03 December, 2010

Dragonfly


I want to wear this velvet dress to a holiday party. I got it for free at work. I am obsessed with velvet. It reminds me of Christmas.

I love Christmas. I think I'm more excited about than ever this year.

Click the link below to read a story that I wrote a few Christmases ago for a creative writing class. Hopefully it will put you in the Christmas Spirit too. :)



Dragonfly

My mother stood at the kitchen sink washing dishes. She was wearing a yellow dress and a knitted cream-colored sweater that was too big for her over it. Her long pale hair flowed down her back and the sun shone through the window she was standing in front of. I thought she looked like an angel.

She was cleaning up after our breakfast from hours ago of crepes so that she could start cooking our dinner of enchiladas. Crepes and enchiladas were the only two things she knew how to cook. She sang “The First Noel” while she scrubbed pots and pans.

We never had the kind of Christmas I read about in books. It never ever snowed here. I had only seen snow once in my life when one year around Christmas time my grandma drove my brother and me to the mountains. I remember how the snow hit the windshield while we were driving and made it look like we were inside of a giant feather pillow. When we got out of the car the air was so crisp that it hurt my lungs. We found a little restaurant with twinkling lights all around it and sat in there drinking hot chocolate for a while. I remember how warm the drink was sliding down my throat after being out in the cold for so long. When we were done, Grandma let us throw snowballs outside for a while, but the thing about snow is it’s nothing like movies. You can’t play in it for too long because it makes your hands too cold. Grandma took us to see a movie and then we drove home with the heater on the whole way, warming us up like little marshmallows on a campfire.

This year would be my first Christmas without my grandma. There was no Christmas eve at her house the night before, no fire in the fireplace, no cinnamon potpourri, no hot chocolate.
My mother let me sit on the kitchen floor drinking eggnog while I watched her clean. I had our giant orange cat named Peacock on my lap. Peacock was my little brother Noel’s favorite word. Noel was four years old and two years younger than me. He still didn’t speak regular English. Instead he used his own made up language that only we could understand. My mother said he would talk when he was ready.

The kitchen was warm. The walls were yellow and the cupboards were burnt orange. My mother kept spices in painted small pots that were tied together and hanging from the ceiling. There were sunflowers in a turquoise vase on the kitchen counter next to the copper sink. The floor that I sat on was terra cotta tile. My father put the tile throughout our whole house a few years before. It stayed damp for hours whenever my mother mopped it.

The kitchen had a big entryway and the living room was on the other side. I could see the Christmas Tree from where I sat. My father demanded that we have a real tree every year, even though they don’t last as long as plastic ones, because it wasn’t Christmas without the smell of pine. The needles were beginning to fall off onto the brown carpet. The multicolored lights on the tree blinked on and off. The presents that Noel and I had spent hours examining for weeks and weeks had been unwrapped in a matter of seconds that morning. The torn wrapping paper still sat underneath. I felt bad for the tree because it looked so sad and lonely.

Mother asked me to go out and pick three tomatoes from the garden. I plopped the cat down and he settled on the ground like a giant bag of rice. I went outside through our back door.
The stepping stones that led to the garden had dragonflies on them. My mother and I painted them ourselves one Saturday about a year before. The paint was still perfect because no one but me actually stepped on the stones. I could still see every little spot of color on one of the dragonflies that my mother painted. The stones were still so perfect because everyone else stepped over them. I lifted the latch on the splintering wooden gate. The fence used to be white but it had chipped over the years so now it was only white in patches. It made me think of an old man who was losing his hair.

I stepped into my mother’s garden that did not grow much food. She tried to grow a lot of different fruits and squashes, but it didn’t work out the way she planned. All we grew now were too many tomatoes to count, fresh herbs, and lots and lots of flowers.

The flowers were my favorite part of the garden. They seemed to be the only thing my mother could keep alive. We had sunflowers, poppies, roses, hibiscus, daisies and snapdragons. All the different colors turned the garden into a magical sea of glittering jewels. The snapdragons were my favorite because they used to grow at my grandma’s house too.

“Cammie, don’t you think snapdragons have more personality than any other flower?” Grandma asked me once.

Sometimes when we were watering the flowers my grandma would pick some snapdragons and squeeze one of them so it bit my nose and we would laugh and laugh. Grandma loved flowers.

My mother loved flowers too, maybe even more than my grandmother. She liked to come out to the garden with me when it was sunny and warm. We would lay in the flowers and fall asleep. On Sundays before church she would brush my hair until it shone, and then she would let me go out to the garden to pick any flower that I wanted to put in my hair. “You should always look pretty for Jesus,” she would say. On my birthday she would even make me a crown of different kinds of flowers to wear.

