The kindling snapped and crackled, warming the brisk air, staving off the cold. The sun shone through the dusty window, though from its light little warmth could be found.
She sat there quietly, rocking back and forth in that old wooden chair that never quite gave out.
From her lap, his shiny black eyes stared up at her as she admired his permanent red smile.
As she fingered his tiny overalls, she imagined the look on the little ones’ faces, pressing up eagerly against the icy windowpane, unable to contain their anticipation.
They dearly loved her lifelike homemade gifts.
She found her dolls somewhat distant, always gazing at her with empty eyes.
The last strand of hair was finally in place. The last of the evening was nearly done.
As she gently inserted the needle to tie a knot, he lurched forward in her hand, as if pain to reach the end of her careful threading. Their privately shared journey.
She heard a high-pitched voice, and was solemnly startled.
“Grandmumma, why are they always smiling?”
A young girl ambled up to the old rocker, gazing upon the new addition with delight, though sorrow filled her heart as she feared what would become of the latest creation.
The woman admired her own craftsmanship once more.
This one would not find its way into the basket. She nurtured him in her bosom, keeping him close to her heart as he had once been. This one was special.
She took to her feet, walking slowly over to the mantelpiece, glancing at faded pictures of old memories her heart knew all too well. She could never let them go, though she dearly tried.
She grew fond as her weary eyes caught sight of an old photo, her oldest friend.
She remembered the intense heat of the flames, feeling them once more now hot against her legs as she paced in front of the fireplace. A crimson ember took flight, escaping from the heap of burning logs. She watched it float on; she followed its trek across the room as it gently drifted to the ground and so casually lost its glow.
The young girl watched on, having seen this sight many times before, and hated what came next. It always seemed such a shame to her youthful frame, “But the minds of grown-ups are complicated and hard to understand.” She didn’t get it, but she hoped as with most things, that in time she would.
The woman crept closer to the flame, she herself nearly unaware of what she intended. Her heart went out to this little poppet. She had shared his journey; felt his life, love, and laughter, seen his heartache, misery, and pain. She had experienced a lifetime of life with him, though she had expected his to last at least as long as hers. This little friend too, would be no different.
She cast him cautiously into the flame, making sure that he would go as gracefully as he came. He stared back with dull eyes, idle and unimpressed. In the flames, his aroma filled the room with the scent of unfulfilled potential. She watched as his overalls slowly charred, his red shirt turned black. His fine hair wisping away, leaving little evidence it had ever been there. Just like him.
His eyes began to melt, dark oil-stains in thier place, leaving only those bright red lips. Still smiling.
They always smiled… because she never did. The last of him became little more than smoke and ash, and she turned away from the scene she couldn’t stop re-living.
She returned to her chair, her careless eyes wandering back to her iceless windowsill. She watched the cold snow fall, fall, falling. It came blustering down like a merciful calamity, blanketing the land and covering it and its past indiscretions. It seemed too cruel for her to adventure through.
“Grandmumma, are you almost ready? It’s time to go.” The shrill voice called out to her. The small girl stood by her, ready to travel on. She was eager to see her cousins, and the light of hope reflected brilliantly within her excited little cinnamon complexion. The woman watched the child, now seeing her as she was. She had his eyes.
She pulled herself up from the chair, uncertain and wavering, but reclaiming the faint passion she had held as she loving crafted each of their precious gifts. She must ensure that they received them. It’s what they both wanted. She grabbed her cane as the little girl looped the basket around her arm. The elder girl bundled the younger up tight, to protect her from the cold. The young girl in turn offered her hand up to her elder, and her grandmother took it gently as they stepped outside.
The woman looked up at the sun passing its prime, as the small girl wondered at the marvel of the season. She caught a flake of snow on her tongue, and her matron followed her example in kind, catching a small taste of winter. It was different than she had remembered. The snow began to build on their dainty shoulders, and the woman brushed it off as they worked together to get through the breezy light snowfall. They had places yet to go. They trudged along hand in hand, with the long road still ahead.