Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Key, Epilogue


     There was a chill in the November air that brought with it the smell of snowflakes.  It was the cold, wet,  smell of winter that was upon us.  The harvest was complete and my family, friends, and neighbors were making preparations for winter.  Firewood was split and stacked.  Lawnmowers were moved to the back of sheds and snow blowers were moved to the forefront.  In our house the snap of a plastic garbage bag brought my family out of their game day stupor.

     “Ok, it’s half time, team.  Time to play a little game of Halftime Clean-UP.   Boys versus girls,” barked my mother.

     This was Mother Eloise’s idea of tricking us into cleaning the house on Saturdays in November and December.  She had a list of jobs that she assigned a point system to.  Making beds and emptying the dishwasher were considered Field Goal jobs, each worth three points.  Touchdown jobs were running the sweeper, dusting and entire room, or cleaning the toilet, six points each.  Extra points were earned by doing a extra good job, determined by the self-proclaimed referee and score keeper, Mother Eloise herself.

     She blew the whistle around her neck and directed us to the clock on the college score board.  Penn State 14, Michigan 7.  In fifteen minutes the game would resume and as soon as the clock started again for the third quarter, we were done, even if we were right in the middle of a job.  

     If we finished a task, we’d call Mother who pulled on her black and white striped t-shirt over top of her regular Saturday t-shirt and sweats.  She would determine if points could be added to the board which was actually a small sized chalkboard she propped up on top of the piano. 

     Hope was on my team and Sam was on Dad’s.  We got up grudgingly at first, but we knew in 15 minutes time the house would be shiny and smell nice and we would be glad for our effort.  The winner of the Half Time Clean Up got to choose what snack we’d make that afternoon, or what movie we would watch later that night.

     I put Hope on the toilets, hoping she could get three done to earn us a nice 18 points.  We could jump out to an early lead over Dad and Sam who opted to do lots of the little jobs as fast as possible.  They were running room to room making beds and fluffing pillows.  I chose to dust my parents’ bedroom, my favorite of all jobs.

     I grabbed the bright fuschia feather duster and began my journey around my parents’ bedroom.  I shoved around alarm clocks and keepsakes and dusted them off, lingering a moment or two at some of the pictures of my siblings and I when we were babies.  We now had framed pictures of Lucky and Rocky sitting amongs the hodgepodge of frames on my mother’s dresser.

     I got to my mother’s bedside table that held her reading lamp, a pile of books, and a carved wooden box.  I stacked the books tight and pressed the bindings together with my hands like I was about to shuffle a deck of cards.  My eyes made their way over to the beautiful carved, wooden box and I swiped it a couple of times with my feather duster.  

     I lifted it gently and creaked open the lid.  Inside it was lined with green velvet and the same things were in it every time: a daisy, a rock, some seeds, and a tiny key.  They didn’t need dusted because the lid of the box kept the particles away, but I loved to look in there just the same.  I stretched out my pointer finger and moved the items around ever so slightly, feeling the soft velvet brush against the pad of my finger.

     I realized about six weeks ago that the seeds were that of the apple, plucked from the core of her favorite fruit.  They hid inside the star that lived inside the little red house with no windows and no doors and had a brown chimney.  I solved that riddle on the night of the wicked storm, the one I rode through in order to save Fangs whom I now call Lucky.

     I bumped the tiny key and it flipped over in the box.  The light seemed to catch metal in just the right way and I saw something I never noticed before.  There were markings on the stem of the old skeleton key.  

     I set the box down, and removed the key, first glancing around the room to see if my mother was in sight.  Pulling it closer to my face and squinting a bit, I read the word Hebrews and I think it was followed by four ones or maybe four lower case l’s. 

     I stared even more intently and realized that this had to be a Bible verse when I saw there were actually two dots that separated the first two ones from the last one.  It was a colon, not a line after all.  Hebrews 11: 1.  What did that mean?

     I replaced the key back into the box with the tilted back lid.  I grabbed Mother’s Bible and sat on the edge of her bed.  Again I looked around for her.

    I glanced out the window and did see the first flakes of snow falling.  There was a five dollar prize for the first person in the house to see snow.  The bounty on the first flakes today were not worth the pounding in my heart though.  There was a knowing in my soul that I was on to something big and I had to keep going with it.

     Now where was Hebrews?  New Testament, right?  I flipped past the four gospels, through the Romans and Paul’s letters, to the Corinthians and Phillippians, all the way to the Peters and Johns.  Whoops.  I might have went too far.  Ahh, here it was, Hebrews, right after Philemon and just before James.
     “It’s snowing!  I see snow!  I seed it first, Momma!  Onion1 Daddy! Hope!  Come here!  It’s here! It’s really, really here!” cried Sam in delight.  “I get the prize!  I was the first one to see it!  Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” 

     I looked out of my parents’ bedroom and into the living room where Sam had his sticky hands pressed up against the glass of the window that my dad had just cleaned.  He was kneeling on his toy box and he was wiggling his butt that only had on his Buzz Lightyear underwear.  Even though snow was on its way, kid still only wanted to wear his underwear.  He could have the five bucks.  I think I had stumbled on a prize that would be far more valuable.

