Monday, December 24, 2012

A Christmas Fire: The Gift

Finally, the end of this Christmas tale. All four parts may be seen at once, in order, here, for those who want to start from the beginning.

No one found Timmy that Christmas Eve. None of the searching men, worried women, or barking dogs. Even Dad’s ceaseless scour of the surrounding countryside went fruitless. Instead, the desperate search for Nate’s younger brother ended as many such searches do; with a soft bump on the back step and a child’s surprise at the fuss that ensues when he walks in the door. The boy’s return felt no less miraculous for of its simplicity.

Though shivering and dirty, Timmy appeared unharmed. In truth, he was more endangered by Mother’s crushing embrace than by anything he had experienced during his lengthy disappearance. And he answered all questions regarding his whereabouts by saying only that he was cold and hungry. But Nate knew where he had been. For lost in the chaos of Timmy’s return was the fact that he hadn’t come home empty-handed.

Dad and the boys had been there one long, lazy summer day, ages ago. Across the back pasture, along the Wilson’s fence line, and down along Moses Creek to where it dumps into the Big Pine. Downstream, through the brambles along the edge of Jarret’s Farm where the big shepherd mutts chase anything that dared to enter their domain. Across the shallow riffles, next to the ancient plot of headstones, worn smooth by the years, and around the next two bends. Miles away. They’d made a day of it. Dad and Nate had fished the deep hole under the massive river oaks.

Timmy had gotten lost. The whistles pulled them all together in the midst of an oddity for these parts. They found one another in a stand of bamboo. How it had gotten started there, no one was sure, but it thrived, as bamboo always seems to once it gets its roots.

So after the hubbub died down, after the searchers were thanked and returned to their homes to squeeze their own children (who, of course, didn’t understand), after the flow of Mother’ tears abated, just a bit, and she loosed her bear hug, Nate and Timmy sat side-by-side on the hearth with cups of hot cocoa and a plate of cookies, staring quietly, together, into the fire.

And while Nate was overwhelmed by Timmy’s present, yet to be given, the nine-foot, ramrod straight, length of bamboo that lay outside the back door, as dirty and scratched from its long, rugged trip home as was its provider, the replacement for the Tonka Queen was not the only, or most lasting, gift that Nate’s brother gave him that year.

Not even close.

It looks odd hanging there above the graceful works of fly rod royalty; that rough, dirty bamboo stalk. But while the beautiful, refined instruments below it may have stories of their own, none match the memories held within the raw spear. Within it lies the memory of a snap straight right that bloodied a neighborhood bully’s nose one New Years Day, the power of a father’s guidance sent into the darkness on the wings of a canary’s song, the warmth of a mother’s embrace, and the realization that one doesn’t need to understand to love.

All this hangs above the hearth within the core of the old stick. It can also be seen in the fire below, if one looks long enough. That is, if one has taken to heart a brother’s greatest gift; the ability to see into the Christmas fire.

May you and yours have the most joyous Christmas and happy holiday season.



e.m.b. said...

Merry Christmas, you and your family. And thank you. Thank you for the story.

cofisher said...

Thank you Mike for the wonderful gift of story and Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Anonymous said...

Great story should publish a book with photos,stories and poems...should be a wonderful xmas gift for flyfishermen(:

Quill Gordon said...

Nicely done, Mike. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Steve Zakur said...

Wonderfully written, Mike. Thank you for sharing.

Mike Sepelak said...

Thanks, all, for the Christmas wishes. Was away from the computer a couple of days, enjoying Christmas with the grandkids in Chicago. A most pleasant diversion.

Thank you, Erin, for the Midcurrent mention, and more for your friendship. You are too kind.

Thank you, Howard, for the help with the niggly details.

Thank you, JP, for the thoughts from across the big pond.

Thank you, sir Gordon, and your buddy Ken too.

Thank you, Steve, for the nice words. Special wishes for holiday peace to you and your community.

Thank you, everyone, for being such good friends, even across this odd medium. It's funny, and amazing, how such things work.