Theme: Father's Day
Elements: " 'Well, Mr. Frodo,' he said, 'I'm in a bit of a fix. Rose and me had settled to call him Frodo, with your leave; but it's not him, it's her. Though as pretty a maidchild as any one could hope for, taking after Rose more than me, luckily. So we don't know what to do.'" (RotK, Bk. VI, Ch. IX, "The Grey Havens")
Summary: In the Shire, roots grow deep, especially for a gardener and those he tends.
Word Count: 1905
Aye, I've seen wonders, lass. I've seen things as was terrible, frightful, and darker than any night here in the Shire, and I've seen things as made all your sweetest dreams seem pale. But in all those wonders, I've never seen the likes of you.
And here you are. I can almost cup you in my hands, you're that small. When I first heard your wee little voice, shrieking for all it was worth, I thought my heart had fallen apart inside me. But holding you like this, all warm and quiet in sleep, I think my heart has fled me entire; it's yours, lass, all yours, for all it's just a simple gardener's heart, and not worth much. My heart seems a little price to pay, if I can hold a treasure such as you in my hands.
There you are, stirring a bit. Dreaming, maybe. Those little lashes of yours are as golden as the little wisps on your head, and underneath are blue eyes, blue as sky. Took my breath a bit, when I saw them first. The midwife didn't pay me heed, or Rosie, neither; they said all babes had blue eyes at first, and in a month or so, we'd know whose eyes you had for sure, mine or hers. But lass, I know whose eyes you've got, for I've only seen the like once in my life. You've Mister Frodo's eyes, love, though by what magic, I don't know. I hope you don't grow out of 'em, as they're the prettiest eyes I've ever seen, the same color as the sky in summer, or the Water on a clear day. And if you can have eyes like Mister Frodo's your whole life, you'll never want for suitors, I'll warrant.
It was Mister Frodo as gave you your name, did you know that? We had thought to name you Frodo yourself, before we knew you were a lass, but Mister Frodo, he's clever enough to give you the best name of any lass in Hobbiton. Elanor. My Elanor. You're named for a flower, but it's a special flower, an Elvish flower. Now, I've only grown ordinary flowers before, but I've a right hand for it, if I do say so meself. Oh, but Elanor... You'll be the most beautiful flower I've ever grown, and if these gardener's hands and this gardener's heart can do aught for you, lass, it'll be done.
Oh, Elanor. For so long, I wondered if the Shire would ever heal, and Mister Frodo and even me with it. There were dark days, lass, and when you're older I expect I'll tell you about them a little, just so you can know how precious the bright days are. But you're here, Elanor. You're here, with your eyes like blue sky and your fuzzy hair that'll glow like sunshine, just you see if it don't. You're my bright day, sweet Elanor; you're my garden and my flowers and my summer.
Oh, lass. How I love you.
That old rocking chair finally fits you, Sam. When you were little, we used to sit in it together, because you looked so terribly lost if you sat in it alone. Even when you grew up, you would always sit right on the edge, like you were afraid it would crumble around you if you put your full weight on it. Now, you've got more important things to worry about, and the old chair looks right with you...the two of you...in it.
Oh, she's beautiful, Sam. Babies aren't my particular speciality, but I would venture to say you've been handed the most beautiful one in all the Shire. Why, that little fuzz of hers is blonde! Blonder than any of the Tooks, even. And when she outgrows those blue eyes (Rosie says they all fade, babies' blue eyes), I'll bet they'll be like yours, and all the more beautiful for it. And I think you holding her is the most beautiful thing of all.
You've healed at last, Sam. I know the days of the Quest were as long and dark for you as they were for me, and don't think I'm ignorant of the nightmares that still chase you. We've both been ill and wounded along the way, and though you'd never think to tell me so, I know that your road hasn't been easy these past months. But if anyone can offer you peace and comfort, it's that little scrap of life you're holding right now. She's given your life a new strength and purpose, roots that grow deep.
She's given you roots, Sam, and you'll grow and flourish right along with her.
The name is fitting, then. You were never so happy as you were with your hands wrist-deep in earth, coaxing those little seeds into bloom, and this little one... She's special. She'll be worth more than whole gardens, I expect, and you'll give her more love and attention than any flower you've ever grown before. I wish I could see how she grows, how she blossoms, because with you tending her, she'll live up to that Elvish name and more.
But I have to go, Sam. You won't understand, but I must. If you've been given roots, I've been pulled up by mine, and I'm dying. You've tried, Sam, I know you've tried, but I think these are hurts you can't heal. You've lavished more of your care on me than I've ever deserved, but I'm no better than cut flowers. In a short time, I'll wither and die, whether you love me or not. She'll take your love and return it in bloom; she'll live for you, Sam. She'll heal you and make you whole, something I could never do.
