Anita Sebastian was watching her husband children decorating the Christmas tree. They were weaving strings of light along the branches. Her daughter Priya was sitting around the multi coloured glass baubles and glass ornaments waiting for her dad and brothers to ask when they needed them. They had both a large star and a beautiful angel but were still undecided which one to put on the top of the tree. There was laughter, loud cackle and mirth amongst them. They were seen inviting Anita now and then to join them in the fun. But she was in no mood. She sat in the sofa a little yonder vacantly looking at their direction. There was a dull head ache and listlessness. She made tea for all and brought a plateful of cookies for the children and hubby. The tea didn’t help her much.
She had been the previous day afternoon to the next building complex. It was a smaller one with mostly single bed roomed flats. She had met Mrs. Christine many times at the church a year or two back and not seen thereafter. She is old and walked with the aid of walker. The pastor was making enquiries of her and in passing mentioned that she was leading a lonely life on her meager pension. The flat it appeared was owned by her and she has a son who stayed abroad. He married someone there and got children. In the initial days he used to come alone once in two years and always promised his mom to bring his wife and children for the Christmas the next year. This never happened. In the last few years there has been no news about him, whether alive or dead. Christine had sought pastor’s help to contact him but could give no details of the country or place where her son lived. Pastor was mentioning that the lady frail in health and poor in vision was holding on to her life with the hope and dream of seeing her grand children at least once during Christmas. Anita learnt that pastor had kindly arranged for a reliable young maid to take care of the old Woman.
“You are so close to her. Why don’t you add some joy to her dull life by meeting her once a while? She would much appreciate it. I am sure Lord would bless you for your compassion” the pastor gently suggested to her.
It was this request from the priest that took her to Christine’s apartment. The maid took her to the room where she was reclining in an easy chair. She looked at Anita hard when she introduced herself asking her to bring her face closer. She broke into a gentle smile when she recognized her and said “Aren’t you the charming lady who lives close by. I remember meeting you at the church and also have heard you playing piano and singing in choirs.”
“Yes, aunty.I should have come to see you long back and also be visiting you regularly. I am in default. Pastor was suggesting that I meet you. Here are some cookies I made at home. Children are at home having holidays for Christmas” Anita said
“Won’t you bring them too next time? I am actually waiting for my grandchildren to come. My son has promised to bring them for Christmas and I have even kept some gifts ready for them. I wish to have fun with them at least on one Christmas” she said
Anita saw in a corner some loosely bundled packets in gift wrapper with lot of dust piled on them.
When Anita saw her face turn sad at the mention of grand children, she held her hands gently and said “Please do not worry. I hope they are able to make it this year. I will pray to Lord that they come.” She knew inwardly it was not to happen but had not heart to tell her. She left soon after exchanging some pleasantries with a promise to return.
It was this unhappy revelation that sat heavy in her heart ever since she met the old woman and it was brought to sharp focus when Anita saw her children enjoying the Christmas spirit with their dad setting up the tree. She could not wrench her thoughts away from the woman easily to join the fun with kids
Sebastian who has been watching her with sideward glances came by her side. He gently wrapped his arm around her and pushed her hair backward from the forehead.”Do not worry, honey. We will do something for Mrs.Christine.We will go to mall and get her some nice gifts and cakes too.” Her mood lightened when she joined the children and placed a Santa Claus figure on the top of tree and later went to the mall.
It was Christmas Eve. The whole house was brightly lit. Final touches were made to the tree with extra colored shells, some apples and pine cones. Sebastian was not seen. They were planning to visit the church for the mid night Mass. The dining table was full of various fruits, pastries and chocolates. Children were humming hymns and carols. The mood was upbeat.
It was then she heard Sebastian’s car pull up. She opened the door to see Sebastian gently escorting a beaming Mrs. Christine into the house.”Anita, Christmas is an occasion for family reunion. Mrs. Christine will be with us for two days and enjoy the company of grand children and an affectionate daughter”he said with a hearty smile. Anita rushed towards the old lady to fall into her extended arms.