Day 6 – a family struggle at Christmas

I met Linda at the course I facilitated in Sept/Oct. Every time she read, it was obvious she had learned something and put it in to practice. I look forward to reading more of Linda’s work as we’ll see each other regularly in writer’s group we’re both in. I reckon there’s lots of great stuff to come from her.

Here’s her Christmas story…

Snow by Linda Hickey

I believed until then, that Jonathan and I were a couple that could survive all of life’s blizzards.  We met in the canteen of the architecture building during our first week at UCD.  I noticed Jonathan sitting with a group of girls in the corner.  I loved his brown curly hair and that old leather satchel that he carried around with him.  We were together most of the next five years and left for London when we graduated.  Our time there was filled with hope for the future and we settled down to designing homes for wealthy couples living in the city.  We always wanted to come home to Dublin so when we had saved enough money, we invested in a small site on a quiet road in Ballyroan.  When the house was being built, I fell pregnant with our daughter Lucy.  Her birth was the happiest time in our lives and we loved her more than we could have expected.

That December, Dublin was covered in a thick quilt of white snow.  The recession had reduced our business to a handful of clients.  Jonathan took care of the site visits and I worked on the house designs in our home office.  Every morning I would bring Lucy to school, greeting the First Class teacher as Lucy rushed by to meet her friends.  A week before Christmas, the parents were invited in to the classroom to hear the girls singing carols.  Lucy was so excited and changed in to her angel outfit before breakfast.  She went off to school in a flurry and I promised not to be late for her performance at twelve o’clock.

Jonathan was out with a client and I switched on the computer but didn’t feel like working.  I went to clean Jonathan’s desk and grabbed a cloth with some polish.  I sat in his large leather chair.  As I looked through the drawers it felt odd to be looking through his possessions.  We had known each other for fourteen years but I felt that a distance had grown between us.  I pushed this thought away and continued to look through his things.  In the depths of the bottom drawer, I felt the smooth surface of a box with curved corners.  Filled with unease, I opened the box and saw the gold necklace with the white pearl pendant.  It couldn’t be a Christmas present, I thought.  We had a pact this year not to buy gifts for each other until business improved.  Still, the discovery gave me a strange feeling that was unfamiliar.

When Jonathan came back from his meeting, I called him in to our office.

“I found this in your drawer”, I said, presenting the box.

“Oh, it’s nothing”, replied Jonathan.  I wasn’t sure that I wanted to hear the truth.

“Who is it for?” I said, feeling that he was slipping away from me.

“Does it matter…” replied Jonathan.

“I want to know“, I said, my voice rising to a shout.  I was glad we lived in a detached house, not wanting anyone to hear me.

“We haven’t been close, for a while… ”, offered Jonathan.  I felt a scream well up inside me.  All the tension of the last few months erupted from inside my chest.  But I made no noise.

“What are you trying to tell me?” I hissed.

Jonathan was silent.  I looked at him and saw that he was far away.  He wouldn’t let me catch his eye and I felt so alone.

“Jesus, Jonathan, I know things have been difficult with the business and everything”, I bargained.  Jonathan was silent, his discomfort filling the room.  I wanted to beat at his chest with my fists as if I could bring back the man I had known before.

“We really have to go”, said Jonathan, cutting me off and looking at the clock.

We grabbed our coats quickly, and made our way out to Jonathan’s jeep.  The journey to the school was slow because the snow had frozen again.  I watched out the passenger window not wanting to look at him.  I wished there was something you could take for this kind of pain, that heavy feeling that settles in your chest.

We are late and take our place by the door of the classroom full of expectant parents.  The girls wear white with wings and halos.  Lucy stands in the back row because she is the tallest in her class.  Her halo, made at home by her father is bigger than all of the others.  The wire coat hanger is bent into a round shape much larger than the circumference of her head.  It is covered with gold tinsel that has been on our Christmas tree for the past seven years.  I listen to the girls singing and let my eyes close.  The teacher conducts the group encouraging and prompting the girls.  They sing “Hark the Herald angel sings” and “peace on earth and mercy mild”.  I feel such emotion that I want to let go and cry great big Christmas sobs.

snow at nightThe recital ends and excited girls grab coats and bags and wave goodbyes to the teacher.  I carry Lucy’s wings so that she can put on her coat. But she wants to wear her halo.  And so our angel offers her left hand to me and her tiny right hand to her father.  We three step carefully onto freshly fallen snow towards the waiting car.  And I wonder what the New Year will bring, but for now, I know that our daughter will hold us together.

photo credit: Great Beyond via photopin cc

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