Saturday, April 23, 2011

M&R; Making the Best of It

It had been a long two weeks; first the greif and anger about the death of John Sienna, then the thrilling unbelievable announcement that he hadn’t died after all and finally the controversial rumors that the family firm was hiding his death for financial reasons. The small children had wept at the news that their “Grand Daddy” was gone. Their mothers’ insisted confidently that their grandfather was not dead; much to the consternation of their husbands and older sons.

“I have wonderful news!” Roxanne announced sweetly amidst the gathered gloom of the last several weeks.

Angry teenagers and sullen men raised their blood shot eyes off their dinner plates at the far end of the big table. It had been a hard day with most of the men working in the family woodlot on the slopes above the rambling house. In honor of Aunt Roxanne’s visit they gathered at the “Family Farm”. With a mutual sigh of relief Roxanne’s granddaughters excitedly looked her way. It’s at that moment they realized that Roxanne Scamander was speaking to her great-grandchildren.

“Your Grand Daddy is coming to visit you!”

Squeals of delight answered her announcement. Chubby little hands applauded the news. The youngest, Ian couldn’t understand the excitement but his older sister Agatha, named for their mother, explained it to him. She smiled for the first time in weeks. The men (and older children) exchanged questioning glances with their smirking spouses.

“Along with my sister Maeve. Yes, the doctors say he can travel now. So he is leaving Italy tomorrow and the first people he is coming to see is his grandchildren. He has a surprise for you.”

Ian understood this time and clapped like the other small children. Roxanne poked him in the cubby belly just in case he needed a little help to encourage his excitement. Some of the men actually rose from their seats. Most of the disbelieving teenagers now burst into smiles of relief; Grand Daddy was okay! Questions arose from every quarter. Someone made a quiet reference to the similarity of the return of Uncle Orion. Roxanne would hear none of them and Agatha, her sisters and their female cousins shushed them all. Roxanne continued to tease her great-grandchildren with promises of the coming day and stories about their Grand Daddy; like the time when he and his wife Maeve renewed their vows in a fairytale wedding.

The next morning at the airport in Aud every member of the Sienna family, living in the area, awaited Grand Daddy. Most the men wore dark wool suits or their dress uniforms. A few angry teenagers still wore their black armbands. The women wore flowery summer dresses in honor of Aunt Roxanne. The first person off the family jet was Maeve Sienna, Grand Daddy’s wife. Maeve usually wore black, but since the “accident” she wore black suits with a black armband. It was a declaration of war. Her black eyelashes batted against the bright sun light. Her cheek bones blazed with color from her days in the field for the last two weeks. She flashed a determined smile to kinfolk and let her shoulders fall to ease the tension. At the moment armed bodyguards slipped by her and took their stations at the bottom of the stairs. Maeve was not the favorite member of the far-flung Sienna family, that was Roxanne. But, her resolute actions over the last few weeks earned her the respect and admiration of everyone. A roar of greeting erupted from the crowd, particularly among the teenage boys. A rare honest smile sprang to her lips and rested their uncertainly as the approbation settled.

“Is that the fairy princess?”

Agatha (actually dressed like a fairy princess) reached to cover her little brother’s mouth but Ian’s loud, squeaky question was already out. This great-grand mother gasped in surprise and then smiled again this time in delight. Her lashes fluttered this time with emotion. Someone spoke to her from inside the jet, she turned a profile to the crowd, flipping her collar-length ebony locks and returned a comment. She reached an ivory hand into the gloom. After another glance around for threats, she eased her husband into the daylight. The crowd gasped. The children screamed in delight.

Grand Daddy moved slowly beside his “fairy bride”. Clearly, he winced on occasion. Due to the heat, he wore his usual three piece dark woolen suit, without the jacket or tie. The startling thing to Roxanne was how young her brother-in-law looked. The scars and lines of a lifetime faded during the reconstructive surgery she surmised. He didn’t yet wear his wedding ring, that needed to be resized, but she noticed that the little finger next to broken in a skiing accident in his youth was now straight. Unexplainably, he was tan. Everyone kept their distance. The little children were shushed.

Grand Daddy marched forward with his wife at his side and spoke a few appreciate words to his relatives and descendants. Roxanne noticed his voice had lost the roughness of age as well has the skin at his throat. His youthfulness actually made his grandsons-in-law uncomfortable. His granddaughters smugly saw proof that he’d been okay all along.

