An Outdoor View: The tackle box

Author’s note: I offer the following to put you in the mood for Hanukkah, Christmas, Festivus or whatever celebration gives you warm feelings and urges you to eat, drink and give to excess. — LP

Virginia was trying to put on a happy face for Christmastime, but it wasn’t easy. Earl, her husband of 53 years, had died three years before. It had taken him 15 years to get the job done. The physical and mental stress had left her badly shaken, but the financial drain had been the last, cruel straw. This year, she had no money to buy Christmas gifts for her grand-children. In years before, she had always made caps or mittens for them, but arthritis had taken the joy out of knitting.

Earl, wanting her to happy, had told her to remarry. She hadn’t been interested in other men, but to honor his wishes, she had tried to find a man. After a year of half-hearted looking, she had given up. What little happiness she found now was with her grand-children and her cat.

“Trouble is,” she thought despondently, “the kids can’t be pulled away from their video games to spend time with boring old grandma, and the cat has maybe a year to live. Less if he keeps peeing in the closet.”

Sitting alone in her small house, she thought about her overdue utility bills, her leaking roof, her backed-up toilet and her inability to give gifts. She wanted to cry, but she was too tired to cry. Exhausted from worry, she prayed that things would get better.

It seemed to help. Feeling a little better, she fixed herself some soup for lunch. She had just sat down to eat when she heard a knock at her door. It was her neighbor, Mildred Adams.

“Hello, Virginia,” Mildred said. “Good news! I sold that tackle box full of fishing stuff that you gave me to sell in my yard sale.”

“Oh, that’s nice,” Virginia said.

“What’s nice is that the buyer said those old fly-fishin’ reels were worth a lot more than the 500 bucks you were askin’. He said he didn’t want to take advantage of you. Handed me 50 hundred-dollar bills!”

“Oh, my!” Virginia said. “I had no idea. Well, you keep some of that for your trouble.”

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Mildred said, handing her the money. “He was so friendly, so generous and so handsome, I’d have paid him just to hang around for a while, if you know what I mean.”

The money was a godsend. After eating lunch, Virginia paid all her bills, and called the men to come and fix her leaking roof and her backed-up septic system. She then took a bus downtown and spent the afternoon happily buying gifts and getting her hair done.

That night, sitting in her chair with her cat in her lap, she found herself thinking about the tackle box. She had always loved to fish, and that box held a lifetime of memories. Her favorite bobber, given to her by her grandfather when she was 4, had been in that box, she remembered, along with dozens of flies and four Hardy reels. Earl had given her the reels. She hadn’t known they were worth so much. She hadn’t wanted to sell them, but she had been desperate.

On Christmas morning, Virginia baked blueberry muffins. After breakfast, she would take some muffins over to Mildred and wish her merry Christmas. Her son was to pick her up at noon, and she would be spending the afternoon with her family.

When Virginia pushed open the front screen door to go out, she felt it bump into something. Looking down, she saw a large box. She wasn’t expecting anything. As to who sent it, there was no clue. She took it inside. Inside the large box was a smaller box. Upon opening that one, she beheld an unbelievable sight. Her tackle box.

Her heart racing, she opened the tackle box. At first, she thought it was empty, but in the bottom she found the bobber that her grandpa had given her and a note that said, “Merry Christmas, Virginia.” In small print was a telephone number and the initials S.C.

With a sigh, Virginia said, “It’s a wonderful life!”

As if that weren’t enough, on New Year’s Eve, Virginia and a friendly, generous and very handsome man named Stan Coulter went dancing. It was a night filled with fun, laughter and the promise of more to come. Later, after Stan had taken her home and was climbing into his cherry-red stretch limo to leave, she heard him exclaim, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Reach Les Palmer at les.palmer@rocketmail.com.

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