The Longing, by Mary O’Brien Glatz
The new light of day seeps in the cracks between slats of wooden window blinds. A dark ocean of dreams still swirls inside her. She flutters open her eyes. Her arms and legs stretch to the cracking of joints. Dull aches remind her of the long journey from her home over the mountain pass. She is here, in the third floor guest room just above the children’s room, on the fourth day of her visit. The edges of her creped skin, grown thin and spotted brown over decades, harden into form as her heart and spirit return to a waking state. Everyone else in this kingdom is still asleep.
Spring has arrived with a vengeance, bursting forth with new life after the dreadful late snows of a long drawn out winter. She gazes upward to see the tops of two magnificent old growth ash trees peeking shyly through three tower skylights carved out of the ceiling. Mint green leaves drip out from their branches. Yellow buds itch to be strewn forth into the gentle breeze. The sky spreads out in layers of birthday cake vanillas, pinks and blues. Fast moving clouds shape shift into mischievous fairies and big nosed elves against the azure backdrop. Alabaster dogwoods float their gossamer white blossoms on the wind.
Then she hears them. Delicate footsteps and muffled whispers get closer as they climb the steep stairway to the tower room. They call with muted voices, “Grandma.” She closes her eyes again and smiles wide, scrunching up the crinkles of her face. They peek through a slit in the doorway. Her eyes pop open as if surprised as she extends her bony arms out to them, beckoning. Squeals of innocent delight burst out from her beloveds as they clamber up onto the bed. In these early morning trysts, the arthritic stiffness of the crone melts in the warmth of their soft bodies. They cling like seaweed, one under each arm. Good morning kisses and hugs. They nestle under the covers with the book they brought, pleading, “Read, Grandma.”
The elder of these two precocious girls is a princess of wide renown, ineffable beauty, and uncanny acumen. She is fully aware of her rightful place in her world of four years. This brown-haired, brown-eyed, tall willow of a girl drinks in the words on the page. She wraps one leg around her Grandmother’s, claiming ownership. Her sister, a wizened blue-eyed Buddha with a head of flaxen blonde that matches her golden heart, is diminutive yet deep. She is two years younger, but already knows to listen, look, and learn to wonder.
In hushed tones, they read The Trumpeter Swan. The older girl has a brave yearning for adventure and wants to explore the pond. She asks, “Grandmom, can we go there?” The younger has such great compassion that she pleads, “We need to help Sam protect the swans.” The grandmother answers, “Imagine.”
So as they read they go there to be with the swans, so graceful in their dance of intimacy. A gentle sun now fully risen pours in from everywhere. Big-bellied red robins search for worms. Sparrows call and respond with their mating melodies in patterns of three, most clear and pleasing at dawn. The musk of damp earth and wet swamp cattails rushes in. New grass and lilacs blooming fill the air with scents of spring in all its splendor full of endless possibilities.
Then, without speaking a word, they rise together as one coiled spring and erupt into action. Giggles, shrieks, arms and legs fling about every which way. They fly through the air like swans, dipping and diving, suspended on an invisible web of indescribable joy, laughing, whooping and hollering. Sweat trickles from the napes of their necks down the curves of their spines. They skip around the pond like twirling butterflies, leaping frogs, swooping birds.
All of a sudden through their peals of laughter, heavy footsteps pound up the tower stairs. The door flings open with a sharp bang. A tall dragon, the protector of the castle, enters with a roar. He swallows his flames and booms, “Girls, I told you to go upstairs to get dressed, not to wake up Grandma. Breakfast is ready. Hurry!”
They all fall to the floor with a loud thump. The girls chirp, “Ok, daddy, we’re coming.” They scurry away and down.
She lies back on the floor, listens to the sound of her breath, pants from the exertion. She is alone again. The sky turns dark. The pond dries up. The air goes silent. The swans fly away. Her joints stiffen. Muscles cramp. She crawls back into bed to nestle under the quilt. She needs to rest for her journey back home over the mountains. The grandmother closes her eyes to store this memory in her dreams so she can live in its joy until the next story. The afternoon flight from Chicago to Denver will be tiresome. She will be gone soon.
Copyright © 2016 by Mary O’Brien Glatz
Image is in the public domain.