Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A mother's gift

This story was told to me incompletely by my grandmother (the picture of the doll is not a real likeness but I image that it might have been like it- simple and possibly faceless or just button eyes) but when she was in her 70s perhaps even 80s it was still something she spoke of. I have weaved a story together that may be fiction but contains the realities of how she was raised and what her life was like. I hope you enjoy it...  

"Thou must the doll leave, Evelyn. Thou art too old for puppets now and thou must a bag hold" The man's workworn hand rested heavily on the young girl's shoulder while he eagle-eyed his family's earthly belongings a few feet away.      

"It was a gift from Mama," Beseeching eyes sought the employed eyes well above her own. She train whistles his sleeve in a last ditch effort to drag his gaze down to meet her silent petition. "Please, please, please, let me take her... please, please, papa, pleeeease..." the prayer flutters through the air, an unnoticed gnat flying past his head and off into the clouds. 

The straight-as-an-arrow-back moves purposefully away from his youngest child, pleased that the difficulty of the extra bag was solved without extra charges. He musters his sons and offers the play-by-play of what to do with the luggage, the whos, whats, and wheres given out in short order. The command to move is indicated with a nod and the boys jostle off, tossing bags like balls, laughing and calling to each other, a center ring show for the passengers waiting to board as the stern patriarch overseas, his disapproving glare an attempt to remind them they are God's Chosen not wild bucks fresh from the plains but he remains silent allowing for boyish exuberance- time enough for them to grow up. 

The child stands watching her older brothers, a silent stream flowing down her cheeks. She strangles a sob in her throat, fearful of the sound that will erupt, afraid of drawing attention to her grief. She clings to the doll fiercely as though it were the blurred edges of memory, the fading image of her mother's grip on hers. She plants her feet and studies the platform for possible escape. A cool gust of wind blows through the gates, recalling the bitter Saskatchewan winter they'd just survived. She thrust the doll under her hand-me-down coat in defiant possession of the remnant of her childhood... of her mother. 

The train's deafening call for boarding finally sounds and her brothers and father wave that the rest of the family should follow them aboard where the bags will be divvied up and they will travel for days to the new place in America. The hustle and bustle is at a peak and the young girl is hopeful that her deceit will work. She heads up the stair and buries her head, snuggling her bulky middle so that it is less noticeable. 

"Evelyn," the woman's hand landed on her shoulder as if descending of the heavens. "Thine father hath told thee that the doll must be left. Give it to me." 

"Please Miss... I mean, Mother. He won't notice. I'll hide Miss Margaret and he'll never see her again. Please, can't I just... she was a gift, my moth---" the words faded into murmured nothingness as the child understood futility, the eternal "No" in her eyes. 

"Give it to me." The doll was dislodged from her hiding place next to the child's heart and taken into the woman's lanky fingers. The woman stepped quickly down the steps and glanced around for a quick place to dispose of the ragged toy and spotting nothing close by, she dropped the doll to the ground next to the wheels of the train.


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