The boxes, silently gathering dust for the last few years, waited patiently in the small room just off the main storage chamber. The task of going through these last reminders of her father’s loss had been put off for far too long. They had been put aside for later, until she was better able to cope with the memories their contents might invoke; but to be quite truthful, Catherine had forgotten all about them.
The majority of her father’s belongings had been disposed of long ago. What was not transferred Below for use by the community was either sold, and the money added to the communities meager coffers, or given to charitable organizations Above in the name of Charles Chandler. Catherine thought her father would have approved of his belongings going to people who could use them; trying to do the most good for the most people.
The two boxes—one the size of a hatbox, the other the size of a small packing box—sat quietly waiting for a loving hand.
That day finally came many years later when Vincent, assisted by five-year old Jacob, was attempting t put the old storage chamber in some semblance of order. Actually, Vincent was doing the work, Jacob was…helping, with the usual exuberance of a typical, curious child.
"Daddy? What’s this?"
"That is a samovar, Jacob."
"Daddy" What’s a sam-me-far?"
Before Vincent could explain, however, Jacob was off discovering some other hidden treasure in this magical, mystical cavern of mysteries.
Hunting through the chamber’s nooks and crannies was like sneaking into a pirate’s cave looking for hidden treasure—just like in the book Daddy was reading in class…Treasure Island.
With his parent’s love of books, it wasn’t surprising that young Jacob was also developing a love and appreciation for books. Most days when Vincent taught class, you could usually find Jacob sitting quietly on his father’s knee or at his feet, listening, totally enraptured by the worlds of wonder created by the printed word.
An intelligent, yet precocious child, Jacob could already read above his age level. With Mom and Dad’s help, he was currently struggling through C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe; a tale of fantasy, magic and high adventure. The fact that a major character was a magnificent lion and reminded him of his daddy, only whetted his appetite for more of the story.
"Daddy…I found somethin’ with Grampa Charles’ name on it!"
"Jacob, the word is something. There is a ‘g’ on the end of that word," Vincent corrected.
"Yes, Daddy…something-ing-ing," Jacob agreed, "but I found these." He pointed to the two boxes in the corner. "Can I open them? Can I? Huh? Can I?"
By the time Vincent stood by his son’s side, however, Jacob had already removed the cover of the hatbox and was happily rifling through its contents.
"Jacob!" Vincent scolded. "You shouldn’t do that. They belong to your mother."
"But, Daddy, there are just old cards and things!"
"Old cards?" Vincent, his own curiosity piqued, sat down on the chamber floor with his son, and the both began looking through the treasure of memories contained within.
Inside the hatbox were the years of holiday cards given and received by Charles and Caroline Chandler, and later by their daughter, Catherine. There were the wedding cards received upon their marriage, as well as their wedding announcement. There were birthday cards, anniversary cards, get well cards that made Jacob laugh at their silliness, congratulations cards received on the birth of their daughter. There were also Mother’s Day and Father’s Day cards.
In a special envelop down on the bottom, Vincent and Jacob found the cards hand-drawn, and crafted in colored paper and crayon, by the loving hands of their child…each one of memory to be loved and cherished.
Vincent’s eyes misted as he read the childish writing; his heart constricting at the years’-old pain of being motherless.
Of course, he had not grown up without mothering…Mary and others had taken care of him as a baby, and as a child; but beneath it all lay the constant knowledge that he had known no mother of his own. Along with these thoughts came the remembrance of Catherine’s breakdown some years ago on the anniversary of her mother’s death.
Vincent was determined that those memories would never again harm his beloved wife, and vowed to create other happier ones to supplant them.
"Jacob?" Vincent asked, pulling his young son onto his lap. "Have you ever heard of Mother’s Day?"
"Father, I realize that this is not a holiday we normally celebrate, but don’t you believe we should?"
Vincent had come up with an idea to surprise the mothers’ Below, especially Catherine, and it turned out to be surprisingly easy to convince Father.
None of the women Below had an inkling of the celebration being planned in their honor, the once exception being Rebecca. As their resident candlemaker, she was asked to create something really special, which would be presented to each mother by her eldest child as an invitation to a part…much as the Winterfest candles were distributed to the Helpers. The children were excited with the prospect of surprising their mothers’ but most exciting of all was the P-A-R-T-Y!
The tunnel children were well versed in the necessity of keeping important secrets. Their very existence Below, not to mention Vincent’s life, hinged upon this ability. So, once they had been impressed with the importance of this particular secret, there were no more worries that someone would ‘let the cat out of the bag’ prematurely.
Everyone decided, thought, that Mouse should not be told the secret. Their child-like mechanical genius was, often times, maddeningly incapable of keeping a secret; and as this one pertained to Catherine, who he idolized, it was thought best not to tell him until the last possible moment.
