Cricket hadn’t expected any gifts that Christmas, but her mom surprised her.
“Would you like tea Mom?” She asked as the two of them rolled into to The Home’s drawing room.
“No, I I I I I I I don’t like the tea,” her mother replied.
Her mother loved tea. They had tea every day at three. Or just about.
“Okay, how about a chocolate?”
“Nah nah nah nah nah…”
Her mom also loved anything sweet. Always had.
Cricket chose a truffle from the box she’d purchased a few days before at the village chocaleterie, and held it inside the range of her mother’s tunnel vision.
It took a few seconds for her mom to zero in on the delight, a few more for her to get her hand in its vicinity, and another few for her to grab it between her thumb and forefinger.
Once she had it in her grasp, she held it there suspended, not sure what to do with it.
“Try it Mom, I think you’ll like it.”
“Take a bite Mom,” Cricket encouraged. “Taste it.”
She smiled as her mom finally responded to the cues, lifted the little piece of heaven to her mouth, and bit into it.
“How is it Mom?”
No answer. Her mom chewed, and then swallowed while crossing and uncrossing her legs. Crossing and uncrossing. Crossing and uncrossing.
Cricket willed herself not to allow the crossing and uncrossing, crossing and uncrossing, and the hand fluttering to affect her. It was like her mother was a marionette who danced while sitting and playing an invisible piano at the whim of an unseen puppeteer.
“It’s not her fault. It’s not her fault. Thank you for the patience I have learned these past five years. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the patience,” Cricket thought to herself.
She wasn’t religious, as her mother had been, but she was most definitely grateful. And it was Christmas Day after all.
Breathe in. Slowly.
Breathe out. Slowly.
Breathe in. Slowly.
“I don’t know wh wh wh wh wh wh wh wh….” Her mother stopped in mid “what” and closed her mouth.
Cricket noticed again how the shape of her mother’s jaw had morphed into that of an infant with the top lip more pronounced and the chin receding.
“You don’t know what Mom?”
“I don’t know wh wh wh wh wh wh wh wh.”
They sat face-to-face: Cricket on the edge of an armchair, her mom in the annoying so-called safety of her wheelchair’s bells and whistles.
Their knees touched. So did their hearts and souls.
Her mother processed; it was clear she was agitated. Cricket saw it the set of her mouth, the line of her cheek, the look in her eyes. Her mother had something important she wanted to say, but dementia barriers blocked the way. She clapped her hands in frustration at the ends of unfinished sentences, percussing words she was unable to speak.
Cricket wished she could decipher her mom’s Morse-like code. It would make things so much easier. But no, she was left to divining.
“You don’t know what Mom?” Cricket repeated.
“I don’t know. I don’t know what I don’t know.”
When everything was going nowhere, music always helped.
“How about we sing a song Mom?”
“Well, I don’t know.”
“How about Jingle Bells?” Cricket suggested despite the heartbreaking lack of snow outside, and then she began to sing out of key.
“Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to ride–”
“In a one-horse open sleigh!”
Her mom’s once beautiful singing voice was raspy and breathless as she completed the verse, but it sounded like a Christmas choir to Cricket.
A little Yuletide miracle. If one were prone to believing in such.
This is the first instalment in a fictional series about Cricket & Annie; more here.
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