The New Maji

Rating: 5.0

With the passing of the storm,
The sky was clear and
The streets swept clean
By the rain.

Once again
Sean O'Roark made breakfast
Of hot oatmeal and
Coffee for Marg and
Himself then they sat
Discussing the coming week.

Things were pretty dismal
What with the rising unemployment,
Marg's health,
And the tight budget.

They had decided
To economize everywhere they could.
In fact walking the mile or so
To work rather than taking the bus
Saved seventy five cents each way,
And the walk
When the weather was nice,
He enjoyed.
So with a sandwich
In the plastic bag,
He headed out for the plant.

Today, he decided
To take a turn down Main Street
And look in the shops
Along the way.

No one else
Was walking
And he had plenty of time
Before the whistle.

Next to the downtown barbershop
Was a store he hadn't noticed before,
Wasn't even sure if it had been there
When he last passed this way.

A millinery shop
With fancy hats and gloves
In the window,
He thought,
'Who in this town was going
To be buying hats and gloves
At this time of year.'

And yet,
He took the time
To look in the window
And there in the back corner
Was a wig.
Not just an ordinary wig
But one that looked as if
It was made with real hair,
And the color was just like Marg's,
And cut sort of short the way
She liked to wear her's.
Nice, he thought and
Then he passed on down the street.

On the way home,
He retraced his steps
Past the shop
And thought
That would really be a great gift.

But, what was he thinking.
No way could they afford it,
Even though he didn't have an idea
What it would cost.

Dinner was
A rich vegetable soup
And dark bread
That made it seem almost festive.
Of course they decided to
Forego the butter and
Save it for some other occasion.

News continued to be of strife
And the depressed economy
Even though it was just
Four days before Christmas.

Marg seemed to have had a good day
And continued to gain strength
After the chemo and radiation treatments,
So they talked about
What they were going to do in the Spring.
And as usual,
They both were in bed before nine.

Well another day
And again the sun was bright and warm,
It was early morn
When Sean headed out to work.

As he walked along,
A gust of wind
Picked up a bit of paper and
In a quick grab,
He caught it as it flew by.
An advertisement,
Well why not
It was Christmas time.

Walking along he glanced
At the bit of print
And was surprised to discover
That it was for the Millinery Shop.
A puff advertising
Thirty percent off with the coupon.

No trash can was in sight,
So Sean stuffed the ad in his jacket
And continued on his way.

That evening
As he headed home
He passed by the shop,
And everything was there
Just as before
And he thought,
'I bet no one passed
Through those doors today.
So sad.'

Then just as he was beyond the store,
A ladies voice called out.
'Excuse me.'
Sean turned
And a small gray haired lady
Who was probably
Old enough to be his mother,
Was standing in the doorway.

'I saw you admiring the wig.'
Now with all the hats and gloves
In the window,
How had she known that
He was looking at the wig?

'Oh, yes.
I thought how nice it is.'
'It's a wig for a girl,
Made with real hair,
Isn't it pretty? '

'For a girl?
I thought maybe for a lady.'
'Oh, no.
You see it would be too snug
To fit over a full head of hair.'

'That's interesting.
What if the woman had no hair? '
'I don't know,
Never was asked that before,
But of course
It would fit then.'
And she gave a big smile.

'It must be very expensive,
Made with real hair and all? '
Well yes,
But with Christmas just three day's away,
We are having a sale.
Would you like to come in? '

'Really I would
But I've got to be going.
Thanks, anyway.'
And Sean with a smile headed home.

That evening
He and Marg had their dinner
And watched a bit of the news,
This being the Christmas season,
A really good movie was on
Which they watched,
Before going to bed.

Morning,
Just like the days before,
And off to work.
As Sean walked around the corner,
The old lady from the shop
Was sweeping leaves
From the front of the store
Into the gutter.

He touched his cap
(As his father before him
Had all ways done,
And said, ' Morning.'

'Why good to see you.
You know my husband
And I were talking
About the wig last night,
And he said,
That maybe you might want to
Consider trading something for it? '

This caught Sean up short
As the thought never crossed his mind
That they might have something
Worth trading.

Regardless,
He needed to be on his way
And after wishing the lady the best,
Continued to his job.

That afternoon,
Sean took a different route home
To avoid passing by the shop
And Marg commented
That he sure seemed fidgety about something.
The evening seemed to drag on
And while they watched another movie
It just didn't seem to have
The Christmas spirit.

After they turned in,
And Marg was deep
Into her slumbers,
Sean crept from the bed
And opened
The camphor chest at the foot,
Carefully removing a box,
Closed the lid and
After closing the door to the bedroom
So the light wouldn't wake Marg,
Sat at the table
With the box.

He carefully
Untied the ribbon
That held the top in place
Then removed
The cloth wrapped treasure.

He placed the dish on the table
Before him and then
Held it to the light.

Clearly chased in the silver
Were names,
Lots of name and dates.

The first was a date in the 1800's
And the names of grandparents long ago.
Under that,
Another and another
Until finally the date
When he and Marg had been married
And their names beautifully
Cut deep into the silver.

