Seventh Chapter of the Anachronology of Joyce Morgan
Morgan lay awake waiting to hear his parents getting up. This was his first trip to the north. He was eager to get outside into the snow and enjoy the different environment.
Where he grew up in the south, the temperature never got low enough for a pond to freeze over the way he was told it did here. He may have never skated before, but that wasn’t going to stop him. He was willing to try anything.
He was grateful for the opportunity to visit his mother’s family for winter vacation. He couldn’t wait to tell his friend, Wolfie, about his experience when he got back. This was going to be the best time ever.
Reveling in the mere ideas of the fun he would have; Morgan hadn’t realized the noise coming from the kitchen. He jumped out of the bed and hurriedly made his way down the hall. His whole life he had been told to not run in the house. At fifteen, he was finally starting to listen.
“Hey honey.” Joyce said sweetly as Morgan entered the room. She stood in front of the stove in her worn emerald flannel pajama set. Paul, her husband, was retrieving the carton of milk from the fridge, wearing his matching aged crimson pajamas. Some traditions were important to the family for various reasons. The matching pajamas had started as a joke and for the past ten years, remained the focal point of their holiday attire. Morgan himself wore a white set of the same pattern, a hole in his right elbow and the left knee from the previous year when he’d fallen down the stairs eager to check out the presents under the tree.
“Morning mom, dad.” Morgan said excitedly. “When are we going skating?”
“Can we eat breakfast first?” his father said with a sarcastic incredulous tone. Morgan laughed and waited just a heartbeat before he asked again.
“But, seriously, we’re finally going today, right?”
“Yes.” His mother said, exasperated at the question her son had asked for the past five days. “It has to be so cold for so long to make sure the ice is safe enough. Yesterday was finally the point where it would be ok.”
“Sweet!” he said with a childish clench and squirm of his fists in happiness.
“What has gotten into you?” his father said as he sat down at the little table.
“I’m just so excited to finally get a chance to have some fun in snow!”
“It gets old quick.” Joyce said. “So it’s good that you enjoy it.”
“I’ll never be sick of it. It’s so cool.”
“Having grown up here, it’s different.”
“Perspective, I know, I know. But still, here, the seasons change so much, the year must feel so different as it passes. Would we ever move here, to be closer to your family?”
“You never know.” Joyce responded.
“We have the farm to consider. It’s been in my family for generations. It’s nice in the very least we can use your mom’s family’s cabin for this trip. Maybe we can make time for more visits in the future.” Paul said.
“That would be great. I miss Papa.”
“Me too.” Joyce said, with more solemnity in her voice than she intended. Paul noticed and said,
“Why wait to make plans? When we see him today, let’s ask how he’d feel about us visiting in April over spring break.”
“Really?!” Morgan said. Joyce smiled over the warm pan she had just poured pancake batter onto. It struck her then that she hadn’t made pancakes in nearly ten years, since her mother’s passing.
Her eyes glistened and she gave a quick sniffle.
“Good thing Santa brought you those ice skates this year.” Paul said, giving his son a wink. As sure as he was always of his wife, Paul knew she had suddenly withdrawn. He was already making a plan to give her some space. Though they usually encouraged openness, they knew sometimes personal time was necessary; neither of them wanted to spoil this experience for Morgan.
“Dad,” Morgan whined, “I don’t believe in Santa.”
Paul chuckled and said, “Why don’t we go into the other room and make sure they’re gonna fit right.”
“Please,” he scoffed, “like I haven’t been watching videos on how to lace them over and over.”
“All the same,” Paul tried to maintain his composure, “why don’t you show me then. I don’t want to be the one to look like a doofus in front of your mother.” Obviously feigning the secretive whisper. Joyce giggled, Paul smiled, Morgan felt everything was right in his world.
After lunch, which was leftover pancakes, the three of them met with the deceptively imposing and exceptionally kind fifty-something-year-old man by the local pond.
“Hi dad.” Joyce said, giving him a hug. He held his daughter close. He’d never say it, but since the death of his wife years before, seeing her image in Joyce made him happier than ever. He knew if he were to express that, it might cause strain on them for possible guilt of seeing him so rarely.
“Hey.” Paul said cheerfully as they approached, despite his clearly being uncomfortable in the unfamiliar cold weather.
“I hope the cabin has been holding up well for you all.”
“It sure has Fred.” Paul answered. “Thank you for the space. We never would’ve been able to afford a hotel for the stay.” The relationship among them had long surpassed any insecurity over financial woes. Money comes and goes. Joyce had lived a comfortable life growing up, and while it wasn’t the same for what she and her husband could give their son, she knew they could give him the same love she had been given, and that was priceless.
“It’s yours for whenever you’d like to come.” Too eagerly, he judged, and continued. “I mean, if you can find the time, of course.”
“Actually, we were just discussing that. Would the week of spring break be good?”
“What’s the date?” though everyone, except Morgan, could tell the date didn’t matter, they pretended an air of uncertainty until Morgan provided the answer.
