As I walked through a frozen snow patch where small kids were being taught how to ski, I remembered the days when my aunt got me to the very patch every winter morning and taught me how to ski. As the cold wind blew in my face, I could feel my aunt standing there with me holding my hand.
“Look at me sweetheart. Do you trust me?” she asked me lovingly.
“I do Aunt Anna but if you let go, I’m going to fall down in the snow and then I’m going to be cold.” I said frowning a bit.
I was eight then and was very attached to my aunt. She picked me up from school each day and then I stayed with her all day as my mom and dad both had full-time jobs at the NYPD.
“Emma, look at me and tell me. Do you trust me?” Aunt Anna said to me while still holding my hand.
I looked up at her and something about her big green eyes made me want to do whatever she asked me to.
“Yes Aunt Anna, I trust you.” I said to her.
“Ok, I’m going to let go of your hand slowly and I want you to believe in yourself because even the simplest task in your life can become impossible for you unless you believe in yourself.” she said to me gently.
As she let go of my hand and I began to move, I thought about her words. They stirred me from deep within and I began to move faster, gaining confidence with every inch that I moved. That was twenty-two years earlier. And now at the age of thirty, I have won many awards for ice skiing and other such activities. Whenever I am at a crucial moment in any performance and get nervous, I think about my Aunt’s words and they always help me gain confidence and to perform well.
I looked around me and saw the festivities and joys of Christmas all around me. My Christmas routine had remained the same since the past 14 years of my life. That day belonged to my Aunt. As I made my way towards her house, I heard the tinkling of the bell of an ice cream truck.
“Aunt Anna, can I please get just one more ice cream?” I asked her as she started to walk away from the truck which I loved.
“No dear, you mustn’t.” she explained to me in her sweet and caring voice.
“Always keep one thing in mind; too much of a good thing is never good.”
I never understood the depth of those words back then. But now I fully understood the truth in that statement. I continued to walk and I reached a small park where we often came when I was a kid.
It was right there that I had spent some of the best moments of my childhood. The memory of every moment spent with her was fresh in my mind. As if carved on a special portion of my heart that could never be suppressed or erased. I closed my eyes and I could see her gently pushing my swing while I squealed with delight and encouraging me to stand up and try again whenever I fell off while trying to learn to ride my bicycle.
It began to snow and I was forced to get back to reality and start walking again. I saw people shoveling snow and saw how everyone dreaded it and mostly hired professionals to do it. But Aunt Anna was different. She made a tedious task like snow shoveling seem fun to even a kid. From her, I had learnt how self-help was the best help. She never needed anyone to clean her house or even to help her take care of me. She managed everything by herself with grace and without any complaints.
I was making a new origami that she had taught me. She always taught me something new- whether it was a new drawing, an athletic technique or some other skill. And she made everything sound interesting and fun to do and I was always eager to learn more from her. While I made the origami, she went about on her usual household chores. It was a peaceful day. The simple memory flashed through my mind while I walked.
As I got closer to her house I remembered spending Christmas with her. She did not have much but loved to share whatever little she had with the unfortunate. She had taken me to an orphanage on Christmas and that day I realized how giving could be almost as satisfying as receiving.
I passed a small hut and I knew I was close to her house. My heartbeat quickened as it often did when I was this close to her. I picked up some speed, eager to reach as quickly as I could.
I passed her self-made flower patch, now withered and ugly. I passed the shed where she had taught me a bit of martial arts. I passed the tree under which we would sit and knit little woolen clothes all through winter evenings. I passed the remains of her once beautiful vegetable garden. As I turned the corner, I could see her cottage. The cottage that had once been my second home. Where I had spent almost my entire childhood and learnt more than I could ever have been taught at school.
I crossed the remains of her once beautifully kept garden, now buried in snow. I looked at the flowers in my hand. Lilies- her favorite.
I reached the door of her cottage. I paused there for a while, listening to the sounds of the birds in the distance. Then I turned my back on the door, so lifeless now, with moss all over it. I walked through the front porch into the backyard.
There she was. I walked slowly, each step measured and soft so as to not disturb the serenity of the beautiful place.
As I bent down and laid down the flowers on her grave, a million memories flashed through my mind and I stayed there looking down at her grave for a while. And as I stood up to walk away, I felt a tear run down my cold cheek.