Tuesday, March 13, 2012
Invisible Winter by River Jordan
Most people grow up over a period of years. Scrapes and bruises helping to form the mature person that they were meant to be. Although, from what Daisy understood about some people, they intentionally never grew up. It seemed like her “growing up” lasted all of ten minutes. If even that.
Daisy remembered that day clearly. It was the kind of cold that was also quiet. It was quiet with people snuggling comfortably in their warm beds, reluctant to leave. She stood outside by the path bordered with winter dead hibiscus bushes. The cold felt good to her, she breathed clearly for a few minutes. Overhead, the geese flew in vees in a sky the kind of gray you sometimes see in an ice cube, with white where the teeny bubbles have frozen. She wore the same clothes she slept in, a sheet covering her shoulders and wrapped around her, the edges fisted in her hands.
Daisy's father had left soon after the insurance company had settled for the damage to their family home. He then promptly closed their accounts at the grocery store and the local department store as well.
Daisy and her mother stayed with the Shanks' family for four weeks. They were kind and considerate but the strained conversations were an indication that it was time to leave.
After that it was a series of her mother's best friends houses. Each less welcoming than the last.
That winter, three months after her father left them, they were staying with her mom's friend Fannie. Fannie and her grown daughters all lived together. Really, they were kind-hearted people but they had a huge family to worry about.
Her mother was in the midst of a nervous breakdown and Daisy was no longer visible to her. Truly invisible, now. She had older siblings, but they were preoccupied with their own families.
That winter Daisy became so ill with bronchitis that she was coughing up blood. Normally, it would be a visit to the doctor, but there was no money to do that. She could not sleep laying flat on the ground (for they did sleep on the ground, lucky to have a sheet to keep warm), but laying flat caused her to cough and the coughing led to blood and headaches, so she slept on the top three stairs.
Fannie had taught her in just a couple of days to crochet. She could crochet chains the first day, by the end of the week she was sewing booties with yarn Fannie had given her.
Christmas Eve was spent cooking a feast that they would not be a part of. She cleaned dishes and wiped up messes behind Fannie and her daughters hoping they would be allowed to join the family dinner and at the same time, hoping not to be asked to join.
Christmas day was one of the worst and one of the best. Secretly she had crocheted a pair of booties for her Mom and for her sister Glory who was flying in from New Jersey. She had also made a pair for herself. She wrapped them in leftover wrapping paper from Fannies' grandchildren's gifts.
She woke extra early that day, before anyone had woken, and peeked into the den to see the floor around the tree and most of the room covered in gifts. Her heart quickened hoping there would be one for her. Hearing someone in the kitchen she hurriedly went back upstairs and pretended to sleep until her mother awoke.
They were not invited into the den, encouraged not to attend the gift giving. It was only right. Who wants to see a girl looking on with hopeful eyes knowing that she would not be opening any gifts?
Instead, Daisy, her mother and her sister Glory sat in the entry room talking. They were reminiscing about past Christmases, laughing. The room grew awkward and silent as they listened to the cacophony of presents opening and children squealing with happiness in the other room. Daisy's mother mumbling to herself. Glory staring off out the window probably wishing she had not come.
Daisy had been sitting on the loveseat with a pillow on her lap. She uncovered it and presented the presents to her Mom and sister. Her mother smiled distractedly and caressed Daisy's cheek with hands as soft as silk. Daisy's heart soared at this caress. Glory opened her gift and smiled and began to cry.
"I didn't get you anything, Daisy."
"That's okay Glory. I'm just happy that you are both surprised!" Daisy beamed at them both but wished that Glory would stop crying.
"Well, sis, you're the best. I can't believe you learned to crochet!" as she smiled and wiped away the tears.
There weren't a lot of presents to open, there was just the three of them, but it was the first time Daisy did not feel powerless and adrift.