Finally, the day of celebration arrived. Each mother was lovingly awakened by a smiling child holding a small bouquet of wildflowers (picked Above in the Park), and a hand-made card crafted with care and love. The special candles would be waiting for each mother when she was escorted by her family to the communal dining chamber for a special breakfast to start a special day.
Catherine’s awakening was no different. Young Jacob crept silently up to his mother’s sleeping form and proceeded to plant a loving, albeit set, smooch on her cheek. He then stood beside the bed and quietly waited.
Catherine cracked an eyelid, then smiled sleepily. "Morning, Sweetie!" She yawned, rolled onto her back, and patted the side of the bed for Jacob to join her.
Just then Vincent entered, wide awake and fully dressed, carrying a steaming cup of coffee.
Catherine smiled broadly at seen her husband. "Mornin’, Love," she whispered in greeting.
"Mommy!" Jacob piped up, "that’s morning. There’s a ‘g’ on the end." He looked up proudly at his father for approval, but all Vincent did was roll his eyes skyward in exasperation.
Catherine couldn’t help but notice her husband’s reaction, nor could she hold back the giggles as she realized that her young son was obviously repeating something on which he had been corrected by his father.
"Yes, dear," she agreed, smiling, "I’ll remember next time." She shifted into a sitting position in the bed as Jacob hopped onto his knees beside her and held out his gifts.
"These are for you, Mommy, cuz it’s Mommy’s Day," Jacob, unable to wait until breakfast had brought along his candle as well as the small bouquet of flowers.
Catherine grew all misty-eyed as she tenderly accepted the flowers from her son’s small fist and smelled their fragrance.
"This, too, Mommy," said Jacob as he held out the candle.
Puzzled, Catherine looked from her son, to Vincent and back to Jacob. "The flowers are beautiful, Honey, and the candle is lovely, but what are they for?"
Vincent answered her question as he joined his wife and son on the bed. "There will be a celebration later today in the Great Hall…we will be celebrating Mother’s Day." He placed a loving hand on his young son’s shoulder and asked, "Jacob, did you forget something?"
Jacob immediately remembered what he had left in his chamber. "Oh, yeah! I’ll be right back, Mommy," he exclaimed as he hopped off the bed and sped from the chamber. He had forgotten the card carefully crafted with his father’s help.
"Here it is!" he announced, skipping back into his parent’s chamber.
Vincent, having joined his wife on the bed and holding her cradled in a loving embrace, was just about to wish her a special "good morning’ when their son entered the chamber. "Later…," he whispered.
"Promise?" she asked with an impish grin.
"Here, Mommy!" The card had been made from a piece of recycled wrapping paper, the original design folded to the inside. This left its other side usable.
On the front of the cared, the words HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY had been printed in red crayon, below that had been pasted a basket of flowers cut from different colors of paper.
"William made the glue for us," Jacob explained. "He made it with flour and water," the boy exclaimed in amazement.
Catherine smiled, tears in her eyes, and tousled her son’s honey-blond curls; then opened the card to read what was inside.
"Daddy wrote the words, but I told him what to say," Jacob announced proudly.
Inside, printed in Vincent’s finest calligraphy were the words:
Roses are red
Violets are blue
Jacob loves Mommy
And Daddy does too
Catherine, no longer able to hold back her emotions, pulled her son into a tearful embrace.
Jacob, thinking something was wrong, started to console his mother. "Don’t cry, Mommy…I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to make you cry." He kissed her cheek, threw his arms around her neck and began to cry, too.
"It’s all right, Jacob. Hush, Sweetie…hush. You haven’t done anything wrong. It’s okay, Honey. Now, don’t cry…don’t cry. It’s all right." Catherine rocked her son and, stroking his back gently, crooned softly until he gradually quieted.
Cuddling her son closely, Catherine raised tearful, loving eyes to meet her husband’s concerned, crystal-blue gaze. "What on earth made you decide to celebrate Mother’s Day?" she inquired, between smiling sniffles. "Not that I’m complaining, mind you," she added hurriedly.
Vincent explained about the boxes Jacob had found and what the hatbox had contained. "I wanted to give you some happier memories to replace the sorrow I was certain those remembrances would bring."
"Oh, Vincent…yes, Love, I’m sure there would be some sorrow because reading those cards would remind me of the loss of my parents; but it would also bring joy." She paused a moment to lay a soft palm against his stubbled face. "It would be a way of sharing their loss, but of also remembering and sharing the love they felt for each other…and for me. It would be a way of celebrating anew each happy moment with them; a way of keeping the love they shared alive in my heart.
"Please, Love…can we look through them together?"
Vincent could feel Catherine’s determination through their bond and, unable to deny her anything, rose from the bed. He returned a short time later carrying the dusty, old hatbox containing a lifetime’s worth of loving memories.
As they opened the box and shared those memories, Vincent decided that perhaps they should start to collect their own remembrances of love and he smiled at the prospect.