Odd Prompts

Odd Prompts: The Holly and the Ivy

A snippet from Special Delivery


Bonnie found that walking down the long driveway to check the mail was a good way to get out of the house and stretch her legs every day. Her garden was dormant and peaceful under it’s light blanket of snow, but she was still restless. Six days a week, walk to get the mail… and on the seventh, she didn’t. 

On this day, in the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the snow was slumping into slush and puddles on the road, and she wove a complicated path around them. She wasn’t afraid of wet feet, not in the rubber muck boots, but she didn’t have any desire to splash in puddles. She was thinking about the season, and wishing they had had more time before John was called away again. She refused to find a church without him. That wasn’t something she could do by herself. However, she missed singing. 

With a sigh, she opened the mailbox, seeing the tracks the mail carrier had left when they delivered, a semi-circular swoop into the driveway, uncrossed by any outgoing lines. She hadn’t left the farm that week. There hadn’t been any real need. With her daily walks, the mail was never a stack, except that today it was. She sorted through it quickly, smiling at the envelopes filled with Christmas cards. When she came to the small postcard summoning her to pick up a package from the post office itself, she stopped. 

Bonnie looked at the driveway, which was slushy, but not icy. At least, not until that night when the temperatures would fall. The road itself was a shining wet black ribbon. It would be no great difficulty to go back to the house, get the car, and go get her box. Nothing on the package notice indicated what it was, or who had sent it. Bonnie didn’t realize she walked back for the car much more quickly than she had come down the hill to check on the mail. 

At the post office, she rang the bell, and after a moment the post mistress came out to greet her with a smile. Bonnie remembered the first time they had met, over a package that seemed magical as she and John had come to the farm for the first time as a married couple. 

“Hello Ida!” Bonnie laid her delivery slip on the counter.

“Oh, I have that ready for you, Bonnie. Are you keeping warm enough?”

“Yes, ma’am. I think Uncle Ted must have put insulation everywhere he could fit, the old house isn’t a bit drafty.” Bonnie had learned that it wasn’t magic, it was the keen eye of the postmistress and her husband’s resemblance to his Uncle. When Ted had been much younger, along with Ida as a girl. Bonnie sometimes wondered if there was a story there, but she kept that to herself. “How is your arthritis?” 

“Middlin’, middlin’,” Ida said as she retraced her steps to call through the open door into the back room. “Timmy, bring that Hardine box round to Miz Hardine’s car, please!” 

“You have an assistant!” Bonnie was delighted the little old lady wasn’t dealing with Christmas packages on her own. 

“Every year about this time.” Ida leaned on her side of the counter, settling in for a chat as they were alone in the public side of the post office. “It’s a help.” 

“I hate to run off, but I should go open the car for him.” Bonnie glanced out the windows and saw a young man balancing an absurdly large box in his arms. 

“Come back and get your Christmas stamps!” Ida called after her. 

Bonnie waved agreement, even though she hadn’t felt up to doing cards, and helped Timmy maneuver the box into the backseat. It wasn’t very heavy for the size, at least. She got a look at the address label and realized it was from John’s mother. Wishing Timmy, who turned out to be a stocky teenager with a big smile and a snub nose under an unruly mane of black hair, a very Merry Christmas, Bonnie got in the car, thought briefly about heading into town for a few things, then decided that she would make a point of getting stamps for cards another day. She didn’t need groceries. Not with the milk and eggs. 

Back at the farmhouse, she wrestled the box out of the car and was very grateful whatever it was, was light. She plopped it down on the porch as the sun was starting to set on a short winter’s day. For a long moment, until her nose and cheeks reminded her that it was cold out there, she stood and watched the sunset. Gleams of color through the tree branches sparkled like the lights on a Christmas tree. 

Sighing, she dragged the box inside. It was addressed to both her, and John. Bonnie found herself sighing over that. John’s mother Jenn had to have known he wouldn’t be home to receive the box. Bonnie opened it, sliding her little pocketknife through the tape. She didn’t even take off her coat and hat, although she’d unwound the scarf and hung it by the door. The fringes did get in her way. She kept meaning to make herself a muffler, that wouldn’t have ends to dangle into chicken droppings, but hadn’t yet found the time. 

She unfolded the flaps on the box, and was surprised to find that it was filled up with loose crumpled brown paper, and as she lifted this away, she caught the spicy scent of balsam fir at the same moment she saw the deep green. Dropping the paper to one side, she reached down and touched the holly wreath. His mother had sent a simple handmade holly wreath for Christmas. As she touched it, it slipped to one side slightly. Bonnie realized it was balanced on something else, so she carefully lifted it out, admiring the glossy leaves and sprigs of bright red berries. She would hang it on the door, somehow.  Carefully, she nestled it on the brown paper that had been sheltering it, and then reached into the box to remove another layer of paper. Under this was a layer of more dark green vegetation. No… it was little plants in pots. Bonnie lifted them out, one at a time, each of them swathed in more of the paper, with plastic bags over their pots to keep them moist and from leaking into the box. Three holly, and three perfect little balsam fir Christmas trees. 

Once everything was out of the box, bonnie realized there was a card taped to the side of the box on the inside. She gently slit the envelope and pulled the card out before sitting on the floor in the midst of her little forest to read it. 

My dear daughter, 

I know how difficult it can be to keep Christmas when half your heart is far away. I hope these will help, with their evergreen reminder that life goes on, even under the gray skies of winter. 

Love, Mother Jenn


My prompt this week came from ‘Nother Mike, with “His mother had sent a simple, handmade holly wreath for Christmas. When he touched it…” 

I prompted him in return (luck of the draw!) with “The old dachshund began his morning lament for the hundredth day in a row” 

You can read all of the prompt Reponses, and play along yourself with the prompt challenge, over at More Odds Than Ends. 

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