I found the three reddest tomatoes on the vine, three bright dragon eggs that I had to keep safe. They were wet with dew. I lifted the bottom of my sweater up to make a little nest to hold them in, and made my way through the garden and back to the house, carefully holding the tomato-eggs in their nest the whole way. The dirt was wet and left mud on my feet. I tiptoed over my dragonfly stepping stones and through the back door into my warm kitchen.

I brought the tomatoes to my mother. “Thank you darling!” she said. My sweater was damp from the dew after I gave her the tomatoes. I dropped back down to the floor and scooped up Peacock. He was so lazy that he hadn’t moved an inch from the place I had plopped him down before. I buried my face in his fire colored fur and it tickled my nose.

My daddy and my brother Noel came thundering into the kitchen. “Hey, settle down you two!” my mother laughed. My father swooped her into his arms and kissed her on the forehead. His dark hair flopped over his face.

“We’re going out back to play catch with Noel’s new ball,” my father said.

My mother turned her head away from my father to Noel and he nodded excitedly to confirm the statement. He looked like a cherub with his chubby cheeks and golden hair.

“Okay, dinner will be ready in an hour,” she said looking back at my father.

“I’m so lucky to be married to a girl who makes enchiladas for Christmas dinner,” my daddy laughed and kissed her again on the nose.

“Yeah don’t forget it,” my mother said, laughing too.

“You girls have fun.” My daddy let her go and bent over to kiss me. He hadn’t shaved yet and his face felt prickly against mine. The boys clattered outside.

“Mommy, I’m kind of tired. I’m going to go lay down,” I said.

“Okay baby. I’ll come up there in a second. Let me get this in the oven.”

I dawdled up the stairs, Peacock in one arm, dragging my other hand over the smooth surface of the railing as I went.

I pulled open my door to my bedroom with the blue walls with clouds on them that my mother had painted. My presents from this morning were on my bed. My mother liked to make things. This Christmas, she had knitted me a pink striped sweater that wasn’t itchy at all and made a rag doll with yellow yarn hair that I named Princess.

My other present was a framed picture of my Grandma holding me when I was a baby. She was smiling at me. I could see every wrinkle on her face. I was wearing a blue hat and making a funny face with my mouth wide open in a smile and looking at the camera.

I put the picture on the little white table next to my bed facing me and lay down and snuggled Princess and Peacock close to me.

My mother came into my room. She had enchilada sauce on her face. She saw me looking at the picture and said, “You must be missing your grandma a lot on Christmas.” She sat down beside me on the bed and rubbed my shoulder. She started to hum “Silent Night” I think without realizing it. It was a strange song choice, but it sounded pretty. We sat like that for a while.

“Hey, come downstairs with me. I have a surprise for you.” My mother picked me up and placed me on my feet, leaving Peacock and Princess on the bed sleeping like little lambs. We went downstairs and I sat on the plaid living room sofa dangling my feet while she went to get something. The house was beginning to smell like the enchiladas that were baking in the oven. I stared at the mermaid ornament that I painted on the Christmas tree. I listened to Noel shrieking upstairs. He and my daddy had finished playing catch and were probably now playing with the toy car Noel got for Christmas.

She came back with balloons that she had bought the night before. They were huge and bright red and green. She also had one single pink one. When I asked what they were for she told me it was a surprise. She called my father and brother and they raced down the stairs and into the kitchen.

“Come on everyone, time to send Jesus his birthday present,” she said.

She took my father’s hand and flowed out the back door to garden. I held my little brother’s hand, stepping carefully on the dragonfly stones as I followed my mother.

She arranged us in the circle in the center of the garden, and still holding the balloons, she started to sing “happy birthday.” We all joined in and when we were done, she let go of the red and green balloons and we all stared up at the sky for a few minutes.

When that was done, she handed me the pink balloon and said “This one is for Grandma. I knew you might want to send her a present today. Do you want to say anything?”

I didn’t know what to say so I closed my eyes for a few seconds and then let the balloon go. My mother picked me up and squeezed me tight. She had her eyes closed and her face pointed up and the sun shining so that I could see every freckle on her face. I kissed her cheek and tasted enchilada sauce on my lips.

We all raised our faces to the sky, and I watched the balloons get smaller and smaller, until they were tiny specks against the bright blue. Eventually they disappeared into heaven.

2 comments:

  1. Velvet reminds me of Christmas too!

    I think the story was really sweet. I want to be a mother like that:)

    ReplyDelete