The boy peeks from behind the wall into the kitchen. The smell of chocolate chip waffles had coaxed him from the comfort of his bed, a place he was quite disinclined to depart from on this snowy Saturday morning. He watches quietly as his mother flurries around the kitchen in her usual refined chaos, zipping through cupboards and yanking ingredients from their haphazard placements across the countertops.
The boy loves to watch his mother cook. She is a magician and an artist in the kitchen. And in life.
“And what are you doing awake, kiddo?”
The boy jumps as his mother sings the words in her light, melodious voice. She doesn’t bother to look at him; she simply continues mixing ingredients in the big glass bowl in front of her, occasionally pausing to open the waffle maker and pour a large spoonful of batter onto the iron plate. The boy can see little bits of chocolate laced throughout the mixture. He can smell the chocolate, too.
He walks inside the kitchen sheepishly. The enticing aroma of the waffles gets stronger. His stomach growls; he covers it with his arm to muffle the sound. “I was watching you. And,” he adds as an afterthought, “it’s Christmas Eve. I can’t sleep when Christmas is almost here!”
“Watching me? Why on earth would you spend one of your only days you get to sleep in watching me ruin your waffles?”
“You never ruin them, Mom.”
“That’s my boy. You always know what to say.” She finally looks at him with a twinkle in her eye, smiling crookedly. She turns back to the waffle maker, opening it, where a perfect chocolate chip waffle rests inside. She carefully eases it off the hot cast iron and onto a plate. She holds it out to the boy. “Come on, now. Don’t let this get cold.”
“Thanks, Mom.” The boy grabs the plate and hops onto the barstool, his stomach gurgling loudly now. He doesn’t bother to hide it this time. The sound ceases as he shoves a forkful of the waffle into his mouth, chewing so quickly he doesn’t taste it; he only feels the quick burn against the back of his throat. His eyes water. His mother wordlessly hands him a glass of orange juice, which the boy gulps down gratefully.
She leans her elbows against the opposite side of countertop across from him, placing her chin in her hands, smiling as she watches her son gobble the waffles down in mere moments. “Something tells me you enjoy––or, rather, enjoyed, I guess––that waffle,” she says. “Would you like another?”
“Another and another and another,” the boy answers immediately. She laughs as she grabs his empty plate and slides two more waffles on it. She takes one for herself.
The boy and his mother eat, watching the snow fall gently outside their window. The boy feels peaceful, calm, happy––he has grown very fond of this Saturday morning routine. It is a point of tranquility amongst the coming busy weekdays.
“I have something for you,” the boy’s mother says quietly.
He turns to her. She’s smiling again, but… sadly, perhaps. A ghost of a smile.
“Really? You do?”
“Yes.” She hesitates. “An… heirloom, so to speak. It was given to me by my father. So, I wanted to give it to you, since it’s Christmas Eve. And, like last year, you’re allowed one gift to open on Christmas Eve. Would you like to see?”
“Yes, please!” The boy exclaims. He quickly swallows the last bite of his waffle, using the back of his hand to wipe the remaining chocolate from his mouth.
“Good. Wait here. And use a napkin.” She wags her finger at him as she straightens.
His mother departs from the kitchen, heading toward the ladder to the attic. The boy moves about in his seat, restless and excited. Christmas Eve is always an exciting occasion; he yearns to know what this year’s present will be.
The boy hears his mother rummaging about from the attic and can hardly keep still as he hears her footsteps make their way back to the kitchen. She emerges in the entryway, holding something behind her back. He cranes his neck, attempting to see the present behind her. She easily sidesteps out of his line of sight, turning so that he can't catch a glimpse. The, she slowly eases the present in front of the boy's eager eyes. She pauses.
“Just making sure.” She brings her hands in front of her, her left hand clasping the gift.
The boy narrows his eyes. It’s about the size of his hand. At first, he can’t tell what it is; then, he realizes it’s a small green teddy bear, with round ears and small beaded black eyes and a black nose. It looks worn, but clean, and the fur is thick and plush. He smiles as he looks at it.
“I hope you like it,” his mother says softly. “My dad gave it to me when he left for the war. I always took it with me, wherever I went. It became a part of me, especially when he didn’t… anyways. And, now, it can be a part of you too, if you want.” She bites her lip. “I… well, I altered it a little. I hope you’re okay with that.”
“Okay?” The boys says, his eyebrows raised in surprise. “It's... it's awesome, Mom! It... it looks just like me!” He stares at the teddy bear in awe.
“It does, doesn’t it?” His mother says gently, smiling as the boy gingerly takes the teddy bear from her, careful not to pull too hard. “I thought you two looked a little similar.” She ruffles his hair, watching as he grins down at the little animal tenderly cradled against his chest.
“I love it, Mom. Thank you.”
The boy reaches forward and wraps his mom in a hug with his right arm. His left arm is gone––just like his teddy bear's.