Once and Again...Once Again

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written by Angela Stockton

edited by Milton Boyd

For the first Thanksgiving celebration with her new blended family, Lily is eager to revive "Pie Night," the Brooks-Manning family tradition of parents and children working together to make the pies for their Thanksgiving feast. But on the morning of Thanksgiving eve, she's dismayed to learn that everyone else has other plans for the evening: Rick will be working late, Eli has the night shift at the recording studio, and Grace and Jessie have a rehearsal of As You Like It. Only Zoe says, "I'll be here."

As Lily sees it, no one shares her reverence for tradition or appreciates the significance of this Thanksgiving. She reminds them, "This is our first family holiday together, and I want it to be--"

"Perfect," Grace finishes. "No, special," Lily insists. Finally she proposes that she and Zoe get started that afternoon, and the others can pitch in when they come home.

Out of Lily's hearing, Eli grumbles, "You guys sure have a lot of traditions," as Grace explains that her mother "wigs out" between Thanksgiving and New Year's. Jessie asks Grace how many pies her mother makes on Pie Night. "There's still some left over from last year," Grace answers facetiously.

As they lay out utensils and ingredients, Zoe says, "I love making pies with you, Mom." Her words cause Lily to recall her own childhood, and how she enjoyed making pies with her mother. But her reverie is destroyed when Zoe turns on the tap at the kitchen sink and green water sputters out. Lily calls a plumber. Touched by her explanation that this Thanksgiving dinner is the first since her marriage and will be attended by her combined family, he promises to come over that afternoon.

Meanwhile, at the office of Sammler & Associates, Rick wearily shows Sam a six-page fax from a client who, he complains, has too much time and money. Seeing Sam packing up as if to leave for the day, Rick reminds him that they have a 7:00 p.m. meeting with this client. Sam asks if he should "stay here and prepare for the meeting, or go and be excoriated by my soon-to-be, please-God, ex-wife." As an afterthought, he asks, "You think the Pilgrims ever got separated?"

"No, I think they were married for life, had sex twice, and were very, very thankful," Rick replies with a straight face.

Sam suggests that Rick should be thankful because he divorced Karen and everything has turned out right for him. Sardonically, Rick answers, "Yeah, my son's a pothead, my daughter's anorexic, and so is my business. I'm a poster child for divorce." But as Sam also meanders into self-pity, Rick reflects that he is, indeed, thankful for his current life, and impulsively invites Sam to join him and Lily for Thanksgiving dinner. "Will Judy be there?" Sam asks guardedly.

"Judy who?" Rick replies. Sam unenthusiastically promises to think about coming.

Jessie and Grace's rehearsal is halted by a problem with the lights, and Mr. Dimitri sends everyone home with instructions to come back at 7:00 p. m. While Grace is talking with two other cast members, Jessie asks her for a ride home. Grace agrees, but doesn't try to hide her annoyance at being interrupted.

While grocery shopping for the third time that day, Lily encounters Tiffany in the store. Aware that Jake is visiting his mother for the holiday, she asks Tiffany about her own Thanksgiving plans. In her rambling reply, Tiffany describes a childhood Thanksgiving which she spent visiting her mother in rehab. Contrasting her idyllic memories with Tiffany's hardscrabble ones, Lily is moved to invite her to the family dinner. Tiffany is embarrassed to be on the receiving end of Lily's generosity again, so soon after her baby shower, but she yields to Lily's persuasion and promises to come early to help.

After the rehearsal, Jessie is dropped off at her mother's dark, empty house. [She tells the camera, "Sometimes it seems like nobody even lives there. Do you remember those weird birds in Alice in Wonderland with brooms instead of tails? It just seems like they swooped in and erased everything, just swept it all away."] Minutes later, Karen arrives and greets her daughter affectionately. While they chat, Jessie asks what Karen is doing for Thanksgiving; Karen assures her that she's having dinner with Deb and Steve, some old friends. To allay Jessie's concern, Karen reminds her that she and Rick have been alternating holidays with Jessie and Eli for a long time. In turn, Karen asks about Lily's Thanksgiving plans, and Jessie answers that she's having a family dinner. She adds glumly that Grace hates her, but Karen makes light of her anxiety, reminding Jessie that she and Eli fight all the time and it doesn't mean anything.

Jessie suddenly remembers that she's supposed to be at Lily's house for Pie Night. "Pie Night?" Karen repeats incredulously. Jessie nods, and in unison they burst into laughter.

