Living the Dream

As a young girl, I always dreamed of becoming another Lucy Maud, devouring books sometimes three and four on the go at one time. Now, here I am, 50-something, and the dream keeps coming back to me. When Magpie Tales started publishing their prompts, I couldn't resist. My first few attempts were shared with a very select few - and it is thanks to their encouragement that I am emboldened to share with more of the world. Read, enjoy (I hope), critique, and tell me what you think.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Mystery of the Watch part 3

This story started last week, with the prompt of the watch.  The second installment was posted on Tuesday, after the deadline, so many of you may have missed it.  This weeks prompt is being used to finish up the story.  To see other great stories and poems in response to Willow's prompts, visit Magpie Tales.  For now, here’s my attempt to work two prompts into one story:
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Over the next few weeks Jane found herself occasionally mulling over the discovery of the watch and the diary, and the letters AL.  It was true that she and Jock hadn’t been married long when he died, and she couldn’t have possibly known everything about him, but there were still those niggling little thoughts wondering why he hadn’t told her about the watch or the diary.  And still the question, ‘Who is, or was, AL?’  Not sure who she could, or should, confide in, she told nobody.

One afternoon, finding some free time, she retrieved the box from Mick’s room, and started looking through the old yearbooks.  Maybe there’d be a clue there somewhere.  She started with the most recent and worked her way backwards.  No female classmates with the initials AL in medical school.  The children arrived home from school before she got any further.

It took several weeks to look through all of the yearbooks, paging through them one at a time, sometimes only able to look at a few pages at one session.  And then, in Jock’s Grade 10 yearbook, there she was – Annabelle Lindstrom, marching band majorette.  Besides her appearance in the class picture, the only other image was of her leading the marching band, in her short skirt and boots, proudly hefting the large baton.  She was a pretty girl, with a haughty set to her face that seemed to say she thought she was the most important person in the world.  Inside the back cover, was an autograph signed ‘AL’ and wishing Jock the best summer memories ever.

‘Hmmm, maybe….I wonder if Jim knows anything?’  Jane determined to ask Jock’s best friend throughout high school, university and medical school at the next opportunity.

When Jim and Jane had a lunch break together at the office, and nobody else was around, Jane finally got her chance.  Trying to be as casual as possible, she asked, ‘Do you remember a girl named Annabelle Lindstrom from high school?’

‘Annabelle Lindstrom!  I haven’t though about her in years.  Sure I remember her, but not fondly.  She was the snootiest girl in the school.  They moved into town in about Grade 9 or  10, her father came to run the mine, was here for about a year or so and then he was transferred out I guess.  Anyway they were gone, never to be heard from again.  Why are you asking about her?’

‘Oh, I was just curious.  I ran across her picture in an old yearbook of Jock’s, and I wondered if they ever dated.’

‘Absolutely not!  Annabelle did have a major crush on Jock, but he didn’t want anything to do with her.  She thought the world revolved around her, and she walked into class that first day, took a look around the room and zeroed in on Jock right away.  She did everything she could think of to get him to pay attention to her – dropped books and pens, missed the bus home, hung around at basketball practice.  She even spread nasty rumors about any other girl that Jock even spoke to, and didn’t hesitate to muscle in on any group that Jock was part of.  She was a piece of work, and nobody really missed her when she moved away.’

‘Well, I just thought maybe she was part of his life somehow.  After all, she did autograph the book.'

‘What are you doing looking at those old things?  You didn’t go to school with us, so there wouldn’t be any memories there for you.’

‘Well, the kids were doing their genealogy project for school, and wanted to know more about their dad, and I dug out an old box of Jock’s things for them.’

‘Okay, but it would make more sense for the kids to be looking through the yearbooks.  And why did you pick out Annabelle Lindstrom, of all people, to ask me about?’

‘Oh, no reason, I just….’  Jane felt herself blushing, and stammering a little.

‘What’s going on, Jane?’

