Page 25 - Scene Magazine 45-12 December 2020
P. 25

 “It’s your turn,” she said, pushing a package toward her. A thick, red ribbon with a massive bow adorned the frost- blue Christmas wrapping.
“What is it?” Hope’s voice, yet not: her voice as a child.
Grandma smiled a little wider.
Hope grasped the package. Her hands were much smaller, smoother, younger. She tore away the paper, tus- sling briefly with the ribbon and bow. The box within was plain, square and relatively flat. Lifting the lid, Hope saw a single, handmade picture frame. It held two pho- tographs. One, a black-and-white print, showed a thin, dark-haired woman cra- dling a baby, kissing the child’s forehead. The second photo, in color, replicated
the tender scene; the same woman held another infant, except this woman was much older – and recognizable.
“It’s you!” Hope’s little-girl voice ex- claimed.
Grandma nodded. “The first picture is me with your mom. The other is me holding you.”
Hope studied the photographs with a child’s intensity.
“You look so happy,” she said.
Grandma’s smile turned radiant. “Your mom brought me so much joy. So do you. Whenever you look at these pictures, always remember: You bring joy.”
Hope looked up at her. She beamed.
– and then released it. Sudden tears burned her eyes, and she palmed them away. Peering again at the bit of tinsel, she saw no more misty images within it. She poked it, but nothing changed.
Not magical, then. The tinsel hadn’t somehow captured the memories of Christmases past. It was all a delusion,
a figment of her tortured imagination. Even now the vision was fading, shrinking to a distant memory – except for Grand- ma’s stunning smile and her three words:
You bring joy.
Hope couldn’t understand that senti- ment. She saw herself as an abject fail- ure. Her life was in shambles. The weight of it crushed her soul. She was barely hanging on, like... like strands of Tinsel Twilight weighing down the branches of a Christmas tree.
An encumbrance. A burden.
And yet... beautiful. Radiant. Joyful.
As she wrestled with her conflicting
emotions, Hope almost missed a vague movement within in a second strip of tinsel. It startled her, then it drew her in. She touched it –
Mom’s hand enveloped hers. Hope was surprised at how little strength it had, how skeletal it had become, how thin and mottled the skin appeared.
That’s when she knew her mother wouldn’t make it through the night. The cancer would win. Christmas would dawn a little less brightly, with one less person drawing breath.
Mom chose to live her last days at home, surrounded by holiday adorn- ments. She’d lost her words, but she could still listen and respond with small, sad sighs. Hope kept up the dialogue, summoning old memories and bad jokes, asking yes-or-no questions so these final hours felt like a real conversation.
By nightfall Hope was running out of topics – except for one, both too happy and too sad to think about. Mom sensed her reluctance. She sighed deeply and squeezed Hope’s hand. Hope knew it
was a request, one she must honor.
“I felt the baby kick today,” said Hope.
“Got a soccer player coming.”
Mom sighed again.
“Yes, it’s a girl. We were going to wait
and be surprised, but... but I wanted you to know. We’re going to call her Rena.
It means ‘joyous melody.’ I thought your granddaughter’s name ought to honor your love for music. Maybe that will help her know you a little bit.”
Another sigh, a cheerful one this time. Full of gratitude – and, impossibly, words. Words her mother could no longer speak yet Hope could somehow hear:
“You bring joy.”
A sigh that also bid a tender, loving farewell.
– and then stepped back. Head whirling, Hope found herself staring at her hands. They were empty, of course. Mom had been gone for a decade; she never met her granddaughter. Yet somehow,
in those final hours, she came to know Rena. And she rejoiced.
Hope fell to the floor and wept.
Hours passed. When she finally looked up, the tree lights seemed less daz-
zling. Climbing to her feet, Hope peeked through the nearest window. A touch of pink scratched at the eastern sky.
The last day was dawning.
Or was it? For the first time, Hope felt a little less sure of her choice.
She wandered back to the Christmas tree. Her eyes danced from icicle to icicle, keen to see motion, to uncover a sign that might lead her to a different verdict.
A strand beckoned. Murky figures moved within its silvery realm. Heart pounding, Hope reached for it –

   23   24   25   26   27