Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas.
by Carla Allen
Work is underway on my new book for 2014: Cuttings from the Vine, a collection of columns from 25 years of writing.
I thought this column from Dec. 21, 2001 was especially suited for this week.
"Are you sure you're okay Mom?" her daughter asked. Sarah replied with forced enthusiasm, "Yes Kim, I'm going to be fine. Stop worrying. Tell Stephen to give my best to his parents."
Sarah hung up the phone and slowly walked back to her rocking chair by the fire, pleased with her performance. It wasn't easyconvincing Kim she was able to cope with being alone this Christmas Eve, but it was necessary.
Stephen's father was in the hospital and there would be no son-in-law and daughter visiting Nova Scotia this holiday season.
She sighed and checked the clock -11:30 p.m. Time to ready the stove for the night. She busied herself raking the coals forward, then placed four round logs of birch on top. In twenty minutes she'd be able to shut the draft and the flames would lick lazily at this wood until morning.
There were still the Christmas lights to unplug. She stopped to admire the well-shaped tree. Sam would have been proud of her. It had always been his job to find the perfect one. The decorations glittered and spun slowly when she touched them. Here was the filigree merry-go-roundthat Sam had presented her with on their first Christmas together, 50 yearsago. Poppy seed heads, spray-painted gold, looped about the limbs in a longchain. Faded, dried nosegays containing miniature roses were tucked amongstsome of the branches, while tiny wreaths of thyme dangled from others. She remembered the fun they had making those wreaths. Years ago, children from local schools were invited to tour the property with them, nature-crafting and discovering the creatures that inhabited the many gardens. Sarah hadn't spent much time tending flowers lately. Her heart wasn't in it anymore. She knelt, yanked the plug out of the wall and climbed the stairs to bed.
Bless the inventor of the electric blanket she thought as she slid beneath the covers. Since her husband's death six yearsago, this bed was an enormous, empty plain with no oasis of warmth to reach out and touch. It looked like it was going to be another Nytol night. Her hand stopped midway towards the bottle. Was that music she heard? She peered out the window. Tiny firefly lights winked low to the ground, between the tall clumps of Miscanthus planted next to the brook. This could not be ignored. She tiptoed downstairs and pulled on her boots and down-filled coat.
The dead stalks in the neglected gardens were covered in hoarfrost and glowed with a silvery sheen beneath the full moon.
Sarah moved quietly through the arbour Sam had surprised her with on her 60th birthday and crept closer to the fluttering lights.
She parted the ornamental grass and froze. Humanoid creatures, no bigger than her thumb, were twirling and spinning upon the ice with torches. Around a wee bonfire another group was singing merrily and dancing along with a fiddler and a piper. They were clad in high boots and mice skin cloaks, with a slit in the back for their gauzy wings. Their finely boned features were a joy to behold.
Sarah leaned closer and a weak stemmed plume from the ornamental grass tickled her nose. A tremendoussneeze jerked her head backwards. She wiped her watering eyes. A frozen brook was in front of her. The little people and their bonfire were gone. Had they ever been? Back in the house she fell into a dreamless sleep.
Christmas Day the first order of business was to fill the bird feeder. She opened the door and stopped in surprise. A diminutive basket woven from grass sat on her step. Beside it was a set of garden tools, shiny beneath a red bow.
Kim had lost these more than 30 years ago. She picked up the basket to examine it. Strands of ivy were woven around the handle and rim. Inside were a dozen miniature clay pots nestled in moss. She lifted one out, popped the wooden stopper and shook the contents out into her hand. Seeds. There was a scrap of birchbark with words written on it.
“Nurture yourself by nurturing others,” and the name of a nearby elementary school. A slow smile touched Sarah’s lips and she looked towards the brook.
“Okay,” she whispered, “I will.”
A new generation of gardeners would receive guidance next spring. Sharing is one of the most important gifts of all.