Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Winston's Story

                                           Winston’s Story
                                                     By Valerie L. Egar

            At first the bright light blinded me. I’d been wrapped in tissue at the bottom of a cedar chest in the attic for years. I thought, finally! I expected the people who discovered me would be delighted.
“Was this Grandpa’s teddy when he was little? Or Grandma’s?” they might wonder. 
I hoped they’d do a little research and see I was older than that and learn that I was Great Grandpa’s teddy bear when he was a little boy. And then, I imagined they would put me in a special place or at least bring me out at Christmas every year.
“Why did she keep this junk?”
“That bear’s seen better days.”
I don’t have a mirror, but I expect I look a bit raggedy. My fur feels patchy and worn thin in spots. The felt on my left foot is moth eaten and the straw stuffing shows through. My joints are stiff. But my nose is hand stitched! My eyes are deep brown and kind. I’ve got enough age to look distinguished.
“Throw it in the box with the other stuff we’re giving to the rummage sale.”
 I feel myself flying through the air and land with a thud on top of a toy train. I think I’d like to go back to sleep in the cedar chest, but I hear the thump, thump, thump of feet on stairs. The box jiggles up and down. Doors open, doors close. An engine starts and stops. Voices.
“Thank you so much. We appreciate your donation.”
Hands sort through the box and I’m tossed in a bin with other stuffed toys. All of them are bright colors – pink, purple, orange. I’m light brown.
All of them are soft and cuddly. I was made from scratchy wool. My straw stuffing feels hard.
I ‘m different from the others and feel out of place.  I don’t think I’ve much of a chance of anyone choosing me.
I comfort myself with memories. My little boy named me Winston when he unwrapped me for his birthday. I was a gift from his mother and she’d tied a jaunty black velvet ribbon around my neck. That didn’t last long. Peter (my little boy) untied it and lost it outside before the day was over.
What fun we had! I rode on a train from Boston to New York City to visit Peter’s grandparents. I listened to stories every night that Peter’s mother read to him. I stayed by his side when he was sick. Peter rescued me from his Labrador puppy, which is how I got the tooth mark next to my nose.
As Peter grew, I saw less of him. Soon he was more interested in footballs and girls, but his mother took care of me and when Peter got married and had a daughter, I became her bear. I climbed trees with Emma and went on picnics in the summer. I sat next to her when she practiced piano. When she went to college, I went too.  We stayed up late studying a lot of nights. I became fluent in French, but don’t remember much of it now.
When Emma got married, she decided I was too frail and precious to be treated roughly. She packed me away and bought other toys for her children. I don’t think she forgot me, but sometimes life gets too busy for old friends and I was only unpacked a few times after that.

Oh! The rummage sale must be starting. Hands rustle through the bin.
A boy picks me up, throws me aside. "Ugh!"
More hands. “Look!”
“Anja. That one’s got a hole in its foot. Choose a pretty one.”
“I like this one.”
“Here’s a nice blue dolphin.  Maybe you like it better?”
“No. I want the bear.”
“You’re sure?”
“Yes. I love him.”
Love. I haven’t heard that word in a long time.
I feel a hug and the up and down of a girl skipping. Anja. It’s a beautiful name.
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Copyright 2019 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied, reproduced or distributed without permission from the author.
Published May 4, 2019 Biddeford Journal Tribune (Biddeford, ME).

Monday, June 17, 2019

Riding in A Convertible

                                                 Riding in A Convertible
    By Valerie L. Egar

            I'd begged for a ride in Uncle Crick’s convertible since I was a little kid. “Not yet, Gina,” he’d say, looking at Mom.  If I turned quickly, I’d catch her shaking her head ‘no.’ I didn’t understand why.
“It’s like the rides at the amusement park,” Mom said. “You have to be big enough.”
“How big?” I asked. I wanted to hear a height, weight or age like I endured with car seats and the rides I wanted to try at the amusement park.
“When I say you are.” 
I knew better than to argue, but I didn’t want to have grey hair before she said yes. A ride in a car with its top down might not sound like much, but if you saw Uncle Crick’s car, you’d want a ride, too. It’s candy apple red, with two black leather seats in front that almost wrap around you. I call it a movie star car, even though Uncle Crick isn’t a movie star.

The summer I turned 12, Mom finally said yes. “You need to tie your hair back,” she said. “You don’t want it blowing all around and getting in your face.”
I pulled my hair into a ponytail.
“Sunscreen.” Mom handed me the bottle. I was so excited, I poured too much out.
“That’s OK.” Mom dipped the tip of her fingers into the lotion and dabbed some on the tops of my ears. She handed  me a pair of sunglasses. “I think you’re ready.”
I sat next to Uncle Crick and buckled my seat belt. He let me choose the radio station. Hard decision. I chose classic rock because we both like it.
He started the car, pulled out onto the road and shifted gears. I felt air cool my face, like when I ride my bicycle, only stronger. I was glad my hair was tied back because it was blowing.
I shut my eyes and took a deep breath. New mown grass. Some kind of flower. The air smelled wonderful.
“I think dogs would like convertibles.”
Uncle Crick laughed. “Why is that?”
“Because they could smell everything.”
“Sometimes that’s not so good,” Uncle Crick said as we passed a factory.
When we drove through Maple Vale, Uncle Crick drove through town slowly and I waved to people on the street. Everybody waved back. A few yelled, “Cool car!”
I saw a Dairy Delight up ahead. “Mmmm, I smell ice cream.”
“What an amazing nose you have! Tell me what flavor you smell,” Uncle Crick teased.
“Peanut butter ripple, with chocolate sprinkles.”
Uncle Crick sniffed the air.  “Mmm.  I think I smell black raspberry.” He pulled the car into the parking lot.
Soon we were seated at a picnic table with cones.