“The week of April twelfth! Can we really come again?! I know it won’t be like this,” he gestured vaguely to their surroundings, “but it would still be cool.”
“Actually, you never know up here. Connecticut can be funny that way.”
“I remember one time, as a girl,” Joyce started, and paused, clearly enjoying the thought for a moment, “my mother and I had planned a day on the lake together for the end of March. We were going to row out to a little island and have a picnic. Pick flowers. Draw together. We had figured it would be good enough weather that we could wear light jackets. It would still be just cool enough that we wouldn’t really have to worry about a bunch of other people around. There ended up being a nor’easter that became an ice storm. A huge portion of the state was out of power for days. We of course made our own fun, baking in the woodfire oven, so it worked out. We’re adaptable up here.” Joyce smiled proudly. Her father pulled her into his side, and they stood there a moment, ostensibly dwelling on memories of Isabelle, Joyce’s mother, Fred’s wife.
“What would I do without my daughter here?” Fred kissed the top of her head.
“You’d do just fine dad.”
“Can we skate now?” Morgan interjected. During the nostalgic story, he had sat down and began putting on his skates.
“Be patient, geez, you’re not going out there without at least one of us.” Paul said.
“Best be me.” Joyce said. “You can catch up.” She said to her husband, giving him a playful wink. Paul bit his lip and gave a provocative eyebrow raise. He immediately felt awkward and blushed when he realized Fred was looking right at him. He dropped to the ground and began putting on his own skates.
Fred smirked, rolled his eyes, and said, “You all go on then. I’ll sit on the bench and drink my cocoa.” He jiggled the thermos slung over his shoulder. “I’m too old to be out there.”
“Oh please,” Joyce said as she stood up from tying her skates, “my Papa skated until he was sixty-five.”
“Your Papa was a trained hockey player.” He pointedly remarked. “I am barely an amateur. Your mother, bless her soul, did well teaching you and your brother, but I was always so uncoordinated.”
“I’ve seen you skate circles around people.”
“Yeah, with my two left skates!” he laughed at his own joke, Joyce merely gave him a sympathetic shake of her head and made her way onto the ice with Morgan.
“Stay safe!” he shouted out.
“Will do.” She called back.
The low arcing mid-winter sun was nearing the horizon, it was almost 3o’clock.
“We should finish up soon honey.” Joyce said to her son. He had taken well to her lessons and was already skating better than his father, which wasn’t saying much.
Fred sat on a bench at the edge of the pond, sipping his cocoa, clearly loving just watching them enjoy themselves.
“Ok.” Morgan said, disappointed.
“Hey, just because you’re still running on a full tank doesn’t mean we don’t need a break.” Paul said. He promptly fell on his ass.
“Speak for yourself. I’m still good to skate like this for another hour. It’s the falling temperatures as the sun sets that are calling it quits on the fun, not me, just to be clear.” Joyce said.
“I love this!” Morgan called out as he skated across the pond. He had been gaining more and more confident as their time had gone on.
“Just be careful.” Joyce called out. “Don’t go too fast.” She came to a stop beside her husband and helped him to his feet.
“Gotta love him.” He said.
“Of course.” Joyce said endearingly. “He’s a wonderful kid.” She kissed her husband on the cheek, slapped his butt, and skated off.
“Try and catch me.” She said, coyly, as she skated backwards, taunting him.
With a quick glance at Fred, Paul figured a little fun wouldn’t be too risqué. Besides, the odds of him catching her were slim. He clumsily skated after his wife.
“Watch this.” Morgan called out. Joyce and Paul looked over at Morgan as he attempted a jump. He fell and they encouraged him to try again. He did, several times, falling, several times.
“Alright Morgan.” Joyce finally said. “It’s about time to go. You’re gonna be all bruised up.”
“Ok, ok. Just one more try.” Without waiting for an answer, he started to pick up speed. Joyce guided Paul to the edge of the pond. Morgan kicked off into the air, flailed, and flopped back onto the ice with a thud. He quickly slid several feet before the minimal friction finally slowed him down. He groaned.
“You ready now?” Joyce laughed. She had gotten her husband to the snowy grass. “I’ll be right there.” She called out. She then began to glide over to her son.
Morgan got himself to a sitting position. He then felt the sting in his ankle. He winced when he tried to stand.
“I’m hurt.” He said, resigned to the lecture he already knew he’d receive.
“I’m coming.” Joyce sped up and was only fifteen feet away when her skate caught the tip of a rock that marred the surface of the ice. She flew forward and twisted on her left side. Her last sight was staring into her son’s eyes as her head impacted the ice.
A faint smear of bled left in her wake, Morgan watched his mother slide to the edge of the pond. He struggled to get to his feet, ignoring the pain, and ended up clambering across the ice to her. Pulling her onto his lap, he could see she was already dead.
Since 1991, this compassionate writer has grown through much adversity in life. One day it will culminate on his final day on Earth, but until then, we learn something new every day and we all have something to offer to others as well.