“Dani, thank God! I thought you were dead!”
“Who are you?” She asked and was shocked at his stricken expression. She knew exactly what he saw—emerald-green eyes staring
from a thin figure beneath the covers of the hospital bed. In the mirror earlier, she’d seen the same blank eyes in a colorless face framed
by blazing red hair.
The man was blond and obviously took care of himself. Had she been standing, he would have towered over her when he came into the
room and extended a large hand.
She flinched and then realized that he’d called her Dani. He must know her!
“It’s true, then. You don’t remember.” His shoulders dropped, along with his hand. “I’m Reed—your husband.”
“But…I don’t know you.”
“Didn’t they tell you? You were in a car accident and you’ve lost your memory.”
“Yes, but don’t you think I’d remember my own husband?”
“Dani, we’ve been married for nine years—and we have two children, Jackson and Amy.” Reed spoke quietly in an obvious effort to
reassure her or maybe to remind her.
She slowly shook her head. How could this be real? How could she forget her own children?
“It’s true. Trust me. Before I could come in here, I had to prove that you’re my wife. I had to show them our marriage certificate, pictures,
She didn’t know what to say. Surely they wouldn’t have let him come in if there had been any doubt, but still…
“I’ll go get the kids,” he said.
“No! Uh, won’t this be hard on them?”
“The doctor and I explained your condition to them, and even if they don’t understand perfectly, they want to see you.”
“But I’m not…I mean, I don’t remember being a mother!” Beads of moisture formed on her upper lip and forehead. “Won’t that scare
“Dani, they want to see you,” he repeated. “They won’t stay long, I promise. You need to rest anyway, so that you can come home
“What? But I…I don’t want to leave here.” His eyes flared with pain, but how could she leave with a man that she didn’t know?
“I’ll…be right back,” he said.
He slipped through the door before she could stop him, returning moments later with a child clinging to each hand.
The little girl looked to be about four and had curly blonde hair like her father. Her face was scrunched up in an expression that was
probably a prelude to a flood of tears. The boy, about seven Dani guessed, had fearful eyes, and his pale face was framed by blonde hair
as well, but with the tiniest hint of red.
Dani was sure that her own features reflected similar emotions and she had to admit that she also had a strong urge to cry. Her grip on
the hospital sheets tightened, and she tried to remember what their names were. What had the man said? She couldn’t remember, but it
didn’t matter. What mattered was that she just didn’t remember having children. How could they be hers? Wouldn’t she remember the
thrill of finding out that she was pregnant? Or the pain of giving birth? Or the exhilaration of holding newborn babies in her arms?
She eyed the two little people now staring at her—both of them looking confused and afraid. She might not remember these children, but
they were very young and in obvious need of comfort. She opened her arms and they rushed forward.
The doctor discharged Dani the next morning after reassuring her that the memory loss was short term and would likely return in familiar
surroundings. Her eyelids drooped as the black Jeep she was riding in pulled into the driveway. Still, she mustered enough energy to
glance curiously at the house they’d said she’d lived in for nine years. It was a two-story house with a wide veranda stretching across the
front. White with dark green shutters and a front door to match, the house looked wonderful…but it wasn’t familiar at all.
The children had stayed with a neighbor so that Dani could get her bearings, and she was sure that Reed expected a miracle, thinking
she’d regain her memory the minute she walked in the door. She knew she was right when he stared at her expectantly.
“It’s very nice,” she said as she glanced around the tiled entryway.
“You laid these tiles yourself. None of it seems familiar?”
Dani shook her head and decided to ignore Reed’s curtness.
“Maybe if you wander around something will jog your memory.”
She nodded, but kept her coat on as she turned left and walked through the livingroom and then the dining room. She came through the
kitchen and family room; coming full circle to the bottom of the stairs to find that Reed had taken her bag up.
She hesitated with one foot perched on the bottom step. How could she know that the boxy white machine in the kitchen was the
dishwasher but not know what color her dishes were? How could she know how to program the VCR but not have a clue what her favorite
movie was? Shaking her head slightly, she looked up at the top of the stairs to where her husband waited.
Reaching the upper level, she eased past Reed, looking into doorways as she walked down the hall. The first room obviously belonged
to the boy since there were action figures lying amid the clothes on the floor. Next was a bathroom, followed by the little girl’s room
judging by the profusion of dolls and the color pink. Dani stopped at the last door, probably the master suite, and was startled when Reed
bumped into her from behind.
