A Short Story About a Tall Day
Westenheim Children's Home, 1972
The sound of silence. A sound only heard when there is no sound
at all, or when thoughts run so deeply that sound can`t interfere. A small girl on a wide lawn has a clean but frazzled
teddy bear perched against her side. They are sitting, but not in the shade. It is her birthday, And she knows it
will be a day to remember.
A box. Just a small one. Tammy loves to pretend, and she knows she
has to have the right things in the box. Closely she inspects its contents, first touching a tiny yellow
flower that she picked herself. "It is so perfect, so bright!" The one that stood out the most amongst the thousands
scattered across the lawn. She then takes out a big blue rubber band, and puts it around her wrist.
"It fits perfectly!" It even has that dusty rubber look, like it is brand new. "Yes," she ponders, "it has never been
used." Carefully she puts it back. Next she looks at a small teacup. The face of a teddy bear is
painted on its side. "What a great find! It is so clean and shiny," she thinks, having washed it herself. Its beauty is
unscathed by its missing handle.
There is one last thing. Her joy of joys. A photograph of a
mother and father watching two boys play with a water hose. Out in the sunshine. She used her scissors
earlier to remove it from a cereal box, cutting away the words with precision, leaving only the portrait of an obviously happy
family. She smiles at the fact that it fits in the box.
She hears that woman's voice. Not really hearing the words that
have become so familiar. Just the voice. It is time to go in, "nap time." She places her picture back in the box, grabs
Teddy, and hurries away, mingling with the other children.
Seemingly in an instant, she finds herself drifting off to sleep. In her bed. On her pillow. With her teddy. At exactly nap
time. Like a machine that`s never broken, doing what it's supposed to do. But today is her birthday! And she has everything
ready in the box. "Today will be a day to remember," she thinks to herself, as sleep slowly closes her windows to the world.
Teddy softly agrees.
She awakes to the woman`s voice. Naptime is over; it is
time for her party. She hears the other children stirring, and she is very proud that she hasn`t yet opened her eyes,
that would ruin everything. She takes a moment to gather her thoughts. Giving sound a chance to slip away.
Then . . . after a deep breath, "Happy Birthday Tamara!" Tammy`s
mother awakes her with a kiss. She sits up and looks around. "Look what we bought for you," her daddy says, holding out the
most beautiful yellow rose she has ever seen. Her mother puts the rose in her hair and she jumps
up and runs to the mirror for a better look. Momma and daddy remembered her favorite color! Yellow,
the color of sunshine.
Her two soaking wet brothers bounce into the room; they`ve been
playing with the water hose. The oldest hands Tammy her gift. They saved their money together and bought her a very expensive
bracelet with blue jewels. She tries it on, and it fits perfectly. Everybody says it does. Her
brothers know her so well. The jewels are shining like blue fire around her wrist.
Teddy clears his throat. After gaining everyones attention, he proudly
hands Tammy a teacup. Not just any ol` teacup, but a very nice one, with Teddy`s picture finely painted on its side. "It`s
just the right size," Tammy exclaims, holding it up to her mouth. Teddy tolls her that they can share a cup of tea every day,
and she gives him a big hug for being so sweet.
Everyone is anxious to play with the water hose, so they go
outside in the sunshine. They play till the sun goes down, stopping
only long enough to eat dinner (at exactly dinner time). Tammy even snaps a picture of her family; her brothers playing in
the sun, dancing around with the water hose. Her mom and dad watching on, and laughing out loud.
It is a fine day, till she hears that woman`s voice again. This time she hears every familiar word. It is bedtime.
Her party is over. "Where has the day gone?"
Like a machine that`s never broken, she again finds herself drifting
off to sleep. In her bed. On her pillow. With her teddy. At exactly bedtime. But tonight is different. Her gifts are
tucked away safely in her box, along with the picture of her family. "Today was her birthday!" She is seven now." She brags to Teddy that "today is a day to remember!" Teddy softly agrees as
sleep slowly closes the windows to her world. He knows she`s never had a day to remember before.
Sean Shannon Collier