Morning Tea and the Memory Box

As if it knew there was little time left to waste with such frivolities as dreams, sleep spent very few hours with him each night.  He was always at his red-gingham-draped kitchen table long before dawn, sipping tea and poking though the souvenirs of his past. They'd grown a bit untidy over the years, but once the cobwebs were brushed away, they carried him back.

He’d had many good years, doing the things many like him had done, and enjoying every minute.  He loved being a husband and father.  It was the little moments of those roles, the everyday and mundane, that delighted him. 

When they were first married, he loved watching Maggie cook, his new bride’s face a study in concentration as she tried a new recipe from James Beard.  It wasn’t long before she no longer needed it, but she’d kept the tattered book on top of the refrigerator, just in case. It was there still, and he knew if he picked it up, it would fall open to the gravy-stained pages of “My Own Favorite Roast Turkey.”

He’d loved sitting with the family around the dinner table, listening to the words tumble all over each other like a bunch of exuberant puppies as the kids eagerly described their day.  Later, the laughter that cascaded down the stairs as the kids had their nightly bath made him laugh too, even though he wasn’t in on the joke.

It was all just as he’d imagined it would be, when as a young man, he’d thought ahead to his future.  But now, as he thought back to his past, he mourned the fact that today was not at all how he’d thought it would be.

He thought he’d fret as he watched Mike drive off in the beater they’d kept as a second car, the proud bearer of his newly acquired driver’s license, and when Becky, flushed with excitement, left on her first date with a gangly classmate.  He’d looked forward to the swell of pride he knew he’d feel as the kids graduated from college, got their first jobs, and stood at the altar, joyfully joining their lives to another. 

He’d eagerly anticipated pacing anxiously in the hospital waiting room as, one by one, his grandchildren filled in his mental family portrait.  He’d watch those grandchildren grow, with all the fun of spending time playing with them and none of the responsibility for their upbringing.

He’d always expected to spend today with Maggie, recapturing the intimacy and joy they’d had as newlyweds.  They would share new adventures, complaints about new aches and pains, and the thrill of welcoming new grandchildren into the world. 

What he’d never anticipated was the tractor-trailer truck that Maggie’s car had met as she drove the kids home from their cousin’s birthday party that October day.  He never expected a weary truck driver to steal his today from him and forever change his tomorrow and the days after. 

And he never thought he’d be sitting here alone at the kitchen table in the pre-dawn light, brushing off the collected memories he kept tucked away in the cigar box  in the corner of  his mind, along with a few of his other treasures, the lucky penny, the cats-eye marble, and the tooth he’d found under the elm tree.

He took another sip of tea, now grown cold and bitter.


This is my offering for Theme Thursday, where the prompt was "brush."


  1. You're turning morbid. I like!

    Ok... irreverence off... very nice piece. It's like a strange interpretation of the butterfly flapping its wings, only this time the butterfly didn't get stuck in the radiator... it WAS the radiator.

    No, wait... you're turning morbid.


  2. very nice patti...i like the twist in this one...well i certainly dont want it to happen but nicely played...happy tt!

  3. Brilliant. And horribly sad. You've spoken to the one thing that every family man secretly fears - losing those he loves. I can't tell you the number of times I sat and worried about Annie and the kids, out and about in her car, beyond the safety of my control. If *I* was driving, I knew they were safe - when someone else was driving, I never felt they were.

    (Of course, Annie is an excellent driver - and I didn't ALWAYS worry. Just sometimes.)

  4. Very well written. Pulls all the strings and prompts tears right on cue.

  5. Well done..."cigar box in the corner of his mind"...I especially like that. This is a sad and tragic tale, but there's an element of truth to it in that the way we imagine our lives will go is often not the way it all turns out.

    PS I really liked what you wrote on my blog yesterday. Good suggestions which I will use.

  6. a piece of art, this writing - your words paint happiness, tears and sorrow in broad and yet particular brushstrokes

    hmm, there's something about sad stories, well written... gets me every time

  7. i enjoyed reading this - wondering what would happen...didn't expect it would be so sad...we just don't know what life will bring...i felt so sad for him in the end...beautiful write

  8. I was just happy to read it was fiction! :)

  9. Even though it is fiction, it poignantly describes the fear of what is out of our control, the sadness of loss and the process of reliving the memories we treasure. Nicely written.

  10. excellently written Patti, such beautiful feelings. he's a special character.

  11. This shows your skills as an observer, as well as a raconteur...

  12. Life has a dark under-belly and when it flips... dear god. I felt this one viscerally.

    Phantoms of the lost years...

  13. A tear jerker! The twisting of the time line works so well here. So well done! -j


Thoughts? I would love to hear from you.