Dedicated to the real Jane Gilmore. An older woman who sat in a wheel chair in front of me at The Hearth Café this fine morning in November. I don’t know who you are, or even if you like Frank Sinatra. 11/24/10
“Jane!” a girl called, running past her companion. The two girls were dressed similarly, one in a red dress the other in respectively in blue. At first glance their equally far skin and dark brown hair, always kept in two braids, made the girls look like twins. They were often asked whether or not they we’re sisters, a question they loved to hate.
“Hurry up, the night program will be on soon!” the girl ahead called back again.
“I’m hurrying Gurty!” Jane said between panting breaths. Her feet were starting to feel heavier in the sloppy mud which was all that was left of the school field. Jane tossed a dark braid from her face, steam plumed out of her nose and mouth in the cold autumn air.
By the time they reached the house Jane could feel her cheeks turning red. Both girls dashed into the house making for the living room.
“Gurty! What on earth are you doing?”
“Good afternoon Mrs. Gilmore,” Jane said following Gurty past the kitchen door into the livingroom. By that time Gurty had already begin the task of finding the radio station of choice. The ominous dark wood box cracked and sputtered to life with all forms odd noises.
“Good evening, Ladies and Gentlemen. Tonight I’d like to present and new song. This is ‘White Christmas’ by yours truly, Frank…”
The two screamed, but only for a moment as the live audiences’ applause faded and the band began the tune. Gurty swayed to the music across the large Persian rug while Jane simply sat on the floor resting her head on the radio. The song finally came to a close, and the return of applause brought both young ladies back from their far off places.
Jane looked down at her hands, realizing they were still thawing from the run home from school. She shivered only for a moment until, quite suddenly, the weight of a quilt was upon her. Thankful, she gathered the folds of the blanket around her and turned to see who had brought it.
“You looked cold,” said a newly deepening voice. Jane followed the pair of blue-jean knees before her eyes up to the boy who towered above. He smiled awkwardly, toying with the hem of his sweater sleeves.
“I heard your birthday is in a few days,” he said.
Jane nodded, “three more days.”
“Yeah,” he agreed. He smiled at his own comment and rubbed the back of his neck. “Well, happy birthday,” he said at least before retreating to his room upstairs.
“Ugh, boys are so strange!” Gurty commented.
“I’m fine thanks,” said the woman dismissing the waiter. She toyed nonchalantly with the spoon in her coffee.
“I had a good time tonight, did you?” asked the gentleman from the other side of the table.
“Of course! Frank Sinatra is always my favorite.”
The young man smiled with relief that revealed his nerves. He fidgeted, playing with the hem of his coat sleeves, just a mite to short for his long arms.
“Well it’s a pretty special day,” he commented at last.
“Well actually, my birthday isn’t for two days,” she said. The musical laughter escaping her bright red lips and shining white teeth made the man gulp. He looked down at his watched as an excuse only to find the time leaving them.
“Well Jane, I guess we better hurry up and head home, or I’ll have your Father and my Mother to answer to.” He smiled at the false doom waiting for Jane to stand, he did the same. A sudden burst of confidence overcame him. It glimmered in the smile held manly by his eyes as he offered, “Did I ever say how I really liked the hat you’re wearing?”
Jane looked up from collecting her things from the table to look up as if to see the hat she was wearing. “Only twice Harry,” she laughed. She looked back to her date to find him suddenly quiet. To her surprise he was much shorter as he knelt on one knee with a small black box in hand.
“Happy birthday Jane”
“Where would you like to sit mom?”
“Anywhere is fine,” the old woman said quietly. Her eyes followed quietly around the room, drifting in the directions her wheelchair took her.
“How about here?” her daughter asked from behind her. It wasn’t much of a question as she pulled the one of the chairs out of the way for her mother and then sat down herself. Jane shivered in her sweater. The cold made everything within her ache.
“Gurty dear,” she said coughing to clear her thoat, “baby could you please get my quilt out?”
Her daughter obeyed draping the quilt up to her mother’s neck.
“I’ll get us some soup,” she said loudly before walking up to the front counter. Jane closed her eyes listening to the slow click then puff of the oxygen machine hanging from the back of her wheelchair. After so long it had become a constant, a heartbeat of sorts, only much easier to hear now and days.
The radio in the restaurant played softly. It was a number of odd songs, with yelling voices and loud instruments, all clashing terribly. Then the sounds faded and the announcer spoke.
“Hey guys and gals, it’s the first day of winter and to kick it off right here’s the old Frankie-Blue-Eyes himself!”
Jane closed her eyes to the ever so familiar tune. She could remember every note and word, and every year that came with it. It was suddenly hard to remember the year, or where she was, the itch of her sweater, or the weight of the quilt. It could have been any thousand days, or any eighty-four birthdays.
“Here we go mom,” Gurty said setting the soup bowls down on the table, “and look Bill is here too!”
“I Momma Jane,” he said sitting down beside them he placed his hand on her should her. “Happy late birthday,” he said loud enough for the whole room to hear.
“I’m sorry we missed it yesterday,” her daughter admitted.
“It’s fine,” Jane said quietly, still thinking of the song replaying in her mind.
“It’s that a new hat?” Bill asked.
“No dear,” she replied, “I just haven’t worn it that often.”