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I’ve lived in this place for nearly 30 years and I guess I’ve become used to it. It’s winter now and I can sit at my window anytime I like and see people hustling and bustling about the streets. It seems lonely sometimes though the streets are filled with the minute forms of pedestrian travel on the city sidewalks and cars fill the streets below my apartment window. The swarming forms moving about below me are better entertainment than any television program that has ever come my way. Yes, I’ve become used to this place, with all its noise and grime and all its seasons of weather. This is where my family is and here I’ll remain until I die.
I particularly love it when the winter snows arrive and the winter winds nearly blow the walkers below off their booted feet. Heavy snow reminds me of home. The city in the midst of a blizzard thrills me though it often scares my children for they worry that I may be left up here alone in my 5th floor apartment. My eldest daughter keeps me well supplied in groceries and canned goods for fear I will die of hunger if she cannot reach me during some future storm. The youngest of my grandchildren has other ideas though, ideas that please me greatly. Bless the child. He keeps me supplied in magazines and newspapers, all from my homeland to the north. He doesn’t supply me with daily papers. He says those aren’t as interesting as those that were printed in the ‘old’ days. I do believe he loves to watch me smile when he says that for then I always ask to see what he has brought for me and he will grin and produce his package with a zealousness reminiscent of Christmas secrets. I really don’t know where the boy finds the things he brings for the growing library he’s started for me, but whatever the source, I am grateful.
The streetlights have dimmed below me this evening, hidden in a fog of incoming new snow. I trace my fingers lazily over the front of the periodical lying in my lap. The smoothness of its cover allows my fingers to slide over its cool surface though at the moment my eyes are drawn to the darkening sky outside my window. I sigh to myself and turn away from the cold glass near me and finally glance down to take in the cover picture on the gift my grandson brought me today.
‘How odd,’ I murmur as I note that today’s gift is actually a magazine published in this very city. To be sure, it’s not a new piece and as I note the date on the cover I grin. Jody has found something that might be of interest to me though it was published some years ago.
The magazine’s front cover is mostly white and heralds out its name proudly across the top. I am mesmerized by the figure on the cover and find my fingers lazily tracing the suit coat of red serge that the figure standing boldly on the front cover is wearing. Reaching over to the table, I carefully pick up those blasted spectacles that I must wear now and take a closer look at the face of the man blazoned on the magazine cover. Lifting the magazine nearly to my nose, I peer quite closely at the dark, closely shorn hair and the handsome face with the most dazzling smile.
I let the magazine fall onto my lap again and closing my eyes settle my head back against my chair. I let my mind wander and find myself nearly transported back to my hometown the year I was nearly 20 and working in a busy shop in what I thought must surely be the most wonderful town in the world. I’m nearly 90 now, but that day doesn’t seem that long ago.
There are memories that never quite leave use as we grow old in this world, memories created by things we see and hear and do as the days we live merge one into the other before finding ourselves old and tired of life’s journey. Some memories are built around everyday happenings and events, and some very few special memories are built from those very special fleeting moments when we connect with someone we don’t even know, even if that meetings duration is a comparative microsecond in our life compared to all those everyday happenings that build our lives cumulative memories.
The man pictured on that magazine cover belonged to some of my most memorable group of fleeing memories. I knew that face, those eyes and that expression. I should never forget my memories of him, though I never met him or spoke to him.
I was 20 and gloriously happy working my Uncle Stewart’s store. I thought the town we lived in was modern and quite metropolitan. I learned much later in life just how wrong about that I was, but the young often see just what they want to see, nothing more, and nothing less. I was busy helping someone pick out a gift and barely heard the tiny bell over the shop door peal as with the opening and closing of the door behind me, but I did feel the cold draft of air as the door slowly swung shut on its hinges. This was to be my first formed memory of the eyes of the man in the magazine, though at the time I didn’t realize that. A quick glance over my shoulder made me turn slightly away from my customer to observe a young couple standing just inside the door. The man held the most beautiful child I had ever seen in his arms. To this day I can remember the sheer, nearly translucence of the child’s pale skin beneath a head of thick, unruly curls. The woman was of short stature but clearly a match for the man in temperament as the couple stood gazing at each other over the child’s head. The child looked out from within his cozy coat and blanket covering and seemed to stare right at me. I grinned at the child and saw a toothy grin in return before I turned back to my customer and completed my sale. I must have been busy with my customer for only a very few minutes but when I turned back, the couple and child were gone and a light that had been brightly shown to me was gone. With a shrug of my shoulders I returned to work and didn’t think about the child again. Well, that is I didn’t think of him until I saw him again.