“Sorry,” he said.
“No, it was my fault. You weren’t expecting me to stop.” Their words were stilted and polite—as though they were strangers in an awkward
situation—which was exactly what they were, she thought.
He sighed heavily and turned to leave. “I’ll get the kids and after they’re in bed tonight we’ll talk.”
Dani shuddered. She wasn’t looking forward to facing the children again. How would they feel, seeing the blank woman that they knew
was their mother?
Reed and the children cleaned up after supper while Dani rested in the living room. She finally noticed the lack of Christmas decorations,
even though she’d been told at the hospital that it was December 21st. What did that mean? Did they even celebrate Christmas? Surely
her family believed in God. Even with her memory loss, she felt a strong sense of faith. She picked at the furry covering of a blue cushion
while she waited for them to join her so that she could ask.
“We didn’t want to start without you, Mom,” Jackson explained.
“Can we decorate now?” Amy asked from her father’s lap.
Reed turned to Dani. “The doctor suggested that we stick to as many family traditions as possible during the holidays. Maybe a tree
decoration will seem familiar or…”
She finally understood that they were waiting for her approval. Anxiously waiting, judging by the children’s hopeful expressions. She
smiled. “Why don’t we find out? Let’s decorate.”
Amy cheered, hopping up to pull on her father’s hand.
“Can I help bring up the boxes and the tree from the basement?” Jackson contained his excitement a little better, but just barely.
“Why don’t we have a real tree?” Dani looked at her husband.
His eyes narrowed. “You insisted that we get an artificial one last year so that no real tree had to suffer for us.”
“That’s okay, Mommy.” The little girl said. “You must have forgotten.”
“I guess I did.”
“Will you read the Christmas story to me?”
Dani hesitated—waiting for Reed to take the lead.
“Why don’t you get your book, sweetie? Mommy can read to you while we bring everything upstairs.”
Dani’s eyes grew moist as she sat beside the little girl on a large overstuffed chair and read about the birth of the baby Jesus. The story
was so familiar—more so than her own face at the moment.
Reed and Jackson made several trips up and down the stairs during the story, and when they finished, they began to open boxes. As they
sorted through their treasures, they took turns telling Dani the stories behind the decorations.
Some of them had been on Reed’s and Dani’s family trees when they were children and some had been purchased for Jackson and
Amy. By the time they finished decorating the tree and enjoying hot chocolate—another family tradition—the story of their lives together
and the past nine Christmas seasons had unfolded. At regular intervals throughout the evening, Dani found it necessary to deflect more
than one ‘remember, Mommy?’ in an effort to avoid ruining the decorating party.
Her husband sat on the couch after putting the children to bed, and she could tell that he had something on his mind.
“It didn’t mean a thing, did it?” he asked, his voice edgy.
“All of this, the decorations, the stories; none of it was familiar, was it?”
“What do you want from me?”
He took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, Dani. I was so sure that something tonight would bring back your memory.”
“It’s only my first day home. I’m sure it’ll take a little time.” She gave him the reassurance he needed, even if though was hollow. “Do you
mind if I go to bed now?”
He stood when she did but made no move to follow her. “No, of course not, you must be tired. I hope this evening wasn’t too much for
“Don’t worry about it. I think the children needed some normal family time.” She smiled briefly. “I’m tired but I’ll be fine. Good night.”
“Good night, Dani. I love you.”
She glanced sharply at Reed and knew that he was waiting for her to reply. But how could she? He was a stranger to her! “I’m sorry,” she
said, then turned and climbed the stairs.
As they usually did according to Reed, the family purchased gifts for each other, and on December 23rd had a gift-wrapping session.
Afterward, they watched a favorite movie while munching on popcorn and Amy fell asleep cuddled up to Dani. It was bittersweet. She
wondered how often they’d cuddled in the past—something else she couldn’t remember.
When Reed returned from carrying Amy upstairs and sending Jackson to bed, Dani had cleared the mess in the family room and was
harvesting popcorn kernels from the rug.
“Leave that for a minute, okay?” Reed stood in the doorway with his hands stuffed in his pockets and looked at everything but her.
