My memory of her has grown on my soul
like ivy climbing a home until it begins to tear and
tug at the very brick and mortar itself.
ERIC WELCH'S DIARY
DECEMBER 25, 2006
It's Christmas day. There is Christmas music playing from the radio in the other room. Mitch Miller's "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." It's a little late, I think; Santa's come and gone, as have our children and grandchildren. They've left an impressive mess in their wake, but I don't care. As I get older I've come to treasure any evidence of family. Snow is falling outside and all is peaceful and still. In such moments it is possible to believe that the world could still be good.
Something profound happened to me today. It started innocently enough -- as most life-changing experiences do -- with a request from my grandchildren to read them a Christ-mas story, "The Little Match Girl." I've never been a fan of the tale, but, like most grandparents, I'm not one to deny my grandchildren. As I read to them, something happened to me; by the end of the story I was crying. Four-year-old Ebony Brooke tried to console me. "It's okay, Grandpa," she said. "It's just a story."
It's not just a story, there really was a little match girl and she changed my life in ways I'm still trying to understand. Even the grandchildren sitting before me wouldn't be here if it wasn't for her. As important as she is to me, I've never shared her story. It's finally time that I did.
My memory, like my eyesight, has waned with age and I pray I can get the story right. Still, there are things that become clearer to me as I grow older. This much I know: too many things were kept secret in those days. Things that never should have been hidden. And things that should have.
Who was she? She was my first love. My first kiss. She was a little match girl who could see the future in the flame of a candle. She was a runaway who taught me more about life than anyone has before or since. And when she was gone my innocence left with her.
There is pain in bringing out these memories. I suppose I don't really know why I feel compelled to write at this time, only that I am. Maybe I want those closest to me to finally know what has driven me for all these years. Why, every Christmas, I occasionally slip away into my thoughts to someplace else. Or maybe it's just that I still love her and wonder, after all this time, if I can still find grace.
Copyright © 2008 by Richard Paul Evans