Just then one of the office assistants poked her head in the door, and announced the first afternoon patient had arrived.  Jane knew she was going to have to answer Jim soon, but for now she had some time to come up with plausible answers.

Except that there wasn’t much time during the busy afternoon to think through how she’d answer Jim, and at the end of the day he came into her office and, sitting opposite her desk, stretched out his legs and said,

‘Okay, now, give – what got you looking through yearbooks and asking about Annabelle?’

Jane took a deep breath, and decided she needed to get all of this off her chest, and told Jim everything – about the watch and its inscription, the answers her mother-in-law had given about the origins of the watch, the diary and the note about AL.

‘So when was the note about AL written?’

‘Just before I told Jock that we were expecting, and he wrote his last entry saying how excited he was that we were going to have a baby – we didn’t know yet about the twins.’

‘Huh, kind of a dark horse, keeping the diary a secret.  I didn’t even know he wrote one.’

‘Well, it’s not much of a diary, often weeks and months would go by without anything written.’

‘Still, you’d think I would know about it.  Oh, well.  Do you think I could read the note?’

Jane pondered that briefly – she wanted to honor Jock’s apparent need for privacy in this area, but after all he’d been gone for more than 10 years and she really did need to know who AL was.  ‘Okay,’ she said, ‘but just that note.’

Later that evening, Jim stopped in at the house on his way home from an emergency call.  Jane got out the diary from where she’d hidden it in a drawer, opened it to the page, and handed it to him.

Suddenly Jim burst out laughing.   ‘Oh, man, Jane.  This is just too much.  Jock really could have practiced his penmanship.  But then I guess he never thought that anybody else would be trying to decipher this.  I think you jumped to some very wrong conclusions.  Al was one of our med school classmates, but went to the university hospital for his internship, then got into one of the biggest practices in the city.  He wasn’t friends with anybody!  But Jock got a letter at the office one day, asking him to be godfather to Al’s baby.  Jock thought he was nuts, and just chucked the letter. I didn’t know he’d had another one.  ‘AL’ is probably in capitals just because of Jock’s frustration.  And his chicken scratches make ‘he’ look like ‘she’.  So this actually says ‘Got a note from Al today about the baby.  How I wish 'he’d leave me alone.  He probably just hadn’t got around to telling you before you dropped the bombshell about being pregnant.’

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Mystery of the Watch ... cont

Continuation of the story begun in response to Willow's prompt at Magpie Tales

Jane was still sitting at the kitchen table when she heard Mick and Mhairi coming home from school.  She quickly thrust the diary underneath a pile of towels in a drawer.  She wasn't sure why she wanted to keep that from them.

'What's this, Mom,' Mick was first to spot the box on the table.

'Well, I took out a box of your dad's old things, to help you with your papers on family history.'

'Ooh, fabulous,'  Mhairi didn't hesitate to start to pull out the trophies, jacket, and other mementoes.  Mitch grabbed the jacket and pushed his arms into the sleeves - they dangled a good six inches below his hands, but brought quick tears to Jane's eyes as she recalled Jock wearing his letter jacket so proudly even years after high school.  She cleared her throat, and turned away quickly so as not to upset the children, opening the fridge to get out some milk to go with their after-school snack.

As the three of them sat at the table, munching on cookies and looking through the box, the children were full of questions about how Jock had earned the jacket and the trophies, which teams he'd played on, which positions he'd played, what other activities he'd done, how he made the box and the bowl - many of which Jane couldn't answer because she'd only met Jock after medical school when he was doing his internship at the same hospital in which she'd trained.  She promised to ask Jock's mother to come for dinner in a day or two to see if she could answer any of their questions.

Then Mick pulled out a report card - grade one.  Uh,oh - Jane had forgotten about those.  Mick read the report card and silently handed it to Mhairi, then pulled out the next.  Each report was reviewed by both children with no comments for several minutes.  After the last one, Mhairi looked up and said, 'Dad was sure smart, wasn't he?'  While this was true (his grades had always been excellent), Jane was surprised that grades were the focus.

