Sheela loved her room and had all the critters she had ever wanted. Lions, monkeys, penguins, giraffes, zebras, snakes and plenty of bunnies of all sizes. She had a lovely bed too. With a beautiful canopy hanging over the bed, she felt like a little princess. Sheela’s mom tucked her into bed and kissed her goodnight. As she drifted away under the canopy, she dreamt of an old oak tree. It was bare and had no leaves at all. It was autumn and the leaves had all withered away and scattered below. Though bare, it was beautiful but felt strangely different. It was not made of wood she realised as she went closer. It felt soft and cuddly. She threw her arms around it and simply loved this tree. There was something magical and different about this. Sheela soon drifted back to sleep and forgot about her dream the next morning. A few days later Sheela dreamt of this tree again. It had grown. And grown a lot bigger. Sheela told her mom about this strange tree in her dream and wished she could have this in her room, next to her bed !! Not to disappoint her little princess, Sheela’s mom promised she could have one. That night, Sheela went to bed thinking about her cuddly oak. ‘Squeeeeek, squeak, sqeeek ….’, she suddenly heard some chattering. As she silently tip-toed towards the tree to see where the sound was coming from, she spotted the cutest squirrel holding an acorn between his tiny hands near the tree !! As if by magic in a splash, the tree disappeared and the furry grey squirrel was showing himself up in all his glory !!!
Even as Sheela tried to reach for him, he jumped to the tree, turned back to look if she was following him and scampered up the tree with his acorn. ‘Sheela my darling, wakey wakey. time to go to school’, her mom’s loud call disturbed her dream. Crushing her eyes she struggled for long to wake up to reality ! She wanted to catch the squirrel, feel and hug him. He was so adorable.
‘Come my sugarplum, Mama is made your favourite breakfast. Wake up and get ready darling’, her mom came into the room and nudged her out of the bed. ‘Mama, you know the magic tree I told you about ? Today, I saw a lovely squirrel with an acorn scurrying up that tree. You know he was not real too. He looked so cuddly like the tree. Mama , please please I want them both’, she pleaded helplessly.
Her mom wondered how to convince her little darling. ‘ My dear, you know, that was a dream, don’t you ? What we see in dreams are not real. Have you ever seen a withered soft cuddly oak tree ? Ofcourse, you haven’t’, her mom tried to explain as Sheela slowly began brushing her teeth.
‘But mama, the lions, zebras and bunnies I have too, are not real. Are they ? So why cant we have cuddly trees and squirrels too ? Pleaassseeee Mom I want that magical tree and the adorable squirrel’, she pleaded again.
Her mom wondered how and where she was going to get what her daughter dreams of !!!!
That night, the squirrel appeared in Sheela’s dream and whispered, ‘Sheela, if you want to get me, come to Mr.Brown’s home next door’, and disappeared. She neither dreamt of the tree nor the squirrel again that night.
Next morning, even as Sheela was fast asleep, her mom quietly sneaked into Sheela’s bedroom and whispered softly into her ear, ‘Happy happy birthday….haaappppy birthhhddddaaaayy to my precious angel !!’ Snuggling under the duvet with her Simba, Sheela slithered reluctantly.
‘Wakey wakey my darling. Today is your birthday. You need to pack your sweets for your classmates, don’t you ?’, her mom slowly tried waking Sheela up. Even as she tried opening her eyes, she blurted out, ‘mama, I know where you can get the squirrel and the oak tree’.
‘Really ? you do ? and where would that be my dear ?’, her mom asked surprised. Sheela’s face lit up in excitement and throwing the duvet out, sat up immediately. ‘You know where ? Just next door. At Mr.Brown’s home !!’, she smiled mischievously looking into her mom’s eyes.
‘Ha haaa !! Sheela, Mr.Brown you know is an old man and has nobody. He has been living alone for years now’, said her mom. ‘But mama, the squirrel told me yesterday night, if I wished to get him, I could do so at Mr.Brown’s. The squirrel told me that mama. I know the oak tree and the squirrel are at Brown’s. We must go to his house’, Sheela insisted.
‘ Okay my darling, let me see if I can get to see Mr.Brown today. He does not talk to anybody and is a grumpy old man who prefers to live all alone. He is particularly not so fond of kids. You know how rude he was when you went to collect your ball that fell into his garden. Now finish your breakfast and pack up the sweets for your friends and teachers at school’, her mom, sweet as ever explained. The thought of celebrating her birthday with her friends, excited Sheela and she soon left for her school with her mom.
