Mary’s New Year Eve

by ChicagoTunnelKid


Mary wandered her chamber, slowly moving about, handling mementos, touching surfaces, renewing her treasures. Each item was a piece of her history. The “paperweight” Jamie had made at the age of 5 from a lump of coal, not knowing that a trail of black dust would alight any paper it sat upon. There was a pencil holder constructed from an old block of wood that Devin had drilled holes into for the pencils. It was the last gift he had given her before leaving. She fondled that one lovingly, her memory of the young Devin a cherished one.

There was a lump of clay that tried to look like a cat that Vincent had fashioned when he was 3. He’d held it up to her and proclaimed, “Kitty,” and told her she was not “no ‘lone.” At 5 he had discovered poetry, and ever since she received a hand-written poem borrowed from the greats, and then, composed from his heart. She treasured that stack of paper.

So many items from so many children over the years. Her heart overflowed in loving memories. Her chamber resembled a hoarder’s den, yet she couldn’t bear to part with anything. Mouse offered to make shelves, but she had found an old dresser that she dedicated to her keepsakes. Unfortunately, she couldn’t look at them in drawers, but she made a point of looking at them once a year, at New Year’s Eve.

She looked at the previous history, and then added this year’s contributions to the drawers to make room for the coming year’s gifts. Every once and a while, one of the children would wander in and see an open drawer, and beg to see what was inside. She would show each item, recounting the person who had given it, and the story behind it. Unknowingly, she had become a tunnel historian, along with Elizabeth, each covering different aspects of the history of the tunnels.

She had chosen to do this routine on New Year’s Eve so that she would never feel “no ‘lone,” as Vincent said. And there was the memory of her children that she lost, that keeping her tunnel children close to her heart helped ease. Her son, whom she lost to pneumonia, and her daughter, whom had been taken from her. What would she be like now, she wondered? She closed her eyes to ward off the pain.

A decoupaged box lay at the bottom of the bottom drawer, buried low to be out of sight and mind. She lifted the box and tenderly laid it upon her lap. It was a gift from Samantha, labeled “New Years Resolutions.” The class had been discussing customs of the new year, and resolutions had come up. In Samantha’s mind, you should keep your lists so that you would know what you had accomplished, and what you still had to do, unless alterations were decided. So Mary had adopted the custom, and dutifully saved her lists in case Samantha would ever inquire about her gift. No, that wasn’t true. She kept them as penance. For every year, she wrote the same resolution, and every year, it went undone.

She withdrew a sheet of stationery, dated the top, and wrote “New Year’s Resolutions.” She wrote several items on the list, things that she wanted to try and do, stretch herself, remind herself that she was living, not just existing. She hesitated before writing the last. Each year, she wrote it with resolve and fully intended to accomplish it.

She touched the line, her finger skimming the words she wrote, almost as a loving stroke. She placed the paper on top of the stack. Lingering before closing the lid, she gazed at the list. She closed her eyes briefly, sending a prayerful thought to the heavens that this might be the year she would complete her list, including the only one never to be crossed off on any of the years in the box: “Find my daughter.”