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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: The Family Home (05/29/08)

TITLE: The Envelope
By Marita Thelander


Settled in her chair, Mae touched the lamp base three times. She smiled as she remembered the lamp had been a Mother’s Day gift years ago. Still fascinated by the lamp, she touched the base again and watched it turn off, then tapped it three times, smiling as it became brighter with each tap.

As she reached for her Bible in the pre-dawn greyness, she wiped her upper lip and brow with a hankie. The cold, clammy perspiration soaked into the cloth. Her hands trembled weakly as she opened her love-worn Bible. The envelope fell out.

Mae paused…her left fingers tingled and she felt an odd pressure between her shoulder blades. Just another one of my spells, Mae thought to herself.

She gently held the worn envelope and spilled its contents into her lap. Careful not to disturb the order, Mae methodically assured herself nothing had been misplaced. There in her lap were the faces of her children, her children’s children, and their children, too. Three generations stared back at her and she smiled.

After a deep breath, Mae’s lips began to move as she whispered in prayer. The envelope’s contents were handled one-by-one. She opened her eyes long enough to see the faces of her oldest child, John, and his family.

Eyes closed again, she could here John’s little boy voice as it floated to her from the past, right on down the hallway. Ready or not, here I come! John’s young voice called out in her memories.

Mae played out the childhood vision in her mind before she continued to pray.

Hope you hid better this time! John hollered to his younger siblings. She could almost hear the giggles of the less experienced hide-and-seekers from their various places in the house.

Mae moved on to the next photo, Julianne’s family. As soon as she closed her eyes, she could hear Julianne’s soprano voice coming from the bathroom as she showered. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound. Mae hummed along before she continued to pray.

Tears trickled through the wrinkles on her face. Mae glanced outside as the greyness gradually became lighter. A sudden shortness of breath caught her by surprise. She fought to control her breathing as she wiped sweat beads from her upper lip.

Systematically, she moved on to the next set of faces. Joey, her baby, is the spitting image of his father. As she began to pray she saw a pre-teen Joey as he gathered his mitt and ball from the hall closet. Got time to catch a few for me, Dad?

If she listened carefully, she could hear the smack of the ball and mitt as Joey warmed up before a game. Mae felt deep emotions as she remembered how difficult it had been for Joey when they had lost Dad.

The next set of photographs held images of Mae’s eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Over the years, each family made sure to visit the old house and instill the importance of sharing their life with her.

Mae remembered the last Thanksgiving dinner. She could almost smell the food as the women bantered in the large farmhouse kitchen. Babies and toddlers were entertained by older cousins, aunts, and uncles while younger children slid down the banister and laughed. Mae held tight to a treasured memory of snuggling with Joey’s newborn grandson, Joseph Allen McCormick IV. Dad would have been proud.

Mae’s thoughts were interrupted, Heartburn again…wish it would stop.

She could hear birds singing as the grey had become a beautiful red-orange sunrise. She continued to watch the eastern sky perfectly from her chair. Red sky in the morning, sailor take warning, Mae reflected to herself. There’s a change coming in the weather. She had enjoyed the sunrise many times from this very spot.

“This old house is all I have in worldly possessions,” Mae whispered in prayer. “You have blessed it, Lord, with rich memories.” She lingered in silence as she felt God’s presence very near.

The hinges of the heavy oak door creaked, “Good morning, Mom, I have your mail.”

John took off his cap and ran his fingers through thick grey hair before he bent to kiss Mae on the cheek. Her face was cool to the touch of his lips. When she didn’t respond, John held her cold lifeless hand and wept. In her lap sat the envelope with photos of her children, her children’s children, and their children, too.

Suddenly, the old house felt extremely empty.

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This article has been read 914 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 06/05/08
A precious slice-of-life, very well written.
Seema Bagai 06/05/08
Well-written with vivid descriptions and emotions.
Chely Roach06/07/08
This was excellent...I loved it.
Joanne Sher 06/08/08
Absolutely MASTERFUL. I had an inkling what would happen, but I kept hoping against hope that I would be wrong (I'm WAY too optimistic LOL). Your descriptions are absolutely wonderfully vivid. This truly touched my heart. Wow.
Debbie Wistrom06/08/08
You gave us a wonderful character and filled her with the love of her family.

