Knocking on a Cabin Door
It was deathly quiet, or as quiet as woods can be on a young spring day. He stood there, looking into the clearing. It wasn’t much of a clearing now, but it used to be.
He clenched his fist and pounded it against his thigh. And letting out a sigh, he finally said “Ok.” As if to say, “my standing here is rather childish.” And it was childish, at that.
“20 years? Has it really been 20 years?” Being a professor, his mind was perfectly equipped to remember that it had been 23 years. But, being a fool, his mind had almost accepted the lie that he repeated to himself a thousand times: “it hasn’t really been very long at all.”
Each step was agony, but he had come this far, so turning back was simply out of the question. “Or is it?” his inner fool whispered.
His eyes remained fixed on the cabin door, expecting at any moment it would swing open. It was a small cabin, chimney in the back and one window in the front. She had lived here for 35 years now. Rising from the chimney was a soft trickle of smoke, so he knew there was no hope she wouldn’t be home. Between two trees hung a line, an almost imperceptible string. It was used for drying laundry, he presumed, but in its current state, it stood ready to decapitate whoever might not see it. His thoughts flew from item to item as his trek to the front door wore on. He was halfway there now.
Now, a few steps away. Now at the door. He lifted his hand to knock, but he let it hover as his mind raced.
There once was a time when he kept in touch with her. A time when they played and laughed together. She had taught him most everything he knew, but he couldn’t, for the life of him, remember one time when he thanked her.
His mind went to his last day at home, and how frantic it became. Him wanting to get out and her not letting him go, offering more food or saying, “remember to go to church.” He remembered how he had stormed out, suitcase in hand, yelling that he hoped he’d never see her again. He remembered the day Dad died: he told her that “Dad understood me. He wasn’t like you.” He remembered when her letters finally stopped coming, after a year of refusing to reply. Didn’t she get the message already?
He was older now, and wiser. He knew now how the message must have been loud and clear. The message must have broken her to little bits. “How stupid was I?” he thought.
But no more. If there was a sliver of a chance that she would forgive him, he wanted in. So, he knocked.
The door opened, and there stood his mother.
Those of us with a mother know what happened next. I am sure that if you traveled around the world for a hundred years, you would never find anybody so ready to forget past wrongs than a mother to her son. Indeed, the most shocking ending to this story would be the one in which the mother does not forgive her son. But was not so with this son. He, like every child, received more love and more forgiveness than he ever could have deserved if he had lived fifteen lifetimes.
And so ends our story, but not for our professor. For, although his mother died a year later, he made more memories in that year than he could ever hope to count.
If you are like me, and can only read on paper, I have included a printable version of this short story: