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The Tattered Bookmark

Story ID:7296
Written by:Michael Timothy Smith (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Family Memories
Location:Caldwell Idaho USA
Year:2011
Person:Bookmark
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The Tattered Bookmark

I tried to come up with a good Father's Day story, but I don't have good memories of my dad.
I rewrote and added to this story. It's my life history.
Idaho needed to be added to it.
Now it is done. The Tattered Bookmark keeps going.

This story was the second story I posted to
Our Echo. It won the monthly prize of $100.
The story continues.

Happy Father's Day!!!


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 our 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. At the bottom was a colorful piece of cloth. I
pulled it out. It was a cloth bookmark with vibrant bands of color. White tassles 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?”

“What?” she asked.

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 in Halifax, Nova Scotia disappeared. Everyone slept. I sat and studied. 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 found a new job, but it was in Saint John, New Brunswick. 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 joined 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 Hilliard, 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. Vanessa needed to
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 would 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. The 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 from years of alcohol abuse. 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 was a spot where it must have torn.
I don’t remember when, but I could see the loving stitches that hold it together. The
whites were grey. The bright bands of color were faded. It couldn’t be washed. I feared 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 in mine. In my other, I carried my book.
The tattered bookmark dangled from each end.

I sat in bed. Ginny slept beside me. I pulled the bookmark from my book and
looked at it again. We’d been through a lot. We 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.

I slipped it between the pages, put the book aside, turned off the light and
snuggled the new love in my life.

#####

The tattered bookmark – held together by threads – draped my lap again. Ginny
sat beside me in the moving truck our son-in-law drove. We lived six years in New
Jersey. Idaho awaited us. The rush of Manhattan and New Jersey was too much. We
needed a slower pace. Idaho, Ginny’s daughter Heather and four grandchildren waited for
our arrival.

Four days later, we pulled into their driveway. The three boys shared hugs. Inside
the house was a little girl I hadn’t met yet. Elizabeth, only eight months old, didn’t know
her Poppa Mike, but she took to me right away.

A few days later, Ginny and I gave Nathan
and Heather a break. They went out
for the evening. Our grandsons were in bed. Ginny and I watched television. Baby
Elizabeth slept cradled in my arms. I read a book. Beside me, the bookmark stretched out
on the sofa and seemed to sigh.

I stared at that the tattered piece of cloth. It once marked the spots in my books,
but it marked more than that. It marked the pages of my life.

Michael T. Smith