They always make me cry. They are with their parents, following along, asking questions. They are curious, learning, they are full of the promise of a beautiful life. Like you.
Today, in between roasting the turkey and mashing the potatoes, I will be checking my e-mail, just in case today is the day you decide to write to me. I will be sending you my love, oceans of love. I pray that it will wash over you, wherever you are.
God bless you, my baby girl. I love you so much, always and forever, wherever you are.