Toy figures crouched
Among the Carolina pines
Stole secret glances
Thinking she didn’t know
What was on their minds.
When she was eleven, Anna became ill quite suddenly. Her mother thought it was just a stomach ache, but then there was a high fever and severe pain in her side. The doctor was called and she was rushed to the hospital. And just in time. Her appendix was on the verge of bursting. It was all quite frightening, both for Anna and her mother who was raising her on her own. Anna’s father had left when she was only seven and their contact was limited and scarce. But just the same, Anna’s mother called her father and let him know.
Anna had had a crush on Richard for quite some time. So had most of the girls in her class. She didn’t think she had a chance and so she pined for him for a couple of years while they were in junior high.
When she was in the hospital, which was St. Mary’s and run by the nuns, she was on the borderline of being in the children’s ward or the adult ward and the adult ward won. So she was in the bed next to a woman who was dying. And who later died. It was a trauma she would never forget, an eleven year old watching an old woman die and listening to all of her relatives sobbing over her death. It just wasn’t right.
She was in the hospital for several days as was the custom back then; none of that rushing people in for surgery and sending them home the next day like today. And so Anna was then given a new patient with whom to share her room. This woman was much younger and married with a little boy. The husband and child came to visit her and brought her a Mad Magazine. Anna had never seen or read such a magazine. And the woman gave it to her once she had finished it. She read it and started to laugh and then gripped her side because laughing hurt her fresh scar. The woman laughed at Anna laughing and almost crying at the same time.
One night, very late, Anna had a visitor. It was her father. Being somewhat estranged, her father didn’t know quite how to act around his daughter who had never been sick a day in her life and he brought her a present. A pair of stockings. Anna wasn’t allowed to wear stockings yet, nor wear makeup or any of those things associated with a child her age, but her father, awkward at best, had no idea of what to bring an eleven year old who was in the hospital. Her mother was quite upset over the gift, but let it go in order not to cause any more friction than there already was between those two.
Anna went home the next day. She was out of school for several days. One of those days, the bell rang. To her great surprise, it was Richard. He had come to visit her. Anna thought she would die of embarrassment. Her crush on Richard made her feel so vulnerable, that her great love for him was countered by her not wanting to be seen by him in such a terrible state.
Richard brought her a present with a get well card. It was a snow globe. He shook it for her and the glittery snow went topside and then cascaded all around the small Christmas tree that was inside. Anna was more in love with him than ever. She hadn’t thought he had ever noticed her, never mind going to all the trouble of finding out where she lived, visiting her and bringing a present. The card was simple enough, but was signed “Ricky” with several “X,s” and “O’s.” Never could a girl have been so happy. Maybe he loved her after all. Richard was her first big love.
Years later, they lost touch. Richard went to a different high school; they were separated by schooling districts and she never saw him again. She pined for him and tried to find him, but to no avail. He was gone, never to be seen again.
She grew up, but the snow globe was a constant reminder of her first true love and she kept it forever. Every so often she would shake it and watch the snow shimmer down and around the miniature Christmas tree planted in its center. Years went by, but she never forgot about him.
When she grew even older, had married and had children, had survived her husband’s death, she still thought of Richard and the snow globe only served to kindle and rekindle that childhood romance. After her husband died, she looked for ways to find him. Facebook was the in thing and she searched through all of the Richards she could find but no one was him.
But she did find friends of theirs and soon communications and messages led her to him. She was ecstatic. When she finally was able to get a message to him, she learned that he too had married (which was to be expected) but had not had any children. Like her, his wife had died. They were both alone. Although they were much older, they still lived in the same old neighborhoods and they made a date to meet.
Anna didn’t know what to expect. Her blond hair had turned to Irish silver and his to salt and pepper. But each one saw the other as they had looked back in school. It was as if time had stood still. They met and fell instantly back in love. They held hands as if still in school. They exchanged kisses on the cheek and in their minds, the old romance was rekindled once again.
Richard admitted that he, too, had had a crush on her but once they were separated, he was forced by his tender age to move on, as she had been and done. And although each had traveled all over the world, neither one had ever forgotten the other, and believed it impossible that their paths would ever cross again. It was a Christmas miracle.
From then on, they were inseparable. They vowed never to lose touch again.
A year went by, and they were sitting in a diner when Richard proposed. Anna couldn’t believe her good fortune. The boy she had always loved had returned and they merely picked up where they had left off. And then, outside, it began to snow.
I’m not allowed to cry
Over Hank’s death,
Or a summer’s day
Or a beautiful sunset,
Or over michael’s death,
Or over a starry night,
Or over something
My granddaughter did,
My grandson did,
Or over a memory,
Or over a movie,
Or over a book,
Or over a poem,
At the end of a story,
Will cry as well.
Bewitched. Bewitching. Sublime. They are the first words that came to mind after I saw the lady in the photo. Long dark hair, slightly curly, deep-set dark eyes like the night. Cupid lips. All in black and white. Even without color, I fell in love immediately and knew I would recognize her anywhere.
The photo was in my mother’s photo album from way back when, but it didn’t matter. I was in love. I knew the odds of ever meeting her were astronomical but that didn’t stop me from feeling what I felt. She was smiling ever so slightly, reminiscent of the Mona Lisa and I felt she must belong to someone else. But I longed to make her mine.
Love at my age now was a non sequitar. I had been married, but now she was gone and my life was celebate and I had no problem with that because my Eleanor had been my life before she died and continued to be my life even in her absence. There had been brief flirtations, but I could never bring myself to follow through on any of them. Nice enough ladies, just not for me, not now, not ever.
My life now was quiet. No fuss, no muss. Retirement was okay. I had done my time before that and I was content. Not overly happy, but content just the same. I had become somewhat of a hermit, a recluse if you will. My neighbors rarely saw me. The only people I had serious relationships with were the ones who worked in the nearby grocery store (who had known me before I had become a widower) and the ones who worked in the drugstore where I went for all my senior citizen medical requirements. Maybe I might force myself to go to the mall, to buy a new pair of shoes when the ones I had broken in so well finally bit the dust or for a new shirt or a pair of trousers because parts of them had become thread bare.
And so, I expected nothing and nothing was what I found. And then, it happened. Oh, and I forgot to mention that I did have to go out every so often to gas up the car and take it in for its required maintenance to keep it under warranty. But the car went nearly nowhere. A full tank lasted nearly two weeks. My mileage was so low even the dealership remained in awe. My car was as new as the day I bought it.
But I digress. Yes, then it happened.
I was at the gas station filling up for my bi-weekly dose, when a car pulled in facing mine. The woman got out of her car and seemed unsure if she had come close enough to the pump. She had pulled in so fast I think she thought that she had perhaps offended me. I looked up at her and then I saw them, those eyes. I would have known them anywhere. She smiled at me and I almost melted into a pool of water right there. I smiled back, wanting to say something, but the words wouldn’t come. All I could do was continue to smile.
When she finished, she backed out and drove away. I finished and also drove away. I knew I had found her, the lady in the photo. But I let her slip through my fingers, content just to have seen her in person.