When Sheela’s mom returned after dropping Sheela in school, there was a lovely decorated limousine parked next door and there was a lot of activity at Mr.Brown’s. On enquiry, she was told, it was Mr.Brown’s centenary !! ‘My god, is Mr Brown a 100 years old !’ she exclaimed surprised. She walked around the compound wall, to wish Mr.Brown. And what surprises awaited her, there !!!!
Mr.Brown was in his sunday best, and smiling happily. He greeted Sheela’s mom and offered her a seat. What more, he introduced Sheela’s mom to everybody there as, ‘one of the best ladies in the neighbourhood’. ‘She is a lovely lady and has a wonderful daughter’, he told everyone. Sheela’s mom could not believe her ears.
While she was biting into the cake she was offered, her heart sank at what her eyes saw !!!! In the glass case behind where Mr.Brown sat, was a beautifully crocheted brown oak tree and a cute grey squirrel that looked exactly the way Sheela had described from her dreams. ‘
Thaaat, that …’, Sheela’s mom faltered pointing her finger at the shelf. ‘Thaat tree and the squirreeelll,’ she paused hesitantly as she went closer to the glass shelf. ‘
Oh those ? they are what my wife made for children for their birthdays. She made it a point to knit these different toys for the neighbourhood children and would go personally to their houses on their birthdays, wish and give them these presents. This was the last one she made for a neighbourhood child, before she died. Since I do not know, who she made it for, it has been lying there eversince’, explained Mr.Brown.
‘ Oh Mr.Brown, your wife must have been an angel. This tree and the squirrel are truly magical’, Sheela’s mom replied. She narrated to Mr.Brown, Sheela’s recent dreams and how much she has been yearning to have them eversince.
She told Mr.Brown, about what the squirrel had told Sheela yesterday night in her dream, and Mr.Brown dropped speechless. ‘No. this cant be. I cant believe this. Mrs.Brown was indeed a very noble, kind hearted woman, who, the whole neighbourhood loved. I admired her from within but never once did I openly acknowledge her goodness. Now I realise her kindness is but magical !!!! I have missed her sourly all these years, and hated myself for not being good to her while she was alive’, said Mr.Brown rather remorsefully.
When Sheela’s mom told Mr.Brown it was Sheela’s birthday today, he immediately tapped his walking stick vigorously and shouted a, ‘HO ho ho !!’, like an excited Santa. ‘ That is then settled. I will drop in this evening with a gift for Sheela. Probably my wife had knitted this for Sheela afterall. And I shall fulfil her last wish. I will bring it in as my wife would personally have done’, said Mr.Brown with his toothless mouth grinning like a child.
There was a lot of singing, sweets, cakes, balloons and kids rejoicing all over the house. Sheela was in her best spirits. All her friends had come for the party and they were having a ball ! Suddenly in the din of all that noise, they heard a bell ring. All the children rushed to the door.
There was an old man dressed like a Santa !! Or was he Santa ? But it was not Christmas yet. The children were all confused and bemused. He had but only one gift in his hand.
He slowly walked up to Sheela, kissed her ‘Happy birthday’ on her head, hugged her and presented her a gift wrapped box.
‘Open it once I am gone’, he said. ‘Ho ho ho !! bye bye children, have a wonderful, cheerful day, all of you’, he said hugging them all in his frail hands, and disappeared out of the door.
With all the kids curiously surrounding her, Sheela tore open the gift wrap impatiently and opened the box. She jumped up like a spring shouting, ‘mama my treeeeeeeeee, and the squirrrreeel from my dreams !!!!!!!!!!!!!!! woooooohoooooooo dreams are true mama. Santa is true too. This tree is magic. And this squirrel can talk !!!’ , she couldn’t stop talking. Sheela’s mom was as excited and as bewildered as her daughter !!! Perhaps, Mrs.Brown was an angel after all !!! One’s kindness and goodness lives long after they are gone. The things they leave behind probably acquire magical qualities, she told herself.
When all the children dispersed after the party, Sheela’s mom told Sheela about the visit to Mr.Brown that afternoon.
Mr.Brown became a changed man from then on and they were the best of neighbours in the whole neighbourhood.