She needs you now, and I won't have you torn apart, trying to tend two gardens at once. I'm leaving you with the one that will live, Sam.
It's all I have left to give you.
You, and her.
Never in my life have you told me not to cry, and you don't start now; you just pull me into your arms like you've always done, and that breaks me more than anything.
"There, lass," you say, and the sound rumbles through your chest. I cling to your weskit and sob all the harder.
I've said my piece, and you've listened, and it hasn't made a bit of difference. You don't care if there's no ship waiting, or if you won't be allowed to sail, or if he's dead and gone when you get there. Mam always said there's nothing like a Gamgee for sheer pig-headedness, and that half your life you've lived on determination alone.
You're going to follow him, Da, and there's nothing I can do to keep you.
"Lass," you say, and gently push back my shoulders. "The road waits."
You shake your head and wrap one of my curls around your finger. "Don't, Elle. I've told you. I'm going, and that's that."
I cross my arms against the cold morning and glower at you, and never mind that my eyes are red and still a bit wet.
"If Mam was here, she'd know how to make you stay."
I know I'm cutting low, for she's not far gone and I feel the pain of her passing same as you. But you surprise me, and laugh.
"Elanor, love, if your mam was here, I wouldn't be, and that's fact. Come here, lass."
You take my hand and start walking, and I've no choice but to fall in step. You can laugh all you like about being a fat old gardener, but you won't catch any of your children breaking out of your grip. Any child in the Shire, for that matter.
We don't go far, just to the top of a small rise, but it's far enough to let silence fall over us. You face the west and sigh, but say nothing. Neither of us are much for words, and today is no different, for all today should be important. There should be words for today, but I can't find them, and seemingly, neither can you.
"Lass," you manage at last, not looking at me. "Elanor."
It's a false start, and I can see you wrestling with yourself in silence. You close your eyes and take another deep breath and try again.
"Elanor, I know you don't understand. And maybe it's cruel of me, with your mam so soon gone, to go myself. But lass, I must. I can't explain it to you, rightly, but I must."
"Why, Sam-dad?" Oh, the tears are coming again, and I can't help it.
You shift uncertainly. "Lass, you've read the Book, and heard the tales besides."
"You're not answering me."
"I'm not sure how."
"It's a fool's errand, Da!" I burst out. "You know nothing at all! Off you go, to a place you've seen but once, looking for a ship that may or mayn't be there, hoping some Elf you don't know will let you sail to a place you've only heard of, hoping he'll still be there, alive and waiting for you! I won't even know if you're dead or alive, Da. I won't even know when to grieve."
You snort. "Save your tears for better use, lass."
You turn to look at me, not smiling. "I mean it, Elle. I won't tell you not to weep o'er your mam, and I won't tell you not to weep as I go, for your old dad has shed tears of his own for less things. But I don't mean for you to weep forever, and giving you a day to wail over is no reason for me to stay. That's all the more reason for me to go, if you follow me."
"I'm not waiting for you to die, Da," I say. "I want to take care of you. I want you to stay where I can make sure you're looked after, and loved. Aye, loved well. He was looked after by wizards and elves, Da. Who'll look after you?"
"Don't you leave him, Samwise Gamgee," you whisper, almost to yourself, and turn your eyes to the west. "There's a promise I made a long time ago, Elanor. And he left me here for many's the year, and those years a gift, too. He gave me you, Elanorellë. He left me to grow a family and tend the Shire that I loved so well, and he left to tend his own hurts so I wouldn't fret over him. I don't know how, but he knew that you little ones would need fretting enough. It's him that's looked after me, lass: he left me with a home, and a garden, and a family to fill it with. But a promise is a promise, and I would keep my word, even if I didn't love him still. I've always meant to follow him, lass. I love you, and your brothers and sisters, and your mam as well, bless her; but there's none of you that has need of my tending any more, and it's time I remembered that old promise."
You let me bury my face in your chest and wrap my arms around you again, clinging tight.
"I love you, Da," I say, over and over again. "I love you."
"Ah, my Elanor," you say, and gently stroke my hair. "I love you, lass. There's aught to fear."
The sun is rising slow in the east, and the chill of the fog is lifting. I can hear your pony now, jingling his harness, and I let you go.
"You'd best be off," I say, briskly wiping the tears from my face. "There's a long road for you to travel. I've put a few pies in your saddlebags, and apples for elevenses. Your water skin is full, though if you want some cider, I'll fetch you some."
"I'll be fine, lass," you say, and touch my cheek. You don't mean the food at all, and your lips on my forehead nearly make me cry again. "Just fine."
You mount up, easy as ever, and turn to the road, waving once. The sun breaks over the hills, burning through the fog to light your way, and I can hear you singing, "The road goes ever on and on..."
I can't see your face, but I know you're smiling as you ride.
You're going home.