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Rated: E · Fiction · Family · #2322277
Loved ones are there to guard us, even after they've passed on.

The Cardigan


She would breathe life into an ordinary world, give it color and hold it up for me to see. Our last summer she lead me by hand to a peaceful place. It was a stream in her childhood home. She wanted to see if it still held the same beauty and magic it did when she was a child. I could tell she was sad, but it shimmered like crystal. "Mama, you don't have to cry. Look at the ducks. They love it so much here."

"I know baby girl." She paused, pulled a tissue from her cardigan pocket and daubed the corner of her weepy eye. The left eye that would swell a lot that year with tiny, crystal gems. I would crawl up on the sofa and she'd ask what I was doing.

"Don't worry. I know what I'm doing." I took a droplet on my pinky and carried it to my lips to kiss it. "Do you want to make a wish?" She nodded and I remember that look on her face. I'll never forget how happy she was in that moment we shared.

In a few weeks, Mama went to a home for ill people. At first, I thought she was there to care for them. Daddy finally took me and she was in bed, with lots of her make-up on. I always got to help and she didn't do a good job, is what I thought. Her voice was a bit froggy, too.

"Hello, darling. I missed you so much..." and she trailed off with her arms open laying in that big bed. I missed her too and she smelled different, like chemicals, but not the kind we cleaned with. I didn't want to let go. Daddy could probably see because he left for a little while. When he got back, his face was all red and blotchy. Between the two of them, I didn't know who needed mothering more.

We weren't far from Mama's early home and I asked Daddy if we could pull over by her special stream. The look on his face, shadowed by the car roof as we drove kind of frightened me. His blue eyes added a lot of white. "Sure kid. Not a prob..." I could only think Daddy had eaten something bad, maybe in that home where they served food.

I still remember the car tires crunching on that dirt gravel as it spun and swerved down the tiny road Mama and I had walked. There was a white bridge nearby where she and I also visited. It was even more peaceful and harmonious, and this time there were Monarch butterflies floating everywhere, this way and that. I got so excited and wanted to chase. I looked at Daddy and his hands were in his pockets, and he only looked at the ground.

"Daddy, come here." He looked startled. "Come see," I insisted. "Pick me up so I can see them better." He knew what I meant and carried me to the edge of the bridge where orange and yellow wings flapped so awkward and reckless. I laughed a little. "Look! They’re going to run into each other if they're not careful." Daddy smiled and I remembered I hadn't seen him smile in awhile. So, I hugged his big neck and gave it my tightest squeeze. He pulled me in even tighter. His tears got into strands of my hair and eventually wet the back of my neck. He kept his face buried there when I started chanting, "There, there. Everything's going to be okay. I'm here now. I'm here now." I don't know if I had heard words like that before. It came so easy. I decided then that there was something I needed to do.

Two Reflections Image



I walked over to the spot where Mama took me. I could see my reflection double. It was like I found the perfect friend, who would know all of my thoughts. It spoke to me before I could make a wish. "You need to take care of Daddy. Mama's dying." I was shocked. I almost ran to him, turned to look, but he was back standing by the car.

I paused to stare at that reflection, moved a bit and it mimicked me. "Who told you?"
"You did."
"Oh," was all I could think. I looked at daddy again as he checked his wristwatch. I looked around at Mama's favorite spot some more and turned back toward my second reflection, but gone, somehow. I wondered for a long time afterward on the ride home if I made it up, if I should say something. Mama had picked up a few favorite stones that one day. So, before we had to go, I bent and felt through the rocky, dusty clumpy weeds and pulled out a blue one. It sparkled when I lifted it. I buffed it a bit more with my other hand. It sent a few glints of gold flakes. I wanted to believe it was real gold and too precious to be worth money.

When we got home, it was dark and much cooler. Reaching into the back seat, Daddy pulled out Mama's cardigan to give to me. There was a pile of Mama’s clothes that he brought back. I first had wondered if it was her laundry and maybe she needed fresh. But, I didn’t see him bring her anything. I put on the ‘turquoise, double knit’, as she called it. It was big and bunchy. Daddy straightened the shoulders so it would ‘hang right’. He just looked at me and smiled. I felt my face change. The cardigan smelled like her! Tears came out and I wanted to cry. “Hold on, Maggie.” He slid across the vinyl seat and hugged me gentle. But suddenly, I was happy. Elated.

“Daddy, do you know what this means?” He shook his head. “I’ll always have Mama with me.” I gasped.
“What?”
“She was the little girl at the stream that talked to me.” Daddy looked worried, I could see. “I saw my reflection and I thought it was double somehow. She talked to me, Daddy.” I cried for real then. He gave me lots of hugs, his big hand smoothing my blonde hair.

We later cuddled in her favorite chair by the fireplace with the TV on, even though it was past bed time. I was getting very tired. Daddy might have fallen asleep once or twice as I cuddled into his side, our bodies warm from her cardigan. I sighed a lot. My face still held a few tears in the corner eyelashes. I decided to dig in her pockets. The tissues were there. I decided then that I would make them last forever.

I used the last tissue today, and to say goodbye, I sat in her chair to write this story. It should let everyone know how magical and special my mom is and always will be. It’s just because of a place that I thought I could only discover with her, until I found it’s special magic inside of me.

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“My teacher, Mrs. Franklin ‘proofed it’ for me to share. Do you like it? Daddy? What are looking at outside?”

Maggie joined her father at the hallway window, clutching the wrist of a rigid arm. Flashing blue and red lights filtered by dusk and fog painted strobed colors on the front lawn.


6.20.24
Dedicated to my niece Brandi who is coping with the loss of her grandpa, a very special man to all of us. *Heart*


Chapter 1 Image

A Chapter One contest entry
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