Sarah-Beth is beautiful, though she can’t see it. These days she can hardly see anything; macular degeneration is stealing what little eyesight she has left bit by bit. “I can see the shape of my table-mates’ heads,” she tells me, “but not the details of their faces.” I try to imagine what this is like, but I can’t. When I think of how important my vision is to me --how just this morning I was noticing how the gold and white and black fur of the blaze on our cat Isabel’s forehead looks like the threads on the back of a tapestry – when I think of the wonder that fills me when looking at layered pink peony petals or gray-blue thunderheads threatening a summer sky – when I am gazing into my husband’s gray-blue eyes – how could I bear to lose the gift of sight? But despite the gathering dark, and the sadness it sometimes brings, mostly Sarah-Beth’s light shines brightly. She can see little from the outside, but her inner landscape is vivid. She tells me about some of the quirky people she met when she and her husband used to deliver meals-on-wheels. There was one lady, a retired nurse, who lived way, way out on top of a mountain, only reached by driving narrow dirt roads with harrowing turns. “When we finally found the house, she had a sign that read “Beware of mean owner. But she wasn’t really mean”, Sarah-Beth tells me, “She was spunky. She told us that one day she woke up and said ‘what am I doing with my life?’ and then she divorced her cranky old husband and went to be a nurse on an Indian reservation where people paid her with food and hand-woven blankets and pottery. Her house was like a museum!” Sarah-Beth’s eyes sparkle as she tells me this. And then she tells me about one night when her mother woke her to take a secret midnight walk into town. The snowflakes were falling like feathers from angel wings. Falling soft and silent. They walked into town and ate a hamburger at the all night diner and then walked back home. That was all – her mama just wanted her to see the first snow of the season as it fell. “It was so beautiful… and my daddy never knew!” And as she says this, she is no longer a 97 year old woman with failing vision but a twelve year old girl, smiling mischievously and stretching out her hand so that I become the other daughter/sister/friend walking down a quiet small town street in 1932; silver white snowflakes kissing our noses and foreheads.
Denise Bennett is a storyteller, musician and writer living in Richmond, VA. Her piece "Holy Mother at the VMFA" appears in the new Life in Ten Minutes anthology, "Nine Lives". This piece "Snowflakes" is submitted with "Sarah-Beth's" (not her real name) permission and blessing.