Thanksgiving had always been a fairly small family affair at the Maxxim household, so this year was quite a big departure. Uncle Carl, Aunt Lauren, and Gloria, joined them for the first time in Astrid’s life. Aunt Penelope arrived with them. The Bundersmiths were also in attendance. Toby and his father seemed natural enough, but it was the first time that Astrid had ever seen their Aunt Gerta anywhere that she wasn’t the primary cook. Finally, there were the Maxxim’s three new staff members, whom Dr. Maxxim made sure to invite. Of course Llywelya Pierce had to be there anyway, as she was cooking the meal.
Although it rarely got too cold in the American Southwest, the wind did whip up, making it slightly too cool to relax on the deck. Since the living room was currently out of order, Astrid’s mother had ordered some of the living room furniture moved to a sitting room, which was decorated for the feast, just off the formal dining room. Astrid couldn’t ever remember seeing the sitting room used, and she hadn’t even been in it since she was about eight. So, leaving it to the adults, she and Toby commandeered the family room and watched the parade on TV.
“What are you two doing?”
Astrid looked over her shoulder to see Gloria, followed by Penelope, entering the cozy room. They took seats on the recliner and couch.
“We’re watching the parade,” said Toby. “We’ve made a game of it. Every time anybody on TV says the word ‘balloon’ you have to jump up and shout ‘Huzzah!”
They watched a school group perform a dance routine to a Beyoncé song. Then the program’s hosts appeared sitting side by side on the screen. A small window popped up in the corner showing a partially deflated Peanuts character.
“Oh no!” exclaimed the female host. “Snoopy is caught up in the electrical wires.”
“Oh, you hate to see that happen,” said the male host. “This is the third straight year they’ve had problems with that balloon.”
“Huzzah!” shouted Penelope, jumping to her feet.
The other three stared at her and then burst out laughing.
“You three suck,” she said, sitting down with a pout. Then a moment later, “Who can we get next?”
“I don’t think either of my parents would jump up and shout, even if it wasn’t a joke,” said Gloria.
“Mine either,” said Astrid. “Well, maybe my dad.”
“My dad would probably fall for it,” said Toby. “I’ll go get him.”
“Maybe we shouldn’t play a trick on him like that,” said Penelope.
Gloria shot Astrid a knowing look. It was clear that she had figured out the same thing that Astrid had—Penelope was infatuated with Mr. Bundersmith.
“Huzzah!” said Astrid, jumping to her feet.
The others looked at her.
“They said ‘balloon,’ and it looked like fun when Penelope did it.”
Toby laughed and Gloria rolled her eyes. Soon they were all playing the game for real, and they had to jump up and shout six times as Underdog made his journey through Manhattan. By the time they were called to their meal, all four were exhausted.