It is snowing. (Maybe it was or maybe it wasn't, it doesn't really matter.) It is the tiny, dry pinging kind of snow that bites at your face if you brave the outdoors. It's the kind that doesn't take much strength to remove, but still makes you groan at the idea.
She's stayed inside as much as she can. There are chores that must be done regardless of the weather or her own mood. She rarely allows herself the luxury of a good cry. The few times it has happened have been in the late-night hours after her boy is tucked in bed and deep in slumber. She values strength. Strength of emotion, strength of character, strength of body.
There is a fire flickering softly. The boy toddles toward it occasionally, curious at the dance of orange and red. She calls after him, distracting him from harm. The fire is meant as much to take the chill from her heart as it is to warm the room.
The boy is determined to explore every inch of the room, touching things and stopping just for a moment to see if his mother is watching him. She notices only intermittently. He smiles when she admonishes him for touching the same forbidden object he's touched four times before she noticed. She sighs with exhaustion, not realizing he is testing her and looking for her attention.
She is distracted. She loves her boy beyond imagination and can only see his father when she looks at him. She wonders when her husband will be home again to help her teach this precocious boy. She is strong but not invincible. What does she know of little boys beyond her brothers? She finds some comfort knowing that she at least has brothers. Boys are still a bit mysterious. Motherhood is different than she pictured.
She keeps the tiny, shrunken letters in a pocket in her skirt. She doesn't know what else to do with them. They are optimistic, confident, breezy. They paint a picture very different from her world. She feels none of these. Her boy points to the one photo she keeps out. "Dada?" She merely nods at the daily inquiry. She knows she should probably do more but she can't.
The fire needs more wood. She has some dry in the house, but it will run out. She leaves the boy with a quick preemptive reprimand, bundles herself and goes to the shed to gather more firewood. She's thankful for the family who have stockpiled firewood on her behalf. She's strong, but she'd rather not split wood. On her way back from the shed she notices the lights of a car in the distance. It's not dark, but the snow has reduced visibility enough that the few out driving (and she wonders who is out driving in this?) turn on their headlights in the futile attempt to see more than a few feet ahead.
Head down, arms laden with wood, she trudges toward the house knowing her boy is probably getting into mischief, also knowing she can't waste time bundling him too and bringing him with her. Once inside, she finds him sitting on the bench just inside the door. "Hi Mama!" he smiles brightly.
He follows her progress to the fireplace and the stack of wood nearby. "Help you?" he asks in typical toddler fashion. She absently hands him a small log from the top of her stack. She's become a veteran at handling a stack and balancing just right. He beams with pride as he places it on the pile.
The knock on the door barely registers between the clatter of stacking the dry wood.
"Whas that?" the boy's eyes are huge.
Relieved of her wooden burden, she approaches the door. She's not expecting company. There is a twinge. She's not sure what the twinge means.
Opening the door, she's confused at the sight of the young man before her.
"I'm sorry Ma'am..." is all that she remembers hearing.
Gone. Gone. Gone. DEAD.
When she closes the door she collapses in tears, her boy frantically wiping them away.
This is a romanticized, fictionalized version of my grandmother's day of learning that my grandfather (my dad's father) was killed in WWII. I dedicate this to my dad and to all the other veterans out there...and those we have lost.