The Girl in the Braids

“Good to see you , Luke,” Sammy said. “I dropped down to find out if you wanted to go for a fly over the lake.”

December 11, 2014

Now that my son is an adult, I sometimes forget about all the things we did together so that life was richer for both of us. The children’s story, I am going to share with you here, is one that I forgot about completely until I was shuffling through my stack of writings on paper.

This one is not published but I think it is probably something that evolved from the bedtime stories I told Luke every night. They were inspired each night by one of the many stuffed animals that shared his bed. One or the other of them would help me start the story and then I would ad lib until Luke drifted off to sleep.

Sometimes he would interrupt my story telling with a question. One night, he impatiently wanted the story to continue, so after I had answered his question to his satisfaction, he urged me to go on with, “Keep on reading, Mom.”

It was then that I realized he thought I was reading something from a book not making up my own original stories. I enlightened him to this fact and, although it took a while to sink in, he finally understood.

I was flattered, in a way, because we read a lot of books during each day and , in his mind, anyway, my ad lib stories held up to the published book stories.

The following is one of these stories and it is my Happy Winter Solstice/Merry Christmas story to you

The Girl in the Braids

by Tanya Lester

That year as Christmas drew near, Luke was sick in bed.

He coughed.

He sneezed.

He blew his nose.

“Luke,” his Mom called one day. “Someone here to see you.”

Luke crawled out of bed, put on his red bedroom slippers and went out into the living room.

Standing on the mat by the door and shaking the snow off his wings was Sammy. (Sammy is a sea gull).

“Sammy,” Luke yelled and went over to give the bird a big hug.

“Good to see you, Luke,” Sammy said. “I dropped down to find out if you wanted to go for a fly over the lake.”

Just then, Luke had to blow his nose.

Honk. Honk. Honk.

“I wish I could,” Luke said, ” but I got a cold so Mom will never let me. No use even asking.”

“I’ve got an idea,” Sammy said. “I’ll be back in a flash.”

“Set the table for lunch, please, Luke,” Mom called from the kitchen.

Luke at hot, chicken soup for lunch. He had just finished washing clean his bowl and spoon where there was a tap at the window in the kitchen facing the bird feeder.

“Sammy’s back,” Luke said and ran to get the door.

When Luke opened it, a bunch of feathers tied together and as big as a Christmas tree tickled his nose. They moved forward a little and Luke said two yellow claw sea gull feet on the floor beneath all those feathers.

“Is that you, Sammy?”, Luke asked, not wanting to let an unfriendly, stranger sea gull into the house.

Then there was a loud: Ahchoo! Ahchoo! Ahchoo!

The feathers blew apart and Sammy’s head popped out.

“Oh, oh,” Luke said. “That was fast. You caught my cold already.”

“No, no,” Sammy said. “I just sneeze whenever I’m around crow feathers.”

“Crow feathers?”

“Yeah, well you see this,” Sammy shook the feathers.

“It would be hard to miss them,” Luke replied.

“I collected these bird feathers all summer long,” Sammy said. “There are blue jay feathers. And over here are owl feathers. These are pelican feathers and, of course, you will notice the gull feathers. And, over here, see, are a few prairie chicken feathers. Remember that day we flew out to that festival in Portage la Prairie. I picked those up, then. But the crow feathers are the only ones — ahchoo — that make me sneeze.”

“Do you want to see my coin collection?” Luke asked.

“No, no, I didn’t come here and bring this just to show off my feather collection. You can wear my feathers like a big poncho.”

Sammy stuck the feathers on Luke’s head and they fell down to cover every part of him except his head. For his head, Sammy pulled up a hood of feathers that was hanging on the back of the poncho.

“There now you are snug as a bug in a rug,” Sammy said. “Let’s go out for a fly up to Lake Winnipeg, say.”

Mom walked through the livingroom on her way to her work in the office. “Why Luke you look as snug as a bug in a rug,” she said. “That’ll keep you nice and warm if you are going out for a fly with Sammy.”