Mick said, 'Of course he was.  How do you think he got to be a doctor?  And we have to be just like him, right, Mom?'

'Well, your Dad's grades were good, and it would be a good thing if you wanted to have grades as good as his were.' 

'But his teachers say he asked questions, and was busy, and was a leader.  I want to be all of those things, and get good grades, and play sports, and be a doctor some day, just like Dad.'  So Mick hadn't missed the comments, but apparently wasn't ready yet to read between the lines and understand that 'active' and 'inquisitive' and 'leadership qualities' when paired with 'fun-loving' and 'innovative' probably meant that Jock had been somewhat disruptive in class, and led his classmates into activities best left unsaid in a written report card.  The frequent requests for parent-teacher meetings attested to that in Jane's mind.

'Just remember, you need to be your own person, and do your best at anything that you try, and then find out where your talents lie, and what you like to do the most.  That's what's most important, that you - both of you - are individual, not like anybody else, and are not expected to be exactly like any other person.'

Then Mhairi pulled out a year-book and began to look for pictures of Jock, and the discussion turned to which one looked more like their father.  Jane sat back and listened to them chatter, and wondered if the secret of 'AL' could be found in one of the annuals.

Later, when the children were settled with their homework, Jane discovered the watch in her pocket, and, looking at the inscription again, determined to discover the mystery of 'AL'.  She took the watch and the diary and moved them to the bottom of a drawer in her bedroom.

A few days later, Jock's mother joined the family for dinner, and the box of mementos was brought out.  Stories flowed, so many that Jane had never heard because Jock just hadn't had time to tell her everything of his school and university years. Laughter and cheers abounded as they heard about his sports victories, his attempts at woodwork (only the successes were kept apparently), his academic and citizenship awards.  Jane had warned her mother-in-law to keep mischief and errant behavior out of the conversation, so nothing was mentioned of any exploits that might encourage Mick to step farther outside the boundaries than he sometimes was wont to do.

After dinner, and the children headed for their rooms to their own activities, Jane and Liza chatted as they cleared the table.  Jane asked, 'Did Jock ever date somebody with the initials 'AL'?'

'Not that I recall.  Why do you ask?'

So Jane told Liza all about discovering the watch, and the inscription, but left out any mention of the cryptic note in the diary - actually didn't mention it at all, not sure if she was ready to share Jock's private musings with anybody else yet.

'A pocket watch?  Can I see it?'  Liza was very curious.

When Jane handed it to her, Liza said, 'So that's where it went!  I always wondered what happened to it.  Rob must have given it to Jock before he died, when he knew he wouldn't survive the cancer, so that Jock would be sure to have it when his first son was born.'

'But it says the watch was for 'JM' not 'RM'.'

'That's right dear.  It was given to Jock's great-great-grandfather, John McDougall, by Alannah Lynch on their wedding day.  John passed it on to his son, when his first son was born.  And so the tradition was begun - from father to son on the birth of that son's first son.  Rob must have wanted to make sure that Jock had the watch, even though you weren't even married yet.'

'But I wonder why Jock never mentioned it.'  Jane was puzzled - and still didn't know who the 'AL' was in the diary entry.

'I really don't know dear, maybe he just hurt so much when his dad died that he just put the watch away and forgot all about it.  I don't remember packing it up with everything else, so maybe your mother tucked it into that box.'

'Well, that's quite likely.  I'm glad to know that we have the heirloom, and I'll be sure to pass it on to Mick when the time is right.  I know that's what Jock would have wanted.  For now, I'll put it away somewhere safe.'

So the mystery of the watch was solved, but still no clues to who 'AL' might be.  Maybe Jane would never know, but she wouldn't stop wondering.

