The winter had been long and severe, with very cold temperatures and much snow. Nevertheless, it had its delights and pleasures for the children. If one just has good health, and limbs that are healthy and sound, it doesn’t matter if cold nips the cheeks and eyes. The cheeks get a healthier color, and the lungs strengthen during the energetic motions of throwing snowballs, tobogganing, ice skating and building of snow houses.
In contrast, the beginning of springtime was dreary. The ice melted, the snow melted, and it was gray and dirty everywhere. Soon, however, buds began to swell, grasses grow and flowers shoot forth. The sun shone warmer and warmer and the migratory birds returned in long, elongated lines from the southern lands where they had overwintered.
And in step with the drilling and warbling songs of birds, the ringing laughter and glad shouts of the three sisters – Valborg, Anna, and Lisa – could now be heard as they ran around and played in the sunshine.
But poor old grandmother remained inside the cabin! A wave of sorrow spread over the three girls’ faces when they thought of her and how pale and thin she looked there laying in bed, often in great pain. Since right after the New Year she had been bedridden, and a couple of times it had appeared that she would die.
“And it would be best for both me and you all if my old, tired legs found rest in the grave,” she said at times. “For no use or gladness can I, a poor old person, be to you except to cause trouble and worry.”
But when she talked so, all became sad. They knew how patient, mild and kind she had always been, how she gave her life’s best energy for their well-being, and how she all the way to the end, till sickness forced her hard-working hands to inactivity, struggled as well as she was able to. The three children hastened always to her bed, caressed her wrinkled forehead and silver-white hair, and said, “Grandmother must not speak like that, for then we feel so sad. Just wait until springtime comes, warm and sunny, then grandmother will become well again. We pray to God every evening, that he will not yet take grandmother from us.”
Their firm, childlike trust came true. When springtime arrived at last, grandmother felt better. The severe pains that so often afflicted her gradually lessened until they finally stopped completely. And so came the day, when she could sit up a while or lay clothed in bed during the day.
Near the end of May was her birthday. She would be seventy years old then. That day arrived with a clear, blue sky and brilliant warm sunshine. It seemed almost like the middle of summer, so beautiful and pleasant that now grandma could go outside for the first time that spring.
Naturally, such an important event should be celebrated in an especially grand way, and the three girls, therefore, asked if they could make the arrangements.
“Dear children, you don’t understand how to do it,” said mother with a smile. “It is best that I help you.”
“But grandmother would understand well enough that we did the best we could and that we chose to make her happy,” objected Valborg.
“Maybe you are right, children,” replied mother seriously. “You shall manage and set up everything as you want this time.”
Our readers can imagine the speed of those small feet! It was as though the children flew on the wings of larks as they hurried out to the green meadow and up to the little grove of broad-leaved trees. There they would pick flowers — red, white, yellow, blue — as well as the green leaves, shoots and ferns that look so decorative and elegant on a clean, white tablecloth.
Valborg then ran home before the others – she had found a pair of large, beautiful flowers that she needed mama’s help to place in a little bouquet of greens and buttercups so that they would look especially good.
Soon the little patch of the garden outside the cabin became the center of activity. In one corner of the patch stood a lilac arbor with table and benches. A white tablecloth was laid on the table there, and then it would be decorated and grandma invited to coffee.
The three girls arranged their flower bouquets as best they knew and understood, although a wise older person could see that they could have done with a little better style. But the girls did their work with love and kindness in their eyes and believed that they had done their work well. And they were confident that their grandmother would judge their settings the same way.
But, understandably, everything had been done so quietly and secretly that their grandmother had not yet noticed anything.
Finally, everything was ready and, supported by their father’s strong arm, grandmother toddled out of the cabin to “breathe a little springtime air and let the sun shine on her a while” as they suggested.
Upon entering in the garden, she stopped surprised and tears came to her eyes. Valborg, who was the oldest of the girls, stepped forward now, bowed and presented her bouquet that mother had helped them bind together, and said:
“Father, mother, Anna, Lisa and I would like to congratulate grandmother on her birthday. And I would also like to say that we think it is so wonderful that grandmother has begun to get well again and can now come out when it is Springtime and so warm and beautiful outside.”
The old woman sat down and drew the three children to herself. She thanked them for their love and for desiring to prepare such a wonderful happy surprise for a sick, old woman. And, she said, she would always pray to God that childhood’s springtime with all its hope and life and gladness would never disappear from their hearts.
And when they saw her eyes moist with tears, the children thought that they looked clearer than the sky and shone warmer than the sun. And these young people realized then that they now understood grandmother better than before: Age had well sprinkled its snow over her head, but in her heart lived still the pure, loving-warm springtime that never changes with the shift of seasons.
About this Short Story
Author: Lina Sandell (1832-1903)
Copyright © 2022 this text and page configuration: Ecology Online Sweden
Translation (Swedish to English) by Paul D. Haemig. Translation and page configuration Copyright © 2022 Ecology Online Sweden
Photo: Mina-Marie Michell (Pexels).