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The Loving Hour: Thoughts on a Candle

Every year I go all out for my daughter’s birthday. This year she is twelve. I wake up bright and early, slip on some of my “too big” camo shorts, a Braves red hat, and one of those puke brown shirts, popular among the neighborhood’s military crowd. My wife and I are very close. The coffee’s brewing promptly at five a.m. every sunrise, while her robe patiently waits for her in the bathroom. (I often mist it with a rose parfum.) She is the love of my life. And I am hers. Our daughter, Maggie, is no exception. We always make sure her room is freshened and beautiful, just the way she is. We say, “I love you” several times a day to her. But today is an extra special occasion. Coffee mug in hand, I kiss my wife goodbye, and head to town to find something wonderful for Maggie. Turning twelve is a special age.


The market place is bustling with shoppers this morning. The sweet smell of watermelon and gardenias overwhelm the air, brightening everyone’s face. I stop in at the grocers to pick up a cake. “To Maggie—We love you.” I have inscribed on the three tier chocolate cake. They tell me it’s going to take a half an hour, but I’m not aggravated. I have much shopping to do. I step outside the tiny shop, falling away from the jingles of the door behind me. “See you soon, Mr. Murphy!” I hear called behind me, and I smile. I decide to make my way towards the sweet side of town, where pralines run over the windows, and taffy is engraved on the walls. A new shop has opened. “A Little Princess” is painted over the entranceway in soft, pink letters. This is perfect. I peer through the glass, and grasp for the door. It is a light door handle, and all is quiet inside. One girl sits under a blanket of China dolls, pressing their clothes, smoothing their hair. My eyes drape to the dolls and I immediately fall in love. A porcelain, ivory girl lays quietly on the chair, dressed in lavender set. She has curly brown hair and a pair of matching eyes. She is a mini-Maggie. I grab her and make my way to the counter. The girl at the register recognizes me. “Maggie’s birthday?” she asks, and I grin. I take one last look in the bag and breathe a sigh of relief. It is perfect. It’s nearly noon now, and the cake is finished. I pick it up, checking the decorations for anything wrong. Once again, it is perfect. I jump in my truck, a 1971 Chevy and make my way back home. The road is rough leaving town, but I pay no attention. It is November 1st. When I reach the old cottage my wife Renee is outside on the porch, rocking our puppy “Doodles” to sleep. She smiles when she sees me. I get out of my truck, gift and cake in hand, and make my way up the creaky stairs. She raises her head, and lifts out her tiny, but mature hands. I take hers in mine as we make our way to the backyard.


Turning the side of the house, you can see a great Willow sprouting from the middle of a magnificent garden. Renee and Maggie have spent years working on it. There is a small, white fence surrounding the garden, where a beautiful girl rests. Renee stares longingly, as I reach for her hand and lay out the blanket. We pull out the plates and cups for our lemonade. I close my eyes and think. Aloud, I can here Renee as she whispers, “Maggie—we miss you.” A tear falls from my cheek, and then we set a third plate.











End



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