Hickory and poultry scents wove through the neighborhood’s brisk air as Amber lifted her cherub-faced daughter from the car. White flecks floated aimlessly on the breeze, dotting their cheeks with chilly kisses.
A flake landed on Angela’s long, dark lashes. “Whassat?” She blinked at her mother and pointed a chubby finger at the swirling flurries.
Amber adjusted the tot on her hip. She extended her gloved hand to catch a few flakes and showed them to the gaping eleven month-old. “Snow, babygirl. We’re getting it early this year. Usually doesn’t come until after Thanksgiving.”
Angela poked at the vanishing snowflakes on her mommy’s hand and gasped.
“Must be a special Turkey day tomorrow.” She tapped her daughter’s button-nose. “Let’s get inside before it gets any colder out here.”
Shifting the baby bag and purse on her shoulder, she turned toward the front walk. A gust of wind snatched the papers tucked into her purse. Yellow forms tumbled down the driveway.
“Oh, no!” Clutching her tot, she shuffled after the medical release forms. “I don’t want to have to get those shot records all over again.”
The wind swept the pages across the street. Amber chased them. She hustled as fast as her jostling load would allow. Past six homes with blanketed shrubs and chimneys curling with smoke. The papers flattened against a row of dead bushes in front of a familiar-looking home. She picked her steps carefully up the unkempt walkway. Dried grass and leaves crunched under a layer of frost. Pots lay strewn along the stoop. Skeletal plant remains clung inside a few dish gardens. The home bore all the marks of vacancy until the splintering door creaked open.
A wispy-haired woman, grayed beyond her middle age, stepped outside. Uncovered head hanging as she crossed the threshold, she glanced up with surprise at Amber and recoiled a bit. “Oh. I was just fetching the mail. Wasn’t expecting visitors.”
Amber held out the forms. “I was chasing runaway vitals.” She studied the woman’s eyes. So familiar. Then, she fought the urge to gasp. This was Angela’s house. Averting her gaze, she stuffed the papers deep inside her purse. “Sorry to bother you. Um, on such a hectic day.”
“Not at all. I’d rather it were hectic, I think. Instead, it’s very quiet. Like all the sounds drifted away from us after she …” The woman sighed. She blinked her watery eyes. Her quivering lips stretched into a weak grin as she marched toward them. “This must be the child you were pregnant with last year. What a lovely girl.”
“Thank you.” She leaned toward her baby girl. “Can you wave at the nice lady?”
After missing her hand with a dramatic kissy sound, the tot thrust her arm toward the grieving neighbor. “Mwa!”
“Aw, she’s adorable.” The woman lighted a hand on her chest. “What’s her name?”
“I …” Amber cleared her throat. “I named her after the little girl who saved me from darkness. The most inspiring person I’ve ever met. Her name reminds me to be the best mother I can.”
The woman covered her nose and mouth with both hands. Sobs choked through. Tears streamed down her cheeks.
“I’m so sorry.” Amber backed a few steps.
“No, please!” The woman reached toward her. “You have no idea how much this means to me. Would you …” She shook her head. “No, you surely have plans for the holiday.”
“Oh, yes. We’re cooking up a frozen turkey dinner.” Amber flashed a sardonic grin and leaned forward for emphasis. “In the actual oven, even.”
“If you’d consider joining us, it’d really be a treat to have you here.” She wiped the tears from her cheeks.
Amber shrugged. “I’d love to, but I don’t really have anything to bring.”
The neighbor patted the knitted cap atop Angela’s head. “Oh, you’re bringing the best part of our day.”
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ” ( 2 Corinthians 1:3-5).