It was Christmas Eve; and a cold, snow clad one. The pine trees were clothed with a layer of snow. The backyard seemed to be covered in a sheet of white which was now glowing golden as the evening sunrays swept over it. But inside her cottage it was warm and snug. The fire merrily crackled in the fireplace spreading its warm glow around. She was sitting on the arm-chair in front of the fireplace. Her hands were busy knitting the last stocking for Harper – the boy next door.
She was a plump old lady with her silver hair tied up in a bun, and her smile was always warm and welcoming. Her skin was wrinkled, but the twinkle in her eyes was intact. She was going to turn seventy the next day - seventy wonderful years. She had enjoyed every moment of her life and age was never an issue. She believed very strongly that she was as old as she felt she was.
The cottage where she lived had been done up beautifully for Christmas. The neighbourhood kids who all loved her tremendously had done everything they could to make the house as Christmassy as they could. The evergreen wreaths kissed with red berries that hung around the house were hand made by the kids. Pine-cones were painted silver and golden and they glittered on the window sills.
She herself had made fabric garlands in the colours of green, snow-white, and red, which adorned the walls of the cottage, the fire-place, the book-shelf and the stair-way. The quilted throw on the couch, the numerous cushions around the house were all made by her in the colours of Christmas. There were lights everywhere inside, and out in the backyard too.
The large Christmas tree was festooned with ornaments made of glass and metals. These were ancient ornaments that she brought down from the attic every year before Christmas and carefully wrapped them up in butter-paper and put them away in boxes after New Year. The kids had all helped her do up the tree. The angel on top of the tree was the one she had since she was a little girl. The patchwork skirt for the Christmas tree had been made by her a few years ago. The tree looked cheerful and happy.
She had placed the cake in the oven, the cookies were made she would pack some cake and cookies for her neighbours tonight. As she sat at the rocking chair knitting and watching out of the window, she sighed. She loved this time of the year. The sheet of snow glistened in the lights outside. She loved the countryside. She loved her home
Her mind wandered to a Christmas like this years ago in 1961. It was this same cottage. The excitement of rushing in the morning to the Christmas tree to pick up her gift had never worn off even after having reached the other side of her teens. Christmas was always special since she celebrated her birthday on the same day as well. She was a lovely young lady then, living a wonderful life with her parents and her siblings.
She remembered having received a simple yet beautiful red dress that Christmas. She wore it along with black stockings and they all left merrily for the church. At the church she was a part of the choir. They were about to begin when he had walked in. He wearing his Sunday suit and had a look that was clearly inspired by the Beatles. Their eyes met and they knew instantly that they were in love.
He had moved in recently in the neighbourhood with his family from the city. He was a charming young lad who would whistle tunelessly all the time. He had been visibly smitten by her and was trying really hard to woo her.
He began by riding his bicycle every evening by her cottage ringing the bell aloud. She would wait in her room every evening to hear the bicycle ring. She knew it was him and would peep out of the window and coyly smile at him. He would go around the house a couple of times and then lightly wave off to her and ride away.
This went on for a couple of weeks and then one day as she was on her way to the grocer, he came on his bicycle and hopped off next to her. He started walking alongside her. They talked and they talked to the grocers that day and everyday for another couple of weeks. They spoke about each other; what they liked and disliked; what they dreamt; what they wished. He told her all about the city. He spoke with a lot of passion about the high-rise buildings and inter city motorways; about the fashion and the music. She listened, awestruck. She told him about the country; the seasons; the songs. He looked at her with passion as he felt hers for the place where she belonged.
A few days later they went out on their first date. There was a new romantic movie that had come to the theatres, Breakfast at Tiffany’s. As they watched; they laughed, they held hands, and they kissed, whilst Holly sung
. Life had never been so romantic. The
world had never seemed so happy. Moon River
They were madly in love with each other. They would go around the countryside on their bicycles. They would go for long walks together, arm-in-arm. As seasons changed and spring time came, they would lie for hours under the sun by the riverside holding hands and dreaming about the days to come. They wanted to be married, to have children, to have a home they call their own.
The biggest problem was the difference in their dreams. He loved the city and her heart resided here in the country. He wanted to take her with him to the city, to work there, to earn big money to give her all the happiness he could. She wanted to live in a cottage by the river with trees till where the eyes could reach, with the blue skies over her and wilderness all around.
They finally decided that he would go to the city earn well and come back after a few years to her. They would then live at the countryside and maybe later if they wished they would go back to the city some day again. And hence he left.
A year and two, and a decade passed by. He never came back. She waited for him every Christmas. She cried, and yet she waited. Her brothers and sister all got married and went away to far off lands. Her parent died. But she stayed on.
She learnt to live on her own. She learnt to live well. She found happiness in all that she did. She cooked; she baked; she tended to her plants in the backyard; she sewed; she read; she spent time with all the kids in the neighbourhood. They all loved her. She smelt of fresh cookies and chocolates always. She loved them to. And would spend hours feeding them and reading to them.
She smiled as all of these memories came flooding back to her. Her hands kept going clickity-click-clickity-click on the stocking that she was knitting. The cottage was filled with the aroma of the cake from the oven. Evening had set in. She could hear the sounds of carols singing somewhere far away. The church bells were ringing.
Suddenly there was a loud knock on the door. She slowly walked to open the door. “Merry Christmas, Mrs. Cooper”. It was one of the little kids dressed as an elf. He handed over a little box wrapped in brown paper tied up with string and ran away. She smiled and took the box. She opened it and her eyes welled up as she saw a DVD of Breakfast at Tiffany’s neatly tucked inside the box.
She switched on the television and played the movie. She sat on the couch cuddled up inside a quilt and started watching it. Memories came gushing back in as she watched Audrey Hepburn getting off the taxi in front of Tiffany’s wearing the black dress. She smiled, she knew somewhere he was watching the same movie too, right at this moment.
She knew that she would keep waiting.