Innocence, of course

Remembering as far back as she could, she remembered the first Christmas when she received a dentist’s kit.  And she loved it.  Maybe her mother thought she could turn her career path toward dentistry.  It hadn’t worked.

 

Then she remembered her first Tiny Tears (who also wet herself or so she remembered) and the first baby carriage to roll her all around the house.  Then, there were the roller skates and falling flat on her back, all the wind knocked out of her and her mother thinking she was having a seizure.

 

There was the Christmas her mother had pneumonia but they tredged out anyway, in the snowstorm and the already big piled up mounds of previous snowfalls, to the local tree seller.  In those days, people used shopping carts to go and get their groceries and everyone knew your name and you knew theirs.  So they loaded the Christmas tree into the shopping cart and brought it home, her mother coughing almost all the way.  And that very night, her mother insisted on putting it up and decorating it.  Stubborn streak that woman.  Stubborn, stubborn, stubborn.  But after all, it was the holidays, and sick or not sick, it just wouldn’t do not to have a tree.

 

Easter was more fun.  Constance had to search the house for the Easter Bunny’s basket.  There were usually strands of green plastic grass strewn throughout the house making quick work of her search, but search she did to honor her mother.  And there never was an Easter basket without a gigantic chocolate Easter bunny sitting right in the middle of the eggs and jelly beans and lollipops in the form of chickens or ducks, and Peeps, of course, lots and lots of Peeps.

 

Those were the major annual celebrations.  Other festive occasions were based on more nationally accepted holidays – St. Patrick’s Day, July 4th, Memorial Day and the same.  Not much on candy but holidays still the same.  What Constance really remembered was the Thanksgiving Day Parade thrown by Macy’s 34th Street store.  She watched it every year on their black and white television, while her mother cooked the turkey and set the table with fancy dishes and silverware, things that used to only come out when her father was alive.

 

Constance remembered one Thanksgiving especially.  She and her boyfriend had decided to take the subway into Manhattan, go to Macy’s and see how close they could get to the erected stage where the big movie stars and famous singers would go to be on camera during the parade and plug their wares.  They angled their way through the crowd, just a little at a time until they were close enough to reach out and touch Lorne Greene, the parade’s Master of Ceremonies that year.  Close enough to actually be able to get his autograph when the parade was over and the camera crews were striking the stage.  What a happy day that was and oh, how she remembered it to this day.

 

Constance was special and she knew it, she just didn’t know in what way.  Many wonderful things had happened to her and she had lost track of most of them.  One stood out clearly, though.  In her senior year at school, she wrote a poem and it was chosen to lead off the senior section of the yearbook.  She hadn’t much liked the illustrations accompanying her poem, but who was she to complain.  After all, the honor was in being chosen.

 

Her life took many twists and turns and soon she found herself working for a wonderful man, a man who became her mentor and taught her many things her father couldn’t.  They formed a wonderful bond and when he, too, passed away (many years after she had grown up and moved into a different career), it pained her.  She still remembered his name as well as her own and prayed he was happy wherever he was (he was a bit on the reckless side so where he wound up could be up for debate).

 

She dated rarely, a bit shy yet anxious to come out of her shell should the right opportunity present itself.  Against her better judgment, she agreed to go to a party at a girlfriend’s house.  She looked beautiful, if she did say so herself.  Eyes turned toward her when she arrived and she blushed.  Her friend introduced her here and there and then left her on her own.  Only one man approached her.  He introduced himself and they began an up and down conversation.  When she felt a bit more comfortable with him they seemed to chat incessantly and he walked her home.

 

She didn’t see him for a while and then ran into him accidentally while picking up dinner at a nearby restaurant.  They exchanged pleasantries nicely enough and she thought that would be the end of it, but, again, he asked if he could walk her home.  They ate at her house, his and hers shared.  When they were through, he left but took her telephone number, promising (as they all did) to call her again.  Some days later, he did call and they made an actual date to go out to a movie and dinner.  She was thrilled.  He was so handsome, so suave, so not her usual date.

 

He was early.  Unheard of.  But she was even earlier in her preparations and so they wasted no time going out.  Neither of them could remember anything about the movie months later when they were reminiscing about their first date.  Nor could they remember anything about dinner or even where they went.  All they knew was that it was love at first sight.  Constance and Thomas.  Together forever.

 

Her mother worried.  She had raised  her daughter right.  There would be no hanky panky with that girl, of that, she could be sure.  Her mother no longer believed in fairy tales.  Constance could gush ‘til the cows came home but her mother always worried about her and her spontaneous reaction to her first real love.  She knew the telltale signs – talk of family, where to live if they could; all these things made her nervous.  Maybe she hadn’t taught her enough, fast enough.  Maybe Constance wasn’t really ready for a serious relationship.  A mother could only hope, couldn’t she?

 

Constance and Thomas went everywhere together.  They made memories of everything, of nothing.  He wrote her notes on napkins and she called him ship to shore when he had to take a cruise for work.  They were inseparable only by the ocean, but soon to be reunited.

 

Finally, Thomas was able to take a position that would keep him in New York.  They quickly settled into a brownstone on the upper East Side.  Life was wonderful.  She found work as a paralegal and soon their lives would be complete with the expected birth of their first child.  Secretly, he wished for a boy, wanted to name him after his father, but he didn’t tell her.  He would wait to see if they had a son.  She was ecstatic and he was the picture of a proud papa to be.

