Marie – A Christmas Story

Marie was almost certain that she had never been in this neighbourhood before; nonetheless, the feel of this place was comfortingly familiar.  In truth, the streets were very similar to the ones that she had played along when she was growing up.  Perhaps that was why she wasn’t feeling that twinge of vulnerability that females walking alone at night often experience.   Moreover, it was an exceptionally dark night, but one contrasted with the light emanating from the closely arranged bungalows, most decorated with the colourful arrays of Christmas lights that befit this time of year.

Marie was alone on the street.  The children that might have expected to be present there, during the few hours of winter daylight available in this northern town, were likely busy getting ready for bed.  They would be donning pajamas, pulling up plates of cookies and milk for final snacks.  Many would have become suddenly and suspiciously quiet in hopeful anticipation that their distracted parents might unwittingly extend “bed time”, perhaps by temporarily forgetting they even had children.

Marie smiled a little as she visualized these activities, occurring just beyond the warm glow of the decorated front room windows.  She walked along the alternately shoveled and snowy walks and noticed how still and close the air was this night; typical of the charged atmosphere that often cradled the quiet interlude between two storms.  The still and frozen mist hung closely around her and, for some reason, she found the mildly claustrophobic effect calming.  Perhaps the air had found harmony with her mood or maybe, like the evening itself, she had somehow become resolved to a storm that, although near, was yet to arrive.

The Christmas lights shone and twinkled silently but the sounds of her footfall on the frozen concrete, ice and snow of the sidewalk amplified in the thickened air.  Marie’s one hand rested deep in the pocket of her coat, clutching the envelope on which her destination’s address was written.  In her other hand she held a brightly coloured gift bag by its twisted paper handles.  She had journeyed close enough to begin earnestly scanning the addresses of each house as the numbers, like a countdown, began to align with the paper in her pocket.  Her heart began to race slightly ahead of her steps.

Marie was a pretty young woman in her mid-twenties.   She was taller than most of her friends with long auburn hair and vibrant blue eyes.  Men noticed her but she was seldom aware of this and, despite the attention she commanded with her good looks and easy disposition, she had engaged in only a few serious relationships.  Marie had never considered herself “lucky in love” preferring her own company and a good book to the noisy and congested confines of the clubs that her girlfriends had long ago stopped trying to pull her into.  It was hard to believe that it was only two Christmas’s ago when she had met the tall and handsome Joe in a meeting that had seemed positively serendipitous.  The two had collided while attempting to pass each other in the laundry room doorway.  The contents of their respective baskets spilled causing their clothes to intermingle indiscreetly on the floor; his items still newly warm from the dryer while her unwashed items exuded a potent combination of pheromones and soft, faint perfume.

Amongst nervous apologies, complicated by their curious but mutual inability to make direct eye contact, Marie and Joe found themselves kneeling close to one another, their clumsy and darting hands inadvertently brushing the other’s sparking a series of invisible but significant biological pyrotechnics as they tried to separate the mingled items while their nervous and frenetic movements only served to further confuse and blend their respective laundry. Marie tactically snatched up a pair of her more indulgent underwear when, at one point, she noticed his uncertain hands hover, and then hesitate, above the lacy item.  She instinctively grabbed and drew the lingerie to her chest, concealing the tiny panties in both hands while looking directly into Joe’s eyes for the first time.  She momentarily had the look of someone who, while standing guiltily in a prisoner’s dock, had suddenly blurted out some kind of confession.  Inevitably, this moment culminated into an intense and passionate relationship.

Within a few months Joe’s unfortunately heavy emotional baggage, combined with a cocktail of commitment issues, was steadily chipping away at what Marie had fervently believed was the perfect “chance-laundry-room-meeting-happily-ever-after” scenario.  Equally unfortunate was that Marie’s commitment to the relationship had become all too tangible in terms of her quietly swelling belly. Despite remaining frustratingly devoted to his own independence, thankfully, Joe was understanding and supportive when she told him about the baby.   The event had been as close to a modern day “immaculate conception” as you could get, apparently the fault of some unknown failure of their meticulously administered birth control.

She was pleased as she withdrew the envelope and confirmed the address. The house was nice.  It was bright and cheerful with an attractive array of lights framing the dormers above the garage as well as the large picture frame front window.  Lights flashed unrelentingly on a mature spruce while an illuminated outline of a reindeer was caught, stop-motion, sprinting across the snowy lawn.  Despite the welcoming nature of the property, Marie felt as though some invisible force-field stood silent guard between the edge of the recently shoveled driveway and the sidewalk. As sure as she had been about accepting the invitation, she was now desperate to re-think this.  Marie considered the implications of simply stealing up and leaving the gift on the doorstep.

From the very first moment that Marie suspected she had conceived, she had sworn an oath that all of her decisions would reflect the best interests of this child.  She had resolved to have the baby, choose wonderful parents and then dutifully step aside.  Marie had convinced herself that having either no, or limited, contact with her baby was the right thing to do.  She also realized, however, that many cowardly decisions were often couched in honourable pretense.  Was it possible that her conscious decision to limit contact with this child was not as altruistic and unselfish as she had first led herself to believe?  Was the distance she had already maintained really intended for the ultimate benefit of her first born and his adoptive parents, or did it simply serve as hollow justification that allowed her to escape the many feelings that she was afraid could never be reconciled?  Marie had struggled to find balance in this admittedly difficult situation.  She had held the baby boy shortly after his birth but less than she would have liked, concerned that indulging her maternal love for him could potentially wreak havoc on them both.  She also knew that the boy’s adopted mother walked the same fine line, politely providing the requisite little notes and pictures while always remaining just a little wary about the possibility that, like some random bit of anti-matter, Marie could somehow cause her newly fulfilled domestic universe to implode.  If she walked away now, would it really be the “right” thing to do, or would she simply be succumbing to her own fears?

