He was across the street watching. It was unusual for a young boy to be about on Christmas day. Anyone watching him would ask, ï¿½Why is he not with his family? Or at least opening presents around a tree with the scent of excitement; surrounded by food, family; perhaps friends.
She was huddled on the sidewalk, with two bags. One contained clothes donated by a local church. The other held scraps of food, given from a friendly restaurant---leftovers. The boy sensed she was not happy. How could anyone be, sitting on a pile of snow, and not somewhere warm? His blond hair snapped in the wind. He pulled his winter collar higher and adjusted his hat. Gloves cloaked his hands. Somehow he knew the lady had no gloves, just hands tucked into a frayed summer jacket.
Her jacket had two buttons missing, and the wind soon discovered this path to the chilled body underneath. Boots had a hole in one heel. No socks meant colder feet. The boy knew all about her. He had been observing her every time he came downtown. She had few friends, heard her mention having arthritis to no one in particular and even talked about her family. She hadnï¿½t seen any of her children for a year. Would they even recognize her now?
Snowflakes followed the boy across the street. It was narrow, with few cars parked, and he headed directly to the lady. He heard her called, ï¿½bag ladyï¿½ once.
It was three oï¿½clock and the sun blistered its way through the cloudy sky. Darker clouds were burned away, and a smile crossed the boyï¿½s face. His eyes penetrated those of the lady now agitated seeking an afternoon snack in her food bag. ï¿½Anyone wanna join me for lunch?ï¿½ she chortled to no one in particular.
Those two words snapped forth like a bolt of lightning. The boy was grinning as he took the ladyï¿½s hand, and selected a gooey do-nut. She was pleased for the company, and sat down. The boy joined her in the softness of a snow bank.
ï¿½Whatï¿½s your name?ï¿½ she asked.
ï¿½Doesnï¿½t matter,ï¿½ he answered, not angry, only matter-of-fact He had a slight accent in his voice.
ï¿½You runninï¿½ away from home?ï¿½
ï¿½Eat your do-nut,ï¿½ she demanded. And he did.
From the perspective of a little boy everything was interesting. And the boy eagerly sought answers. ï¿½How come you sat here so long?ï¿½ he asked.
ï¿½Got no family, no friends,ï¿½ she answered.
ï¿½You got me,ï¿½ the boy said.
And now it was her turn to smile.
She felt sorry for the little boy, so young, and away from home. It was a good feeling to tell him she would walk him home. It was the least she could do after he asked her. Home; the word embraced her. Once she had such a place. But that was so long ago, before all the hospital visits. And then the memory of those days simply faded away.
Somehow she ended up on the street. At least there was no one to tell her what to do, where to sleep, and the hour to turn in.
His hand clutched hers tightly, and an extra squeeze was reassuring. One of her little girls used to do the same; such tiny hands.
Down the street they went, a boy and someoneï¿½s mom; past a variety store, clothing place and a restaurant. Home---where she wished she was. Maybe she could ask to stay the night with the boyï¿½s family. Now that was a great idea.
He took her on a roundabout journey through town, via side streets, as if he hated to leave her return to the place in front of the restaurant. The kind owner gave her food to help her survive each day. He understood her desire to hide away, her wrinkled skin and pain in her limbs difficult to live with. And her clothes---layers of hand me downs. She knew she was not pretty to look at, and should not ever allow her children to see the way she turned out.
If only things had been different, she thoughtï¿½.
The boy led her to a street familiar to her. The last time she was here was a year ago, but would not stay. Living on the street was too familiar to her. And she left with tears following her not knowing if she would ever return. But now, she stood in front of her daughterï¿½s house.
ï¿½Why did you bring me here?ï¿½ she asked the little boy. ï¿½I thought you wanted me to bring you home.ï¿½
ï¿½This is home,ï¿½ the boy answered, ï¿½yours.ï¿½ Then he pushed the doorbell and ran off as someone came to answer the sound.
The lady stood there on the porch as the light illuminated her and her smile. It was time, she thought, to try once more---to see it through. If her daughter asked her to stay again, she would say, ï¿½Yes.ï¿½
* * *
ï¿½ Richard L. Provencher
My wife, Esther and I really enjoy writing. It is an excellent salve, in addition to prayers, a great wife and family during my continuing recovery from a stroke/aneurysm. You can contact us at: email@example.com re comments on our work. We live in Truro, Nova Scotia, Canada. Pray for others.
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