A short story about nostalgia
This a short story written for the Soaring Twenties Social Club Symposium. Each month the STSC writers, artists, and videographers create something around a set theme. For June, the theme was nostalgia.
I step into my back yard and there is absolute quiet. No, that's not quite right. There are breezes racing one another through the trees. And these breezes gather around me, mussing my hair, and whispering harmonies into my ears.
I look up and see the oak tree branches in the fading dusk light, tapering into a kaleidoscope of leaves, just a dark silhouette now against the rapidly darkening deep blue. The view reminds me of her. Playtime at dusk in the backyard was her favorite part of the day.
It seems the breezes have brought me an offering. A memory floats down, landing gently in my mind, warming my soul; taking me back to another day, to that day when she gave me a precious gift…..
* * *
On that day, she played among the shrubs. Along the fence line, behind the tall xylosomas, she crouched, moving slowly forward in the dappled light of early autumn, perfectly camouflaged among the leaves, light and branches. Occasionally, a bird took notice of her and she would giggle and freeze in place. But, soon, the birds lost interest and she started to make her way forward again. Finally, after walking the perimeter, she reached the corner of the yard, where she stopped and sat under our esperanza plant, the bright yellow flowers forming a halo around her head.
I laughed through my tears.
Somehow, despite being young, Hope possessed an old soul. She had always comforted me in a way that nobody else could.
Occasionally, I comforted her, such as during thunderstorms. Here in Texas we get big boomers that spring up almost instantly, move in, drop torrential downpours, and then move out, leaving a peaceful sunny day in their wake. Oh, how she hated those thunderstorms! I would hold her close and whisper, “It’s OK” and she would believe me. She always believed me when I told her that things would be OK. I could physically see and feel her relax at the sound of my voice.
Most often, however, we comforted one another.
But, after she received her diagnosis - extremely aggressive terminal cancer - strangely, it was mostly her comforting me.
Anyway, on that particular day, she was sitting under the esperanza….which surely was a coincidence. But, then again, she always was much more than she seemed. I had often referred to her as an angel, and, while most people understood that as a figure of speech, there is no doubt, in my mind that she was, in truth, an angel from heaven. Sent to us, for a short time, a living gift from God.
We often spent weekend evenings sitting on the back patio, my wife and I drinking wine, and listening to music while she played in the backyard. But eventually, she would decide she was ready to snuggle, and join us on the cushy outdoor sofa. The three of us would lay on the too-small sofa talking, listening to music or just listening to the sounds of nature as we watched the stars walk across the night sky. It thawed this old man’s heart to know that, despite her love of nature, she loved us more and chose, willingly, to give up part of her playtime to just sit with us. To comfort us. And during those dark pandemic days, I’m not exaggerating to say that she saved our sanity and on a couple of occasions, perhaps our very lives. An angel.
The day before she sat in the esperanza, I was sure she had given up. She wasn’t eating. She wasn’t playing. She wasn’t really doing anything. Her will to live seemed gone. I had called her doctor. But, through a weird twist of fate, the phone lines, which had literally never been a problem, were jammed that Friday morning. I simply could not get through no matter how many times I tried. And, later in the day, when I finally reached someone at his office, he was gone for the day. We’ll take her Monday I thought. Let’s let her have the weekend before we face reality. What a horrible thing to have to think about. She, understandably, hated the doctor’s office.
But the day Hope sat in the yard, surrounded by the esperanza was the next day: Saturday. And on Saturday, she had rallied.
Sure, she was weak and thin - but that’s expected for someone who, eleven months prior, was given only three months to live. Thin was fine. Thin was alive. And, on that Saturday, she was here. And she was interested. She was living. She was playing. She was present. She taught me the importance of that - the importance of living in the present.
So she sat proudly, defiantly almost, underneath a natural wreath of esperanza. All while a sunbeam highlighted both her and the plant. I’m not sure I could have imagined a clearer sign from God if I had tried.
That’s what esperanza means: Hope.
Without hope, we have nothing.
I had given up hope that weekend, and Hope was, once again, wiser than the wisest sage.
And, as she sat under the “hope plant”, with the light of God shining down upon her, she taught me another lesson:
Don’t lose hope.
She didn’t give up, and spent the afternoon outside, enjoying nature. Tomorrow would take care of itself. Monday, God forbid, would take care of itself. Let’s enjoy today, she said without words. So we did.
My heart soared to see her sitting under that esperanza. She turned her head to the side to listen to the birds. She lifted her chin and the wind tousled her hair. She turned and looked at me and, I swear, she smiled. She was happy.
Don’t Lose Hope.
After that day, she increasingly spent her days sleeping, but she always found enough reserves of energy to go outside for a while. And we went outside every single day because her outside time was her favorite part of the day. It was mine too. She was always happy outside. Most days, she sat under that beautiful esperanza. Hope fought for three more months, but not before teaching me a few more lessons in wisdom. She was my angel, my sage, my zen master, my comforter and my ward.
Hope restored my hope.
* * *
The wind picks up again, bringing me back to the present. I look away from the branches above and turn to look at Hope’s esperanza. Due to the wetter than normal weather, it has bloomed even more than usual over the past year. She would have loved it this way.
I walk through the back yard, over to the esperanza plant. And, as it sways in the gentle evening breeze, I hear her whisper in the wind, “don’t lose hope.”
And, through tearful eyes, I smile.
And I feel hope.