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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: It’s Christmas Day (in the present or living memory) (11/27/08)

TITLE: Of Yellow Ribbons and Homecomings
By Loren T. Lowery


The Pontiac rolled smoothly to a stop at the far end of an abandoned dirt road. It was twilight and autumn fog billowed around the car in heavy, gray waves. Wearing a crepe mourning band on his sleeve, Tanner, the lone occupant, got out to stand at a rotting pier on the edge of a slow moving river.

He looked over the lake to a cottage set back a few hundred yards from the bank; it was abandoned. Reflective, he fumbled in his pockets for something as his thoughts carried him back forty years, to a moonless, pre-dawn Christmas morning, 1968.

He stood, as now, looking out over the lake to the cottage. The pier smelled of fresh cut alder and a canoe set moored to one of its pilings. He could see Laura, his wife, turning on Christmas lights on a tree with unopened gifts beneath it.

Yellow bows were tied and mixed within the colorful red, green and blue bulbs in the tree. Their lights flickered through the window and flowed over the quiet water in front of him. He bit his lip, fighting tears.

Falling snow enclosed the cottage in a downy blue and white blanket. By the front window, caught in the backdrop of its spilling light, a snowman stood at playful attention. A red muffler was tied around its neck and an orange carrot protruded as its nose.

Smiling, he could picture Laura tying the scarf and their five year-old son, Cole, sticking the carrot onto the face. He strained to hear voices from the cabin. He heard music, Christmas carols.

Laura crossed the front window, wearing a pink robe. Cole followed wearing flannel pajamas. Standing tiptoe, Cole said something to his mother, she left the room and seconds later, the front porch light winked on. A wreath with a large yellow bow hung in the center of the door. The image blurred in tears.

A quiet whimper came from a wicker basket set by his feet. He bent to open the lid. A yellow lab puppy, with a red bow tied around its neck, wiggled inside. She raised her head to lick his smiling face.

Feeling for a diamond eternity ring in the pocket of his jacket, he nodded, stood and then raced to the end of the pier. Moments later, jiggling basket in the center of the canoe, he paddled across the water. Then, heart pounding, face flushed, he stood at the doorsill and walked in.

Time became liquid crystal, poured and molded over the moment to freeze it forever in his mind. Sights and sounds hung in intangible deferment, suspended in crystalline air. The ring, the puppy, the ribbons, the homecoming, melded - preserved in an invisible weight of memory.

His family together for Christmas; their faces stilled in wonder, their hearts brimmed with joy. A precious moment that would someday be recalled to chase despair from an aching soul – a salve for a time such as now, forty years past, standing on a rotting pier.

Lights and sound of an approaching car brought Tanner out of his reverie. Moments later, he felt a hand on his shoulder. “Dad, you okay?”

Without turning, he nodded. “I didn’t know if you remembered this place.”

“Christmas, 1968 – you came home from Viet Nam. We had yellow ribbons everywhere. How could I ever forget?”

“To this very day I weigh everything good in my life against it.”

“I’ll never forget the look on Mom’s face when I opened that basket you brought for me. I don’t know who was more surprised, me or her.”

“Sunny was a good dog. You and Mom did a good job picking her name.”

“You gave Mom a ring, too, didn’t you? I remember because she cried.

Tanner fumbled in his pocket, fighting tears. “It meant the world to her; I caught her staring at it more times than I can count.” His gaze never left the abandoned cottage. “She wanted you to have it – a legacy to pass on to Jennifer.”

“Jenn will cherish it, just like Mom.”

“Cherish the memories, too, son - of yellow ribbons, and homecomings and Sunny – of memories when your heart and the hearts of those you love are full of joy. Those moments, they are what will sustain you.”

“You think Mom’s remembering that, too, right now?”

“Heaven is full of all good things. I know she is.” He looked skyward. “And I believe, just now, room has been made for yet another one. I love you, son.”

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This article has been read 958 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 12/04/08
Lovely journey through time and memory. Well done.
Diana Dart 12/08/08
Beautiful title and a story to match. The paragraph the begins "Time became liquid crystal..." absolutely took my breath away. The MC's grief was so well communicated and IMHO, thank you for having the son still alive!!
Karlene Jacobsen12/09/08
Amazing. You've painted a beautiful picture.
Dee Yoder 12/10/08
This is a lovely and heartwarming story. It seems the older I get, the more memories mean to me and the more I want to make an effort to etch moments in time on my heart. Beautiful!
Betty Castleberry12/10/08
This is truly excellent writing. Your descriptions are vivid, and you made me feel what your MC must have been feeling.
Loved this tender story.
Beth LaBuff 12/10/08
Your descriptive writing really drew me into the setting (the "twilight and autumn fog billowed" "the rotting pier" and "the slow moving river". Your story is a beautiful memory (for your MC).
Catrina Bradley 12/10/08
From the opening hook to the haunting last line, this story captivated me. I stumbled over a couple of rough spots, but overall this is a masterful piece of writing.
Teresa Lee Rainey12/10/08
I love this story. Such a beautiful memory of his wife. Really got caught up in this. :)
Sharlyn Guthrie12/11/08
You really know how to tug at the heart strings! Excellent job, and so very deserving of your placement. Congratulations, Loren!
Angela M. Baker-Bridge12/11/08
Congratulations Loren on a wonderful piece. By the title, I assumed it would be about a current soldier. I was pleasantly surprised you honored a vet from my era. I graduated HS in 1968, many family and friends served. Beautiful.
Dianne Janak12/12/08
Congrats Loren! You truly deserved this win. It brought tears to my eyes. I really love your way with words. The paragraph about time was so masterfully created and spun... Thanks for your piece. It helps me remember to hold the moment that is NOW that we don't get back, except in memory!