Margaret clapped her hands with delight. Every day for a week she had gone to the dining room window in hopes of seeing the first snowflakes of the Christmas season. With only two days left before the big day she had begun to worry that this year would be one of the dry seasons where snow didn’t appear until late January. As far as Margaret was concerned a winter without snow on the ground from October to May had no business calling itself winter at all.
“It’s here Jim, and from the look of it it’s going to be a real white Christmas, “she said, eying the large fluffy flakes that were falling faster as she watched. Already the sidewalk in front of her house was beginning to disappear and the upper limbs of the large pine tree in the front yard across the street were being flocked in white as if a fairy godmother had waved her wand in answer to a wish.
Humming a jaunty rendition of I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Clause she maneuvered her walker past the baby grand piano and around the ragged edge of the hideous Oriental carpet, a wedding gift from her mother-in-law over 60 years ago, to the side table that held her favorite photograph of him. Next to it was one of her taken around the same time.
Both in their early twenties, they glowed with happiness. He had just returned from the war and she was expecting their first child. Not that you could tell by looking at her. Had her waist ever been that small? She was wearing a suit. Navy blue, but you couldn’t tell that in the black and white picture, the hemline reaching just below her knees, and a pair of blue and white high heels that; had they been standing together, would have brought the top of her head to the middle of his chest. He was decked out in red-striped pajamas.
Even without the photograph of him to remind her she would never have forgotten that day.
“Jim, hurry up. It’s five minutes past time to go. You don’t want to late for your interview.”
“I’ll be right down,” he called. And don’t worry. I have plenty of time.”The scent of Old Spice aftershave wafted down the steps of ahead of him.
Margaret held the photo up to her face and inhaled in memory of that moment. Jim had always teased her about her habit of sniffing his neck.
“It soothes me,” she would answer, feeling a sense of peace wash over her knowing he was there with her, safe from harm and that they would spend the rest of their lives together. These days she missed that scent almost as much as she missed his arms around her or the way his hand would rest on her backside when while he slept.
“You were quite I sight that day, weren’t you my love,” she reminded his image as her thoughts drifted back in time.
“What you are doing?” the younger version of Margaret had exclaimed in horror when he sauntered down the stairs and out the front door, freshly shaven and wearing his pajamas and slippers. Where are you going?” she shouted.
“I’m going to my job interview at the newspaper office, what do you think I’m doing?” he answered.
“Stop! You can’t go out looking like that. Mr. Kennedy will think you’ve lost your mind. Where are your clothes?”
“They don’t fit anymore. Everything’s too big. Slogging around in the mud being chased by German soldiers has a way of slimming a man, I guess.”
“Then wear your uniform.”
“No! I’m not wearing another uniform as long as I live. The war is over. I did what I had to do and I’ll live with it, but I will not don that God awful reminder of what war does to a man ever again. If I
can’t convince Mr. Kennedy I can do the job, even in my pjs, I don’t deserve it anyway.”
“But it’s snowing. You’ll catch your death of cold.”
He either didn’t hear her or pretended he didn’t because despite her cries to come back he kept going. Margaret paced and fretted as the snow kept falling and daylight dimmed into evening. Where is he? She wondered out loud. I hope he’s not in jail. There’s got to be a law against a grown man walking about in his pajamas in the winter.
She was reaching for her coat and going over what she hoped would be a heartfelt plea for his release when she heard the sound of a car pulling up out front.
“Margaret, I’m home,” Jim called so loud she could hear him through the thick oak door. “And look what I‘ve got!” he added with pride.
Upon hearing his voice and realizing he was okay, her worry turned to anger and instead of welcoming him warmly as a good wife should she shouted back, “I hope it’s a job. Unless you plan to live in striped pajamas the rest of your life.”
“Oh, don’t be mad, Maggie my girl. I got a job and a new bicycle too. And, Mr. Cramer at the men’s shop let me buy a few things on credit to get me through until I get my first pay. Let’s celebrate.”
“Why did you buy a bicycle? And whose car was that?”
“I didn’t buy it. It belongs to the paper. I’m going to need it for my new job. And the car belongs to Mr. Kennedy, he drove me home.”
“Since when does a writer need a bicycle to do his job?”
“Well, you see, Maggie my love, I didn’t get the job but everything’s going to be okay, I promise.”
“But you said you did get the job.”
“No, I said I got a job at the paper and I did, but not as a writer. Mr. Kennedy said he has all the writers he needs right now. In fact, with so many men coming home, it’s almost impossible to find work around here. But, I told him I’d take anything that would let me take care of my beautiful Maggie and maybe, in time, allow me to put some clothes on my back. It took a while to convince him I meant it but when he offered me a job I took it.”
“And what will you be doing if you’re not going to be a writer?”
“Oh, I’m going to write for the paper soon enough. It’s only a matter of time until I prove to Mr. Kennedy that I can write better than most the chumps trying to put together a column for him.”
“So what will you be doing?” Margaret asked.
“Well, it seems Bobby Miller had a bad spill on his bike last week. Broke his leg. He won’t be able to deliver the papers on his route for at least six months.”
“A paperboy?” Margaret asked, shock having reduced her voice to a whisper.” What’s to become of us?”
“Don’t worry Darling, the best is yet to come.”
“I don’t know,” she answered not quite convinced despite the determination she recognized in the set of his jaw.
“Come here, girl and I’ll convince you,” he said with gleam in his that she hadn’t seen since he’d boarded the train for boot camp. And she went to him, delighting in the scent of Old Spice aftershave and the comfort of his welcoming arms. Later, as he lay sleeping beside her, she thanked God again for his safe return and offered a prayer for Mr. Kennedy for giving him a job. She just hoped no one else had seen him parading around in his pajamas that day.
Early the next day, before leaving for work, he brought her breakfast in bed, including a folded copy of the morning edition.
” Oh my”, she added after unfolding it to scan the front page. Right there, above the fold, was a picture of Jim in his pajamas, grinning from ear to ear under the headline, “Hometown Hero Returns to Work.”
Laughing with joy, and hope, she jumped out of bed and ran to the living room where she maneuvered past the baby grand piano and around the ragged edge of the hideous Oriental carpet and propped the paper next to his favorite photo of her. Later she would neatly clip his picture out of the paper and go to the five and ten and buy a frame. It would make a wonderful Christmas present for him.
“Oh, I hope it snows for Christmas” she said. “That would make everything perfect.”