“Let’s go,” Luke said. “See you for supper, Mom.”

“Okay,” Mom yelled from her office and then both of them could hear the tap, tap, tap of her typewriter.

Sammy and Luke went outside. Sammy, who didn’t want his feet to get wet with snow, took off from the steps and hovered around the snow covered tree tops on the other side of the green fence.

Luke couldn’t get himself up so easily. He walked over to the gate, went through its opening and then hooked it carefully shut. Then, with his feather-covered arm sticking out from the rest of him, Luke ran along the sidewalk as he said the magic words, “No such thing as impossible. No such thing as no can do. No such thing as I won’t do it. No such things but only I can.”

Both up in the air, Sammy and Luke glided around and flew off due north. Soon they were out of the city and flying across the perimeter highway. Still they kept going north, along the frozen river, over the highway and then there were thick wooded areas of trees caked heavy with snow and boulders blanketed in the white stuff.

Then — whoosshhh– the wind caught at their tail feathers as they flew out over the huge, wide, frozen Lake Winnipeg. Even the snow drifts were so crusted with ice that the wind could not change their shapes. There they stood like waves frozen in mid-splash.Snow blew everywhere like fine, powdered sugar.

Luke could see little huts where he knew people sat inside while they fished through holes in the ice. No other living thing could be seen anywhere. The wind howled. To Luke’s ears it sounded like the screaming car tires on Ellice Ave.

Then, the wind stopped.

The gulls were crying. Not only Sammy but many, many gulls glided through the light breeze in the blue sky. The sun’s hot rays made Luke feel sleepy.

“What is this?” Luke asked himself and if you could see his eyes, you would see they were almost popping out of his head.

Sammy swooped down and settled on the calm, blue water not far from a red and white striped sailboat.

Luke looked over closer to the cream coloured sand of the shore. In the water bobbed three, black objects.

Luke was pulled closer to those black objects by a force like static electricity only it did not shock him.

Now he could see they were three girls. On was big and tall and rode on the largest grey log. She held its jagged branches like a rider might hold the reins of a horse.

A second girl was smaller, much smaller and had a short pixie cut of brown hair. She paddled along as her arms held onto the log in front of her. Sometimes she would dive right under the log and come up on the opposite side of it.

But it was the third girl, Luke was sure he had seen before. He didn’t know where or even what her name was but he still felt he knew her. This girl had long brown hair tied up tight into two braids. Her bathing suit was red with a little ballerina-like skirt on it. She stayed very close to the shore and clutched her grey log under one arm while she pushed along the sandy bottom with her free hand. When she got into the really shallow water, she stopped pushing and lay there soaking in the water as content as a frog on a lily pad.

Sammy sailed up to her and, looking up at Luke, called, “Luke, come down for a swim. It’s just like bathtub water.”


“Luke, come take your bath. The water’s in the bath tub.” It was Luke’s Mom.

Luke opened his eyes to a dark room and looked around. He was in his bed again. The day was gone. Outside, his window he could see snow was falling in the night.

After his bath, Luke went into his mother’s office and found the photo albums. In a very old one, he found a picture of a girl with braided hair tied up tight and rather crooked bangs.

“Who’s this?”, Luke asked when he went over to where his mother was reading in the armchair with her feet up and showed her the picture.

“It’s me when I was a kid like you,” Mom answered.

Suddenly, Luke was very sleepy. He went back to his room and crawled into bed again. By next morning, his cold was better but his cheeks were red and felt hot.

“Luke, you look like you have a sunburn,” Mom said when he went into the kitchen to eat his bowl of Red River cereal.


To read the earliest posts in this blog, please go to

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Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader by Tanya Lester can be purchased from the author or by going to the title and author name– to read the first pages and buy it– at

Tanya Lester’s other books are Dreams & Tricksters, Friends I Never Knew and Women Rights/Writes. They are available in some library systems and also at the Legislative Library of Manitoba.

That year


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