     I opened to the eleventh chapter and I noticed the title heading written in blue read By Faith.  The verse read:

     Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

     Faith.  My mother’s voice echoed through my head.

     From in the classroom:  I have faith that you will do well on your test, my children.

      From the football field:  I have faith that the team who is supposed to win tonight will win. 

     From the kitchen the day of our quest six weeks ago:  I have faith that you will find what you are looking for.  

     I found it! I found what mother believed was the key to all things, Faith.

     “I knew you’d find it, Ellen,” said Mom.  She startled me and I gave her a wide eyed look wondering if I was about to get praise or punishment.   She walked toward me and sat down beside me on the edge of her bed.

     “It’s faith,” I said matter of factly and with complete assurance that I had found the correct answer.  “Faith is the key to all things.”

     Mother Eloise smiled and said, “Yes it is, Ellen.  That is what I believe to be true.  It is one thing to believe, and belief is important.  Knowing Jesus is important too.  But being able to hang on to that belief every day, day in and day out, through good times and bad times…….that is what faith is.”

     “Is that why you were so calm when I was missing during the storm?” I asked.

      Mother nodded.  “Yes, Ellen.  I was worried, but I kept it together.  I was almost paralyzed with fear when you didn’t return home at the first rumbles of thunder.  You are such a good and responsible girl that I knew something must have happened to prevent you from getting home.  I prayed to God that he keep you safe and that you being gone from me had a purpose, bigger and larger than we could ever imagine.  I prayed harder and stronger than I had for anything in my life.  Within moments I felt the calm wash over me.  Even when I lost my keys and couldn’t come look for you myself, I knew I had my key all along.”

     “I bet that made you feel safe, huh?” I asked.

      “Yes it did.  And now that you have the key, too, you have the power to use it any time you need it.  Pray and have faith that your prayer will be answered in God’s time.”

     “Is that why you keep this key in here?” I asked.
     “Mmmm hmmmm,” Mom murmured.  “It’s a reminder to me that we are all human.  We all make mistakes.  We all have doubts.   Having faith is what keeps us going.”

     “Do you ever lose your faith, Mom?" I asked.
     Mom nodded in the affirmative.  “It is at night when I most often doubt and become afraid.  I sometimes look in that box right before I fall asleep to remind myself to keep the faith.  Sometimes the world is just too much to bear, hearing about all of the bad things that happen in a day.  It seems like we live in a world where the greedy prosper and lazy are rewarded.  The bad escape punishment and the innocent suffer.  It can make one lose faith in everything  if you are tired and weary enough to give up.

    "But I am not a quitter Ellen, and neither are you.  When times are tough and you are tired enough to quit, remember to have faith.  It is this faith that will carry you through, just like it did Job.  And if you ever did read that book the rest of the way through, you know that Job was rewarded in the end for his great faith.  If you have nothing else, hang on to your faith and never let it go.”

     I smiled.  “So this is the end of my quest?  I am kind of happy and kind of disappointed,” I said.  “I’m glad I found the answer, but I kind of liked having something to look for.”

    “The end?" Mom said raising her voice to make the phrase into a question.   "No way.  Those are two words I never say.  This, My Child, is only the beginning.  Now that you know this, you will look for things that will show you that you are headed in the right direction, signs along the way.  It is fun.  When you find them, let me know.”

     I like the thought of being  on the lookout for signs and was just going to tell her so when Sam came skidding into the bedroom.  He was wearing his winter boots, a scarf, my father’s snow blowing mask and one mitten.  He did not have pants on.

    “Mom!  I want to go outside and play in the snow.  Can I?  Can I please?  Oh pretty please?”

     Mom and I looked each other and laughed out loud.  Mom shook her head from side to side and said, “Sure, Sam.  You can go out and play.  Knock yourself out.”

     “Yeah!  Yipee!  Wow!  Snow! I can’t believe it!  Come on Onion, get your stuff on!”  Sam’s voice trailed off as he ran through the house and out into the garage.

    After I collected myself from laughing I asked Mom, “Are you really going to let him go outside like that?”

     “He won’t be out there long.  I have faith that the cold air will force some pants on that boy quicker than I can.  I also have faith that your brother will eventually turn out ok.”

     “I guess you have a greater faith than I do, Mom,” I said.

     We rose from the bed together and walked through the living room arm and arm.  The referee’s whistle blew to signal the start of the second half of the game.  Out the window, Sam was already in the yard on the hill, sitting on his purple sled in his underwear.

     “This snow is not WORKING!  I quit this snow!” Sam yelled.

     “You can’t quit, Sam.  This is only the beginning,” I whispered with my nose pressed against the cold window.  My breath fogged up the glass at my words.

“Nicely put, Cinderellen.  Onward.  Your chariot awaits,” said Mom, giving me a big, warm hug.

Until Next Time,
If you read the story, you deserve a prize!
Please send me a note and I will mail you a token of my appreciation!
Eloise at the Lamp Post
5768 Firman Road
Erie, PA  16510

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