I'm not sure where this story is going (completely - there are some ideas rolling around), but for now I've satisfied the prompt.  Stay tuned - maybe the next prompt will bring the answer.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Mystery of the Watch

bright watch
Jane reached into the box for the last little item, tucked into the corner, almost missed in the dim basement light except for the hint of gold caught out of the corner of her eye.  A pocket watch – where had this come from?  She turned it over in her hands several times, admiring the bas-relief design of a man with a boy on his lap.  It looked like the man might be telling a story, or maybe giving the younger generation a lesson in living.
On the back was engraved ‘JM love AL’.  JM?  Jock McDougall?  Had this been Jock’s?  But who’s AL?  And why had this person given Jock the watch?  And when?  And why had Jane not known of it?  Jane’s mind was spinning, no thoughts forming clearly.  She didn’t think she and Jock had had any secrets, but this watch was something he’d evidently kept from her.  Almost five years of marriage before his death, and he hadn’t wanted her to know about a watch!  There must have been a reason, but now there was no way to know.  Jane put the watch in her pocket, thinking she’d ask Jock’s mother, or maybe his best friend Jim, if they knew anything about it.

For right now, Jane was determined to get through the sorting of these boxes.  After the accident, she hadn’t had the heart to touch any of Jock’s things, it had been just too hard to face living without him.  Eventually, though, she’d realized she needed to move on with life, not erasing Jock but not living in the past either.  It wouldn’t be healthy for the children to have a mother constantly pining for a father they didn’t know and who could not be part of their every-day.  But the best she could do at that time was to allow her mother and mother-in-law to pack Jock’s things into boxes and store them in the basement.

That had been 10 years ago.  Now, because of a genealogy project at school, the children were asking questions about their father.  Not that they hadn’t seen pictures, and been told stories, and knew that he’d loved them from the minute he knew they were expected; but they wanted to have some of this things.  So Jane was looking through the stored mementos and books to see if she could select items that would help to bring their father alive for them.

Here was his high school letter jacket, and his soccer captain’s armband, track and field medals,  report cards (some of the remarks from his teachers might not be a good thing for Mick to read just yet), his high school diploma, university and medical degrees, the box and bowl he made in shop class.  As Jane started to put them back into the box to take them upstairs, she noticed a notebook, beige cardboard cover, that had blended in with the bottom of the box.  Pulling it out, and flipping through the pages, Jane thought it looked like a diary.  Jock had never kept a diary!!  Setting the little notebook aside to have it on top, Jane repacked the box, and took everything upstairs.

Settling down with a cup of tea, Jane pulled the watch from her pocket, and spent some more time exploring it.  Interesting – here in a brighter light, she could see a little catch on the inside of the cover.  Pressing it, a second compartment opened like a locket, and a little piece of paper fell out.  When Jane retrieved the paper from the floor, she discovered it was folded and inside was a lock of hair, blond hair, baby hair.  Time to look at the diary, and see if there was any clues to the mystery of the watch.

Quickly scanning the entries in the notebook, Jane confirmed that it did look like Jock’s writing, as difficult to decipher as any physician’s.  The first entry was September of his grade 10 year, and a complaint about the English class assignment to journal.  For the balance of that school year, there were weekly entries, as short as possible: ‘Basketball practice started this week’; ‘Went camping with the gang’; ‘Dad gave me some work to earn money for Christmas’; ‘Track and field tryouts this week’; ‘Got my driver’s license’.  After the end of that school year, entries were only made every few months, obviously on occasions of import to a teenager, and no less cursory: ‘Took Lynn to the Christmas prom’; ‘Got a part-time job at the drug-store’; ‘Decided I want to be a doctor'.  Over the years of university and medical school, entries were even less frequent, and covered topics such as major accomplishments and milestones like graduation, acceptance into medical school, internship applications.

