Miracles 

Part Three

Nancy


 

Gifts

 

“Vincent?What are you doing awake at this hour?”

He turned his head to see his mother coming slowly toward where he sat in the large, overstuffed chair in the den. “I might ask you the same question,” he said, smiling at her.

“Oh, you know how it is, dear. Once Mary and I get talking…then Elizabeth joined us and Rebecca came by with Jamie. Our visits home from Florida are never long enough.”

“Mother, you only spend four months at the condo,” he teased gently.

“Well, four months is a long time to catch up on!” she explained good-naturedly. “Your father is still at it with your Grandfather Jacob. I told them I was coming up to bed and they barely acknowledged me,” she feigned hurt feelings but Vincent knew better. “Is Catherine asleep?”

“Yes, I believe she is,” he spoke quietly, introspectively, testing the Bond. “She was very uncomfortable earlier but it is better now.”

“Often the last few weeks are the longest and hardest,” his mother spoke quietly, too. “But when the baby comes it is all forgotten. Try to encourage Catherine to rest more during the day, Vincent. You both will need a great deal of energy soon.”

Vincent did not respond immediately and when he did it almost seemed as though he had changed what he had been about to say. “There have been endless offers of help, Mother, from just about everyone Below, even the children have been asking us to make a schedule for times when they can baby-sit!  I think once the baby is here we shall have to beg to have him – or her – to ourselves!” He smiled then and his parent thought how beautiful her son was.

“Your Father and I are at the head of that line, Vincent, don’t forget. This baby is our … grandchild. ”She’d almost said ‘first’ but thought better of it. The man seated so casually before her in his navy corduroy robe and bare feet, a photograph album opened on his lap, was very concerned about the impending birth and what it might do to his precious Catherine. The idea of Catherine having his child frightened him – everyone suspected that – but no one knew the depth of his fear and misgiving since he had acquiesced to his wife’s plea that they ‘at least try’. “Don’t worry so, dear. Both of our esteemed physicians are confident that all is progressing quite normally and the delivery should go well.”

“What you ask is impossible, Mother,” he answered, obviously agitated.“ I see Catherine everyday moving closer and closer to the moment when anything could go wrong –horribly wrong – because of me, of what I am. It was a mistake to agree to this. I have dark, terrifying nightmares about losing Catherine.  Yet…she needs me to remain calm and eager…so I mask those feelings of dread as well as I can.” He lapsed into silence, staring blindly at the page of photos before him.

“Why wasn’t I invited to this family gathering?” Catherine, drawing a lavender cover-up closed over her nightgown, whispered playfully from the doorway. She stepped forward to hug her Aunt Susan, now her mother-in-love as she liked to say. They couldn’t get too close; the baby was in the way, and they both chuckled at the awkwardness of their embrace. 

Vincent had risen as soon as he’d realized Catherine was awake and he reached to help her into the chair he’d been using. She settled into it rather gingerly then smiled at the two looking down at her.

“What is it? Didn’t I do it right?” she joked, grinning at their concerned expressions. “I’ll grant you I am not my usual graceful self…” Whatever else she’d been about to say was lost as she looked more closely at them. “Have you two been worrying one another about me – about us?” she corrected patting her stomach. “I am absolutely fine and if you don’t believe me you can ask Grandfather or Dad. Truly, Vincent, I am fine and our baby is fine and you promised me you wouldn’t worry more than the average expectant father.” She smiled at him, wishing that she could convince him that all was well. He would not, or could not, allow himself to believe her, at least not until he held his son – and she felt certain it was a son - in his arms. “Would you get me some water, please?” she asked to distract him. It worked.

“Perhaps milk would be better, Catherine? Unless you really want water.Or some of that supplement? I could make you a cup of chamomile tea…” She was certain he would have gone on with his suggestions if she hadn’t chosen something!

“The milk will be perfect, Dear Heart.”

“Would you like me to warm it a bit? Add a little honey… or chocolate…would you like some hot cocoa?” Once again she giggled inwardly at his oh, so obvious concern.

“Right from the refrigerator sounds delicious, Vincent. A big glass, please,” she added to head off any further suggestions. Her decision seemed to satisfy him and he stooped to kiss her hair before going on his errand.

“It’s not easy,” she told his mother with a grin and a shake of her head as they both tried to smother their laughter.

 

***

 

“Catherine!What are you doing?” Vincent almost yelled from the doorway, rushing to take the large carton from his wife’s arms. He was relieved to realize it was very light, still he couldn’t recover from the shock of seeing her carrying it.