This was the family history,
A legacy.
Back into the box and
Into the cabinet over the stove
And Sean was ready for bed.

Next morning,
After breakfast,
Sean slipped the box under his coat
And after wishing Marg good health,
He was off.
His pace was too fast and
He was sure if he didn't slow down
When he got to the shop
It would be too early.
Or maybe they wouldn't be open,
After all it was Christmas Eve.

And, just as he feared,
The lights in the shop were off.
But, above a single window showed a light,
Which meant perhaps
Someone might be awake,
So he tapped on the door.

He heard the shuffling of feet
On the tile floor and
A light came on
Deep within the store.

'Perhaps, I am being foolish, '
He thought, and turned to go.
'Why, good morning sir.'
And the door of the shop opened.

There stood
The old lady in a long dressing gown,
Hair in a head rag,
Bare feet and looking quite cold.

'Would you come in?
How can I help you? '
Sean never at a loss for words,
Stood like a wooden Indian,
And drew the box from under his coat.

'I thought perhaps
I might be able to trade
Something for the hair piece.'
'Why of course,
Let's see what you have.'

And before he could do otherwise,
She holding him by the elbow
Brought him into the store.
He offered the box to her and
She carefully opened it.

'What a pretty piece,
I've never seen the likes of it
And pure silver it is.'
It must be very long in your family.'

She ran her gnarled finger
Along the chase marks in the silver,
The names, the dates,
The decorative cuts.

'Let me get my husband, '
And she disappeared
Into the darkness of the rest of shop
With the dish in hand.

A moment later,
Certainly more quickly
Than anyone would expect
Who was to examine something for its worth,
She returned with a smile.

'Of course, of course.
And he insist that its value
Is more than the wig and that we
Should give your twenty dollars
Extra in exchange.'

With that
She drew four five dollar bills
From deep in her robe pocket
And place them in his hand.

'I'll put the wig
In a special box and
Have it ready for you this afternoon.'
And with that,
Sean felt that he had been almost
Propelled from the shop.

All day, he worried.
Should he have done this?
But of course.


Finally the afternoon came
And the boss called
All into the office at four.
A Christmas basket of fruit
For each
Which for those with a car or a ride,
Was no problem,
But for Sean,
He thought how would he carry both the basket of fruit
And hat box the mile or so home.
He'd manage and
Away he started toward home.

A trace of clouds
Was covering the sun
And it was drawing colder,
Christmas day promised to be one
Where staying inside
Was going to be most welcome.

Soon he was at the store front,
But something was different,
The hats and gloves
Had been removed from the window and
'His' wig was nowhere to be seen.
There was no light in the store
Or in the window above.
As he looked up and down the street,
Was he at the wrong address?

He tried the door handle
And the door swung easily open.
Dark as the inside of a cow, it was.
'Hello.' There was no answer.
Standing quite alone,
Speechless, fear crept
From the bottom of his stomach until it
Lodged in his throat.
He turned to go.

'Why Mr. O'Roarke, you surprised us.
We are closed for the Holidays you know.'
'But not to fear,
I have your gift here by the counter.
See what a pretty box I have chosen.
Would you like to look inside.'
And she lifted the lid.

Then she closed the box,
Tied the ribbon and
Placed it into a large shopping bag.
'Now be off with you,
And have a Merry Christmas.'

With that and before Sean
Could do more than mumble Merry Christmas to her,
He was out the door and
The door closed behind him.

'Yes, we will have Christmas
At the O'Roarke's'
He said, and headed home.
But first, we must have a tree.

Not too far away,
A lot once filled with fresh cut trees
Was in sight.
As he approached,
He could see that most had been sold
And only a few remained.
A group of teenagers
Had been left to run the stand
And had been promised they
Could keep whatever they earned.
Pickings were slim.
The big trees were gone and
The smaller ones were misshapened.
None would do.

The youngest of the lot
Asked if he could help,
But there was surely
Nothing he could do.

'A tree.'
Was the best that Sean could offer.
'Big or small, fir,
Pine or balsam? '

He thought,
This lad has got to be kidding
None of the above
Would have been the simple answer.

But he said,
'I'd like a balsam, freshly cut,
On a wooden stand.
About six feet would be just right.'

Into the bed
Of an old pickup truck
Parked at the curb,
The boy climbed.

He held up a tree.
'How about this one? '
Suddenly Sean found himself
At a disadvantage.

He'd committed to buy a tree
And hadn't even asked how much.
As if anticipating the question,
The boy climbed out of the truck
Balanced the tree with one hand and said,
'Well we usually get twenty dollars for one
Of this size and quality,
But if I don't sell it,
It'll just go in the fire tomorrow.
How about ten dollars? '

For the first time,
Sean seemed to remember the money
Boot that had been give for the plate.
'Yes, of course.'

And he dug deep into his pocket and
Extracted two five dollar bills.
From nowhere, two larger boys appeared
And each took one of the bills,
And were gone.

