Snow falling into soft blankets engulfing the Earth . . . warm cookies baking leisurely in the oven . . . a roaring fire crackles in the fireplace as the flames illuminate the room. A good book is sitting on the table waiting for its owner. Beside the book, two cups of cocoa sit waiting to be savored. Sitting in a comfortable chair and watching the roar of the flames, she reminisces of a past and dreams of a future still yet to come. Her favorite season is winter. She finds it an exhilarating time of year. It is a symbolic time to life as it reflects the end and the beginning with the onslaught of spring.
Nestled by a crackling fire and covered with a warm, soft blanket, she begins a journey in her mind. She can feel the chilly weather that in time will turn to bitter cold. The warm cocoa soothes her soul. Remembering her youth, she still longs to go outside and play in it. She watches through the window as icicles form on the trees and roof. Their clear crystal formation reminds her of the magic that is present during this time of year. She can see him in the distance picking up wood for the fire. His hair has greyed, but he is still as handsome to her as he was the day they met.
She hears in the distance the sounds of children running and playing snowball fights, and sledding down hills. Ice skating on the frozen lake with the boy you love holding your hands. Feeling alive as the cold air rushes through you while you glide with ease on the ice at your feet. Dancing together as if you are one.
Staring at the staircase in the hall, she can still hear the sounds of her children running down the stairs on Christmas morning with their eyes all aglow in amazement and wonder at the presents left under the tree by Santa.
Time has passed.
And now grandchildren run on those stairs, and she still skates on the lake with the boy she loved, but a little more gingerly than before. And yes, there is still a spring to look forward too. There is still life moving forward. She feels blessed to have both—a rich past full of love and memories, and a wonderful future full of love and hope. The meaning of the season reminds her to be thankful for all she has and all the gifts still to be received.
Sitting back within her chair, she opens the book that she loves to read. It is bound in brown leather that is etched with scrolls of flowers. It was a gift from her husband—the love of her life. It is simply titled, My Memories, and it is written in her own handwriting.
Love comes in many languages. Sometimes it's not that you don't love someone, but it's just that you each express love differently and the communication is not clear. Some people express love with carriage rides, candlelight dinners, or flowers. Some people express it with a funny card or a hand written note. Other people express love by cooking a meal for you, or packing your lunch everyday. And yet some may iron your shirt or make sure your car is safe to drive.
Some people express it with a hug and a kiss and others with a piece of jewelry or clothes. There are so many ways to express love, and they are each viable. Some women like to compare their husbands to other people's husbands, and some men like to compare their wives to other people's wives. Maybe comparing is not the best thing to do. The person you fall in love with is the person for you . . . not for someone else . . . or else . . . they wouldn't be with you. You marry who someone is and not who that person may become or who you want to change that person into.
Love is so personal. It may be universal, but it has numerous expressions. However you express love is fine for who you are. Just always express love because it is the essence of every gift you give. And give the gift without conditions because then it is pure.
Whether one is Italian, Irish, Hungarian, German, or any one of the other multitudes of nationalities, everyone has traditions. One distinct tradition that most Italians remember is the aroma of sautéed onions and garlic in olive oil floating in a sea of ripe tomatoes and puree that is seasoned with basil, oregano, salt, pepper and a bit of sugar. Nestled deep within the pot sat juicy meatballs, spicy sausage, and braciole (thin steaks wrapped in a delicious stuffing of breadcrumbs, cheese, salami, raisins, chopped egg and seasonings, Sunday dinner "gravy" slow cooking for hours on the stove. And to celebrate the feast, there were always visitors to join for dinner. Whether Aunt Lina and Uncle Dino, or Aunt Rosie and Uncle Frankie—someone came to eat. The large dining room table was set with the good china, and loud laughter filled the air as everyone spoke over each other trying to get a word in. If you didn't have a loud voice, your comments would be lost in the group. It was family, and it was fun.
And at times, many times families headed to other towns to visit the multitude of relatives that lived there. Italians have big families and everybody knows somebody. No matter which home you visited as soon as you entered the house the aroma of gravy cooking on the stove permeated your nostrils faster than a speeding bullet. And of course, everyone's gravy was the best, and you always said that to the chef. It was funny though how each cook used the same ingredients but each sauce always tasted different.
