A story by Mary O’Brien Glatz
Can we live forever young in our stories?
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
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 neck 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.
They all fall to the floor with a loud thump. The
girls chirp, “Okay, 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 Mary O’Brien Glatz
Mary O'Brien Glatz started
writing with the Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver, Colorado, after
she retired as an educator. She published her memoir, Anywhere But Here: A First Generation
Immigrant Life, in 2014, has written political analysis pieces
and is currently working on a political fiction novel.