'Will you be needing help
Getting it to your car? '
Suddenly, Sean discovered that his problem
Had suddenly become more.
'I'll carry it home,
I only live a few blocks away.'
'Can I help you? '
'But of course.'

And away they walked
The small boy carrying the tree,
Sean leading the way and
You could almost hear the sounds of bells in the air.

At the front door,
Sean told the boy
To put the tree on the porch
So that it would not dry out
In the inside air.

He reached into his pocket
And fumbled for some change.
There was none,
Only the two remaining five dollar bills.

He gave one to the boy
Who stood there for a moment and said,
'Sir, you gave me five dollars.'
Sean said, 'Merry Christmas! '
And the boy said, 'Thank you Sir! '
And disappeared in a flash.

Marg had not been idle this Christmas Eve.
After Sean left she started baking.
Not just any baking but something special for Christmas.
Her recipe:

LACE COOKIES

These cookies spread to make very thin wafers, almost transparent.

Set oven at 375. Mix in a bowl the following:

2 1/4 cups oatmeal (uncooked)
1/4 cups light brown sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt

Stir in
1 cup butter melted (note: margarine will burn)

Add
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla

Blend well.
Arrange by teaspoonful at least 2' apart on heavy cookie sheets
Or on foil.
Bake until lightly browned (about 7 minutes) .
Cool.
As soon as firm enough,
Remove cookies from the cookie sheets.
Place gingerly into tin to protect from breaking.

The tin was tied with a ribbon
And slipped under the bed's edge.
And Marg peacefully
Crept back into bed
Where she slept the rest of the afternoon.

Sean placed the hat box
Besides the tree
And took the fruit gift inside
And sat on the side of the bed where
Marg was propped up reading.
'Fruit! Where did you get it? '
'From the boss,
It's Christmas you know.'
And they sat there and ate an apple,
An orange, a banana,
And a bunch of grapes.
Dinner that evening was
Just an afterthought.

Morning:

A brisk wind
Caused the windows to creak in their sashes,
And both Sean and Marg
Seemed to have over slept.

Sean crept from bed
And brought the balsam tree
Into the next room where he placed it
So that it could be seen
When the door was opened.

Then he brought
His gift to the bedside
And gently awakened Marg.

Merry Christmas,
He whispered again and again
Into her upturned ear
Until finally she stirred.

A smile spread across
Her face as she sat up.
'Look what Santa has brought.'
As he offered her the box
With the big bow on top.

'Sean, what have you done?
How could you? '
And a tear seemed to swim
Across her eye.

'My what a big box,
And so pretty too.
I know that you
Could not have tied such a bow.
Where have you had it hidden? '

And hundreds of questions
Came as she caressed the box and ribbon.
Slowly, she carefully untied
The ribbon and laid it aside,
Pressing it flat with her hands.

Then she lifted the lid,
To see inside,
But the gift was itself
Wrapped carefully in tissue,
So that only after she removed
Layer and layer of the thin paper
Could she see.

'What is it?
It can't be.
It is!
Sean it's a wig
And so much like my own hair too.
Oh, its beautiful.
I do so love it.'
And with that she put the wig
Carefully on her head.

Sean bring me my mirror,
I must see.'
'It's so lovely, and
Oh so warm.'

'Sean O'Roark
when I am better,
You'll pay for this.'
And they embraced.

'Well you must understand that
I am not the only one here
To have a gift.
Reach under the bed and
Get the package
I have for you.'

As Sean pulled from underneath
The bed the old and very worn fruitcake tin
Which had been in the family for years,
A smile came on his face.

'What have you done?
Have you been in the kitchen
When you shouldn't ought? '

And he carefully
Held the tin and
Gave it a slight shake.
It seemed empty.

'Open it.'
And he did.
There nestled amongst tissue
Were the lace cookies.
And what beautiful cookies they were.
Baked to a golden brown,
So thin and fragile
That one was almost afraid
To touch them.
His eyes swelled with tears.

'Sean,
Get our plate from the trunk
So that you can see them.'

Silence.
And his chin dropped
And his eyes closed.
What was he to do?

The wind stirred once more
Against the house,
And the windows rattled,
The bed room door slowly opened.

'Oh Sean, a tree.
You got us a tree.
And look, there atop the tree,
Like the guiding star,
Our plate,
Oh, how it shines! '

Merry Christmas.

s

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COMMENTS OF THE POEM
Kee Thampi 18 December 2006

And yet, He took the time To look in the window And there in the back corner Was a wig. Not just an ordinary wig But one that looked as if It was made with real hair, And I wish to study art of story telling.... this is nicely crafted, confined to the lively pictures...

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Francesca Johnson 13 December 2006

This is a very, very long poem but I can forgive it's length because it had me entranced the whole way through. It was warm and kind, and although I found the ending a bit 'short' (it could have had more impact, I hope you don't mind me saying this?) I though it was a beautiful read, Sidi. This is one poem which will stick in my mind. Just don't ask me to read it through a second time, ha ha. : -) Love, Fran xx

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