Our Echo
Title, story type, location, year, person or writer
 
Add a Post
View Posts
Popular Posts
Hall of Fame
Projects
Visitors
Contests
Search

Have won an award The Tattered Bookmark

Story ID:1909
Written by:Michael Timothy Smith (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Family History
Writers Conference:$100 Best Inspirational Post Contest
Location:Fort Lee New Jersey USA
Year:2007
View Comments (33)   |   Add a Comment Add a Comment   |   Print Print   |     |   Visitors
The continuation and the full story after the story "The Happiest Day Of My Life."

The Tattered Bookmark

My newborn daughter, Vanessa, kicked her tiny foot against my stomach and
gave a weak cry. I adjusted her bottle. “There you are, sweetie.” She latched onto the
nipple and stared at me. I was in love with my three-week-old, little girl.
Georgia, still recovering from giving me my first child, walked up to me. “Happy,
Father’s Day!” She smiled and handed me an envelope. “Michael,” she apologized. “I
didn’t have time to shop. This is all I have for your first Father’s Day. I wish I could
give you more.”
I looked at her. “Georgia, it’s OK. You’re still not well. It’s only been a couple
of weeks.” I looked at the gift in my arms. “You gave me Vanessa. Could I ask for
more?”
She stared at me. A tear formed in the corner of her right eye and began to trickle
down her cheek. “I know, but this is your first Father’s Day. I wanted it to be special.”
“It is special.” I replied and reached for her hand. “Look at her!” I glanced at
Vanessa. “This is the best Father’s Day gift.” I turned back to Georgia, “Hun, this is the
gift.”
I opened the envelope and pulled out a note. “Dear, Michael.” it began. I looked
at Georgia. The tear on her cheek reflected the morning sun coming through the window
across the room. I turned and read the rest. “Happy Father’s Day! This is the moment we
dreamed about before we married. We have our Vanessa. Now we have to plan for a
Justin.” She signed it, “I Love You, Michael! You’re going to be a great daddy.”
I looked at her again, “Thank you, Georgia. I’ll do my best.”
“There’s more.” she smiled.
“What do you mean?”
“In the envelope.”
I picked it up and opened it again. In the bottom was a colorful piece of cloth. I
pulled it out. It was a cloth bookmark with vibrant bands of color. White fringes dangled
from each end. It reminded me of a Mexican serape. I draped it over my hand and looked
at Georgia. “I love it.”
“Michael.” she said. “It’s just a bookmark. I wanted to get you more.”
“Georgia, I love it. It will always be special – my first Father’s Day gift.”
“I love you.” she said.
I sniffed the air. “Do you smell something?” I asked.
“What?”
I set the bookmark aside and changed my first diaper.

*********************************

On weekends, I did the midnight feedings. I sat and read. The house was quiet.
Through the baby monitor, I heard Vanessa stirring. Her small cry crackled through the
speaker. I placed my Father’s Day gift between the pages of my book.

*********************************

I cradled Vanessa in my arm. I held her bottle with one hand and my book with
the other. Her tiny chin quivered as she suckled. My gaze bounced from my book to her.
The bookmark was draped over my thigh.

*********************************

Justin was born. Vanessa, now three, slept in her very first bed. I held my
newborn son in my arms. The house cracked as it contracted in the sub-zero temperatures
outside. The bookmark rested on the back of the sofa. Justin snuggled against my chest.

*********************************

The job I held for fifteen years disappeared. Everyone slept. I sat studying. I was
back in school and stressed. When I finished my studies, I picked up my book, opened it,
and slipped the bookmark into the pages ahead, marking things to come.

*********************************

I finally found a new job, but it was in a different city and province. I sat on my
bed in a lonely room. Georgia, Vanessa, and Justin were in Nova Scotia. I rented a room
in a home in Saint John, New Brunswick. I tried to read, but tears made the words blurry.
I missed my wife and children. I placed the bookmark between the pages, turned off the
light, and cried into my pillow. It would be a year before they would be able to join me.
The bookmark, its fringes frayed, dangled from both ends of my book.

*********************************

Three years later, after another move, I sat on my deck in Ohio. Justin stepped
out. “Dad, wrestling is cool. I love it.”
Vanessa, now sixteen, joined him, “Dad, they made me second in clarinet!”
I hugged them both. “Way to go, guys!”
The kids went to their rooms. Steaks sizzled on the grill. I pulled the bookmark
from my book, placed it on the patio table, and read. Life was good.