Today that fragrance permeates my home on Sunday mornings, too. It has for 25 years. Each time I make my sauce, I remember those childhood days of sneaking into the kitchen, opening the pot and stealing a meatball when Mom wasn't looking, or breaking off the end of the crusty Italian bread and dipping it into the pot, and then quickly eating it before you were caught. Although the dripping sauce on your chin was always a dead giveaway. It was as if the sauce was sacred, and you couldn't touch it until dinner. That sauce was more protected by the Italian woman who cooked it than Fort Knox is. Maybe it was pride that caused the protection, or maybe a strong desire to have traditions. Whatever it was, it was a wonderful tradition that kept families together even if only for that Sunday meal.
In a quaint middle class upscale town north of Tampa, a vintage wedding dress is reunited with its original owner. On a sunny afternoon an elderly lady sat in the beauty salon having her hair done. As she looked out the window of the salon, she gazed into the windows of the clothing boutique across from the salon. Many items caught her attention, but there was one that took her breath away. It was a vintage wedding gown that was displayed up front in perfect view. When the elderly lady left the salon, she walked to the boutique. Quietly, she entered the majestic shop and gazed in awe at all the beautiful items. The boutique was full of vintage and new clothing. In it was a plethora of woman’s clothing. Racks of dresses and tops along with coats, jewelry, furs, handbags and gowns—including wedding gowns adorned every inch of the place. This store was a unique and different store from any other store. Wall to wall . . . every inch of it was adorned with beautiful clothing and accessories—each piece unique unto itself.
The owner of the shop was a vibrant woman who was always full of life and energy. She loved pretty things and loved to share them with her customers. She was happy and helpful, and every customer who entered her shop was treated like a princess—given the utmost of attention. The elderly woman approached the owner and inquired about the vintage wedding dress in the window. Very quietly almost in a whisper, the elderly lady said, “I think that was my wedding gown.”
The owner was slightly surprised and taken back as she watched the elderly lady walk over to the dress and lift it up. “Yes,” the elderly lady said with a smile on her face, “these are the original alterations that were made for me over sixty years ago!”
Goosebumps covered the owner’s arms as she looked at the alterations as well.
“I was married in the 1950’s in Oregon. My husband and I moved to Florida. I donated the dress when I knew I would never be able to have children. How did you get this dress?” she asked the shopkeeper.
“I bought this dress from a vintage shop in Tampa,” the shopkeeper said still amazed at what was transpiring.
“I can’t believe my wedding gown is here in your store. It was so long ago that I wore it. My husband has since past. So many years have gone and yet, it looks brand new. It’s still a beautiful dress.”
“I bought the dress because it was different,” said the shopkeeper. When I saw it, it called out to me, and I had to buy it and bring it to my shop.”
Some time passed and eventually the gown sold. The elderly lady entered the shop again one day and asked the shopkeeper, “What happened to the dress?”
“The shopkeeper smiled and said, “The dress was bought by a mother for her daughter to wear for her sweet sixteen party. The daughter loved the dress immediately, and it fit her perfectly. When I told them about the dress and your story the two of them were deeply touched. The young girl said that she was going to put it away for her wedding day.
The elderly lady smiled and said, “ My marriage was wonderful, and I loved my husband dearly. He was the best husband a wife could have asked for.”
The shopkeeper touched her hand and said, “Well, one day another bride will be blessed in her marriage like you were as she wears your dress and says, “I do.”
“I always wanted a daughter,” the elderly lady said, “I was never able to have children. It makes me so happy to know that my dress is now in the hands of a beautiful girl who loves it as much as I did.”
People sometimes wonder about coincidences. Are they just random acts or does some mystical force that we cannot see guide things in a magical way. Some say, “that all we need is there as we need it whether it is a helping hand or possibly an answer to a prayer.” All we have to do is keep our eyes open for the signs.
Ria Prestia is an author who lives in Florida with her husband, her children and her faithful lab. One of her passions is to reflect on life through the written word.