Through the afternoon and into the evening, Lily works on her pies while, unable to wash her dishes, she can only let them pile up in the sink. Zoe, who promised to help, is nowhere to be found, and Grace and Jessie must leave again for their rehearsal. When Grace tries to hurry her along, Jessie protests that she hasn't finished her geometry homework. "Can't you do it in the car?" Grace asks irritably. Jessie throws up her hands in exasperation and starts looking for her sweater, Grace sulking as she anticipates Mr. Dimitri's anger if they're late. "Forget it, I don't need it," Jessie snaps, and they leave.

Rick calls to check in, and Lily asks when he's coming home. "Late," he answers ruefully, explaining that he still has to meet with Ian, whom he calls "Colin's evil henchman," and Sam.

She cuts short the conversation when Zoe shows Raoul, the plumber, into the kitchen. Belatedly remembering her promise to help with the pies, Zoe picks up a dough blender. Seconds later, a friend calls and Zoe drifts out of the kitchen with the telephone, her promise forgotten again. Raoul examines the pipes, informs Lily that they are rusted out, and advises her to replace them. Although he says that the water coming out of her tap is safe and the job can wait until Monday, she cajoles him into starting right away. He promises to be finished by 3:00 p. m. on Thanksgiving day, when she plans to serve dinner.

At their office, Rick and Sam are showing the dour Ian a model of their design for the Dreiser Hotel lobby when Lily calls. When Rick doesn't want to tell her how the meeting is going, Lily encourages him to invite Ian to Thanksgiving dinner if he thinks it will help. Instead, he reveals that he has invited Sam. Lily is so upset that she won't comment for fear of saying something she'll regret.

When Ian finally decides to adjourn the meeting, he tells Rick and Sam that he has to meet Colin, his boss, the following night and wants to have something to report. Therefore, he announces, they need to meet again the next day. Rick's protest that the next day is Thanksgiving fall on Ian's unsympathetic ears. "I'm sure Lily will understand," Sam remarks drily.

During the rehearsal, Jessie twice forgets her lines during a scene with Grace. As prompter Alexa reads the lines, Jessie sees Grace moving her lips in silent recitation, flaunting the fact that she knows Jessie's part better than Jessie herself does.

[Hugging an armload of books, Karen tells the interviewer that everyone wrote the same thing in her high-school yearbook: "Don't ever change." Shaking her head slowly, she reflects, "It's probably the worst thing you could ever say to a person. But what's really frightening is that I haven't changed, not really."] Karen calls her friend Deb and, noisily "coughing" into the phone, lies that she can't join Deb and Steve for Thanksgiving dinner because she has a cold.

Taking a break from her pies, Lily is tearing apart a loaf of bread for stuffing when Judy arrives. "My hero, come save me!" Lily pleads in mock despair.

"Just don't ask me to make pies," Judy warns her, surprising Lily, who recalls that Judy used to love making pies. Judy points out that Lily's memory is faulty: their mother never let Judy into the kitchen on Pie Night. She informs Lily that their mother will be working at a homeless shelter for Thanksgiving and quips, "They'd better like pie."

They talk about Rick and Sam's Dreiser project, Judy cautiously asking if Sam is doing OK. Lily replies that she doesn't know, "but you can ask him yourself, I suppose, because Rick has invited him for Thanksgiving."

"What were you going to do, just have him show up?" Judy asks, disturbed that Lily hadn't told her sooner. Lily replies that she knew Judy would be upset, and that she was going to ask Rick to disinvite him. "Why--because I can't handle it?" Judy demands.

"Can you?" Lily counters.

Grace and Jessie return. Jessie wearily announces that she's going to bed, leaving Grace to tell Lily that their rehearsal was so awful, Mr. Dimitri is requiring them to rehearse the next day. Lily is angry that Jessie and Grace are already too tired to help with dinner preparations and still have to rehearse on Thanksgiving, and becomes further upset when Judy leaves after having contributed little more than conversation. She consoles herself with the memory of another moment from childhood when her mother affectionately tweaked young Lily's nose with a floury finger while they made pies together.

By the time Rick arrives home, Lily is asleep, but the sounds of Rick stumbling around in the dark bedroom disturb her. "How'd it go?" she mumbles. "Ian and Sam are locked in some sort of titanic macho-artist death struggle. I seem to be the referee," he replies. Snuggling alongside her, he asks hopefully, "Do you want to...?" She's interested, but too sleepy even to roll over. Instead, she asks him to set the alarm for her because she has to be up early to put the turkey in the oven and let Raoul into the house.

Rick promises to do both himself, which warms her heart until he explains that he has to be up early because he's going to the office. That wakes her up. "Do you have any idea what this day means to me?" she berates him. "This is our first Thanksgiving as a family! Either we're a family or we're not, and there's not much indication that we're much more than six strangers in a boardinghouse with a pretty stressed-out short-order cook!" Noting that the children are already going their separate ways, or soon will be, she argues, "I want these kids to have some connection to each other now, or else they never will." Though he understands her feelings, Rick can't offer a solution.