The second time I saw the child was several years later as I was working in the same store that was still owned by my uncle. I was a little less starry eyed now and knew that though my hometown was modern and large, it was by far not the most modern or update to location in the world. But, I was still very happy there for I had found the young man I was sure I would marry and spend my life with and at that time of my life, nothing else seemed to matter.
By now I was a store department manager, and only dealt with our most valued customers as a courtesy when someone needed individualized, ‘special’ help in shopping. The little bell was still over the door, as it had been years previously, but now I had a vantage point some distance from the door and was seldom bothered by the change in temperature when the door would be opened by customers during the months we were open in the winter. I don’t recall if I actually saw the door open that day, but I do remember hearing the tinkling sound of the small bell over the door ring before seeing the boy who had been the babe in his father’s arms some years before.
The boy was all knobby knees and thin of frame and seemed small for I guessed he must be about 7 years of age judging by my sudden memory of what I was sure must have been him in his father’s arms years ago. His dark hair was curly but worn closely shorn over his ears. I was puzzled for I remembered a bright and happy child. The boy I saw before me seemed silent and withdrawn. I looked up to see an older couple standing almost on top of the boy and was further puzzled because neither of them resembled the bright and happy mother and father I had seen years early though this couple did in some way resemble the boy’s father as I recalled him at least.
The woman was short and wiry and had hair pulled away from her face with its strong features marked by what I thought must be a stern character. The man wasn’t overly tall, but was built strong and firm and had the ruggedness of the outdoors about him. His hands were strong and fine boned and he rested one of them almost tenderly on the young boy’s shoulder. Leaning down, the woman placed one of her hands along the boy’s fine-featured jaw and softly caressed the soft young skin. The boy looked up quickly and for just one moment I saw the brilliant look of love that a young child can give those that nurture him. I was called away to the phone and was sorry to find the small family group gone when I returned to the floor. For I would have done nearly anything to see that look of love on the young boy’s face again.
One of our youngest shop clerks was tittering to one of her peers as I walked past them just a few minutes after the family had left our store. I distinctly heard the girl mention the word ‘murder’ and ‘poor’ motherless boy as she talked and chatted away. As her superior, I was mandated to give her ‘the look’ and chastise her for her gossiping ways, but secretly…secretly, I wanted to hear more details. I didn’t until later that evening when we were closing for the day learn that the dear little Fraser boy had been accompanied by his grandparent’s. And this came to me from our own store manager. My curiosity was peaked, but I didn’t at that time learn any more about the boy than that he was the son of a Mountie whose wife had been killed and that he now lived with his grandparent’s, poor little soul.
I married, had children of my own and nearly forgot the small boy I seen only twice in his young life. Years passed and I no longer worked in my Uncle Stewart’s store. I owned it. Stewart Littleton had never married and my family and I received the store into our care upon his death. With the running of the store, and my family to care for, I never did have the time to track down any details about the boy with the loving smile.
When my eldest son moved away to a town near Alaska, I began to receive bits and pieces of news from him in the form of letters and newspapers. I believe my grandson, Jody, takes after him. Both of them have zeal to find out things and love to read whatever comes their way of what they call ‘modern’ history. It was in one of these papers that I read a story about a young man named Benton Fraser who had brought in a fugitive from justice after tracking the young woman down in snowstorm. I never did see any pictures of the young man, but from his description in my son’s letters I knew it had to be the boy with the loving smile grown up and it seemed he had followed in his father’s shoes and had become a Mountie. I kept my memories to myself and kept my ears open for further news of this boy that I now had a name to attach to my memories.
But, alas no news came my way for years. About 10 years after I learned that young Benton Fraser had become a Mountie, I learned of his father’s murder. It was a most shocking story. And though I had never actually met the elder Fraser, I just knew that it was not a simple case of a hunting accident. The son solved the case and the news of it made all the papers in nearly every city countrywide, though I never did see any news that sounded as if the boy was promoted for his all his hard work.
I must say I was very astonished to come across his name in the periodicals of my newly adopted city. I had followed along with husband to this huge metropolis when his company asked him to start a branch office here. I remember reading about many of Benton’s exploits here in the city, but I’ve never told a living soul what I know of his smile for who would believe me. He was in the news several times and I even recall reading somewhere that he followed a notorious killer back to our homeland.
With a start, I realize that the magazine has fallen from my fingers and my hands are chilled. I put the magazine gently on the table to be added to my private collection of magazines later and rise to turn off the sitting room lights and prepare for bed. As I lie down and pull the covers over me, I wonder if Jody knows about my interest in Benton Fraser. I don’t recall telling him, but then maybe the boy has noticed my special ‘Benton’ section of reading in my room. It has just occurred to me that he promised me some more delightful news as soon as it arrives in his hands from his ‘clipping’ service.
I smile, close my eyes and go to sleep.