Then came this: ‘I met my future wife today, a real fire-ball, red hair and all!  Her first words to me and she told me off.  I don’t know her name yet, but she’s a student nurse and I’ll surely run into her again soon.  I wonder if our children will have red hair?’  Jane found herself almost blushing at the memory of their first meeting – how rude she had been – and then giggling at the thought that Jock had decided, despite her rudeness, that he wanted to marry her.  After that the writings increased in frequency, all about their courtship, engagement and wedding plans, with a few comments about internship and plans to open a medical practice with his best friend Jim. 

After their wedding, the entries almost stopped, but the last one was: ‘Today J told me we’re going to have a baby.  A baby!  Incredible!  A little life, made of our love, a person to care for, play with, teach, discipline..how I wish my Dad was here to show me how to be a Good Dad like he was.’   Jane teared at the memory of that day, and the short time they’d had together to plan for the addition to the family.  The worst was the reminder again that Jock had never known the children and they’d never known him.

After a few moments, Jane flipped back through the book, realizing there’d been no mention of a watch.  She found two pages stuck together, and gently pulled them apart.  It looked like Jock had had jam or honey on his fingers when he wrote on this page.  One entry, about a year before the last: ‘Got a note from AL today about the baby.  How I wish she’d leave me alone’.
to be continued
For more wonderful stories go to http://magpietales.blogspot.com/

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Beauty Is....

This week’s prompt from Magpie Tales:
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Jane was beside herself with anticipation!!!  That’s the only way to describe her feelings.  She felt just like 2-year-old Mhairi and Mick, when they would run around in circles saying, ‘But we’re so ‘cited, Mommy,’ when she asked them to sit quietly.  She wanted to run in circles, dance, shout out to the world, ‘I get a big-girl night out tonight!’  She felt like a teenager going on her first date, like she had felt the night of her first date with Jock – nervous and scared and excited all at once. Humming and singing, Jane went about her routine housework and child-care duties – nothing the children said or did could faze her today.  After Jock’s death, Jane had not had any desire to go anywhere.  And then, with the birth of the twins a few months later, there had been few opportunities for outings that didn’t include them.  Certainly there had been no occasions like this one.                                          
Tonight, her cousin Patrick was being honored at a ceremony for achieving his doctorate in archeology, followed by a reception.  The invitation said, ‘Dress: formal’.  Prior to the ceremony close friends and family were gathering at The Towers restaurant in a private banquet room for a pre-celebration dinner.  Jane would be leaving the children with their grandmother, Jock’s mother, for the night, and staying at a hotel in the city after the reception.  The children were almost as excited as Jane, looking forward to their sleep-over. 
Jane’s new dress was laid out on her bed, a soft mint green with just a hint of a pearly sheen, matching shoes set on the floor beside it, the pearl necklace-earrings-bracelet set that was a gift from Jock on their 3rd anniversary in the box on her dressing table. 
The children went down for their nap, giving Jane enough time to have a leisurely bubble bath, do her hair, nails and make-up.  The plan was to take them to their grandmother when they woke, then return home and finish dressing, then drive out to meet everybody else at the restaurant.
Jane tuned in a favorite station on her bedroom radio when she went in to run her bath.  Singing with the radio, she lowered into the warm bubbly water, and just laid back with a sigh of deep satisfaction.  When the water started to get chilly, she got out and wrapped in a towel while she curled and sprayed her hair.  Then she got out her manicure set, shaped her nails and applied a soft pink polish.  She decided that a cup of tea would be nice while she waited for the polish to harden, before putting on make-up.
After her relaxing cup of tea, Jane proceeded back to her bedroom to get her make-up on – it wouldn’t be long and the children would be awake, and Mhairi for sure would want to ‘help’.  Foundation, eye-shadow, eye-liner, mascara, blush and lastly, lipstick to match the nail polish.  Jane picked up the new tube, pulled the top off, turned the base – but the  lipstick didn’t rise!  ‘This is impossible,’ Jane muttered to herself, ‘I guess I should have checked the tube to make sure it worked.’  Starting to dig through her make-up box to find a lipstick brush, thinking she could get enough out of the tube that way, she heard a clopping sound from the hallway.  Looking up into the mirror, she could see Mhairi coming into the bedroom in one of Jane’s dresses and a pair of Jane’s high-heel shoes.
’Hi Mommy, I’m ready to go, I even have make-up on!’
Indeed she did – Jane’s new pale pink lipstick was smeared all over Mhairi’s lips, cheeks, and eyes, no wonder the lipstick didn’t rise, the tube must be empty!.   What was a mother to do?  Jane just burst out laughing.
For more stories based on the prompt, visit Magpie Tales

