The doorbell rings. I glance at my watch, it is just over 9 pm.
– Who can it be at this time? I wonder.
I go into the bathroom and grab my dressing down. The doorbell rings again, longer this time.
Tying the belt, I walk quickly to the door. It could be the chairman of the housing association. Have I forgotten to pay my water bill?
I open the door. A little boy not much older than three is standing on the doorstep. The outdoor light shines on his tear-stained face, fluffy white flakes are falling on the snow-covered yard, the trees are holding their breath.
– Da-Daddy went a-away, the boy hiccups between his sobs.
I am astonished. Where did the boy come from?
– Where did you Daddy go? I ask.
– Da-Daddy we-went, ca-ar.
I kneel down in front of the boy.
– Well, don’t cry. It’s hard to understand what you are saying. Just try to say clearly where your Daddy went. We will find him, I try to calm him down.
The yard is empty. There are no people around. The houses are lit up for Christmas.
– Wait a second, I’ll just get my jacket and pants. We will find where your Daddy went.
I go back in and begin to pull on my outdoor pants. The boy comes in and begins to take off his jacket. Is he going to stay? I’m bewildered. I have a Christmas record playing, and I hear someone sing about Jesus coming to visit our homes at Christmas. A sad sentiment from a long time ago creeps up on me.
There is a book on the shelf. The covers are green. There are a few pictures, too, black-and-white like they were at that time. I am intrigued by the book. Or rather one picture in that book. I want to forget about that picture.
Sometimes, however, curiosity gets the better of me. I pull out the book. I turn the leaves uncertainly and tense with apprehension, until I find the right page. There it is! I have a big lump in my throat.
It is a picture of a small curly-haired girl in a white dress, with a bow in her hair. Dressed for a party. The girl is standing all alone on a jetty. Crying. The wind is making waves on the lake. She is wiping her tears with one hand and dangling a doll in the other. She has been left. Where have her mother and father gone? She has not been taken along. There is no-one there to hear her cry. My eyes fill with tears.
– I’ll just put on my pants and jacket, so I won’t be cold. Did you come from one of homes around this yard?
I try to see if the boy looks familiar. His eyes are swollen from crying and there is snot on his face. No, I have never seen him.
I take the boy’s small hand, and he takes mine trustingly. We step out on to the yard. I notice a strange car in front of one apartment.
– Did you come from that car? Is that your car? I point at the large minivan.
– Daddy, we-ent, went, ca-ar.
The boy begins to sob again. A horrible thought comes to my mind. Did someone really leave this little boy behind and drive away? Should I call the police? What should one do in a situation like this? Should I go around with the boy, asking if any of the places looks like his home? I have recently moved in myself and do know my neighbors well.
– Was there anybody else in the car, or just you and your Daddy?
– D-d-Daddy went a-way, the boy draws in a shuddering breath.
I am painfully uncertain about what to do in this situation. How could anybody leave such a small child alone? It is sad even to think about it.
– Let’s go and ring that doorbell. They have children. I’m sure they will know where your Daddy is. Don’t worry, we will find him.
I crouch down next to the boy. I hear the sound of a passing train. The train is coming from somewhere and going somewhere. Its steady progress along the rails is safe, the passengers inside are full of tingling excitement and expectation.
One, two, three. I count the passing cars. The cars are full of mothers, fathers, children, groups of older kids. The rear windows are blocked by loads of camping gear, sleeping bags, tents, swimming rings. The sun is shining. It is hot in the city, and people are driving away from the heat toward cool lakes and rivers. I look left, then right, breathing in the smell of exhaust gas. It is cool by the evening when the last tail lights climb up the hill and disappear. A redwing is singing. It is Midsummer Eve.
– Let’s zip up your jacket, so you won’t get cold. What’s your name?
– Okay, Mii¬ka. How old are you? Show me with your fingers.
I take a good look at him. He has a woollen beanie hat and is nicely dressed. His face is round and his eyes are bright behind the tears. A sweet little boy. He is clearly well tended. I would like to hug him.
– Let’s ring the doorbell. I’m sure your Daddy is worried and wondering where his little Miika is. He must be looking for you. We will find your Daddy, don’t worry.
I try to sound convincing, although my mind is in turmoil. How did the boy come to our yard? Why did he ring my doorbell? There are many other doors.
I ring the neighbor’s doorbell. Someone is fumbling with the lock, having trouble opening it. A tall, slim man opens the door. I have never seen him before. Behind the man I can see a Christmas tree with candles and hear the cheerful voices of children. The lady of the house is standing further back, smiling, next to her husband who looks worried.
– Do you know where this little boy comes from? I ask the tall man.
– Oh, he woke up now. I just went to check on him a while ago.
The man does not look at me or the boy. He looks at his car, fumbling with his keys.
– Well, that’s Miika then, smiles the man who lives in the apartment.
I realize now what has happened. The family came here to visit, and the boy fell asleep on the way. When he woke up, he could not know where his parents had gone.
– Okay then, we found your Daddy, I say relieved and squeeze the boy’s shoulder.
I go back home. I open the door to my warm apartment. The paper window shades make a rustling sound in the cool stream of air. The lights are dim. The yellow light of electric candles is reflected on the glass of a picture on the wall. The glass angel hanging in my window clinks softly when I pass. The men’s choir on the recording is singing about the unrest in the world.
Something sad and painful flickers across my mind. The strings caress my sadness, and the vivacious chords of the piano bring in a glimmer of hope. A story from far in the past begins to unravel in my mind. Is it part of the Christmas atmosphere or a memory from my childhood? A story of a lost child and unseeing eyes.
Text: Aulikki Piirainen
Translation: Sirkka-Liisa Leinonen
You will find the original finnish blog post here.
Koronaviruspandemia on heikentänyt merkittävästi maailman talousnäkymiä. Talouden alamäki on nopea ja jyrkkä, mutta toiveissa on, ettei se jäisi kovin pitkäksi. Vaikka notkahdus jäisi vain muutamaan kuukauteen, sen seuraukset tuntuvat pitkään ja vaikuttavat yritysten ahdingon kautta yksittäisten ihmisten elämään eri puolilla maailmaa.