Day 24: Purple Is For by Erik Bergstrom

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On the 24th Day of Christmas Erik Bergstrom gave to me…

They were walking down their quiet city street, their arms interlaced, two days before Christmas. It had yet to snow.

They were both seventy-two years old this year; Hazel a retired teacher, Ernie a part-time woodworker. They’d come through another year and were happy to walk and reflect, looking at the Christmas lights twinkling from the eaves and bushes outside the houses.

“It’s not really the same without snow,” said Hazel.

“There’s still time for a Christmas miracle,” Ernie said. He elbowed her softly.

Hazel smiled. They both had watched the forecast that morning, saw there was no snow coming.

“What was that old children’s poem about the colored lights?” Ernie asked.

Hazel moved forward silently, keeping in step with her husband.

“Red is for cherry cheeks in the cold,” he continued. “We’ve both got that.”

Hazel nodded. “Blue is for the paths of moonlit snow. That we don’t have.”

“Not yet,” said Ernie.

“Green is for the frosting on a sugar cookie,” Hazel said. “That you’ve had plenty of.”

“Guilty as charged.”

“Orange is for the ribbon on the present beneath the tree.”

Hazel and Ernie had a good share of gifts beneath their tree earlier in the month. Now it was bare again. Their only child, Steven, had a family in Hawai’i they sent their gifts to each year. He sent back a card that showed how much their children had grown.

“I’ve forgotten what purple is for,” said Hazel, looking out at a purple-lit bush.

“I don’t think there was a line for purple. Must not have had purple lights back then,” said Ernie.

“Then I suppose it’s whatever we want it to be,” Hazel said.

They walked on for a bit, thinking about what they wanted.

There was an older sister Steven never met; her name had been Noelle, and Hazel had miscarried her two days before Christmas. Hazel had been much more careful with Steven as a result. She’d done everything the opposite. No baby showers, no special diet. No decorating the room beforehand. Steven was nearly a month early, but he was healthy. They called him “Miracle Baby” for a month before settling on his name.

“Purple is for…” Ernie began. Hazel looked up at him. “Purple is for a meeting under the mistletoe.”

She shook his arm a little and giggled. Then she said, “Purple is for another walk this same time next year.”

They turned the corner that headed for home and didn’t speak again until they got there. They were still thinking about the things they wanted but couldn’t say out loud yet.

They shut the front door and started unlacing their boots. Outside the house, the first fat flakes began to fall.

Erik Bergstrom

Erik Bergstrom lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota and works as an automotive copywriter. Recent publications include stories in Coffin Bell and Corner Bar Magazine, and he was a finalist in the STORGY: Shallow Creek competition. He enjoys feeding wild animals on cold winter days.

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