 

One night, they agreed to meet at a restaurant uptown.  She boarded the subway to get off at 79th Street.  He waited anxiously for her arrival.  She did not show.  He became frantic and called the police.  When they checked, they found out that a call had already come in about a woman mugged on the train.  She was being taken to New YorkHospital, close by their meeting place.  He rushed to her side, but the damage had been done – she had lost their firstborn in the fall she had suffered fighting off her attacker.  They were heartbroken.

 

Life forged ahead, disrespectful of their grief.  She carried on, finding strength in the help of her friends, and he from his friends.  One night, she awoke, startled.  He felt her sit up and asked her what had happened.  She told him of a beautiful dream she had in the form of a vision.  In it, she saw a young boy, a towhead with big brown eyes who took her hand and led her to a beautiful mountain covered with snow.  The boy was wise beyond his years and he whispered a secret in her ear.  It was then she awoke.  She could not remember the secret.  All she knew was that something wonderful was about to happen. Ever the skeptic, Thomas held her tightly and wooed her back to sleep.

 

Anxious to resume their life together, and in an attempt to enjoy the few joys they felt were left to them, they planned a small vacation in a seaside resort in Cape Cod.  It was the 4th of July and even though they were way up north, the sun was hot and she, being so fair and still rather delicate suffered a terrible sunburn.

 

He took her to their room and soothingly rubbed ointment on her burning skin.  Blisters were already forming and he treaded carefully up and down her lithe and battered body.  She finally fell asleep in his arms.  In the morning, she was nauseous and he found her curved over the bowl giving up whatever was left of the previous evening’s meal.  He wanted to blame her for her foolishness; it wasn’t the first time she had taken too much sun, but it had never been as bad as this time.  He felt so helpless.  He ran her a cold bath and eased her carefully into it.  Within a short amount of time she began to feel better and the burn was fading…and she stopped feeling sick to her stomach.  They seemed to have weathered the worst of the storm.

 

They returned the next day to the city.  He went back to work.  She took off another day and returned the day after.  She still looked like a broiled lobster and had to endure various and sundry jokes about all the extra freckles that seemed to have surfaced in just those few days.  She took it well.  Everyone in her family had freckles.  She knew it was just a matter of time before her turn came.  And the brief trip faded into the background.

 

Still, she did not feel well.  She was worried she had sustained some sort of other internal injury and went to the doctor without telling Thomas.  She gained a bit of weight and the doctor assured her it was due to her trauma, that she would lose it before she knew it.  Something inside her told her the doctor was wrong.

 

That night, the dream she called a vision returned.  The boy led her to the same place and whispered in her ear again.  This time she remembered what he told her, but she knew Thomas would not believe her so she did something else.  When Thomas left for work, she wrote down what the little boy had whispered and sealed the envelope.  Knowing the skepticism her husband had about the occult and precognition and similar beliefs, she decided to prove him wrong.  She went to the post office on her lunch break.

 

When she had visited the doctor he had drawn blood and she soon forgot about it.  That morning the phone rang.  It was the doctor’s office asking her to come in for another checkup.  Before she arrived at his office, she already knew what he would tell her – she was pregnant again.  And so, she was.

 

The child was born, a son.  They named him Peter.  On the day of his baptism, Constance handed Thomas a sealed and postmarked envelope.  It was dated nearly eight months ago.  She didn’t give him any suggestion when to open it.  As soon as the child was christened and they were back home, he pulled the envelope from his breast pocket and opened it.

 

“Tell my father I was not lost, but merely waiting to come back.  And tell him Peter is my name.”

Copyright 2012

Santuario Giallo Part IV

They spoke on the phone as often as they could, their parents always nearby, always listening.  Their conversations were benign but their parents suspected there might be more to them.  One evening, several years ago, when Giovanni’s father’s disability prevented him from making the Christmas Eve drive, Isabella and her family had come to them.  They brought all sorts of goodies-panettone, biscotti, café, zucchero, all things families brought each other on special occasions, and also for funerals, except for the panettone-that was a Christmas cake.

And so, after the day was done and Isabella had sat there the whole time worrying about Giovanni, they departed for home.  Isabella rang immediately to the phone.  There was no answer.  Although they traveled in different circles, there was a custom in Naples that had not yet died: the posting of someone’s death on large pieces of paper glued to anything that even remotely resembled a pole.  The next day, when Isabella’s mother went to buy some fruit and vegetables, she stopped dead in her tracks.  There was just such a posting announcing the death of Giovanni’s father.  She was grief stricken.  She didn’t know what to do.  She would have to tell her daughter, but how.

When her mother returned home, the deed had been done.  Isabella’s father had just come in from town and had seen the announcement himself.  Isabella was sobbing in his arms, making him promise to take them to Giovanni’s house as soon as her mother returned.

It was a somber encounter.  Giovanni’s eyes were reddened from hours of crying and his mother fared no better.  As soon as he saw her, Giovanni fell into Isabella’s lap and cried yet again.  The death had not been unexpected, but true death is always unexpected.  He had not been well for a while and had almost completely lost the use of his dying leg.  But he had died in peace and, for this, his family was eternally indebted to the Madonna.  He had died in his sleep.

The young couple went outside, Isabella trying desperately to comfort her friend.  The bond they had been hiding from their parents now openly apparent.  There were too many people in the house for anyone to watch them and in the back by the garden, they exchanged their first real kiss.

And a yellow butterfly alighted on her hand.

 

Published July 2012 IDEA GEMS Magazines