It was Christmas Day. The family in the window huddled around a towering pine, which was covered in sparkling white lights and bright-colored trinkets, a chronicle of life over the years. Dancing flames filled in the back of the room where a young boy of no more than two rubbed his chubby hands together and thrust them in front of the warmth. An older woman with short silver hair, a cable knit red sweater and a long green plaid skirt, caught the boy by the arm before his hands landed inside the fire.
The couple stood outside, where thick flurries covered their knit caps and temperatures close to zero promised to nip off their noses if they weren’t careful.
Should they go in? They were invited, after all. But it had been so long. So much had happened and she just didn’t know if she was ready.
In front of them stood a snowman. Its body was out of proportion; the base was too skinny and the head too big. The crude figure looked to be in some sort of agony due to the absence of continuity. At first glance, it appeared as though the statue was winking, but upon closer inspection, it was more akin to disfigurement from a botched operation. One eye was an oversized dark button. It peered at her as though all of her secrets were laid bare and judged unacceptable. The other eye was a sliver from a translucent button that had chipped off in parts. A piece of garbage that only had temporary use before it would surely meet its demise when the sun eventually melted the snow.
She couldn’t take her eyes off of the buttons.
“I am like that,” she said to him, with a sigh that let every last ounce of breath out of her lungs. “I am dark and broken too.”
He put his arm around her and squeezed her close. The strength of his body supported her and gave her temporary courage. He had a way of doing that and she relied on it.
“You’ll be alright,” he said gently as his eyes shifted to the celebration on the other side of the glass.
“Do you think there is an ornament for me on that tree?” she asked him. He didn’t respond. They both knew the answer.
It was perfectly quiet where they stood, so much so that they could actually hear the snowflakes fall. Each one seemed to have its own voice; promises of peace and serenity amidst life’s harsh consequences.
The young woman tilted her head back, closed her eyes and stuck out her puffy tongue, emitting a current of steam against the icy air. Individual flakes turned to droplets as they landed and puddled together, and she drank them in. It was as though nature itself was helping her to swallow her pride and give her sustenance to face them.
He reached for her hand and gently motioned her forward.
As they walked past the figure, the woman stopped and turned. She removed her crimson colored scarf and placed it around the snowman’s neck. It was the same scarf her grandmother had knit for her when she was accepted to Harvard so many years ago. There was even a small ‘H’ embroidered on the corner. The scarf was the one tie she had left to her family, and she just couldn’t give it up – until now.
The couple climbed up the snow-covered wooden stairs and onto the grand porch. She had fond memories of sitting on those steps for hours on end, watching the lightning storms cross over the plain and the fireflies flicker on hot, sticky nights. The memories would have to last her now.
The woman took off her wool mitten and prepared to knock.
It was time.