It was several hours until Roxanne and Maeve could find a moment alone, at the family farm. Usually John Sienna was the center of attention at any family picnic anywhere, but today Maeve had great difficulty getting rid of her admirers, particularly the teenagers who’d been so impressed with her response to the crisis. Eventually, she sent them off to organized the smaller children into a game of Foxes and Cranes.

“So, how are you doing dearie?” Roxanne asks hiding her voice with a drink, while prodding Maeve in the side.

“Plenty of our competitors think John passed away. A lot of people are showing their true hand. We are cleaning up on the fallen stock prices. We can’t help what people think. Might as well make the best of it. John’s convinced this visit will help with the youngest generation. He’ll tell them the truth. ”

Roxanne laughed at the idea of anyone believing the truth when spoken by babes, before returning to her original question. “No, dearie, how are you doing?”

Distractedly responding, since Maeve was scanning the area for trouble, “John’s doing fine. He’ll be good as new in a couple more weeks. Literally.”

“No! “ Roxanne took her pale thin hands in her ruddier ones. “How are you doing?”

Maeve waves to the teenagers and encourages them with a smile. “It’s hard getting use to the idea that people actually like me.” She responded with a quizzically look on her fair brow . Before Roxanne can rebuff her and assure her of the family’s affection, Maeve asks, “Why are the little girls wearing fairy wings?”

“Your husband asked me to tell them the story about the renewing of your vows.”

“Okay, I was dressed as scouring maid earning my dowry on a Scottish estate when he came to get me. I don’t see any of them dressed in a maid’s uniform. “

“No, but the rest of us dressed as elfin lords and ladies with bells on our horses’ tackle. Hence you are the Fairy Princess.”

Maeve blushed. Agatha and Ian’s mother quickly brought her a glass of water concerned that she didn’t feel well. She thanked her granddaughter at first embarrassed, but then appreciatively. At which point Roxanne spoke up in a loud, sparkly tone of voice.

“It’s nap time for all the little fairy princesses and princes.”

“No!” came the chorus where the little children played.

“Well, Grand Daddy is going to lay down. Don’t you want to lay down with him and listen to a story.”

“Oh yes!” replied the fairy host with a few confused “no’s” from sleepy-eyed tired children.

Grand Daddy’s wife and nurse helped him to lie down for a nap, while their mothers made the little fairy folk beds of blankets and pillows on the floor. Most the children slipped to the side of their great-grandfather’s bed and kissed him good night before laying down themselves. One little girl brushed back the brown curls to reveal his pinched upper ears.

Roxanne was the designated story teller. She spoke of Lord Oberon, King of the Fairies with pangs of emotion. She spoke of Queen Mab with delight in her voice. She searched amongst those still awake for Titania; Queen of the Fairies. Finally, she told a bowdlerized version of Cinderella and her fairy god-mother, closing the tale about the same time the last of the drooping eyelids closed. The adults and teenagers gathered near the door, to listen to the stories and to peek in on Grand Daddy, hoping not to disturb the children. Maeve stood amongst them receiving their praises and reassuring them that her husband recovered nicely.

Dinner was a little low key for a gathering of the Sienna Clan. At one point Grand Daddy excused himself so as to wish the children goodnight, promising to return.
As he rose, Maeve rose too. Everyone thought she was going with him, but instead Roxanne was the one who steadied him as he walked. Maeve announced they had other children to visit and that they’d be leaving late the the following morning. Several adults attempted to flow John and Roxanne, but a shake from Maeve’s head returned them to their seat.

John slept late. The children all agreed to play quietly on the far side of the rambling house. The little ones announced they would not being going to the airport; they’d decided that with Grand Daddy the night before. There was something suddenly mature about the pre-schoolers. Grand Daddy stopped, knelt to huddle with them, saluted, then was on his way.

The Seinnan families departed the family farm and returned to their own homes. More than one couple discussed whether or not it was really “Grand Daddy”.
“It sounds a lot like the return of my grandfather Orion, only to discover later that it was my Uncle Orion.” Agatha and Ian’s father mumbled.

