My Work in Progress

Susie’s Surprise: a writing experiment
orginal version published on Themestream, 2001

Icicles grow from our roof and hang down to my bedroom window. I want to open the window and reach out and touch them, but Mommy won’t let me. “Your uncle Daniel did that,” she says. “He landed on the shed and broke his arm.”

Uncle Daniel was Mommy’s brother. I heard Mommy telling Daddy she misses Uncle Daniel a lot. I think Grandma misses him a lot, too, because sometimes she cries when she talks about him. Grandma told me that I would have liked him, but he had to go away when I was too little to remember him.

“Susie, get into bed. Please.”

I wish Mommy was nice like she used to be. I feel sad because she yells at me and Daddy a lot. I don’t think she likes us anymore. Daddy said we have to forgive her because she isn’t feeling well right now, and she’s very tired. He said he hopes we will have our old mommy back soon.

Mommy tucks me in and shuts the door. She forgets to pull down the window shade. I get out of bed and tiptoe to the window. I see a bright star shining down on our house. I think it must be the star that Grandma told me about at Christmas—the one that the wise men followed to the baby Jesus. It shines down from Heaven. Grandma told me that Uncle Daniel is in Heaven now. Maybe he can look down and see us.

In the morning, I get out of bed and go to the window. But, I can’t see the star. Maybe the lights in Heaven are turned off in the morning like the lights on our street.

Daddy makes scrambled eggs and toast for me. He asks Mommy if she wants the same thing, but she says she’s not hungry. “I saw the Star of Bethlehem last night,” I tell them.

Mommy laughs at me. “That’s not a star, Susie,” she says. “That’s the beacon shining down from Mount Greylock. It’s been turned off for most of your life; that’s why you haven’t noticed it before.”

“Aw, Em, don’t spoil it for her.”

“But she shouldn’t think it’s a star when it’s just a light,” Mommy says. Then she makes a funny face at Daddy and pats her tummy.

“I think I should stay home today,” Daddy says.

“Can I stay home too? Maybe you can take me sledding in the park.”

“No, Susie, you have to go to school. We’ll go sledding another time.”

When I come home from school Mommy and Daddy aren’t there. Grandma is in our kitchen washing dishes. “Daddy will be home soon, Your mother had to go away for a little while,” she says. I feel scared, but Grandma smiles and says, “She needs to rest for a while, but she’ll be back soon. And I think she will be bringing you a nice surprise.”

Grandma and I go next door, and she makes me a cheese sandwich and a cup of hot chocolate. After we eat lunch, she reads to me about the first Christmas until Grandpa wakes up.

Grandpa doesn’t feel well, but he doesn’t yell like Mommy does. “Hello, Fraulein,” he says. “Did you learn anything useful in school this morning?”

“I can count to fifty,” I say. “I learned all by myself.” Then I show him. I count all my fingers over and over again until I get to fifty. By the time I stop counting, Grandpa is snoring.

When the doorbell rings, I think it might be Daddy. I go into the front hall. I see Grandma talking to a man I don’t know. He looks like the policeman who walks by our house sometimes, but his clothes aren’t blue. The man gives Grandma some flowers and kisses her on the cheek. She wipes her eyes with her apron and gives him a hug. After he leaves, she goes over to the piano and puts the flowers next to Uncle Daniel’s picture.

Grandma bows her head. I don’t know the words she’s saying, but I know she’s praying. Mommy told me that Grandma always prays in French. After, she says to me, “That boy was with Danny in Normandy.” She wipes her eyes again. I give her a hug.

Normandy is far away, in a place called France, near a lot of water. My uncle Daniel drowned there. Being drowned must be worse than having a broken arm. Mommy said that’s why Uncle Daniel can’t ever come home again.

I feel bad that he drowned. And I miss Mommy. I hope Grandma is right and that she will be home soon.

Mommy is away for a long time, but Grandma tells me that two weeks really isn’t so long. “It only seems long because you’re a little girl,” she says. I think Grandma knows I’m feeling sad. She has all my favorite food when Daddy and I go downstairs for dinner.

“Don’t spoil her, Leonie,” Daddy says.

“Every child needs to be spoiled sometime,” Grandma says.

Later that night I wake up and hear someone moving around in around in the room next to mine. I get up and peek out the door. Daddy is moving some furniture and other stuff into their room. When he sees me, he says,”Mommy is coming home tomorrow. She’ll be here when you get home from school.”

I hurry home from school, but I can’t see Mommy right away. Grandma says that she has to rest. I go upstairs in the afternoon. Mommy is lying on the couch. She must still be tired because she is wearing the housecoat Daddy and I gave her for Christmas.

The big doll carriage I got for Christmas is next to the couch. “That’s my carriage. Why is that there?”

“Yes, it’s yours, but I have to borrow it for awhile,” Mommy says. “Don’t you want to see the surprise I brought you.”

I look into the carriage and see a baby wrapped in a blue blanket. He has a fat, red face and dark fuzzy hair. He looks like he’s going to cry. I touch his hand and he curls his little fingers around mine. Mommy hugs me and kisses me on the cheek. “This is your new baby brother,” she says. “His name is Daniel.”

copyright 2001–2013, Judith Anne Horner

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