Catherine allowed him to take it from her, counted silently to ten then looked him in the eye. She declared in her soft voice, “I was on my way from there,” and she turned to gaze into the nearby corner where Vincent had earlier left the box on a chair, “to there.” She nodded her head at the table a foot away. “Sweetheart, I am not about to do anything to harm the baby or myself. I can’t just sit around all day. I am healthy and I feel well. I wanted to see what decorations were in the box – nothing strenuous, no stretching or heavy lifting.” She smiled warmly at him and caressed his stubbled cheek. “Okay?”

He loved this woman so much that he was almost beyond speech when faced with her this way. That she should stand before him and explain herself – that she was his – it was almost more than his heart could contain. He lowered the box to the table surface and took her into his arms to bury his face in her soft hair. “Catherine, I didn’t mean to sound so…it looked worse than it was, I admit, but I can’t help myself. You know you are the most precious … oh, Catherine, I’m so afraid … tell me everything is going to be all right,” he finally begged pulling back to look deeply into her cloudy green eyes.

 

“Vincent, Vincent, please don’t torture yourself like this.” She reached up to kiss his lips and found she couldn’t draw away. He lifted her into his arms and seated them both. When they drew apart she began covering his neck with small warm kisses that made him shudder.

“I love you, Catherine,” he whispered raggedly. “I have always loved you.” 

She raised her eyes to look into his. “You are my Beloved, Vincent.” She spoke solemnly. “It causes me such pain to see you this worried about me. It is almost over, Dearest. Won’t you try a little harder to banish these nightmarish thoughts that plague you so? I am a healthy young woman having a baby, no more, no less.” When he would have interrupted she placed a finger to his lips. “I’ve had the best of care, more exams and tests than any three pregnant women endure! All the results indicate this is a normal pregnancy. In a few weeks I will present you with your son, Vincent, our little son. Be happy with me, please. I am so happy, you know I am.”

The love in his look touched her soul. “Forgive me, Catherine. I believe everything you say. I will put my fears aside and share your joy. We will give one another this child and our happiness will fill the world – at least our little world.” He grinned tremulously and she smiled back at him. “This is where I first held you, when you were newly born. We must sit here with our baby when he is born – our first family tradition.”

“Vincent, are you saying you’d be willing to have more children – to continue the tradition?” she asked him seriously.

He closed his eyes, put his head back a little and groaned, “Can we get through this one first?”

Catherine laughed and assured him that would be acceptable to her.“Tell me again the story of my birth, Vincent, please.”

He gazed indulgently at her, so safe and warm in his lap, her arms wrapped comfortingly around him. Patiently he began the narrative. “Your folks had come over to celebrate my 4th birthday. We had balloons and presents and an afternoon of playing with the pile of new toys they’d brought me. After dinner and birthday cake I’d been packed off to bed, cozy in my footed pajamas and snuggled under my matching comforter.”

She giggled. “I am always surprised that you recall that detail.”

“About the footed pajamas?” He was teasing her.

“No, about the Thunder Cats!”

“But I never mentioned….”

“I guess you didn’t have to – this time – I know the story by heart,” she giggled.

“Well, it was my favorite TV show and Mom says I wouldn’t let her get me a new bed cover – not until I was 11, anyway! Now, where was I? It had been an exciting day, though I remember being sorry that you weren’t born yet to enjoy the party! Later in the evening something woke me and when I got to the old guestroom doorway there was Dad…he had you all wrapped in a soft pink towel. He was telling me to come in and sit here in this very chair and not to move but to hold you and talk to you. I barely remember who else was in the room, Catherine. There I sat, still as a statue, but I can recall exactly what I said: “Hello, Baby Catherine. My name is Vincent and I am going to love you.”

“And you have, dear Husband. All the years since you have loved me and given me everything, everything.”

“Have I truly loved you well enough, Catherine?” He was so sincere she could only hold him more tightly and kiss him in answer.

 

***

Their annual Christmas Tree Decorating Party was well underway. A fire burned quietly but warmly in the fireplace. Everyone from Below had been invited to come and help make this year’s tree better than last year’s had been. At least that is what the children’s invitations had read! Catherine was in the kitchen readying a tray of hot chocolate that her Uncle Peter - now Dad - was going to carry in and offer to all the merrymakers. Vincent stood leaning against the counter edge, arms folded, legs crossed at the ankles, looking very smug in tan chinos and a brown cotton sweater. He enjoyed watching his wife – his wife – and soon to be mother of his child! The thought shook him. He found himself remembering the afternoon when she had almost convinced him to stop worrying about her and the coming birth. They’d had the house to themselves and had enjoyed being alone together, talking and kissing and kissing…Vincent realized he’d better channel his recollections elsewhere. He straightened, touched his lips to Catherine’s cheek and took the tray from his father, asking him to wait for the cookies so that Catherine wouldn’t be tempted to carry anything heavy. She gave him a theatrically exaggerated sigh then blew him a kiss as he turned toward the family in the den.

