OK, once again, I combined two weeks of prompts (it helps to have time off work to manage it!) The prompts are:
oyster; lots of money; while I was sleeping;
ceramic drums; a bee in your bonnet; shadow children
December dawns are slow in coming. It’s a cruel mid-winter trick of the sun at playing hide and seek. But on the rare occasion the skies are clear, it’s a special treat to see how daybreak’s warm orange, pink and golden glow quickly erases the pitch black of a long winter night.
These clear mornings are what Noel liked best about her winter visits to her family’s cabin. The summer months have their own charm, of course, especially if you are able to catch the wildflower season with the meadows awash in bright greens, blues and purples. But, winter is truly a picture-postcard wonderland. Such a sight can make a person forget about the chaos of life’s miseries.
When Noel announced she wanted to spend Christmas alone, her parents were unsympathetic.
“Oh, Noel-belle,” her mother said, “are you sure? You need to be with family. I mean, everyone will be at Beck and Kev’s! They’ll be so disappointed. You could stay with Charice and her boyfriend, you know? I asked! They said it would be OK.”
“I suppose you told Charice why I’m not coming?” Noel waited for an answer, but her mother’s only reply was guilty silence. “Well, you’ll be telling everyone my business anyway, so, whatever.”
“C’mon, kiddo,” her father piped in from the other line. “No sense in brooding. I know you love it out there, but go another time. Isn’t there a 3-day weekend in January? Go then. Have your alone-time then.”
Noel hated when her father came up with perfectly reasonable options. Defying him made her feel silly and spoiled.
“If it’s the money, you know we’ll cover it,” her mother blurted.
Noel sighed. “It’s not… I mean, yes, you are right, I’m not in a place right now I should be spending that kind of cash on plane tickets and hotels, but no. It’s not the money. I mean it, and thank Charise for the invite, but seriously. I’m really looking forward to just me, the dog, and the cabin.
“You have to tell me what spending Christmas and New Years alone is going to accomplish,” her mother continued to argue. “We know you’ve been dealt a bad hand, baby, but it’s time you snap out of it. Come be with family. You’ll feel much better.”
Noel dug in, stubbornly refusing to argue the matter any further. She kept quiet, letting her mother hem-and-haw. Then she heard a click and rightfully assumed it was her father hanging up. She knew she’d be getting the cold-shoulder treatment from him for a while.
Her mother continued. “I want you to let go of this bee in your bonnet. I mean, it’s Christmas, hon! Not a time to be selfish and all caught up in yourself. Go on an Outward Bound pilgrimage some other time, like Dad said. Spend the holidays with your family.
Noel remained silent. She was determined not to let her parents guilt her into changing her mind.
“Well… call me when you get there,” her mother finally conceded. “Uncle Fred says they have cell towers all over the valley now, so call if you need something or get stuck in the snow.”
The first night there, burrowed under layers of down blankets, Noel slept her first deep sleep in weeks. When she woke, it was still dark.
She quickly dressed, and then pulled out her grandfather’s old fleece-lined hunting clothes and rabbit fur-lined aviator hat from the trunk in the closet. She put on her Ugg boots and bundled up in the heavy wool Pendleton throw off the couch.
Cuddling a hot mug of coffee close to her chest, she walked to the front door, calling to her dog, Buna, to join her. Buna came cautiously to the threshold as Noel stepped out onto the porch. Sniffing the freezing air and detecting there wasn’t a treat involved, the dog returned to her warm spot next to the pellet stove.
“You’re a snow chicken!” Noel called out, as her dog lay back down on her blanket with a groan.
Noel settled in on the long bench under the window to sip her hot coffee and watch the sun rise over the crest of the hill. The utter silence brought the peacefulness she had been craving for months, and all the reason why she decided to come to the cabin all on her own this time.
The cold eventually became too much to bear. Reluctantly, Noel shuffled back into the warmth of the cabin. Setting her mug on the table, she spied a drum of some sort in the corner by the pellet stove. Picking it up to investigate, she wondered if it was something her eldest cousin brought back from his time in New Zealand. She tapped on it with her finger tips a couple of times.
“Look, Buna, we even have musical entertainment!” She continued to rap her fingers on the drum, trying to get Buna to jump up and play, but the dog only gave her a confused and somewhat worrying look.
“You’re absolutely right. Don’t quit my day job.”
Noel set the drum back down. As she tossed the wool blanket back on the couch and took off her grandfather’s hat, her stomach gave a growl. She brought groceries for the week ahead, of course, but was in no mood to cook. She rummaged through the kitchen cabinets for anything she could eat; just a quick bite to stave off hunger. Years’ accumulation of various food stuff produced a can of chili, a packet of onion soup mix, unopened jars of mustard and barbeque sauce, a can of corn, and a tin of smoked oysters. Noel went for the oysters and opened the can of chili for the dog.
She settled on the couch with her oysters and a fresh mug of coffee. Looking around the place, the memories of many happy days spent here with her grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and most especially cousins, to whom she was so close, came flooding back. There wasn’t a corner of the old place that wasn’t filled with delightful apparitions of childhood.
Noel was happy. For the first time in a long time, she was smiling. All her memories of the place would keep her in very pleasant company throughout the week. In that moment, she vowed to do as her mother insisted; to finally let go of the troubles of recent months and ring in the new year with a renewed outlook and a commitment of moving on.