Restoration

Restoration

Posted January 09, 2015:
The Day Uncle Charles Turned Ten

by Echo Lewis.

In this issue on family, here’s something for the children. You grown-ups will probably enjoy it, too.

Perfect snow cover.

Perfect sunshine.

Not so perfect promise.

Uncle Charles was ruining my life before he got here.

"We’re going to pick up Charles’s Christmas present, Ben," Mom said. "Promise you won’t go sledding while there’s no one around. I don’t want to come home and find you on Madman’s Hill with a broken leg."

"No promise, no more sled," Dad said. "See you later."

Mom and Dad left, and I propped my sled against the side of the house. It wasn’t going downhill, but my

twelfth birthday was.

Rats.

A car turned from the road into our drive. New York plates.

"Uncle Charles!" I didn’t want him to come at all, and here he was, early. I liked his car, though. Compact black Cadillac.

It stopped, and a man got out. Bald. Skinny. Moustache. Not much taller than Mom. I hadn’t seen him since I was little, but it was Uncle Charles, all right. The one who had never set foot in a barnyard.

"You Ben?"

I nodded.

"You’ve grown."

I nodded again. "Uh, wanna… I mean, would you like to come in?"

We stood in the kitchen staring at each other.

"Uh, would you like a soda?"

"No, thanks."

"Watch television?"

He shook his bald head.

"Build a snow fort?"

Uncle Charles’s moustache drooped.

Poor Uncle Charles. Poor me.

Three whole days to go. Uncle Charles might be a big shot in the city, but out here in the hills, he was useless.

No, wait! Not totally useless. I could put him to work for me.

"Uncle Charles," I said real casual, "come see my new sled."

Before Uncle Charles knew what hit him, I shoved him and his black suit into Dad’s down jacket, popped a brown knit toque on his head, got him into boots and mitts, and pushed him out the door.

"Here, you stand at the top of the hill, and I’ll show you how it works."

I flopped onto the sled and sailed down Madman’s Hill.

"Yahoo!"

Great sledding.

Great snow job on Uncle Charles.

I climbed back up the hill.

"This sled is my Cadillac, Uncle Charles. Isn’t she a beauty?"

"Sure is. My turn."

"Huh?" I blinked. My hardly-ever-leave-the-city uncle had to be kidding.

"Madman’s Hill is tricky, Uncle Charles. I don’t think … ."

Uncle Charles straightened up to his full shortness.

"Give me that rope."

"Wait, Uncle Charles; I’ve got a better idea. How about a game of checkers instead? It’s getting cold out here." I shivered like I was real cold.

"The rope, Ben."

I turned it over. My stomach turned over, too. Pretty soon I’d be on the phone dialing nine-one-one.

Uncle Charles didn’t seem to think so. He lay stomach-down on the sled, his legs bent back so his feet stuck up behind him. His pant legs slid out of his boot tops and draped around his knees.

"Give me a shove, Ben."

I gave him the tiniest nudge possible, but Uncle Charles shot down the hill quicker than I brush my teeth in the morning. His right foot dropped, caught in the runway, and flipped him off the sled. He landed headfirst in a snow bank.

I lurched downhill through snow up to my knees, keeping my eyes peeled on the spot where he lay, Dad’s hat belly-up beside him.

"Uncle Charles!"

Before I could plow through the drifts to save him, he struggled upward, sputtering snow.

"Big foot got in the way. Next time it’ll work."

"Next time!" I stared at his frosted moustache, his trousers caked with snow.

"Uncle Charles! You’ve done great. You’re blue ribbon. But you’ll kill yourself. And Mom and Dad will kill me!" I held the sled rope behind my back.

Uncle Charles held out his mittened hand.

I gave him the rope.

At the top of the hill, he got off to a wobbly start. I clapped my hands over my eyes. When I got brave enough to look, I saw Uncle Charles waving at me from the bottom of the hill.

"Wahoo!" he yelled. "Ride ‘em!"

"Go, Uncle, go!" I danced and waved my arms.

Uncle Charles climbed the hill one last time, his face as red as the sled.

"That’s it, Ben. You’ve got a fine Cadillac here, but I’m done for. Thanks."

I nodded and took the sled rope. How could I have ever thought Uncle Charles was a dud?"

Back in the kitchen, we made hot chocolate.

"This may be my fiftieth year," Uncle Charles said, stirring the cocoa, "but I feel more like I’ve just turned ten." His grin spread wide under his thawing moustache.

I grinned back.

"If you’d stay longer, Uncle Charles, I bet we could come up with lots of fun stuff to do!"

—Echo Lewis, a member of MH, has written a children’s book (middle grade readers), A Long Way from Welcome, and Victorious Exile: The Unexpected Destiny of Katya Kolyschkine, a biography of Catherine Doherty geared to young adults. Both are available from MH Publications.

 

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