I was touched by what seemed to be a regular appearance of one of her children.

Well done and enjoyable.
Beth LaBuff 06/08/08
Your story is beautiful and heart-warming with a goosebump ending. I love it.
Laury Hubrich 06/08/08
Even though I knew what the ending was going to be, I still was so sad. You certainly brought this woman to life. Excellent writing!
Catrina Bradley 06/08/08
Oh, dear! Tissues please! Very creative, very well written - love everything about it, even that you made me teary. Congrats, my friend, in my opinion, this is a winner. :-)
Dee Yoder 06/09/08
Very touching and warm, though the end is sad. I like the progression through her memories and the way you made the MC very real through those remembrances.
Lyn Churchyard06/09/08
I have a huge lump in my throat and I'm fighting tears as I write this. Your story dear Marita was beautiful. Full of love, warmth and memories. What a wonderful Godly woman you have introduced us to. Well done.
Sara Harricharan 06/09/08
Oh my! So very sad! I thought that she would die, but being right just made it more sad. This is well done, the descriptions and the memories and everything. It's like a glimpse of something through the window. Nice job! ^_^
Beckie Stewart06/09/08
This was so good. I loved the way your reflected on the home. I knew she was going to die peacefully and that is definitely the way I would like to go. Did catch the use of word "here" instead of "hear" but other wise this was absolutely perfect in every way.
Ann Marie Lindenmeyer06/11/08
Great descriptions, I like the memories wrapped in as she looks through the photos. Nicely done.
Gerald Shuler 06/11/08
I love this story, Marita. I agree with all the other comments, but do you know what made this really great for me? The morning sunrise going from gray to red showed clearly that change was coming and it would be beautiful.

I think this is one of the best you have ever written.

(By the way, as an ex-writing buddy, you did have two small errors in the same sentence. One has already been mentioned earlier... have fun finding the other. I will PM you later if you don't find it.)
Joshua Janoski06/11/08
Wow. This is so packed full of emotion. You can tell a good piece of writing when your emotions sway back and forth in tandem with the words. This story did that to me.
Aaron Morrow06/11/08
Wow, Marita! I think you left us all in the dust with this entry. Exceptionally well written. I was afraid throughout that the foreshadowed ending would be abrupt, but you eased us into the inevitable gently enough not to break the tone. Fabulous work!
LauraLee Shaw06/12/08
Congrats on 7th place overall, Marita!!!! I am SO happy for you! ;)
Gerald Shuler 06/12/08
Way to go, Marita. First place in Advanced and an EC... it comes as no surprise to me. Your entry is worthy of this recognition.
Joshua Janoski06/12/08
What is this, your second EC this quarter? You will be moving up to masters soon my friend. Congratulations! :)
Sara Harricharan 06/12/08
Oooh, congrats! I'm so glad this one made it! Way ta write! ^_^
Sheri Gordon06/12/08
Congratulations on your EC. This is an outstanding story. Very well written, and excellent voice. Great job with the topic.
Janice Cartwright06/12/08
Not too many really make me weep but this one did. Absolutely beautiful.
Betsy Markman06/12/08
A well-deserved win. I love that she "felt God near." It transformed the ending into something glorious rather than sad.
Beth LaBuff 06/12/08
Marita -- Congrats on your 1st place (level placing) and your EC!!
Dee Yoder 06/12/08
Congratulations, Marita! I love this story! (PS:Come to Ohio anytime-we'll find a buggy to ride in together-LOL)
Amy Michelle Wiley 06/12/08
I can see why this placed. Touching story!
Peter Stone06/15/08
Wonderful heart warming story. Perfect conclusion too, it is the family members who make the home. Congrats on placing.
Allan Morelos06/16/08
Congratulations for your winning entry! We, newbies, can learn a lot from excellent examples of writing like yours. Thanks for sharing your talent with us.
Patricia Turner06/18/08
Amen to Allen's previous comment - thanks for teaching us. I love how you wove the forewarning of the end into the beautiful memories. Wouldn't we all want our last moments to be so peaceful?