More Than One Gift
by Suzy Spear
"Did you bring me something?" Grandma asked, perched excitedly on the edge of the sofa. As usual, her back was ramrod straight, clothes pristinely ironed; pearl necklace and matching earrings adorning her beautifully lined face. Her snow-capped head of hair was pulled back into a matronly bun, framing a heartfelt smile and piercingly blue eyes.
"Only the best of the best, Grandma." I answered, gripping her hands and placing a kiss on her upturned cheek.
I couldn't help but smile at her child like enthusiasm. We had developed a routine of promises before I left on assignment. She would wait patiently for me and I would bring her a gift on my return from each trip. It didn't matter that my gift was always the same, I just had to make sure it was the best. It was this promise that drove me to search for the best possible shots on each photo shoot.
As I set my bag on th e floor and sat down beside her, I watched as she reached across and grabbed a pitcher of lemonade. Feeling along the tray, she gripped a glass and poured me some, stopping just below the rim.
She turned and handed me the glass and as our hands touched, I could feel an excited tremble. Not wanting to prolong the wait, I took a sip, put my glass down on a coaster and reached for the manila folder in the photo bag at my feet. Gently, I lifted one of her long, thin hands and placed the folder in it.
I watched in silence as she opened the folder and ran a slender finger around the edge of the eight by ten photograph of the two girls.
"Tell me about them." Her simple statement caught me by surprise. I looked up and caught a similar look on my wife's face. She silently shook her head no, indi cating that she had not said a word.
"They are four and three. Their names are Mai Li and Lucy. But, how…" She stopped my question by leaning forward and sightlessly concentrated on my face.
"I have known you for thirty-seven years, Michael. We may not live under the same roof, but I can tell when something is going on. I may be blind, but my other senses are in perfect working order."
Patting my hands, she turns her attention back to the photo she is holding. She deftly runs a finger along the purple silk dress of Mai Li, giving the appearance of actually seeing the photo. Her perception amazes me, and I turn my head away as if to hide my look of wonder.
"They came from a small village in Japan. Both their parents died of influenza and they were placed in the orphanage."
"What are t hey doing in this photo, Michael?" She asks, moving her finger over to trace Lucy's pink silk kimono.
"I had been taking still shots of the festival being held in the courtyard. Some of the children were in traditional Japanese dress. I had left one camera on the tripod and turned to get a different camera out of my bag. When I turned back around, I discovered the girls face to face on either side of the tripod trying to look through the lens of the mounted camera." I smiled to myself as I remembered their high-pitched giggles.
I watched again as she traced the outline of the pink kimono perfectly, finishing at Lucy's pink ribboned headdress.
"That one is Lucy. She is three and has the most infectious laugh. They let her wear the pink kimono for the festival and you would have thought they had given her the moon. Pink is her favorite color."
Moving her hand an inch to the left, she ran a finger over Mai Li's face and asked, "And the other? Is she as precocious as Lucy?"
"Oh, no. Her purple kimono fit her like a glove. She wore it with all the pride and dignity the color commands. If Lucy is not around to pester her into laughing, she is as serious as can be." I explained.
"So, they are a good match, these two?" Grandma turns her head in my direction, raising one pale eyebrow in question.
"Inseparable." I answer, quietly.
She turns her face once more to the picture and gives her head a small nod, as if affirming a discussion in her mind. She lifts her head and fixes her sightless eyes on my wife, lifting her hand in welcome. Jane steps forward and kneels down beside her, taking her hand and bringing it to her cheek. Tears begin to fall from Jane's eyes as she kisses the back of Grandma's hand.
"Life moves on and we discover how strong we can be." Grandma says, as she pulls Jane's head into her lap and brushes soft brown curls away from her face. "Nothing will ever replace Ben, but just as God needed to call him home, He also needed you to discover this orphanage, to discover these girls. They need you, and whether you know it or not, you need them."
"I feel like we are betraying Ben. How can we move on and be happy?" I asked, desperately searching her face for the wisdom to make sense of it all.
"You can move on and you will. Ben would want you to share
your lives with these girls. They need it and deserve it, just like the two of you deserve to be happy . Bring them home, put the laughter back in your hearts." She raised her hand to my face, gently cupping my cheek.
"Will you come with us? We have to go back in two weeks." I grasp her hand on my face and close my eyes, silently pleading for the answer I want.
"Michael, this is a time for you and Jane. You are becoming a family. I promise you, I will be patiently waiting right here, if you promise to bring me back a gift." Grandma answers, her blue eyes sparkling with joy.
Suzy Spear spent many years chasing an English Literature degree before settling down to learn the business of writing. She now devotes her days to perfecting her skills. She currently lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband and two daughters, where much of her inspiration comes from.