Monday, April 5, 2010

Love is its Own Treasure

Willow at Magpie Tales has prompted us once again.  Check out the other stories and poems that have resulted from this picture:

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I’m Pamela Elizabeth Julia Mariana Stokes-Wharton.  Quite a mouthful, isn’t it?  You’d think I was born of royalty, or at least a Fortune 500 family.  Actually I’m just a middle-aged spinster librarian, living in a two bedroom bungalow surrounded by a picket fence, in the small town where I grew up.

My nickname as a child was ‘Mouse’ and it suited me then and still suits me now – mousy hair, non-descript brown eyes, a sharp nose, slightly buck teeth.  My clothing style is somewhat mousey,  because I prefer to wear neutral colors like beige, grey, brown.  That way nobody will really notice me.

There’s nobody left that calls me Mouse any more.  My mother, a flamboyant women’s-libber long before her day, always surrounded herself with color and light and people.  She was the first to call me Mouse, saying I was just like my father.  Papa was a teacher, typically seen in an argyle vest and bow tie, glasses perched on the end of his nose which seemed to be always stuck behind a book.  A quiet man, he was the one who showed me the wonder of the world of books, a place to escape into a land of exotic travel, futuristic fantasy, and passionate love affairs.  My only sibling, Cassandra, known as ‘Princess’ at home, is much more like our mother, but we rarely see each other now even though we live in the same town.  When we do meet she’s always careful to call me Pamela.

 

Our little town is situated on the edge of a lake and is owned by the Goldberg family – well, not actually, but they do own most of the businesses – Goldberg Pharmacy, Goldberg Produce, Goldberg Mercantile, Goldberg Hardware, even the Goldberg Beauty Parlor although that’s actually called Penny’s because Penny Goldberg is the hairstylist that runs it.  Cassandra married a Goldberg, the current town mayor, and is always busy.  She belongs to the country club, presides over most of the boards in town, entertains flamboyantly, attends regularly at political social events with her sons (one holding a provincial seat, the other a federal seat), and travels extensively, which has included two around-the-world cruises.  Cassandra wouldn’t be caught dead wearing gray or beige, at least not without a splash of bright purple or electric green in a scarf or shell top.  We’re complete opposites in every way.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love my sister, have great respect for my brother-in-law, and adore their children.  There just isn’t much time in their lives for a little mouse like me.

 

Everybody else in town calls me Miss P.  That was started by the children at the Saturday morning story time at the library some 30 years ago.  And even my grown ‘children’ with children of their own still call me that.

On this Saturday morning, just a week before Easter, I gathered up my books and papers, and headed out to meet the children for their story time.  I was especially careful to make sure I had the pictures of my sister’s Faberge egg to show them.  Two weeks ago I had started to tell them the history of Easter eggs, and told the tale of the first Faberge egg created for Czar Alexander to give to his wife in 19th century Russia.   Last week, when I started a story about Easter eggs and Easter bunnies, little Jimmy Wilson said they all wanted to know more about those ‘fabercated’ eggs.  The other children agreed vehemently, so I promised them pictures this week.

My sister and her husband have a large house on an island in the middle of the lake, accessible only by boat, so I’d had to make special arrangements to get there to take the pictures.  Cassandra had bought the egg on one of her round-the-world cruises, and kept it in a locked glass cabinet with pride of place in her living room.  She’s always careful to make sure every visitor sees it, and as frequently as possible tells the story of her purchase in Russia.  I’ve always been in awe of her ability to even afford such a wonderful treasure, but found it difficult at best to hear the story one more time on this recent visit.

