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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Twilight Years of Life (07/02/09)

TITLE: Side Porch Memories
By Charla Diehl


Wispy threads of silver tickled Helenís weathered face as she forced the wayward strands of hair back under her knotted bun. Nestled into the cushy wicker rocker on her side porch, she was savoring a cup of tea brewed with clover honey. She chose this spot for her daily devotional time years ago when her childrenís chatter filled the wallpapered rooms of their clapboard two-story home.

The saplings planted on consecutive Arbor days by her son Joe, stretched their arms across the span of lawn as they leaned into the morning sun. Some offered shade in the summer and bursts of color in the Fall, while others fruitful bounty was turned into pies and cobblers or canned for winter treats.

Today, Helen inhaled the musky scents of Autumn as her aging eyes took in the festive colors painted on the Maple leaves and the apples hanging like bells on a Christmas tree, waiting to be enjoyed. As she sipped from the mug Maryanne had crafted at the age of twelve, she went to a place in her mind that covered her in warm memories much like the quilts she snuggled under as a little girl.

She could almost feel Jackís strong hands around her waist and the touch of his lips on hers. Heíd lift her tiny frame and twirl her around just to hear her girlish giggle. Their marriage had known excitement and passion, blessings and burdens, laughter and loss, and their faith kept them strong through it all. Helenís thin lips curved upwards as she winked towards the clouds. Soon, Jack--Iíll see you soon.

Filling her treasured mug with the remainder of tea, Helen gazed at the crooked wooden cross designating Luckyís grave. At fourteen Joe exhibited such compassion and strength for his younger siblings as they wept, bawled and wailed at their petís passing. He wiped Claireís tears on his shirt and explained that God would take care of Lucky now. Helenís heart swelled with pride as she watched her son cross over the threshold of maturity that afternoon so long ago.

Her eyes now took in the decaying tree house Jack had built for Joe and Greg one hot summer weekend when they were only eight and ten. It was their escape from little sisters who wanted them to be the fathers to their dolls. A cracked board with faded letters stared back at Helen from the tree--No Girls Allowed. She sighed as she remembered the fun her boys had camping in and dreaming up adventures in their special place.

That same summer Jack had made Claire and Maryanne a swing set from salvaged steel pipes. He cemented the legs into the ground so Helen didnít have to worry about it tipping over as the girls touched the sky with their toes. Their young voices rippled on the breeze as they spent hours swinging and singing under the canopy of the sturdy oak. Helenís eyes misted over as she recalled Claire holding her newborn baby--softly singing to her as she gently pumped the very swing that put butterflies in her tummy as a child. Helen had swung beside Claire that day and they shared conversation that only mothers understood.

A sudden gust of wind rattled the rusty chains and a familiar voice interrupted Helenís thoughts. ďMom, are you still out here?Ē Maryanne stood at the porch door with Helenís sweater. ďItís almost time to go, Mom.Ē Maryanneís house would make a comfortable home for Helen in her twilight years. Her nursing skills guaranteed her mother the quality care she needed now that her heart was failing. This would be the last Autumn her mother would see. A knife of sadness stabbed at Maryanne as tears threatened to escape her soft blue eyes.

Briefly Helen closed her eyes. Dear Lord, Iím ready now. Thank you for these precious memories and so much more. Then standing, she slowly made her way through the empty house that echoed with love and laughter only yesterday--or so it seemed. As she closed the door behind her, she trusted God to take her home.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Jim McWhinnie 07/09/09
Beautifully crafted writing.

Loren T. Lowery07/15/09
Like the tea Helen loved, this was full bodied with just a touch of sweetness that make it a relaxing read. There is so much packed into this entry, using so few words. I think you ended this perfectly with the reader feeling a sense of contentment that Helen's life had not only been well lived, but her future would be in keeping with the good and grateful way she had lived as well.