Camellias, Snowdrops and Roses

by Orangeblossom Took

The Great Smials, Yule 1421

Pale winter light streamed in the window to illuminate a handsomely-appointed Hobbit bedroom. A sensible-looking female Hobbit was shaking a large lump in the middle of the bed.

“Come on, Pip love,” she whispered, “the sun is shining and there is a lovely blanket of new snow on the ground. Moreover, you are going to miss breakfast if you sleep much longer.”

Pippin stirred, muttered something intelligible and covered his face with a pillow. It was not that he did not want to get up and greet the bright winter’s day with his family, especially Pearl. His oldest sister was as a mother to him and he was sorry to cause her concern but a weight that was not physical crushed him into the bedclothes. This, of all times of year, he should be cheerful but it only drew out the melancholy of the year’s farewells and the passage of time. Also, today was a day of rest and, lacking the energy for conviviality, he preferred to spend it forgetting certain things. He barely registered it when Pearl, sighing with concern and frustration, gave up and left the room.

He had never had a difficulty being cheerful and was, in general, an optimistic soul. At least that had been true before this, the first Yule since Frodo’s passing, he thought ruefully. Of course, he felt losses deeply and his father had been dreadfully ill with the winter lung-sickness. Paladin was on the mend but still not up to his full strength and that too put a damper on this year’s festivities. This was apparent in Pippin who was taking on more and more of the tasks of a Thain. He did everything required of him with competence but without any joy and his sleeping was irregular.

It was still two years before he would come of age. This seemed incomprehensible to Pippin. Surely he was much older. Had it really been just over three years since he had left the Shire a more than usually immature tween?

Pippin dozed off and was insensible to the changes in the quality of the light. The skies had darkened with soft, grey clouds, like so much unspun wool. He fell into a dream of blood and screams. He was looking everywhere for Merry but could not find him.

“Wake up, Uncle Pip,” said a small voice and a little hand shook his shoulder.

Pippin stirred and saw that it was four-year-old Pansy, the older of Pimpernel’s two girls. In a groggy voice, he asked, “What are you doing here, Pansy-love?”

The fry pursed her rosebud lips and shook a small finger at him. “It is Yule, Uncle Pip,” she said, “and Mother thought we should spend it with you, Grandpa Paladin, and Aunt Pearl. Aunt Pervinca and Uncle Milo should be here soon.”

“Well,” said Pippin, “I am glad you are here, Pansy. Where is Periwinkle?” That question was quickly answered when the two-year-old lass came into the room holding her mother’s hand.

“Hello, Pervinca. Good to see you,” Pippin said. Pervinca and Pimpernel, but especially Pervinca, had the ability to irritate him as no others could. Often he wished it could have been only him and Pearl.

However, Pervinca, after assessing his condition, was surprisingly sympathetic. “Why don’t you take the girls for a walk outside, Pip? It has just begun to snow.”

After a brief moment of shock that his middle sister had not made a snide remark, Pippin said, “It’s snowing?” He looked out the window and ascertained that it was, in fact, snowing. He smiled and said, “I would love to take the girls.”

“Good.” she said, “That will leave me free to help Pearl with dinner.”

Pippin went through the rather long process of getting the little girls back into their cold weather clothes ad then took them out into the snowy afternoon. The snow was coming down in large, fluffy flakes and this delighted the children. They passed the gardens and saw bush with waxy green leaves and bright pink flowers still clinging to life.

Periwinkle pointed and squealed, “Flower!”

Pansy shook her head and corrected her little sister, “No, Peri. It is a camellia. Say camellia.”

Periwinkle looked at her sister and uncle with solemn brown eyes, thought about it a minute, and said, “Camellia.”

Pansy smiled. Pippin laughed and said, “Pansy, you will make a fine teacher when you are grown.”

The little girl looked at him with an earnest expression and said, “I would like that, Uncle Pip. I don’t suppose the camellias will be there after this weather but, before you know it, there will be snowdrops. After them, there will be daffodils, then, best of all, roses. Then there will be asters and goldenrod, then camellias and holly berries. After that, it all starts over again.”

“So it does.” he said, “You are very wise for such a little lass. Why don’t we go back in and see if we can get Aunt Pearl to give us some hot tea and biscuits to warm us up while dinner is cooking?”

Pansy nodded in agreement, Pippin hoisted Periwinkle on his shoulders, and they walked back through the pristine white blanket produced by the accumulating snow, Pansy running ahead to catch flakes on her tongue. The girls made Pippin’s heart feel lighter.

When they got back to the Smial, Pearl got them the tea and biscuits. While his sisters busied themselves in the kitchen, Pippin sat by the fire with his nieces, enjoying the flickering fire while Pansy squished beside him in the chair and Periwinkle crawled on his lap.

“Would you girls like to here a story about four brave, intelligent, and handsome hobbits?”

So, he told them a carefully edited version of the doings of their uncle and his friends while they waited for dinner. Pippin knew that he would always mourn those he had lost such as Frodo, Boromir, and all those brave men of Gondor and Rohan. He would also mourn the loss of time, childhood and innocence. He could, however, rejoice in these girls and the fact that, every year, there would be snowdrops and roses.