Happy Christmas

Happy Christmas

She watched him as he reached out to touch the giant Douglas Fir. The tree itself simply dwarfed him. He needed to be three or four men to reach around it. But sitting there on the bench she realized it was about touching. More, there was a reverence in his touch, as if he were paying homage. Homage seemed appropriate considering it was Christmas day.

There were no hurried movements, his fingers gilding over the rough bark, slipping into the deep crevasses of dark brown, and the mottled green moss. It wasn’t as if it were the first time, more a practiced habit built over many visits. His sad face seemed to relieve itself of whatever burden he was carrying.

He stepped back and lifting his head, looked up trying to see the top, he was to close for that, still he took his time, nothing hurried. Then looking back at the base of the giant, he touched it again, almost like saying goodbye to an old friend. And at his age, there had been a lot of saying goodbye.

His hand reached to the corner of his eye and wiped away a tear. He seemed tired and walked over to the benches in front of the bandstand to sit down. She sensed a ritual of something he had preformed many times before.

She to, in her own way was satisfying a ritual, sitting here watching the people and in particular the children as they ran screaming through the playground. In the last year of his life, she and her husband Sam had sat here many times watching, listening and laughing. Even with his pending demise they had shared the moments.

At 67, they had shared forty years and forty Christmas days together. This was her first one alone. Fortunately there were children, grandchild, plus all the sundry in-laws and out-laws to see over the Christmas holidays. Still, without him, she would be alone, without her best friend, lover and companion. This would be the first of many she imagined.

She looked back to the old man. Even with the cries of the children and their parents, as elders it was just them surrounded by the giants of the park. She watched as he stood and stretched. The stretch seemed of a much younger man than the craggy face revealed. “Health is so important at our age” she thought.

He had a familiar look as if she had seen him in the park before, then she remembered. He had been here several times with the tall brunette. She remembered her hair and was sure the perfection of the magnificent mane had had some assistance in maintaining its colour.

Vanity is such a thin vail” In spite of such an incriminating thought a smile crossed her face.

She was a bit surprised as he turned and looked her way. Could he be looking at me, she wondered?

Oh for god’s sake Hillary you’re just imagining it” she thought. But sure enough, he was, he smiled and gave a small wave. Without thinking of any implied consequence she returned his smile and in answer to the wave, a brief nod. No further acknowledgement was needed as he made his way towards her.

He seemed a bit bold considering how distant he had appeared when standing before the giant Douglas. In a moment he was standing in front of her saying “Merry Christmas.”

Without any hesitation on her part she looked up from the bench and said “Merry Christmas.”

“Joseph” he said by way of introduction.

“Hillary” she returned.

“Any of yours amongst the pack?” he asked.

“No, their all up on Grouse trying out new ski’s” she said.

“And yours” she asked.

“No” he replied, “they’re spread out across the country and as it’s my first Christmas without Mary, I thought I would take the day to myself. I fly out tomorrow for several weeks of visiting” he said.

She saw sadness return to his face. “Mine to” she replied.

“I guess that makes us comrades in loss” he said, in a tone matching the expression

“Yes” she said turning away to look at the children.

“It’s a lovely day to be in the park at this time of year. The children’s excitement adds so much to it” he said following her look back to them.

“Yes” she replied “Santa does that.”

Neither were in a hurry as they watched. Without invitation, and more of where they were, he sat down on the bench beside her. Watching the children took the place of any required conversation.  She didn’t know or cared how long they had sat there in silence, it was just nice, to sit with a man, in the park.

She noticed the shadows seemed to be getting longer, when suddenly he said, “I hear the eggnog at Tim’s is pretty good this year.”

“Yes, I’ve heard the rumor” she said.

“I was thinking I might go over and try it out. Would you like to join me” he asked.

It was not something she would normally do with a stranger, well not a complete stranger. Still, she was unsure until somewhere inside she felt a touch of warmth, almost as if Sam was speaking to her “Go on, don’t be a stick in the mud.”

“Yes, that would be nice” she said.

He stood and afforded his hand. She took it and joined him. Then, came his arm, which she took and they began to walk. Then another surprise as he softly sang “And so this is Christmas”

“Lennon fan” she asked

“Yes” he said “it’s my favourite.”

And together they sang as they walked.

“and so this is Christmas

and what have we done

another year older

and a new one has just begun

we hope you had fun

the near and the dear ones

the old and the young”

“A very merry Christmas

and a happy New Year

let’s hope it’s a good one

without any fear”

Merry Christmas everyone!

 A short story by David Hutchison

 

 

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david@davidsnotebook.com

 

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