In the morning, Rick is still too exhausted to turn off the alarm, and Lily must reach across him to do so. Downstairs, she wrestles the 18-pound turkey from the refrigerator, but it slips out of her hands and slides across the floor, stopping at the feet of Zoe and the just-arrived Raoul.

Karen wakes up, alone, in her bedroom. [In black and white, she recalls hearing her parents say that when she was a child, living in the country, she would jump out of bed in the morning and joyously run outside, naked, to play on her swing and sing to herself. She admits that she doesn't remember this at all.]

When Tiffany arrives, she keeps Raoul company, mashing potatoes while he tackles the pipes. They talk about her pregnancy, she mentioning that she wants a drug-free childbirth so she can remember and describe it to the baby someday. He predicts that she'll have no problem. Lily, wearing two Post-It Note reminders on her shirt, returns to the kitchen to baste the turkey. Raoul recommends that she baste it more often than once every half-hour and add a sprig of sage to the roaster.

Judy, with red-rimmed eyes, visits long enough to tell Lily that she thought she could handle seeing Sam across the Thanksgiving dinner table, but she's now decided that she can't, and therefore she won't be coming. Lily protests that she'd rather have Judy at the dinner than Sam, but Judy, afraid of spoiling Lily's holiday, won't change her mind, and leaves. "I hate Thanksgiving," Lily mutters.

Still dressed in her nightgown, Karen comes downstairs. Hearing voices in her dining room, she follows the sounds and "sees" her younger self serving a Thanksgiving feast to Rick, Jessie, and Eli, her family serenely happy and not yet split apart by divorce. ["Have I ever really been happy? Or was I just making sure that everyone else was happy?" she wonders bleakly.]

She's brought back to present time by the sound of a vehicle in her driveway. Through a window she watches Eli and his bandmates pile out of a minivan, lugging their instruments. Eli is surprised to see her when he opens the door, and she quickly invents a headache to explain why she hasn't gone to visit Deb and Steve. He tells his bandmates that they can't stay. Karen asks him if they have another place to practice, and he assures her that they do. The boys climb back into the minivan with their instruments and drive off.

["I've always felt so responsible for everything. I come from a long line of professional worriers. If you didn't do your job, the sky would fall down and the world would collapse," Karen says, continuing her mournful introspection.]

Lily, her shirt now now sporting five Post-It Notes, helps Zoe set the dining-room table while Raoul makes the gravy. Grace, in costume, enters through the front door, followed by other members of the cast. She explains to Lily that because the janitor wanted to go home, he locked them out of the theater before they could finish their rehearsal or even change their clothes.

"Where's Jessie?" Lily asks. "She's coming with someone," Grace answers, and changes the subject. The self-styled "evil August Dimitri" asks Lily if they can use her living room for their rehearsal. When Lily scolds Grace for not bringing Jessie home herself, Grace snarls, "I'm not the tour director for her life, OK?" Behind the As You Like It company, Eli and his bandmates walk in and file past Lily, heading for the garage.

In the kitchen, Raoul tests the turkey for doneness. Zoe reports to her mother that Raoul thinks the turkey is ready, but Lily answers that it can't come out of the oven until Rick is home to carve it.

With Jessie missing, Grace presses Lily into service as her stand-in. Just as Lily starts to read Jessie's lines, Jessie enters through the front door. Mr. Dimitri condescendingly greets her, "Jessie! Glad you could join us!" Asked by Lily what happened, she replies curtly, "I walked."

At Rick's office, Ian drones on and on until Rick can no longer take any more of his pretentiousness. Abruptly, he rises and announces, "I'm leaving. I'm late for dinner with my family." When he asks Sam if he's coming, Sam tries to soften Rick's bluntness, mumbling, "Ian hasn't finished his story." Glaring at both Sam and Ian, Rick leaves.

Although Lily is still setting the dinner table, a few members of the As You Like It company start noshing on her food. Mr. Dimitri shoos them away, thanks Lily for the use of her house, and ushers his students out. In the kitchen, Tiffany is lighting candles for the dinner table while earnestly telling Raoul, "I think you can tell a lot about a person based on who their favorite Beatle is." Lily walks in and finds Raoul, who has finished his repairs, buttoning his cuffs and writing up his bill. She asks when he's having his own dinner and, when he says seven o'clock, urges him to stay and eat with her family. "You made half of it!" she acknowledges. When Tiffany echoes Lily's invitation, Raoul accepts. They all troop out of the kitchen, no one noticing that Tiffany has left a lighted candle inches from an oven mitt.

