Ellie had a grandmother, Helen, her mother’s mother. A short while ago, sadly, Helen passed away. While still alive, one of her passions was travel. She loved to see the world. Admittedly she had not been further than the United Kingdom, save for the occasional trip to Norway (her favourite being a once in a lifetime jaunt to a Norwegian recreation of Lapland she went on at least three times), but in her opinion there was so much to be seen closer to home that you could feel like you had seen most of the world within just a few counties. Plus she wasn’t terribly keen on flying, preferring to travel by coach or by train, her favourite method of transport. Without fail, she always sent postcards from her trips to Ellie, Liam and the children, although there had been one, funnily enough from when she had visited their city but had not had time to visit them, so busy was she with taking in the Christmas Market in the Cathedral grounds in the company of her closest cousin, that had never arrived. She always joked that she may as well have delivered it herself on the way home, and always lamented having missed out on a visit then, as she had never managed to see Ellie, Liam and the children together at Christmastime. Other people in the family didn’t get quite so many postcards from Helen, but Ellie, Liam and the children always did because, quite simply, they always sent postcards to her.
It was one of the many things Ellie thought to herself that she would miss after Helen’s death, and one of the first things she told Liam she would miss the day after receiving the news, when she had gone into the kitchen and seen a couple of her postcards pinned to the board, amongst all the unchecked lottery tickets, shopping lists and all manner of money off vouchers and receipts.
In an unfortunate twist of fate, Helen had passed away just before Ellie’s middle child Declan’s third birthday, when a card from her would have been one of the first through the door (birthday, Easter and Christmas cards being even more guaranteed than the always certain postcards). Two days after Helen’s passing, Ellie went on a nostalgic sort out, rooting through the cupboards and digging out all the greeting cards horded away over the years, herself and her husband being such sentimental people. Birthdays, Anniversaries, Christmases, Easters…almost any occasion you could think of preserved in greeting card form, stashed in shoe boxes and carrier bags. She singled out all of those cards that Helen had sent, along with a couple of extra postcards which had been mixed in with the greeting cards, probably by Liam. Once she had separated these and safely stored the rest where they had come from (as usual they didn’t go back in quite the same way as they had been before, something for Liam to worry about next time he went into the cupboard under the stairs for his toolbox, she thought to herself with a smile creeping across her face), she pinned the postcards with the others, clipped a photo she had managed to find of her sons Ciaran and Declan and her daughter Rohan sitting happily with Helen onto one of their smiley face fridge magnets and placed it on the fridge, and put the greeting cards…well, this was where she got stuck. Realising she should probably have thought this through more, she popped the pile in the airing cupboard (it needed tidying anyway) and promptly forgot about it. She had Declan’s birthday party to plan after all.
When the big day rolled around, exactly a fortnight before Christmas Day (therefore an extremely stressful time always expertly handled by Ellie), everything went exactly to plan, but when Ellie set about the clean up operation, things stalled for the first time. She had put all the rubbish in the bin, wrapped up any left over food that hadn’t dried out for later snacks, let down the balloons (and put one in the keepsake box in Declan’s room, where it was placed alongside his umbilical cord clip, the ticket from the trip to the circus he had slept through, the ticket from the trip to the zoo Ciaran had slept through, and the other new additions in a napkin from the buffet and the banner which had hung above the fireplace in the living room now folded up in a neat little bundle) and went to stow the tablecloth away in the airing cupboard. When she opened the door, something floated down off the top shelf and settled on the floor between her feet. She bent down to pick it up, and as she did, her eyes widened in shock. It must be a coincidence she assured herself, nothing more. But it still left her more than a little shaken to look at it, and she put it back in the pile in the airing cupboard. She wouldn’t stop thinking about it all day or most of the next; a birthday card from Helen, made out to Declan on his second birthday. Ellie obsessed about it for hours. Yes it was a year old card, but Helen hadn’t managed to send one this year. In bed with Liam later that night, she told him about it. She had made her mind up, knowing that even if he found it utterly ridiculous, he would be sensitive enough not to laugh. He didn’t. Instead, he tried to think of as many logical reasons for it as he could. The most reasonable one, he told her, was that she had found that one while picking out the postcards and, being the day it was, had subconsciously singled it out and put it on top, and that when she had opened the door to the airing cupboard a little bit of wind had got under it and blown it off the top. She managed to sleep quite soundly with the help of that explanation, and didn’t think about it again until the next day, when she made herself forget about it and believe Liam’s theory completely. And she did, for a while, until a couple of days later, when the postcards set her off again.
(Chapter 3 due tomorrow, 20/12/08)