Third Place Short Story: Seasons

By: Bibi Hashim

I am Allesha Ally and I live in Harmony House.  I will soon be 82 and in two days, it will be Christmas, my favourite season of the year. This morning I woke up reflecting on Christmases past. I feel a bit sad. I live alone in this lovely facility among caring, wonderful people and yet I miss the bygone rush of getting presents and planning a menu.

Amidst these thoughts came the cheery salutation from one of my favourite people here - Marie - a kind soul who helps me with my grooming as I have a balance problem and a tendency to fall and injure myself.

With a cheery "Good Morning Miss Ally. Season's Greetings to you," in sashayed Marie.

"Same to you, Marie," I reply. Then I ask: "Do you prefer to say Season's Greetings, Marie?"

"Well, it's the safe way at this time of year given our diverse make-up," she replied. "Plus I am not sure you celebrate Christmas."

"I suppose that's smart as there are a lot of holidays squished in around this time" I added.

"Well, let's started"... And with that, Marie moves efficiently to cover our routine.  Marie is like the daughter I didn't have. As she leaves, I wish her a Merry Christmas and venture to say: "You know I can be extra careful for the next day or two if you wish to take some time off for the holidays." I think Marie might have noticed that I am a bit melancholy for she asks "What are you doing on Christmas day?" I put on a brave face and joked that I will be looking out the window and hoping for a white Christmas. Then she remembers her promise to create a little playlist of Christmas music for me. "We'll have to make this Christmas, a special one for you, Miss Ally and I believe I know just how to do that."

The next day, a cheery Merry Christmas follows Marie into my room. She says, "I've discussed with my husband and my two girls and we would absolutely love for you to spend Christmas at our house. The girl's abuela lives in Argentina and we have no other family here. You are by yourself and how wonderful it would be if you help us celebrate." I became speechless and my eyes watered. I know that she would have to drive me to and fro so I declined her sincere invitation explaining that it will add to her stress. But Marie would not take "no" for an answer. Suddenly, I feel stressed. I have no presents to give and no tasty dish to contribute. Marie seems to have read my mind when she said:

You can give us a gift of your presence; I can come early to get you so you can help me with the girls while I am in the kitchen. 

I have seen pictures of her adorable daughters and have heard wonderful stories about their curious minds. I would love to meet them and then I hear my deceased sister's words as she once scolded me to be more accepting; an uncomfortable feeling as I always prefer to be giving rather than receiving. I agreed impulsively and I can see that I have made Marie equally happy as she has made me.

On Christmas morning, I am giddy with excitement. I rummaged through my things to consider a gift for the girls. I have "old lady things" and I prayed for a miracle. There must be something said about miracles because I found a box with two little earrings which I have never worn as my arthritic fingers cannot fashion those into my ears. Plus I love how they look - a little green Christmas tree and a red Santa face are the studs. They are definitely not expensive but they are cute and I am thrilled that I have something to take. I cannot remember if someone gave them to me or if it was my Kris Cringle gift from last year.

Marie took me to her house and introduced me to her loving family. The girls are like excited pups as they do not always have visitors. At ages 8 and 9, they look like twins. Immediately, they are showing  me their bedroom, their books, their toys, school awards, and girly paraphernalia. As a former school teacher, I couldn't resist the offer to read to them. They each picked a book and we tumbled onto their couch. These bright attentive girls must be a teacher's joy. I became nostalgic when I saw those Little Golden Books from years gone by.

One book educates young minds about the four weather seasons and both girls are proud to show-off their knowledge about winter, spring, summer, and fall. Then I tell them of other seasons in faraway lands beginning with my father's seasons which were rainy or dry, and planting or harvesting, as he was a farmer. I also couldn't resist telling them about my beloved sister and her husband. While her husband was often consumed by sports seasons like hockey season, my sister, who was a seamstress,  looked forward to prom season, wedding season, or party season when her sewing business thrived. The girls seem to grasp very quickly that a season could be just a duration of time. Then I made them giggle when I mentioned that I am in the winter of my life. We made merry chatter of seasons acknowledging turkey season and kite-flying season and a host of different seasons that their little minds can conjure.

After a scrumptious meal, gift openings, and squeals of delight, it is time to leave. This is truly the most memorable Christmas I ever had. I promise to be a Canadian Abuela. And we all agree that the best season should be a forever season of generosity continuing the spirit of Christmas.