The children, Tiffany, and Raoul begin to take their seats while Lily pours the wine. Tiffany remarks, "I smell something," but no one answers. The girls bicker over the seating, neither Zoe or Grace wanting Jessie alongside. At Eli's urging, Jessie finally takes the seat between Grace and Eli. "What is your problem?" Grace snaps at her. "What is your problem?" Jessie retorts.

The girls' animosity pushes Lily over the edge. "Stop it right now!" she shrieks. "Somehow all of you seem to think Thanksgiving dinner just magically happens, and all you have to do is just show up! Next year I think I'll go play my guitar and I'll rehearse and I'll stay at work and we'll just see what happens then! Because I am through pretending that slaving away in that kitchen for the past two days has been fun, and certainly not sitting here listening to you bicker and snap at each other as if you don't even want to be here!"

As Tiffany and Raoul squirm, Grace protests, "Mom, we had stuff we had to do."

"Acting like a family is something you have to do, too!" Lily answers.

"In case you haven't noticed, we aren't one big happy family," Grace sneers. "If you weren't so busy being so cheerful all the time--"

"I definitely smell something," Tiffany repeats. "Smoke!" Raoul shouts. They all run into the kitchen to find the stove engulfed in flames. While Grace calls 911, Eli aims the fire extinguisher and douses the fire.

Rick arrives home just as the firefighters are finishing up. When Lily steps onto the porch, he asks if she's all right. "It depends on how you define 'all right'," she answers tersely, and goes back inside. Following her, he's surprised to come face to face with Tiffany, who matter-of-factly wishes him a happy Thanksgiving and introduces him to Raoul.

Rick finds Lily upstairs in their bedroom. In another flashback to childhood, she recalls dropping a pie. Her mother reacted by angrily wagging a finger at her and painfully squeezing her face. Her rose-colored glasses shattered, Lily vows bitterly, "I'm never gonna do this again. It was stupid to think this was even possible. Even if the kitchen hadn't caught on fire, Grace and Jessie are at each other's throats, Eli doesn't really want to be here, and Judy is more concerned about her stupid non-boyfriend than about being with us."

"And you thought one family dinner would change all that?" Rick asks gently, his arm around her.

"I don't know what I thought," she answers, tears flowing as her anger melts into regret. "Life just goes by even when we're not looking. We can't let it."

In the kitchen, Jessie asks Eli when their mother will be back home, and is stunned when he replies that apparently she didn't go anywhere. As Rick walks in without Lily, Grace asks, "How's she doing?"

"Upset," he reports. "I was just a teensy bit late, and you guys--"

"--turned everything into a nightmare," Grace admits.

"I'm so hungry!" Tiffany comments. "I'm starving," Eli adds.

"All right, you ingrates, let's see what we can find around here in the way of sustenance," Rick proposes. The "ingrates" turn up cold turkey, pickles, and marshmallows among other odds and ends, and Raoul contributes a bottle of champagne that he had intended for Thanksgiving dinner with his sister.

Sam and Judy, arriving in separate cars, meet each other on the sidewalk. Each stammers a hello and an offer to leave, but neither wants to go. "Let's just grow up," Judy suggests. "OK. You first," Sam replies, nodding toward Rick and Lily's house.

While Rick, the children, and Tiffany settle themselves in the living room and share their cobbled-together meal, Raoul says good-bye and leaves for his sister's dinner, predicting that it will be "good food, but not nearly as action-packed." He gives Tiffany his business card, along with a wish that she have a wonderful birth. Sam and Judy walk in, Sam observing that the living room looks like Alice's Restaurant. In her bedroom, Lily wipes away her tears and, hearing laughter from the living room, descends the stairs. "Care to join us?" Rick invites her. Looking at the four children and four adults eating and getting along like a happy, close-knit family, she smiles and answers, "Love to."

In her own home, Karen, never having changed out of her nightgown, makes her bedtime rounds, turning out the lights. Meanwhile, Lily declares, "I think this is my favorite holiday again," and offers what she calls grace: "We all know we have so much to be grateful for right now, just to all be here together. All of us live our lives so locked away in ourselves, locked away in our thoughts, locked away in our hearts, all alone. When you go through something like we've gone through this past year, I think we need to come out of ourselves and reach out to each other because none of us really knows what will happen tomorrow. We don't even really know if we have a tomorrow. All we have is today, this moment, to say what needs to be said. I'm so thankful that we have each other. I love you very much." Her words bring smiles to the faces of most of her listeners, but Jessie looks thoughtful.

Bringing an end to her long, lonely day and night, Karen crawls into bed. Later, awakened by a noise, she pulls on her robe and cautiously makes her way downstairs. In the dining room, she sees Jessie standing by the table, which is set with candles and a plate of food. Her heart overflowing with love and gratitude, she sweeps Jessie into an embrace.

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