Everyone was engaged in trimming the 8 foot Douglas fir but some stopped long enough to claim a mug of cocoa or one of the sandwiches that had already been placed on tables around the room. Vincent found his favorite chair and picked up the photo album. Samantha came over to ask for his judgment concerning the placement of a particularly furry donkey. Mary, bless her, was right behind the girl, instructing her to settle the disagreement with Kipper and leave Vincent alone. He was grateful! At that moment he almost wished the chair was still up in what had been the guestroom – at least then he’d have some solitude. He realized, though, that almost everyone was oblivious to him there in the far corner – except maybe Samantha but Mary seemed to have her in tow –so he began paging through the photographs. They brought a smile to his mouth and mistiness to his eyes…

There was Catherine in her stroller, trying to twist her little head around to look at the ‘big brother’ who was pushing her through the back garden that fall day. And there they were building with his Lincoln Logs – at least he was attempting to build while she was waving her two- year- old fist trying to knock over his creation! He could still hear her infectious laughter as the logs came tumbling down. He’d never lost patience with her – his Aunt Carolyn and Uncle Charles had told him over and over that he oughtn’t to let her get away with her mischief. But he’d always loved her, adored her, and never would do anything that would make her unhappy. The adults didn’t understand. Vincent the little boy didn’t understand; he simply knew it and behaved accordingly. It hadn’t always been easy. There was the first time she had told him she was going to play at a classmate’s house. He tried to remember how old she was…maybe five. He’d sat and looked out at the street the entire hour she was gone, waiting for Aunt Carolyn to reappear with Catherine in hand.

Those times happened with more regularity as the years went by but they never got easier for him. There was Catherine on Halloween – she was outfitted in her Cinderella dance recital costume - carrying an orange felt pumpkin bag for collecting goodies. She had cried because she didn’t understand why Vincent couldn’t go ‘Trick or Treat’ with her. He’d remained dry-eyed 

– at ten he would rather die than cry in front of people – but how he’d wanted to go. She’d shared her candy with him later that day while filling him with tales of her adventures. That was the way things worked out over the years. Catherine would go out into the world then return to describe it all to him.

 

There she was being hugged by Mickey Mouse the Christmas her parents took her to Disney World. It was the year they’d given him Clifford, an Irish Setter just like the famous dog in Catherine’s storybooks. He smiled remembering how the puppy had come complete with a name of her choosing! He’d been thrilled beyond words to have his very own puppy but he’d cried into the dog’s soft red fur when Catherine left for that week in Florida. When she came home with her stories and gifts all was right with his world again… until the next time. At least he’d had Cliffy for his confidante! And what a good secret-keeper that dog was, Vincent remembered affectionately.

He was looking at the photo of Catherine in her Sweet Sixteen dress when he realized she was standing before him, a wondering expression in her gray green eyes. Her head was tilted slightly to one side as she considered him. “Where were you, Sweetheart?” she whispered. “You looked so far away. Are they sad memories, Vincent?”

He reached for her hand and she willingly gave it. “No, not…sad. I was looking at pictures of our childhood, remembering when you and your folks gave me Clifford that Christmas you went to Disney. And I was admiring Catherine, the Sweet Sixteen beauty, the night of your birthday celebration. You gave me the first dance of the evening right here, to a song on the radio… with Ethan sitting out in the foyer.”

“I wanted you with me, all those times, Vincent,” she reminded him gently.

“Oh, I know that, Catherine. Do you remember asking me to wait for you that night so you could tell me all about the party when you got home? I pretended you were asking me to wait for you to grow up so that we could be together like we are now.” He smiled.

“You never told me that, Vincent,” she whispered lovingly.

“I have wonderful memories because of you and your parents and my family,” he told her, taking in the decorators still busy at their task.

“My mother and father would be thrilled to know that we are about to begin making our own family memories, Vincent,” she told him happily.

“Yes, because of you, my Love, we will be our own family, won’t we?” he agreed earnestly.

“Vincent, come, let’s help with our Christmas tree,” she asked, giving a gentle tug on his hand. He rose and with arms around one another they joined the others.

 

***

 

Their beautiful son was born on the evening of December 25th.Catherine was having a fairly easy time, or so she kept assuring Vincent between contractions. He suffered through each painful episode with her, full of fear that something would go wrong at the last moment. But then came the actual birth and the wonder of it enfolded him with such joy as he had never known. The Grandparents were overcome and tearfully grinned at one another. Great Grandfather Jacob just let the tears fall unheeded down his happy face. When Peter handed the baby to Vincent he brought it to Catherine. She took their son from him, gently touched the tiny pink cheek and smiled tenderly asking, “Will you carry us, Vincent?” The others quietly left the little family cuddled together in the big overstuffed chair.

 

 

For you, my Love