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January 2013, vol 8, no 4

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Doris Lynch

Winter Gift

One night Dad comes home from work with something long and skinny wrapped in brown packaging. He hauls it down to his workshop, commanding us to stay away—he has a surprise for nighttime. We eat dinner and newly bought but still green bananas for dessert. Dad won’t offer a single clue and refuses to play along when we start a “Ten Guesses” game. Later we become engrossed in schoolwork and Tuesday night’s programs. The cellar door slams as Dad scurries back and forth.

At 9:30, Mom issues her first bedtime warning but Dad hollers, “Hold on, Marie, let me show them the surprise. Kids, don your coats and meet me in the backyard.”

hatbox chaos
single mittens, ruffless scarves
blast of wintry air

We galumph into the yard in wrong-sized boots that squeak as we cross the frozen snow. In the center of the yard, we can barely discern the outline of a white telescope on a tripod. We’ve only seen one once before at the Franklin Institute downtown.

Dad aims the lens at Saturn and allows us each a turn at the telescope in order of age. When my turn comes–I’m third–I peer into the eyepiece and see nothing, only a black sky empty of stars. Dad slowly points the lens higher and suddenly a whole sea of stars appears, all quavering. “Here, find Saturn with your naked eye, then steer the telescope toward it.” My hand jerks. The stars and planets lurch, but then slowly, I coax a pearly dot into view, encircled by three beautiful rings. “Holy Cow!” I yell, “They’re gorgeous. They’re huge. The bracelets of Saturn!”

above crystalline snow
clouds of children’s breath