Tracings in Snow
“When Matthew was sixteen years old, he ran away from home. He did not return until Christmas Eve fourteen years later. He showed up on the lawn late at night, while the family was gathered around the tree…”
A very merry holiday greeting to you all! I hope your holidays are off to a wonderful start, and that your year is coming to a dazzling conclusion. In honor of the time many of us are spending with families right now, today I’m beginning a new story about a family. As always, I value your comments enormously.
Tracings in the Snow
When Matthew was sixteen years old, he ran away from home. He did not return until Christmas Eve fourteen years later. He showed up on the lawn late at night, while the family was gathered around the tree.
“Is that Matthew?” demanded his younger sister, peering out the window. They all pushed around her and squinted through the panes, which had little rings of frost around each individual square. Matthew was standing by the apple tree in the backyard, one arm raised to support his weight against the branch where the tree house used to stand.
“Of course not,” scoffed Matthew’s brother. “Matthew wasn’t bald.”
“He wasn’t bald when he was sixteen,” the sister pointed out. “He could be now.”
“That doesn’t look like Matthew,” said an aunt, conversationally. “It does look a bit like your father though.”
“When Matthew was little,” said the sister, “he looked like those black and white pictures of Dad, in the old album.”
“If that’s Matthew,” spoke up a cousin, “Why is he just standing there? Why doesn’t he come inside?”
“Why did he leave us?” said the sister. “Why did he run away?”
“It is my professional opinion that that individual is not Matthew,” pronounced an uncle, in the deliberating tone of an expert who takes slightly longer to deliver up his assessment than the common layman. “That individual looks more like a hobo.”
“Matthew always did bear a surprising resemblance to a hobo,” pointed out the cousin.
Matthew’s mother came in holding the turkey. They all froze.
“What is it?” she said. She was wearing the old potholders, the ones that were frayed in the middle, so the stuffing poked through the pattern of dancing reindeer, and the platter had to be clutched precariously, from the side. They all looked dubiously at the turkey. It was a large one. In moments like these, they all felt, the inevitable thing would be for it to come crashing to the floor. The floor had recently been covered in a brand new carpet: red, with tiny, white diamonds on it. They all felt that this was a thing to be avoided, if possible.
But her gaze traveled past theirs to the window, and she set down the turkey with surprising ease, as if it were a thing of no importance. She moved to the window slowly, and they all had time to notice the glimmer of Christmas tree lights, tiny dots of color, dancing across her pale skin.
The person standing by the apple tree looked up. Matthew’s mother’s face crumpled like a handkerchief crushed in someone’s hand, and she began to cry. ♦
(To be continued…)