It was winter and all the trees were covered in snow. The scent of roses had long since faded, and the rabbits and squirrels had migrated east and west. As Charlie sat on his velvet sofa gazing outward through the glass porch, he sighed.
"Momma? Hayley?" he called out.
No one responded. Seconds later, thumps and laughter followed. It was Hayley, Charlie’s sister, running down the staircase as Sammy, the rabbit, hopped past her.
“Charlie, are you okay?” Hayley responded when she entered the room. Breathing while running down twenty-five stairs straight into the glass conservatory was hard work.
Charlie sighed again, "I'm bored."
“Charlie, lucky for you and your illness I’m not gonna yell at you! Where’s Anna Lee, anyway?”
Since Charlie discovered he had cancer, his life had felt like a harvest without much fruit. He thought of his new home care nurse, Anna Lee. As tall and trim as the perfectly manicured bushes in his back garden in the summer, Anna Lee wore dreadful multi-colored dresses and brightly colored hair bows. Charlie thought that she was perhaps wearing lots of color in order to cheer him up.
Charlie was normally a very happy young man, but he was never as happy in winter, nor was he thrilled to discover over a year ago, at the age of twelve that he had cancer.
"Thank you Hayley, that's very comforting," he said, as Hayley handed him chamomile tea, his favorite.
Charlie’s most treasured companion was his dear old faithful pal, Sammy.
As Charlie sipped his tea, so did Sammy.
“Charlie, that's disgusting!”
“Oh Hayley, he's my best friend. He always shares everything I have."
“Whatever,” said Hayley.
Late evenings were very tiring, as Charlie wasn't strong enough to be as fun as he used to be. He spent most of his time being driven to doctors and hospitals. It was a lot on the shoulders of his mother who, might I say, had more faith in people and life than anyone you've ever met.
As evening dawned, the Roth house grew busy, as dad, mom, Hayley, Marco, Anna Lee, and Mr. Winklee, their driver, all gathered for supper.
“Mom, what’s for dinner?" asked Charlie, as he was wheeled in on his electrical chair. Sure it looked cumbersome, but it got him places without leaving him so terribly tired.
"Thumbelina carrots, fingerling potatoes, braised lamb, and Mr. Winklee brought some grains from your favorite bakery, Chop Chops!"
"Sounds good, Mom," Charlie replied, as his mother hugged him quickly, held his hands and kissed them, one at a time.
"My baby boy!”
"Oh Mom, I'm not a baby."
And with that, Anna Lee ran into their kitchen, panicking that Charlie’s parents would fire her, because her late evening telephone call from her husband, Mr. Higgins, went on for ages.
"Oh, Anna Lee, you’re just in time for dinner," said Mrs. Roth.
Anna Lee so appreciated how kind Mrs. Roth was. It was due to her boss’ charm, her care, and most importantly, her compassion towards all the people in her life that made the Roth’s home a real home.
As they stood around their very fancy formal dinner table, carved in the finest wood bought somewhere in Europe, they prayed and all sat down to enjoy a dinner with love. From silver spoons to hand-painted china, they ate as if it was their last supper.
"This is very magnificento,” said Mr. Winklee, “and way better than my wife's cooking. I think she needs your cookbook!"
“Mr. Winks, tell it to my husband,” Mrs. Roth laughed.
As they chowed down on everything Mrs. Roth had cooked, the
family became silent.
"Mom, I wonder if we can go out tomorrow in the snow. Maybe a sleigh ride? Or a sleigh push? Or Marco, can you…?” Charlie excitedly blurted out.
As he turned toward Marco, his mother cleared her throat, which wasn't a good thing as it usually signaled a “NO.”
"Absolutely, and because I love you, NO," said his mother.
"Mom, I deserve some fun! I am never allowed to leave this house," screamed Charlie.
All chewing stopped. It was as silent and as awkward as if two purple elephants had just entered the room.
"I'm sorry, Honey," said his mother.
Charlie left dinner with tears in his eyes and frustration in his heart.
The table, the thumbelina carrots, the lamb, and the warm company were suddenly as cold as the winter outside.
The Roths’ life had changed, as completely as day turns into night.