She set the bowl down with a clunk and stared at her shaking hands as though they didn’t belong to her. Had she blundered somehow or
upset the kids? Or was Reed getting frustrated at having a wife who remained an erased slate? She sat on the edge of the couch and
fisted her hands tightly in her lap.
“I talked to our parish priest today…about our situation,” he began. “I hope you don’t mind.”
Dani opened her mouth but the apology that she’d been prepared to make remained unspoken. She closed her mouth and shook her
“I thought we’d attend Mass on Christmas Eve, is that okay with you?”
“That’s fine.” He wanted to talk to her about Mass?
“Good. Uh…anyway, Father Pat wanted me to remind you about Adoration.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Before the accident, you went to Adoration at the church once a month.” He walked around the back of the couch before sitting in the
overstuffed chair that Dani had occupied earlier. “Father said that it’s today and you can stop by whenever it’s convenient.”
“I don’t know. It’s late and…”
“You always went at night after the kids were in bed, Dani. You said it was peaceful in the church—the best time to communicate with
“I just go there and sit, right? I don’t have to talk to anyone?”
“Just God, I guess.” He shrugged and then smiled. “Although, you mentioned something once about just listening.”
“Look, I know you think it’ll help me remember, but don’t get your hopes up, okay?”
“Hey, if something clicks, great, but even if it doesn’t...”
“Okay, I’ll go.” She stood up and suddenly frowned. “Um, just one thing— how do I get to the church?”
Reed laughed and went to draw a map.
A wall of silence greeted Dani when she opened the heavy door of the church. Reflected light glimmered and drew her attention to the
front where the Host sat in its golden case surrounded by glowing candles. She didn’t see the priest although she assumed that he was
nearby, and she barely noticed another parishioner sitting in a pew at the far right.
Moving up the aisle, Dani chose a seat midway on the left and slipped into a pew. Uncomfortable and out of place, she didn’t know what
to do. Helplessly, she closed her eyes and offered a prayer for her memory to return. It might be a selfish prayer, but Reed, Jackson, and
Amy had been just as devastated by the car accident as she’d been, and they didn’t deserve this agony.
Opening her eyes, she focused on the altar. She tried to clear her mind and took several deep breaths. As she concentrated, the
shadows in the cavernous church disappeared and the sound of creaking ancient wood fell away.
She wouldn’t have thought it possible, but soon a calming silence flowed through her. At that moment, she alone existed with God.
Finally, a noise behind her, a discreet cough, alerted her to another’s presence. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw an older man walk
up the outside aisle and she realized that, for awhile at least, she’d been alone. She attempted to ignore the man and focused her
attention on the front of the church once more.
It was gone. Whatever that intense communication had been—it was gone now. Instead of trying to get it back, Dani decided that she
might as well leave.
Vaguely disappointed, she stood and made her way to the back of the building, turning briefly for a last glance at the altar. She thought for
a moment that she saw the priest near the front, but when she peered into the gloom at the edge of the candlelight, no one was there.
The air outside was crisp and cold and Dani hurried to the Jeep. She started the engine to warm it and her head fell back on the
headrest. Silent tears flowed over her cheeks. Despite her words to Reed earlier, she, too, had secretly hoped she’d find answers inside
She scrubbed at her tears and put the vehicle in gear, backing out of the parking space. This was ridiculous! Why would God concern
Himself with her memory? She was healthy and whole, and her family had a roof over their heads and plenty to eat. So she didn’t
remember them. So what! She’d get to know them all over again. She’d create new memories!
As she left the parking lot and drove onto the street, she wondered if Reed would be disappointed that there had been no miraculous
intervention for her. She hoped he would accept her decision to move on in spite of her lack of memories.
She stopped the Jeep in her driveway and got out, noticing that a shutter was hanging loose next to the front door. She was positive she’d
asked Reed to fix that last week. Oh well, he’d have time after the holidays, she supposed.
She climbed the stairs to the veranda and stopped as she reached for the doorknob. Something was missing.
She paused and then shook her head as she realized that they’d forgotten to hang the wreath—a wedding gift from her sister. How they
could have forgotten the beautiful wreath that had graced the dark green door for so many years…
She yanked her hand back, stunned as she stared at the empty expanse of stained oak. A moment later, the door opened and her
husband welcomed her home.
|Copyright 2008 Donna MacNaughton. All rights reserved. Site by Donna MacNaughton
By Donna MacNaughton