It would’ve been sixty years come February. Maisie was standing by the big kitchen window staring into the darkness that still loomed over the world, the edges of the hills and trees not quite visible just yet. She tugged her tattered old sweater a little closer over her shoulders, as she thought of a wedding anniversary that didn’t really matter anymore. She’d just lit the stove in the front room, but the warmth of the fire hadn’t yet penetrated the early morning coolness.
Her husband, Lucky came into her mind, a lot these days. A knot would always tighten around her chest with those thoughts. It’s hard to believe that just a couple of months ago he was bustling around, getting the fire started, busy doing all sorts while she prepared the breakfast. A hint of a smile touched Maisie’s lips when she thought of his actual name, Lucas or Lukie. Since he was a child, it’d become Lucky on account of his extraordinary luck at getting out of scrapes. He just had an unmistakable charm that never seemed to fade. She stiffened now at the thought of how that luck just ran out a couple of months ago.
Maisie was usually up before dawn, but today has traditionally been a day that the family would come together to await the sunrise. Oh, every year, without question, Lucky loved to celebrate the winter solstice. It was just something that he had done since he was a child and the tradition had easily nestled into the heart of their own family.
Now, even though Maisie loved her grandchildren and family, more than life itself, she was still definitely not in the mood to watch the sun rise. Why bother. It’s just … Lucky had always spoken about letting in the light of the new season. But what light?
The various routines and rituals of her days offered her a few hand-holds that helped her get through life these days. But somehow her world had acquired one of those dull echoes, like when all the furniture and the pictures on the walls have been removed from a room. You can feel the difference. She remembered being angry when Lucky had died, been taken away from her. Seething almost. Now, no. Now, it was like after a party is over. Everyone’s gone and decorations are limply hanging on the walls. No sound.
She looked around, as she’d heard some bumps and creaks, others bustling and getting ready.
“Gran! You’re up!” Lukie, Maisie’s grandson, called out as he came bouncing into the room. Lukie had been named after her Lucky, gifted with the same extraordinary luck and charm. He always seemed to have a skip in his step, like a boisterous and bubbling stream plugged into the world itself.
“Where’s Ravvy? Is she up yet?” Maisie asked.
“Yeah, she’ll be ready. I heard Mom and Dad, too. I think they’re right behind me.” He was getting himself organised, pushing chairs into place, all business-like. “You’ve gotta sit by me and Ravvie, Gran. Remember that’s what Papa always said. I bet Papa will be watching, too. Won’t he gran?”
Lukie had that way of speaking, his words and ideas tumbling out non-stop, his mind no longer able to contain them as they flowed.
“Yes. I expect so, love,” the words almost sheering against her heart. She turned as Sam, Maisie’s son walked into the kitchen.
“We’re almost ready”he half spoke-half yawned, smiling at his mom as he gave her a hug. It had been a difficult time for her and Sam wasn’t sure how she was going to do this morning. He squeezed her shoulder before going to pour a cup of tea that his mom had made for them. Guinie his wife followed holding Ravvie’s hand who partially walked and danced alongside her mom.
“G’morning gran,” Ravvie sang out to Maisie, her arms opening wide, ready to give her gran a bear hug that always seemed to bely her four years of age.
“Good morning, Love” Maisie responded with a smile, her arms open, ready to receive Ravvie.
Everyone settled into the big chairs around the solid wooden table, Ravvie draped over Sam’s arm, with everyone holding one another’s hands. No one sat in Lucky’s chair, the sweater he always wore outside still hanging on its back, almost expecting its wearer to stride in at any moment.
Sam exchanged an anxious look with Guinie, rubbing his thumb over his mom’s hand. Lukie on Maisie’s other side merely looked up at his gran and smiled, his eyes sparkling as he squeezed her hand.
Gradually, the hills in the distance and the shapes of the trees began to emerge from the darkness as the light of the distant sun began to brighten the sky. A few clouds could be seen hanging in the sky, like an honour guard awaiting their monarch. The colours began to change, the golden centre surrounded with a velvety orangey crimson red.
And then at some point, the sun must have edged past a cloud and everyone took an intake of breath as a brilliant starburst of rays suddenly exploded into the sky, the individual shafts of light remaining in place, as if time itself had stopped. They all watched, mesmerised by a sky that was alive with colours, no one speaking just yet, afraid to break the spell of the sun.
Maisie’s mind was suddenly thrust back decades, before Sam was born, when she and Lucky had first moved back to his family’s farm house. A spark of a genuine smile edged into the darkness that had surrounded her these past months. At this moment, years ago, when they watched the sun rise at winter solstice, Lucky had sighed and smiled, “That’ll mark the coming of the light,” he said looking at Maisie. “It’s the end of the darkness, for sure. Oh it fills you with hope, doesn’t it?” he rubbed Maisie’s leg. They had been going through some very hard times, in those days.
“Well Dad would’ve loved that entry, wouldn’t he ma,” Sam remarked.
“And Papa was here!!” Lukie added excitedly “Right Ravie. He was!!” Ravie smiled and nodded her head vigorously, the two of them laughing, loving the thought of it.
“Yes” Maisie said, ruffled Lukie’s hair, smiling at Ravie. “It did feel like he was here, didn’t it – that he came?”
Sam smiled, his eyes moistened, a tear rolling down his cheek. “Oh Ma” he said, as he rubbed her shoulders. “He never left did he? He never went anywhere.” He leaned over and gave his mom a kiss and a hug.
“Yeah, it’s just at times like the solstice, we’re reminded of that, eh” Guinie added, smiling at both Maisie and Sam.
Like the dance of the planet and the sun at winter solstice, everything paused for a moment and no one moved from their seats. The sky continued its transformation as the ever brightening gleam of the sun continued to further lighten and shape the new morning.
After a moment, Sam got up, depositing Ravvie on the chair, squeezing his mom’s shoulder as he walked to the counter. “So, who wants some tea?” he called out as he began to fill the kettle.
For Maisie, well, she smiled as she felt that old charm filling the room. “Yes,” she thought, “her Lucky had never left, had he.” And with that, a new day of hope began.