Their mother had no doubts. Her and the other women’s confidence seemed to reassure the teenagers and some of their husbands. More than one father asked his youngest children what Grand Daddy said to them the night before, during dinner the following evening.

“It’s a secret.” Ian answered promptly and firmly. Then sat back and waited.

“Grand Daddy says it’s an open secret Daddy. You can ask grandmother. She knows.” Little Agatha offered with her mother’s smug smile and laughing eyes.

Agatha and Ian’s mother laughed at the grimace on her husband’s face at the mention of his mother-in-law.

“Why can’t you tell me.?”

“We swore an oath.” Ian replied so seriously that his father almost laughed. It was the beginning of the distance that grew between them.

Restraining his laughter, Ian’s father said, “You swore an oath?”

Ian’s little chest puffed out and he drew air to speak. Little Agatha’s hand fell on his little shoulder quieting him. It was the first time that her father noticed that Agatha still wore her fairy wings.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

M&R: March 13

Steam rose from the simmering soup. A tall dark haired young girl urged the liquid expertly around the half-full pot. When she needed to lower the flame, she did so with a practiced well-trained hand.

“Grandmother?” She asked as she poked at clumps of beef and barley with her wooden spoon.

Her grandmother Maeve Sienna warmed store-bought whole-wheat dinner rolls in the toaster oven. She looked totally out of place in her flowery ruffled apron. The traditional six-pack of Miller High Life; “The Champagne of Bottle Beers” sat nearby on the counter.

“Yes, Agatha.”

“Grandmother, why do we celebrate great, great-grandmother’s birthday?”

“It’s mostly for your grandma Roxanne. She was the favorite you know?”

“Did that bother you, grandmother? Your sister Roxanne being the favorite?”

Maeve stopped poking at the rolls. The only thing that would bother Maeve was if the other grandchildren knew Agatha was her secret favorite. She tried hard not to show. “No, dear. I was happy for her. She was … our grandmother’s namesake. I remember the last time Roxanne saw her grandmother. Grandmother had been in long-term care for a while. She shrunk, as she got older. Our mother always said that would happen.” Maeve shook her ebony locks and smiled in memory of the story about the ironing board, and then continued. “She got crankier too, but when the nurses said that we were coming to visit, Grandmother Roxanne turned into another person. She was friendly, happy and couldn’t wait until your grandma arrived. I remember that day. It was bright in her room, but not because of the light coming in the north-facing window. Rather it was the smile on grandmother’s face and the giggle in her voice, when she looked up out of her bed and saw Roxanne. It was sunset. The stuccoed white-walled, brick-topped buildings facing the hospital blazed with light. Our mother and sister-in-law stood on that side of the room, almost invisible against the glare. Grandmother positively beamed and in the radiance of that admiration Roxanne positively shown. Her hair was never so fiery. Her green eyes never shone so brightly. I swear to God, that under the warmth of our grandmother’s lovely gaze, Roxanne actually grew taller and more beautiful. She was never so charming, lovely, and witty. She was charismatic in grandmother’s presence. The little nieces stroked the old woman’s wrinkled translucent hands lovely. She smiled whenever she looked their way and said what beautiful young girls they were, but honestly, Agatha, your great, great-grandmother only had eyes for Roxanne.

The two of them spoke as though there were no other people in the room. As the aged sun continued to fail, some passing nurse must have turned on the over light, or maybe it was the mutual inter light of their love because their skin still glowed as they whispered sweet nothings to one another.
“Honey, I could have spoiled you awful.” Grandmother joked as she gazed into Roxanne’s green eyes.

“You always have grandmother.”

I looked up at your great-grandmother at that moment; middle child, forgotten as usual. Your great-uncle’s wife had the smile on her face she always wore around us; her thoughts seemed elsewhere. Roxanne seemed on fire! If I had not been standing in the glory of their affection I surely would have suffocated as the world shrunk to just the two of them. I have rarely seen Roxanne so radiant and self-confident. I swear your great, great-grandmother lost twenty years in those precious moments. Those glorious thirty minutes were an eternity!”

Agatha, eye on the soup, ear to her now silent grandmother, suspected the rolls had been in the toaster oven too long. She looked towards Grandmother Maeve. She found her grandmother looking happily off into space, with something that looked totally out of place on her fair face; tears.