'A Feast for Heroes'

Dear Nana, I wish you could have been here at Thanksgiving, it was awesome! You could have heard Batman tell about escaping from Iran in the dark of night wearing three sets of clothes. Well, not really Batman but... Anyway, this is what happened.

We were all in the kitchen when Mom came up with the idea.

"Family is scattered this year," Mom said. "So let's invite people without a lot of family to share Thanksgiving. We'll call it an Orphans' Thanksgiving. Since people won't know each other, we'll wear name tags."

Oh, no! I thought. How lame is that? But it got worse.

Mom continued. "I've made tags with famous names for fun, and we'll draw for them." Dad picked Miley Cyrus. Buddy was Harry Potter, Mom was Roadrunner, and I was Nemo.

Oh, man! This is going to be so embarrassing! I can just see it now. "Hello, how to you do, Batman? Let me introduce you to Harry Potter. Oh, and my name is Nemo!"

Mom explained that it was a good "ice breaker" since a lot of the guests didn't know each other. But guess what? As usual, Mom was right.

There were two Vietnamese friends (Scooby-doo) and (Dora the Explorer) and Dad's friend from work (SpongeBob SquarePants).

"I think he might enjoy real food. He burns water," Dad joked.

There was Batman, our mechanic, and Wonder Woman, the British lady across the street.

Everyone brought something: There were chrysanthemums, pomegranate juice, cha gio, (Vietnamese spring rolls) and English trifle, "a special pudding, the British word for dessert." I thought it would be weird having different things at Thanksgiving, but it was delicious.

But the best part of the whole dinner was the stories.

Batman told us, "I didn't like the things that were happening in my country, Iran. So I decided to escape. I dressed in three sets of clothes. I didn't want to carry a pack and draw attention to myself."

"But you must have looked fat wearing three sets of clothes!" SpongeBob said.

Batman laughed. "I did. I waddled to the border, only moving at night. When I was safely across, I made my way through Turkey and Europe on foot, sleeping in the open and spending only a few pennies a day on food. When I got to England, I got a job as a laborer and saved my money. I applied to come to America. Now I'm a citizen."

"I was seven when I left Vietnam with my parents," Dora said. "We packed food and water, crowded into boats with other families and left at night. Later, newspapers would call us boat people." She paused for a minute, remembering. It was very quiet as we waited for her to continue.

"We lived in a refugee camp until we were allowed to come to America. It was terrible, but it was worth it."

Sponge Bob said, "From an early age I knew we had to come here. It was hard living in the Soviet Union. We would stand in line for hours just to buy a loaf of bread. My father drove a cab. Sometimes the American tourists would give him Wrigley's Spearmint Gum as a tip. He would remove the wrapping, put the gum to his nose and inhale the sweet smell. His eyes would light up and he would say, 'Ah, America.' "

Wonder Woman said, "I came from England years ago, not escaping, though. I was happy there. And it was so difficult leaving my loved ones. But I love the spirit of America."

The words "spirit of America" spilled into the silence.

This year I was extra thankful. By celebrating Thanksgiving with heroes, I learned the meaning of gratitude. Love, Jenny (Nemo)

For more stories about Thanksgiving, visit latimes.com/kids and go to Activity Center on the left side of the page. Click on "Short Stories."

Special thanks to Jennifer Olson for her illustration. To see more of her work, visit childrensillustrators.com/jennifergrayolson.

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