 “So, you like riding in my car?”
“Yup,” I said between slurps. I rubbed my nose which felt a little burned, even with the sun screen.
“Uh oh.” Uncle Crick looked at the sky. Black rain clouds loomed overhead. “Better get the top up.”
He handed me his cone and ran for the car, but it was too late. The sky opened and rain poured into the open car. Uncle Crick pulled out a roll of paper towels from his console. “I learned to carry these a long time ago.”
No matter how much water we wiped up, the back of my pants still got wet when I sat down.
I didn’t mind though. I loved riding in his car. I’d felt the wind on my face, rustling my hair. I was outside, where I love to be, in the sunshine (mostly), zooming through the countryside. There was only one more thing I wanted.
“Can we go for a drive some night?” I asked.
Uncle Crick raised his eyebrows.
“I want the top down to look at the stars.”

“Ah,” he said. “At night, there’s nothing better. Wait until you look up and  see the Milky Way.”

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Copyright 2019 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied, reproduced or distributed without permission from the author.
Published Biddeford Journal Tribune (Biddeford, ME) May 18, 2019.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Best Friends Forever

                                                        Best Friends Forever
                                                            By Valerie L. Egar

            The magic started when Lily found a green bottle almost covered in sand at the edge of the water. Ocean waves kissed it and receded, then kissed it again. “What’s this?”
            Lily picked up the bottle and saw it was sealed, its golden cap screwed on tightly. Holding the bottle to the sun, Lily shook it. Something clinked inside, but she couldn’t see what. She tried the cap and was surprised it unscrewed easily.
A silver necklace poured into her hand and glittered.  At the end of a delicate chain, a heart shaped pendant hung, engraved with the words, “Be My Friend.”  Lily put the necklace on and shook the bottle again, expecting to find a note so she could learn whose friend she was invited to be. No note fell out.
            Lily sat on the beach for a long time, thinking. She decided what she had to do.
            Lily dragged a huge red umbrella to the top of a grassy hill. She popped the umbrella open and felt the wind tug it. “North!” she whispered and held on to the umbrella handle with both hands.
           Slowly the wind lifted her and Lily floated over farms and  villages, wide rivers and green valleys.  A sassy crow kept her company for a little while, hitching a ride on the top of the umbrella.
Lily landed gently in a meadow. “This must be it,” she thought, noticing a dirt path leading through the nearby woods.
            Signs were posted on trees along the path.  “Go home!” 
            “Turn back now!”
            “No welcome mat here!”
            “Hmmm,” Lily thought. “With all these signs, it’s no wonder he or she has no friends.”
            Lily rounded a curve to find a cabin, its windows shuttered. Another sign, painted in red hung on the door. “Nobody’s home. Really.”
            Lily banged on the door. “I’m here to be your friend!”
            No one answered, but Lily could hear footsteps inside.
            Lily banged louder. “I came a long way to see you,” she yelled. She peeked under the door and glimpsed feet.
            “I found the bottle and the necklace you put inside.”
            Lily heard a quiet, “You did?”
            “Uh huh. I’m wearing the necklace. But you’ll have to open the door to see.”
            Silence. Then, “Come back some other day. I’m busy.”
           Lily was hungry and thirsty after her long trip. She wanted to sit in a nice soft chair for a little while. “You don’t know how to be a friend!” she yelled. “That’s why you don’t have any.” She started to cry.
            The door unlatched and slowly opened. “Would you like to come in and sit down?”
Lily saw a girl who looked exactly like herself. The same black hair, the same sea green eyes, the same dimple on one side. “Hello Lily, “ the girl said. “That’s my name, too. But I use my middle name, Marie. I like that name better.”
The inside of the cabin was a bit messy, but comfortable. Art hung on all the walls.  Poems were scattered across the table. The girls sat and talked.
“I journeyed a long way to find you,” Lily said.
“And I have been waiting all my life for you to find me,” answered Marie.
The girls talked deep into the night, getting to know each other better. “How talented you are,” Lily commented, looking at all of the paintings and reading the poems.
“And you are brave,” Marie told Lily. “You had no idea who or what was waiting at the end of  your journey.”
            As they talked, they realized they would never be separated again. They were happy to have found each other and would be best friends forever.
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Copyright 2019 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be shared, copied or distributed without permission from the author.
Published May 25, 2019 Biddeford Journal Tribune (Biddeford, ME)