April A-Z blogging challenge 2012
Z is the ultimate letter in this sequence of 26 short stories of 250 words or fewer. This final story is just a little longer – 385 words. All the stories are about the life and times of a fictional character called Alice.
Alice shepherded everyone into the sitting room. It was a tight squeeze but everyone found a seat. The granddaughters sat on the floor while their babies and toddlers played around them.
The last time the whole family had gathered was for Norman’s funeral three years previously. Alice’s 85th birthday made a good excuse to meet under happier circumstances. Emily and her family had travelled from Paris the previous day. Alice didn’t see them very often though she did occasionally travel by Eurostar to visit them. Rebecca’s children lived in and around London and she saw them more frequently, though they were very busy – no-one could live in London and not be busy, she thought. It was Ted’s family she saw most – they all lived nearby – and of course, Ruth was a regular visitor.
While Alice played with her great-grandchildren her daughters organised tea. Afterwards she unwrapped a mound of gaily-wrapped gifts and was touched by the thought that had gone into them – National Trust membership, a subscription to a favourite magazine, gardening and book tokens, a large print of one of her favourite photographs, a voucher for a spa day. Then Rebecca’s husband gave her a DVD and urged her to play it for all of them. He had compiled it from family photographs and video recordings and set it to music.
Alice’s life unfolded before her. Monochrome gave way to colour and she thought that was a fine allegory for life. There were her parents and her three strong brothers. What fine young men they had been. Here was Norman, smiling into the camera, looking ridiculously young and so proud on their wedding day. She watched her babies grow into toddlers and then into young adults with babies of their own. The final photograph was of all her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, including the youngest, four-month-old Rosie.
Everyone clapped and cheered and Ted produced a bottle of champagne with a reassurance that there were another two in the fridge so there would be plenty for everybody. They drank Alice’s health and commended her zest for life. She nodded and smiled, quite overcome.
Later, after everyone had left, Alice watched her DVD again, pausing it now and then to study an image more closely. ‘What a wonderful gift,’ she thought. ‘Photographs hold the greatest memories.’