She sat in front of the old black stove, alone, except for the gray cat who slept curled up on the small braided rug. The room was quiet, too, except for the muffled crackling sounds of burning wood.
Eighty-five winters had come to her, and gone again, but they were with her still when memories came like a gust of wind to make the coals glow, then they would fade away like distant sounds at night.
The knitting needles in her hands moved in rhythmic patterns intertwining yarns of black and gold like her years had knit themselves together in that New Hampshire house where generations descended slowly, like a floating flake of snow that hits a child’s nose and melts away unnoticed in the midst of play.
The December sun was setting now, casting shadows in the room and she remembered scores of Christmases, silhouetted on her mind in permanent memories that wove themselves together like the golden yarn in the child’s hat that she was knitting. She remembered special trees, cut from the grove beyond the hill and carried in the sleigh and then into the house — the tapers on those trees lit up the winter-darkened room and shone like stars in children’s eyes, while voices sang of Silent Nights.
She remembered the hush of calm and the quiet in the room when the song was done, and she felt again the heavenly peace that helped the tears to flow like the tears that she had watched, and wondered at, when her mother sat in this same chair so many years ago.
She heard the sounds again, from those special Christmas mornings past – the children’s voices, one her own, squealing with delight when they saw the stockings stuffed and hanging, and gaily colored presents waiting to be opened.
She held the scene and caught the sounds again in a precious moment that was cherished on that lonely winter day. The heavenly peace they sang about was hers to stay though the family was scattered from coast to coast and no one but she remained from the people in her dreams. They lived in her, and in the nooks and crannies of that house, if houses can remember.
And this December day had brought them back again – the tree upon the sleigh seemed just as real today as she shook it off to clean the snow and brought it into the house. She smelled the pine and savored it, and burned the candles — in her mind. The knitting needles now were still and the chair had stopped its rocking. She saw the stockings hanging there by that same old fireplace, — she saw the presents wrapped with ribbons, and felt the same delight, and more.
She drank the wine of memory and smiled softly to herself. The cat got up and stretched and yawned, the wood was crackling in the stove. The needles in her hands took up their work again as she rocked alone on Christmas Eve – a golden Christmas in her home.