*********************************

“Hun, I’ll get home when I can.” I said to Georgia. My job in Ohio was gone. I
took an offer in New Jersey. We decided she would stay in Ohio, so Vanessa could finish
her senior year of high school. Georgia and Justin would join me in Jersey in ten months.
I stood on the New Jersey side of the Hudson River. Manhattan sparkled in front
of me. Miles of buildings, windows full of light, stretched out in both directions – a
dazzling display.
Back in my apartment, I settled into bed, picked up my book, and thought about
the day my family could join me and see the view. I pulled my bookmark from my book
and placed it on the covers beside me. It was worn after years of use. I spoke to it.
“We’ve been through a lot. We can get through more.”
I dozed off in my new surroundings. The book rested on my chest, rising and
falling with each breath I took. My bookmark lay beside me. I turned in my sleep. The
bookmark slid to the floor.

*********************************

Eleven months later, I sat in a chair reading. Georgia lay on the sofa. She’d
been in New Jersey for three weeks. My son slept upstairs in his new bedroom. My
daughter stayed in Ohio to attend college. Georgia stirred and moaned – her organs
failing. While I was away, her liver failed and then her kidneys. I feared her end was
near.
Her eyes opened. “Michael?”
“I’m here, Hun.”
“I’m thirsty. Can you get me a drink?”
I placed the worn bookmark between the pages. “What would you like, Hun?
Do you want juice?”
She shook her head. “Is Vanessa home yet?”
“Georgia, Vanessa is in Ohio. She’s not here.” I replied.
“Oh! I forgot.” she smiled weakly.
I made her a cup of tea. She sipped it carefully as she stared blankly at the
television. The bookmark rested on my thigh again. “Michael?”
I looked up. “Yes?”
“Is Vanessa home yet?” Georgia asked again.
“She’s still in Ohio, Hun.”
“Oh, right. I forgot.” Her eyes closed. She drifted off to sleep.
I placed my bookmark between the pages, put my book down and went to
bed. Tears filled my eyes. I wished my wife could climb the stairs to join me.

*********************************

The bookmark stretched across my stomach, I held my book in front of me,
not reading. On the television, a sitcom blared unwatched. My friends had left. Justin
slept in his room. Vanessa, who came from Ohio, slept in the spare room. Georgia’s
ashes rested in her urn on the credenza. My children were with me again, but I was alone.
I grabbed the bookmark, marked my spot, and carried my book to my empty
bed. “Lord, I don’t want to be alone.” I prayed. “I want love in my life.”

*********************************

The sun warmed my back. Ginny sat in the chair across the patio table from me.
Love was in my life again. I lifted the bookmark from my lap, marked my page, stared at
her, and said, “Ginny, I love you.”
She looked up, put her book down, and smiled at me. “I love you too.”
“I love you more.” I smiled back. “Now back to our reading.”
We picked up our books and read. The bookmark rested on my lap.

*********************************

Ginny slept beside me on the sofa. I spread my bookmark across her thigh and
stared at it. The white fringes were long gone. There’s a spot where it must have torn.
I don’t remember when, but I can see the loving stitches that hold it together. The whites
are grey. The bright bands of color are faded. It can’t be washed. I fear it will fall apart.
I lifted it from Ginny’s thigh and placed it between the pages of my book.
“Ginny?” I shook her shoulder.
“Hmm? she moaned.
I shook her again, “Ginny, time for bed, Hun.”
“Yes?”
“Come on, Hun. Let’s go to bed.” I took her hand in mine. “Come on, Hun.”
We climbed the stairs. I held her hand with one of mine. In my other, I carried my
book. The tattered bookmark dangled from each end.
I sat up in bed. Ginny slept beside me. I pulled the bookmark from my book and
looked at it again. We’d been through a lot and both showed our age. Like its tassels, my
hair is mostly gone. Its middle is folded in from years of being pressed together between
the pages of countless books. My middle is folding out from years of good food and not
enough exercise.
My bookmark started out marking spots in my books. I’ve come to realize, it
didn’t just mark the pages of my books, it marked the pages of my life.

Michael T. Smith