He sat in a rocking chair, the old man. Filling his meerschaum pipe slowly with surgical precision required his full attention. When he was finished the pipe would perch at the side of his mouth. It was never, ever lit. The comfort of the ritual, the smell of the baccy, and the feel of it in his mouth was all he wanted. One Eye, his old cat lay curled on his lap purring contentedly. The fire, crackling logs and leaping flames, cast a shadow play on the walls of the old log cabin that was his home by the lake. There was no need for any other light. The backdrop of the night sky peeking in through the lone window whispered of mysteries not seen by the naked eye.
Outside, the velvety blackness was broken only by the twinkling of a million stars like brilliant diamonds scattered by a careless hand. They provided a lustrous background to the full round moon. It’s reflection shimmered on the still waters of the lake. Tall and dark, the stately spruce surrounded the lake and cottage. Their straight fingers reached upward as if ready to pluck the stars from the sky. A lone owl hooted in the branches of the tallest one.
Inside, circled around him on the floor were his grandchildren. Cosy and warm they gazed at him with rapt attention. They waited silently, barely breathing for they knew better than to interrupt. Gramps would start when he was good and ready, not before. This too was part of a nightly ritual when they came to stay. One they all looked forward to eagerly. The littlest of them struggled to keep his eyes open. Determined not to miss a single word of Gramp’s bedtime story , he squiggled and squirmed, earning a dig in the ribs from his older sister every time.
Having filling the old pipe, worn shiny with handling, he placed the end on the left side of his mouth. Chewed on it a while. Took it out and moved it to the other side. As one the children held their breath. This was it. Gramps was ready.
Lifting his twinkling blue eyes, the old man looked at each child in turn, nodded his head, and smiled. It was as if he were taking a roll call. Having completed this important task, he slipped the pipe out of his mouth, licked his lips and took a deep breath.
I dreamed a dream, he said, in his soothing old, gravelly voice. It was not an ordinary dream. This one was special. A long, long time ago, when I was but a young lad, no bigger than you, he said, pointing to the youngest who squirmed with delight at being singled out.
The dream was so real, I can still remember it as if it was yesterday. Every detail of it is etched in my memory with precision. You know dreams like that are special. In this dream I was old, much like I am now. I was living in a log cabin by a lake. There were tall trees surrounding the lake and the cabin. There were owls in the trees that hooted at night. And there was a fire in the hearth that kept me warm at night. I sat in a rocking chair filling a very old, very special pipe. On my lap an old cat lay purring. And around me, sitting on the floor, were the most delightful group of young children. They were happy. They smiled and laughed and listened as I told them stories. Just like we are doing now.
Don’t you think that’s wonderful, he said. That the dream I dreamed all those many years ago has come true. And here we are! All together as one big happy family. I am still that little boy inside, jumping up and down with excitement, knowing that the dream I dreamed brought me here – to be with you.
And with the telling of that tale, he took his pipe and slipped it back into the corner of his mouth. And smiled in turn at each child. They hugged their knees and smiled to know that all those many years ago before time had brought them into this world, they had already been known by Gramps in his dream.
Written in response to Lady Calen’s Sandbox Challenge No’s 79, 80
This old man has popped up before in a Birthday Story I wrote some time ago.
© Raili Tanska
Steps for Peace
You can’t separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he has his freedom — Malcolm X (1925-1965)