The children seemed extra excited this morning, and it took quite a while to get them settled to listen to the story.  But eventually they calmed, and I told them another Faberge-egg story I’d gleaned from the internet, then showed them the pictures.  They oohed and aahed, and gathered close around me to get a good look, many of them wanting to touch the picture.

I heard Sarah Larson come into the room to gather the children for their craft time, which followed story time each week, so without looking up I began to get the children back into their seats.  They were still a little more noisy than usual.  When at last I looked up, Sarah stood quietly at the back of the room with her hands behind her back.  I hardly had time to wonder what was happening when Jimmy Wilson yelled ‘Surprise’ – and all of the other children joined him in a jumble of Happy Easter wishes.  I still wasn’t sure what was happening, but then Jimmy went to her and she produced a package from behind her back.

Jimmy carried the package carefully to me, and said, ‘Miss P, we want you to have your own ‘fabercated’ eggs to put in a glass case in your house.  So we asked Miss Sarah to help us.  Here!’

I opened the package to find a basket of hand-painted eggs, each in a jumble of colors in the art styles of typical four- and five-year-olds.  Sarah said, ‘They told me they wanted you to have a Faberge egg – it took me a while to figure out exactly what they were talking about – so last week I had the paints and brushes and eggs ready for them.’  My eyes teared, I didn’t know what to say, and I had to gulp a few times before I could offer hugs and thank yous to each of the children.

When at last I looked up again, the doorway was crowded with people – older children, teenagers, young adults, some of the parents of the children.  All of them had been ‘my’ children, at least on Saturday morning at story time.  From the back of the crowd, Peter Bentley slowly moved forward.  I could hardly believe I was seeing him.

’Peter Bentley,’ I exclaimed, ‘what are you doing here?  I thought you’d settled in the city after you finished university.’

’You’re right, Miss P, I do live in the city, and there’s not often a chance to come back and visit since my parents retired and moved away.  But, when the call came two weeks ago, I just had to be part of the party.  You see, Jimmy and the other children told Sarah that you needed a Faberge egg of your own, and she called around to her friends and started a fan-out to everybody they could think of who had listened to your stories, or who had children who had been at your story times.  Sarah and the children made their own version of Faberge eggs, and the rest of us went on a search.  We hope that you’ll like our little token of appreciation, and enjoy it as much as we enjoyed your stories over the years.’

My eyes teared again, and I looked down at the lovely egg, almost afraid to touch it.  ‘You shouldn’t have,’ I managed to blubber out.

’Oh, yes, we should,’ Peter responded.  ‘Every one of us learned to love books and to have the world at our feet through the stories you told us as little children, and the perfect reading you always found for us as we grew up – novels to excite our dreams, texts to help us with our school assignments.  You’ve always been there for us, and we wanted to show you how much we appreciate your caring and sharing.’

’Well, thank you, thank you all.  I will treasure this gift for all of my life, knowing that it was a gift of the heart just like the first eggs made for Czar Alexander.’

After a chance to chat with all of my ‘children’ of all ages, gradually the room emptied out, and only Peter was left behind.

 

‘Peter, I can’t accept such a wonderful gift, you can’t possibly afford the thousands that this must cost…’

’Well, honestly Miss P, a real egg is actually worth up to millions, so you’re right, we couldn’t possibly have afforded it.  So I just called up your nephew to find out where his folks found theirs.’

’But my sister bought hers in Russia.’

’Not possible, Miss P – they’re just simply not for sale just anywhere.  Hers came from the same reproduction house where we got this.’

 

Little did Peter know what a wonderful gift he’d given me when I finally felt on the same footing as my sister, not that I’d ever let on to her that I knew our eggs were both just simple knock-offs.  I felt like going out and buying a bright orange scarf!!