Marie stood a very long moment in front of the house wondering what to do when she suddenly felt a deliberate and impatient tug at her sleeve.

“What’s in there?” The little boy asked pointing directly at the gift bag with a mittened hand that matched the comically swollen proportions of his snow suit.  Marie was relieved for the distraction as she looked down at a little boy who had seemingly appeared out of nowhere.  The boy was perhaps 4 or maybe 5 years old.  It was really very difficult to tell much about him given the manner in which the miniature snow suit bulged around the tiny frame and even more so because the boy’s mouth and nose were completely concealed by a plaid scarf that had been tied tightly around the back of the snowsuit’s furry-edged hood. The child’s breath had condensed and then frozen on the scarf creating a crusty icicled outline of his nose and mouth.  Marie reflected that the snow suit, including the garish scarf, which she concluded could never have been in fashion anywhere but the Scottish Highlands (and maybe not even there), bore an uncanny resemblance to winter clothing that her own mother had “packaged” her in when she had been about the same age.  “Does this stuff never go out of fashion?” she thought to herself.  It was as though one of Marie’s old winter outfits had somehow been reclaimed from a family garage sale.

All Marie could really discern of the boy was that he was about two and a half feet tall and had distinctive and compelling blue eyes.  Marie thought that his eyes were probably accentuated by the fact that, beyond the scarf, they were his only visible facial feature.  Marie couldn’t help but feel that she recognized those eyes and was struck by the idea that she might have met or, may possibly even know, someone related to the boy.

“What’s in there?  The little boy asked again, once again clumsily poking the gift bag with the distended mitten.

“Hey!”  She replied, “What are you doing out here?  You all by yourself?”

“No.  Of course not!”  The little boy giggled while at the same time rolling his expressive eyes as though to suggest that Marie had just asked the most ridiculous question in the entire universe.  Marie looked around and saw what appeared to be a snowman under construction nearby and realized that the winter darkness really belied the relatively early hour.  Still, the little boy did appear to be alone in the street with no obvious parent or playmate in sight.  And it was getting late.  Marie decided to pursue the matter of the boy’s welfare further.

“Which is your house?” She asked to which the boy answered with a wave of his arm that was made decidedly more imprecise by the bulk of the snowsuit.  Unfortunately the gesture could have applied to one of a half dozen homes that fell within the arc made by the small arm.

“What’s in there?”  The boy repeated insistently.

“It’s a gift.”  Marie responded.

“Ohhhh.”  The boy replied, his most optimistic suspicions having now been happily confirmed.

“Who’s it for?”  Marie suspected that she knew where this conversation was heading.

“It’s for a little boy.” She replied.

“Ahhhhh…”  The little boy was clearly intrigued at the possibilities.  “Is it for your brother?”


“Who’s it for then?”  He clearly wasn’t giving up on this.  Marie sighed.

“It’s for…it’s for my S-Son.”  A lump had suddenly formed in her throat.  She had choked on the words.  She suddenly realized she had never spoken them before.

“It’s for my Son.”  She repeated more clearly.

“Is it a toy?”

“No.  It’s not a toy”

“Oh.”  The boy’s reply, accentuated with his expressive eyes, clearly indicating both disappointment and an imminent loss of any further interest in the brightly decorated bag.

“You cumin’ in?”  The boy reached up offering Marie the opportunity to take his heavily insulated hand.

“You know these people?”  Marie asked surprised.  She was certain that the young couple that she had chosen to parent her baby had been otherwise childless.

“Of course I do!” The little boy’s muffled giggle obvious beneath the icy scarf.

Before Marie had much of a chance to think about it, the little boy was leading her up the walk towards the wreathed door.  It was all a bit strange Marie thought but, accompanied by the little boy, she suddenly felt better about approaching the house.

As he stood beside her at the door he suddenly tugged on her again and locked his beautiful blue eyes on hers.  In a voice that was suddenly mature and clear beyond his years the boy said, “Thanks for not giving up.  Please, don’t give up now.  You have no idea how much you are needed and how much you are already loved.”

Marie’s mouth fell open.  “What…What did you say?”  But suddenly the door swung open and Marie was momentarily engulfed in a tsunami of warmth and light that poured out from within the house.

“Marie!”  The young woman smiled warmly while extending both her hands in a gesture of sincere welcome.

“Yes…Hello…” Was all Marie could manage, the impact of the little boy’s words still resonating.

“The little boy…”

“Yes.  Of course.  He’s right here.”  Marie could see the woman’s husband walking in from the living room with a one-year-old boy in his arms.  The little boy hugged his father while staring intently over his shoulder at Marie.

“Oh.  He’s beautifullllll.” Marie cooed.  She was suddenly and totally distracted as she looked at her little boy.  Marie could immediately see the faces of her parents as well as many of her relatives reflected in the boy’s handsome features.

“But this boy…”  Marie looked down to see that the little boy who had almost dragged her up the walk and engaged her in such precocious conversation only moments before, was now gone.

“Where’d he go?”

The woman moved past Marie and looked out onto the empty street.  “What did he look like?”

“I couldn’t see him very well in his snowsuit.  He was about 4 years old or so.  He was playing outside…right out here.”

“Well.  I wouldn’t worry.  He’s probably visiting in the neighbourhood.  I’m sure that he’s safe at home now.”

Marie was slow to respond, her gaze now locked onto the familiar and distinctive blue eyes of her son.  An understanding of the Christmas miracle that had just occurred was welling up inside her.

“Yes.  Yes.  He’s safe at home.”

The little boy smiled at her.


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