1915 was a long worrying year for Harriet Lyons. As the weeks and months of war progressed, she often found herself reflecting on her life. With the boys in bed each evening, she had only her thoughts for company. She’d take a kerosene lamp out onto the verandah and re-read Will’s letters, however old they were. She had fallen in love with his handwriting. It had become vital to her world, something to look forward to.
Peering out into the darkness of the cane fields, Harriet held a bundle of letters against her chest. The sky was darker than usual, void of stars. Even the moon was hidden behind dark clouds. Placing a lamp onto a small table she sank down into her favourite chair letting the gentle fingers of the evening breeze caress her face. Christmas was only days away, the second she would celebrate without Will. It has been a long nervous period of separation. She looked down at the bundle in her hand, the postcards that arrived in the parcel today were on top. “Christmas is just not the same without Will. Any celebration is not the same without him,” She thought to herself.
Her thoughts turned to her boys, her windows. Through them, she could see their father, living and breathing. They all possessed their own personalities, but Will’s blood flowed through their veins. In each one of them she could see something, a look or a spoken word. Ron is so like his father. He has his curious mind and he lives for his books. Perhaps too much. Harriet shook her head and recalled her moments of frustration with Ron. He lives in his own world.. And Kevin, he is always writing cards and letters to his father. For a young boy, he has the most beautiful copy book writing. She smiled as her thoughts moved to Jacky, the family larrikin. He certainly has inherited the Irish spirit of his Uncles. But, his father will be waiting until the end of time if he expects a letter from him!
Harriet sighed and picked up a postcard and turned it over to read the inscription, “Dear Willy Boy from Dadda”. She gently stroked the card with her thumb, knowing that the precious words in her hands may be the last she will ever receive. How can the boys truly understand the war? Especially little Billy, he is only 5 years old. For that matter, I don’t understand the war! She sighed.
The weight of her thoughts pushed her head against the high back of the chair. Harriet closed her eyes and allowed happy Christmas memories to fill her mind. The lilting notes of a fiddle broke the evening’s silence, followed by the tapping of a shoe on the timber floorboards to the quickening tempo. She began to hum to the music, Will’s music. Engrossed in the melodious notes of his fiddle, he drew the bow, back and forth across the strings. Back and Forth. Harriet’s tiny bare foot tapped up and down; and she swayed as she gazed up at her husband, entranced by the joy in his face as he made his fiddle sing.
The music suddenly digressed into a loud thudding commotion. Harriet’s eyes jerked open and she straightened up in the chair. The wind had picked up and was knocking a tree branch against the side of the house. She peered down the length of the verandah and realized she was alone once more. Holding the bundle of letters against her chest, she sank back into her chair and stared, out into the dark emptiness of night. Drawing a deep breath, she savoured the sweet comforting scent of burnt sugar cane, and whispered,
“May you have a safe Christmas Will Lyons. Wherever you are.”