The Blessing

By Kushy

Posted By: Kushy <>
Friday, 6 December 2002, at 5:41 p.m.

Duncan undid his seat-belt buckle and turned to face Mary. She was smiling sweetly up at him. She had been nearly beside herself ever since her Mom told her that Uncle Duncan would be taking her to see Santa.

“Are you ready to go see Santa?” Duncan said to her, grinning back.
“Yes! Let’s go right now” Mary responded trying to open her side of the car door.
“OK,” Duncan responded, but wait for me to open the door for you.

Mary waited as patiently as a five year old could. She held Duncan’s hand as they made their way across the mall’s parking lot when a light snow began to fall.

“Uncle Duncan!” Mary squealed. “Look at the snow coming down!”
Duncan looked down at his little charge and smiled. They stopped walking and Duncan scrunched down next to Mary. The snow was beginning to fall a little heavier and several snowflakes rested gently on her dark eyelashes. She was such a beautiful little girl.

He bundled her hood around her long dark curls and said, “Pretty isn’t it?” They both looked up into the dark sky and then smiled at each other.

As they neared the entrance to the mall, Duncan noticed that there was a group of people congregating across the street near a large copse of trees. There was a banner strung between two large pines that said “Ice Skating “.

It was then that two little ear-muffed boys of about seven or eight roared past Duncan and Mary heading for the ice skating rink. They had their ice skates strung across their shoulders and an exasperated mom chasing and calling for them to wait for her.

Mary squeezed Duncan’s hand and halted their trek across the lot.
“Uncle Duncan? Let’s go skating!” Mary began lightly jumping up and down.
“I don’t know, Mary” Duncan responded. Fear was starting to set in. It had been at least 30 years since he’d been ice-skating.
“Oh please”, Mary implored with her deep brown eyes looking up into his.
“Well, lets go see” Duncan said reluctantly. Mary’s jumping up and down intensified for a moment as she led him toward the rink still hand in hand.
When they arrived at the little shack, Duncan paid for rental on a pair of skates for himself and for Mary and they headed to the bench to put them on.
“Mary, have you ever been ice skating before?” Duncan asked.
“Of course, Uncle Duncan. Mommy took me when we went to visit Grammy and Granddad. It was fun! I fell down a lot, but Mommy helped me and I learned real fast,” Mary said excitedly.
Duncan and Mary eased out onto the ice. Thankfully, it wasn’t very crowded. Mary let go of Duncan’s hand and made her way around the small rink slowly but with considerable grace for such a young child. She looked adorable in the little red coat with big black buttons.
Duncan was beginning to regain his confidence on the ice when he noticed that Mary was too. She was skating with a little more speed. Duncan slowed down and kept careful watch. The little hood slipped off her head to her shoulders and a mass of dark curls floated behind her. The scarlet ribbon that had held her hair off her face, fell loose pass the curls and twirled onto the ice behind her.

“Uncle Duncan!” Mary called out. “Look at me! Look at me!” Duncan smiled at her and waved her back towards him. He skated over to where the ribbon had fallen and picked it up. Duncan remembered Anne giving birth to Mary in that tunnel and how worried and concerned he was about her and the baby. He rubbed the velvety ribbon between his fingers and absently put it in the breast pocket of his coat. Mary was skating back, but stopping to skate in little circles on the ice as she did so.

“Come on Mary, “ Duncan said as he bent down to replace the hood on the curly haired child. “We’ve still got to go and see Santa, remember?”

Duncan and Mary made haste to the little shack to return the skates and put their shoes back on. Once inside the mall, the air was warm and thick with holiday spirit; it smelled of cinnamon and chocolate. Mary immediately saw Santa and her eyes lit up. “There he is! Come on Uncle Duncan!”

Thankfully, the line to visit with Santa was fairly short. Mary unbuttoned her coat and handed it to Duncan. When it was her turn, she walked up to Santa and he lifted her onto his lap.

A lady holding a little boy was in line behind Duncan. Duncan noticed that the little boy was almost asleep on his mother’s shoulder.
“Your daughter looks just like you! She is a beautiful child,” the woman said admiring Mary. “I lost my daughter when she was about your little girl’s age. But then, when Michael was born, I knew I had been blessed again. Children are blessings aren’t they? “

“Thank you,” Duncan said feeling a bittersweet pang. “Yes, children are indeed blessings” Duncan said trying to ignore the stinging in his heart.

Mary soon came bouncing down the little ramp towards Duncan, candy cane in hand. She immediately took his hand as they left the Santa line and motioned for him to pick her up. Duncan complied.
“Yes?” he said.
“I told Santa EVERYTHING I want for Christmas!” she announced.
“Good!” Duncan replied as he slowly walked to the exit still carrying her. “You’ve been a good girl all year, right?”
Mary smiled a great big smile and nodded her head in the affirmative.
“When Mommy gets back from her big meeting in Chicago, can we all go ice skating again Uncle Duncan?” Mary asked.
“Of course we can, Mary. I would like that very much.” Mary wrapped her arms around Duncan’s neck and gave him a little kiss on his cheek.

Anne arrived home two days later and thanked Duncan profusely for being able to step in and take care of Mary while she attended the medical conference in Chicago. Her regular sitter canceled at the last minute because of a family emergency. Anne knew it would probably be a bit of a challenge for Duncan having a 5-year-old stay with him at the loft, even if it was just for a few days.

“It was great having her here, Anne. Really, I didn’t mind at all.” Duncan filled her in about the Santa visit and about their ice skating adventure.

“She’s really quite good, you know” Duncan said as he poured them each a glass of wine.
“Yeah, she is,” Anne responded. “She picked it up really quickly and seems to like it.
“Mary wants us all to go skating sometime soon. You think we can do that?”
“Sure. It would be fun. Mary and I both would enjoy that.” Anne said smiling.

After Anne left, Duncan reached for the book he was reading and the bottle of wine that he and Anne had started. He looked up for a moment at something that caught his eye. It was on the floor beneath his coat that was hanging on the rack. Mary’s hair ribbon. It had fallen out of his coat pocket. He set the book aside and picked it up.

Gently touching it, Duncan realized that those days spent with Mary would likely be among the few times in his life that he would ever feel like a parent; like a daddy. He couldn’t wait to go skating again, either.

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