2nd Place – May 2019

The Doorway

By Gary Christenson

Tears poured from my eyes when my mother told me Grannie died. “It’s not fair. She was a good person, and she died while other people lived.”
My mother’s eyes were red and moist. Tears streaked her makeup. “Jane, you’re nine years old. Sometimes things don’t seem fair, but that’s because we lack understanding.”
I sobbed and didn’t believe her. I wanted Grannie back.
I ran outside and up a large hill to my happy place. The summer wind blew through my blond hair and dried the tears that had fallen onto my pink dress. At the top of the hill I could see forever. Miles away a river meandered through green forests, an eagle soared high above, and mountain meadows reflected sunlight.
A peaceful breeze calmed my hurt feelings. I sat on a rock and loved Grannie, wherever she was. A moment later a faint buzzing sound startled me. An oval of violet light towered over me a few feet away. Something drew me toward it.
I hummed as I walked through the oval. A world of joyous beauty welcomed me. The sounds of a harp floated on the sweet-smelling air. A sense of peace filled me as I breathed rose scented air.
Grannie, looking radiant in a long white gown, emerged from a stunning white castle, waved and smiled. I ran to her knowing everything in this world was good. She wrapped her arms around me, and I melted into her loving embrace. We hugged for a long time.
“Jane, I love you. Thanks for visiting. I’m happy here in my new home. You’ll understand when you’re older. You can stay only a short while. Your mother is worried.”
“No, I want to live here forever.”
Grannie hugged me. Later she said, “I’ll tell you a story.
She looked into my eyes, spoke softly and soon my eyelids drooped.
I woke on the hilltop knowing Grannie loved me, and that she had gone home to her white castle.
Trudging down the hill I returned to my parents and our house. Mom hugged me and said, “Grannie’s in a better place. She still loves you.
I held my mom and said, “I know, but it seems unfair that she had to leave us.”
“Everything will be fine. You’ll see. Now, it’s time to eat. Come to the table.”
***
Thirty years later I had married and birthed three wonderful girls.
Over the years I hiked up Grannie’s Hill hundreds of times seeking my happy place and hoping to find the oval of light that led to Grannie and her beautiful world.
I sometimes found peace and happiness, but the violet oval eluded me.
Today I needed my happy place. I feared my husband had begun an affair with a younger woman. I worried my marriage was dissolving.
I drove to Grannie’s Hill and trudged up the rocky path. The mountain meadows were beautiful, but my anxiety prevented me from enjoying the views. I sat on a large white boulder and sobbed.
John is a good man. He’s distracted by work. I hope he still loves me and the girls. But he’s gone so much, and we haven’t been intimate for weeks. What should I do? What if he leaves me?
Tears rolled down my cheeks as I cried like a little girl, asking God to solve my problems. A moment later a buzzing sound interrupted my tears. I turned and saw a violet oval of shimmering light.
Is it dangerous? What if I can’t get home? My daughters need me. Do I dare walk into it?
But a calmness enveloped me, and I stepped through the oval. I emerged into a warm autumn day. Red and orange leaves decorated huge trees and fallen leaves covered the ground.
I smelled a musty odor that reminded me of hiking in the forest. In the distance children played, running and jumping in the woods. They screamed with joy as they chased each other among the trees.
I thought about sitting in a park watching my girls play, and a chair appeared in front of me. I sat, contemplated amazing autumn colors, children having fun, and appreciated this wondrous world.
My eyes watered as I realized how much childhood innocence I had lost. A beautiful woman, who looked familiar, floated toward me on a warm breeze and touched my forehead. Her voice was soft and calm. “Not to worry.”
Sobs of relief overwhelmed me. I dried my eyes, searched in vain for Grannie and her white castle, and marched back toward the oval feeling content.
The sun emerged from behind storm clouds on Grannie’s Hill, and my world grew brighter and happier. I knew my husband loved me and our girls, and that he was not engaged in a sordid affair with another woman. I skipped halfway down Grannie’s hill to my car.
***
Years later I answered the phone. “Hello,” I said with a scratchy voice.
“Mom, how are you doing?” Amanda, my oldest, was sixty years old and I had recently turned eighty.
“Well, Amanda, I’ve been better. This growing old business is no fun, especially without my beloved husband. But life blessed me with three fabulous girls, and seventeen grandchildren and great grandchildren. I’m doing fine.” My eyes moistened as I reminisced over eighty years.
“We love you Mom. You gave our lives meaning with your selfless love, and we’re here for you. If you need anything, just ask.”
“You know I will. Thanks for calling. I love you.”
***
Months before I turned ninety, I woke knowing this day was special. I fixed breakfast, shuffled about the kitchen pushing my walker, and prepared to leave the house. I called Amanda and asked, “Can you give me a ride later today? I need to go somewhere.”
“Sure, Mom. I’ll be there around two this afternoon. See you then.”
I knew I could count on my daughters. I retrieved papers from my bottom desk drawer and centered them on the dining room table. After straightening several hanging pictures, I collapsed into my recliner for a nap.
At two I waited by the door and hugged my daughter when she arrived. She walked with a limp and suffered from arthritis in her shoulder so getting my walker into the car was a two-person job. “I need to go to Grannie’s Hill.”
Amanda gave me sharp glance but said nothing. A few miles later she said, “Mom, you haven’t been this happy in months. What’s new?”
I smiled and said, “It’s just a special day for me. And thank you for helping. It means a lot.”
Amanda and I stayed quiet for a long time. She parked her car at the bottom of the hill and asked, “Now what?”
“I’m gonna walk up that hill and talk to God. Help me retrieve my walker.”
“Mom, this is a bad idea. You’re too old to be hiking up hills. I’m too old and I’m twenty years younger. Let’s sit and enjoy the view.” Amanda wrinkled her brow and frowned.
“No, I’ve decided. I need to climb that hill. Now help me get started. You stay here with the car.”
“Mom, this is no time for stubbornness.” Amanda had an edge in her voice. “I’m worried about you.”
“Amanda, I’m going up that hill, and that’s all there is to it.” I pushed the walker a foot in front of me and started the long climb up Grannie’s Hill.
Amanda yelled at my back, “Mom, be careful. I love you.”
***
The first hundred steps were difficult. I wheezed and coughed. My knees hurt. I struggled onward, even though I was exhausted.
Something strange happened a while later. A warm breeze carried me along, lengthened my stride, and made every step easier. For the first time in decades I felt young and pain-free.
I floated up that hill like I was nine years old. Another warm breeze lifted me to the top where the violet oval awaited. I wanted to find Grannie.
I abandoned my walker and stepped from Grannie’s Hill through the oval. The white castle gleamed nearby. A young woman emerged from the castle’s front door. She glided toward me and said, “Jane, we’ve been waiting for you.”
I smiled and told her, “You look like I did decades ago.” She was pretty, with long hair and perfect skin, like me in my twenties. Her smile was warm and friendly. I reached to her for a comforting hug.
She said, “I’m your authentic self, and you’ve come home.”
Nothing is better than coming home after a long journey.

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