The Write City Magazine
January 8, 2017
by Sharon Frame Gay
Outside, limbs and twigs are dressed in snow like winter brides, dripping with wedding-night anticipation for the cold courtship of January.
The pond has iced over, ducks thrusting bills beneath the reeds, searching for remaining food before ascending to the flyway, and warmer climes. Wind whistles down the chimney, flames sputter, then fight back.
Inside, the house seems barren now, the holiday carefully wrapped and stowed away, memories along with them.
There were tiny villages beneath Frasier boughs, placed alongside cotton roads, farm animals grazing in fields of linen set down with care by tiny hands. The old train ran in endless circles, smoke billowing, as it pulled into the antique station. Behind the papier mâchè mountain hid the cat, tail twitching, poised to bat at the mighty engine as it traversed fallen tinsel, speeding ever further into imagination. The taste of ribbon candy was magic on the tongue, candles flickered as the years unwrapped, dancing through seasons.
My child stands in a halo of light, fresh from the bath, smelling of soap and promise. Her hair is in damp tendrils around her face as she begs for bed, so morning will come sooner. Morning comes, with endless bolts of paper, wrapped around heaps of presents, tied up in bows, every new thing shiny and smooth, soft and warm.
Christmas tables are heaped with food, songs sung in harmony, ebbing and flowing warmth, friendship. Then the quiet reverie when all is silent again, the house in slumber, even the dog
climbing the stairs to bed, sated and belly full. Tucked in that night, the house sighs with pleasure, boards creak against mountain winds.
Later I take cold walks down empty streets, snow glittering beneath my feet, the sky so close to earth that it blankets all sound. The biting wind stings the eyes, forming tears than run, then freeze on my cheek. I pause to look into other people’s windows, imagine knowing the patterns of the wallpaper, the roast in the oven. My footsteps are left behind like snow angels of longing.
Graduations, celebrations, birth and prognosis. The pages of the calendar are ripped from their binding, crackling like old bones. Tattered wreaths are left on garden walls, candles lit in homage. Friends murmur sadly in my hair. We stare into tea cups amid carols of sighs.
In another lifetime, he sat before the fire, brandy in hand, watching the train make the journey past the cat and village lights, round and round, mesmerizing. There were no words between us, just the whirr of the Lionel, a prayer quilt around his shoulders.
Now, the room is stark and empty. Silence whispers in my ears “Remember this . . . remember this . . . remember this . . .” The ghost train leaves the station, lights flicker, then go out for another year.
Sharon Frame Gay has been internationally published in several anthologies as well as Crannog Magazine, Biostories, Literary Orphans, Luna Luna, Indiana Voice Journal, and many others. She is a Pushcart Prize Nominee.
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