Tracings in Snow

by Jessica

Tree House

“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…”

Dear Readers,

You may have noticed it is Tuesday. Yep that’s right, I missed my very last Monday blog post of 2013! I’d like to pretend that this was in order to provide myself with some New Year’s resolution making material (“Don’t miss the Monday deadline for any stories in 2014”), but it probably actually has more to do with the fact that Karina, my sister and blog producer, is on break from school and so forgot what day of the week it was.

(Incidentally Karina may or may not have taken creative license to edit the original introductory remarks to include this explanation for why this post is late.)

Nevertheless the important thing is that this week’s installment of Tracings in Snow is here and I hope you have a chance to enjoy it as we ring out the last hours of a pretty great year.

Happy New Year,

Jessica (and Karina)

Tracings in the Snow

◊ Installment 2 ◊
1 | 2

When Matthew was born, he was quieter than most infants. His mother thought she was doing something wrong.

“My baby doesn’t cry much,” she spoke up timidly at a new mothers meeting held at the local community center, during a lull in the discussion in which the other mothers, their eyes ringed with puffy dark circles, seemed to have run out of energy to generate further conversation. “I wonder if I’m doing something wrong.”

The other mothers glared at her.

When Matthew was two he suddenly began to speak, fluently and precisely. He talked so much that his baby brother Walter said his first word before the age of one.

“He had no choice,” their mother said proudly. “He had to get a word in edgewise.”

By the time Matthew was six he was already the ringleader of the local gang of neighborhood children. He was the oldest kid on the block, and his plans were multitudinous and diverse. The other kids admired his games, his stories, his Day-Glo orange sneakers with the real laces, which he stomped around in proudly before anyone else had graduated beyond the limiting social prospects of Velcro. His little brother Walter followed him around like a devoted puppy. When their sister Kalli was born, she became the third member of their band, though admittedly in a supporting role. When Matthew and Walter wailed away on guitar and vocals, she tapped patiently on a plastic bucket in the background, and when they played baseball, she trotted around in the outfield, collecting stray balls. They built a tree house in the young apple tree in the backyard, and Kalli was allowed in it every other Wednesday. Walter had access Monday through Saturday, and Matthew was permitted at all times.

On days when Matthew was sick, Walter took over. But he never could command the respect and devotion that Matthew inspired in the neighborhood, and everyone knew it, including Walter. He did his patient best, and looked forward to the day when Matthew would return, confidently sucking on a cherry cough drop, his thin chest thrust out proudly, with gruesome tales of doctors and uncanny medical operations to relate. When Matthew had his appendix out, the whole neighborhood swooned.

Matthew was not just the sunshine of the neighborhood; he was the stars, the moon and the planets. If Matthew could not come out to play, there wasn’t much point in playing at all; everyone might as well just stay inside. ♦

(To be continued…)

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