Gwen, a loving but pessimistic daughter, relentlessly cares for her family. With her aging mother’s hope of her father’s return, her family’s New Year’s Eve will never be the same when things take a turn.
Minutes before New Year’s Eve strikes, a thick blanket of snow covers the gravel. The streets are lit with Christmas lights and the atmosphere is filled with merriment. All around, families gather together preparing for the new year ahead.
Inside our humble home, I make Mother’s favorite tea while she waits at the great room.
“Gwen, could you get my hourglass, dear?” Ma says, lounging on her rocking chair beside the fireplace. “He’s coming back tonight,” she adds.
“Sure, Ma, I’ll get your hourglass,” I say before dashing through the house.
Every New Year’s Eve, my mother always believes a miracle will happen. If I were younger, I would have believed her, but now, I blame it on her old age.
Approaching her room, I see my son, Greg, on the floor playing with toy trucks and stuffed toys. He smiles when he sees me and waves his teddy bear’s brown little paw as a greeting. I chuckle and take the toy from his hand.
“Instead of playing with your toys, why don’t you help me find your Grandma’s hourglass?” I ask him. He stands up readily and gives a military salute. His hand holds mine as we enter the old room.
“Remember Greg, do not touch anything. We’re only here for Grandma’s hourglass,” I warn him.
The crescent moon dimly lights the old room. An hourglass gleams beside Ma’s heirlooms.
“Mom, this seems weird,” Greg mutters while staring at the relic, which was rimmed with kaleidoscope glass and held together by a wooden handle. Inside it, golden sands fall in a tremendously slow manner.
“It was a gift from your grandfather to Grandma on their first New Year’s Eve together, but it’s best not to tinker with it,” I explain, avoiding any further discussion. Dad left us on New Year’s Eve when I was young. While I learned to forget about him leaving, Ma, on the other hand, still latched on to the idea of him coming home.
“I wish Grandpa was here tonight,” Greg whispers. He taps on the hourglass. The hourglass glows with faint embers and glistens ever so slightly.
“Greg! I told you not to touch anything!” I scold.
“I’m sorry Mom, but I couldn’t help it,” He answers. “I saw Grandpa.”
“What are you talking about now?” My son always had quite the imagination.
“He’s here! I saw him!” He insists with wonderstruck eyes.
“Enough,” I protest.
“Why won’t you believe me?” Greg asks, filled with disdain as he held the hourglass.
“Greg, it’s been years already. You have to get your head out of the clouds,” I tell him. He clenches his jaw in contempt and runs out the room. The silence makes the shrilling blizzard sing.
Midnight approaches while we sit near the fireplace. “Did you find my hourglass?” Mother repeats.
Greg gives her the hourglass and as her hands grasp around the relic, a heartfelt smile crosses her face. Her eyes shimmer with happy tears.
She looks up at me and says, “He’s coming back tonight.”
As the countdown to the new year starts, the doorbell rings as the fireworks began to pirouette. Ma opens the door and we see a tall silhouette. In a state of awe, my heart skips: a familiar face we used to know smiles and greets us, “Happy New Year’s Eve.”
Stepping closer, he embraces my mother – it was Dad.
“I’m free,” he whispers into her ear. His unyielding stance meets the bliss she overbore.
My father, eyes filled with hope, a prisoner of war no more.
“I’ve always believed you’d return. Now, you’re finally home,” Ma replies.
For the first time since I was a kid, they waltz through the corridor once more with the same youthful aura in their kindred spirits.
Through the snow-covered pavements and ice-kissed windows, I see our relatives’ cars coming to my parents’ surprise.
Five, four, three…the sands of the hourglass sink as specks of snow fade with every blink. We watch the night sky fill with fireworks marking tomorrow’s bliss.
Two, one…finally, around the hearth and warmth, our family is finally complete.