Sam had begun his trudge back home. He felt that it had been a rather productive afternoon of reflecting, but it was time to move on to more important things. Besides, there would be a party in his honor that night, and who knows what else. He needed to get home and move on.
Coming over a hill near Bywater, he noticed a hobbit, almost bent in age, coming up to meet him. As he squinted his eyes against the glare of the sun that had emerged from the clouds, Sam realized that it was his Gaffer. Sam sighed in frustration. He had thought he had made it well known in his house that he didn’t want to see anyone until he returned home! He hadn’t been out walking that long, had he? Most certainly not; it was only a calming walk through Hobbiton.
He watched in perplexion as his Gaffer came to meet him atop the hill near Bywater. Hardly giving him second glance, Sam continued to walk on home, the Gaffer right along side of him. A single bird sung off somewhere, a sweet melody of a hopeful spring, and the deep scent of chimney smoke filled the evening air. Somewhere off down the road, Sam’s ears heard a ministrel playing his fiddle, and it seemed that all was well with the world. If only he could feel that same peace towards the Gaffer.
The silence that reigned was broken suddenly by the Gaffer himself, who cleared his throat and turned to his youngest son.
“You know, Sam, when I came of age, my father, he said to me: ‘Hamfast, it doesn’t matter so much where you’re goin’, as long as you’re on your way’.”
Sam stopped short, even more perplexed, and looked at his Gaffer with a dry mouth. Licking his lips a little, Sam got the nerve to choke out an injured reply.
“Gaffer, I cannot believe it was you what just said that to me now.”
The Gaffer’s deeply-tanned brow crinkled in confusion as he looked at Sam, who stood a half a head taller than him.
“How’s that?” he asked, surprised at the hurt in his son’s voice.
“Because all my life, you’ve been apt to tell me that I’d never be no good for anything, that my head was full of dreams, and that you weren’t sure how I’d ever make it. And now you’re telling me that it never mattered how I was going, as long as I was on my way. By what you say, I was always on my way, maybe not what you thought proper, but I was going someplace. And I got hollered at every day. That’s why you’ve confused me, Gaffer,” Sam threw his shoulders back, ready to fight this one out. But his Gaffer didn’t yell, and he didn’t fuss, and he didn’t even walk off. His teeth gnawed slightly on his bottom lip in concentration, but instead of flying into temper, he gently took Sam’s arm and they sat down on a dry log.
Hamfast drew a long breath before speaking.
“Sam. Sam, ever since your Mum died, I’ve never been quite the same–”
“I’ve known it, Gaffer,” Sam interjected.
“I often feared you would,” the Gaffer replied, “’cause I had to find some way to be a good father, as well as play a good mother to all you children at the same time. And I want you to understand somethin’ right here, Samwise Gamgee: I’ve always wanted the best for my children. There hasn’t been a day in my life since I held Hamson for the first time when I didn’t think about what was best for my children. Even the days when I’d work all day and come home when you were snug-a-bed and snorin’, I’d come into every room and check every bed afore I turned in myself. The truth be known, Samwise, that I care far too much for my children, so much so that it might kill me to see one of ’em fail in life. I’ve got myself the temper of a mule, and I know it! I know it, Sam! But it’s better for me to be angry at you while you’re young and have time to learn than for the Mayor to be angry at you when you’re old and got bad habits. That’s why I do it, Sam; so you can learn now how to be respectful and obeying. So you can hate me for it and abandon me later, but my father didn’t give me anymore slack than I’ve cut you and your brothers and sisters.”
Sam was stunned for a moment or two. This was all new to him, for he had expected a full-blown rouser from his Gaffer. It was his turn to gnaw at his lip and think. Sticking his hands deep in his pockets, he started to talk slowly, and as he sorted out his thoughts, it came more natural.
“Gaffer, I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed it, but I’ve always had dreams about my life and failing was never one of ’em. I think that if you spent more time talking with us instead of hollering your thoughts, you’d see that you were worrying about us for nothing. And I know that maybe that’s a bit too casual to be saying to one’s father, but seeing as I’m of age now, I suppose I’ve got a bit of right to say it. There’s never been a time when I did something only to cross you. And I don’t think that any of us ever have. Mostly because we’re all too scared to make you mad, but I think it’s ’cause of Mum, too. If you spoke with the others, they’d say more, for I know they remember more’n I do. Being as young as I was, I don’t rightly remember anything much different than having you as both mum and dad. But I do remember you being happier and nicer, and I know that what I did for you as a child, all I ever wanted was to see you happy again. It’s true for them also. Gaffer, we just wanted to see you happy again. And–” his head stooped a little, “I don’t ever recall a time when I heard you say to me: ‘I love ye, Sam, my boy’. Call me womanish if you want, but every hobbit lad’s got to hear it at least once.” He shaded his eyes with his hand, for he didn’t want his Gaffer to see his tears. Squeezing his eyes tight and pinching the bridge of his nose, he made a feeble attempt to hold back and withhold the manly demeanor that hobbits should have at thirty-three.
The Gaffer placed a hand on his son’s shoulder, giving him a reassuring pat.
“Sam,” he said, “Sam, my boy, I’ve always loved ye and don’t you ever mistake it.”
Sam smiled under his hand and banished his tears for another day. Raising his head, he felt like a new page of his life had just turned. It was a fresh, peaceful feeling that overtook him, as though a burden had been lifted from his shoulders and he could breathe properly for the first time. He knew the feeling wouldn’t last long, for another day’s trials and labors would conquer it, but this day, his thirty-third birthday, could very well be one of the best days of his life.
“I love you, too, Gaffer,” he said, embracing his old man. For the first time in ages, the Gaffer gave a hearty laugh, slapping Sam on the back.
“Good to hear it, Sam!” he said, though Sam caught the tremble in his voice. It was a rare day when Hamfast was moved.
Right after this, they parted, with a few words from the Gaffer telling Sam to hurry home. Sam responded with he would hurry, but he’d let his Gaffer get home first. His hands still buried in his pockets, Sam watched his Gaffer walk on ahead of him.
Well, what do you know? Sam thought, Who’d have thought it could happen? He called me his boy. He hasn’t been a hard-handed stinker this whole time. Checking on me every night? Maybe I should ask him if I snore….
Sam laughed aloud at the last thought. It felt refreshing to laugh at himself, and he knew it wouldn’t be the last time, either.
It was beginning to grow dark, and the lamps in the street were being lit. The stars had not yet come out, but the sun was sinking fast. Sam could see that the lights in Number Three were out, as well as the lights in Bag End. He wondered if they were laying in wait for some kind of surprise, or if they were sending him elsewhere. His wonderings was soon answered.
“Sam! Sam, you’re headed the wrong way!”
Sam turned to look at Rosie for the second time that day, which he could count as a rare thing also. Even though it was getting dark, he could almost guess what she looked like: her curls always perfect, smiling with her perfect teeth, her blue eyes sparkling in the lamp light. She was wearing blue that day, Sam remembered. And her cloak was green.
“Hi, Rose. Wrong way; what do you mean wrong way?” he asked.
“You’re dining at the Green Dragon tonight, and I’m here to see that you get there,” Rose answered.
“Oh? Lead the way, then,” Sam answered.
He walked beside her into Hobbiton, where the lamp light grew warmer as the skies drew close to nighttime. One by one, the stars began to show their faces, and a crescent moon was appearing. The shops were open later tonight, and all were warmly lit. A few junior hobbits stood in huddles, drinking warm ale and smoking their pipes, laughing and keeping merry. Sam was greeted by a few of these, but he had very few friends, on account of his work and his shy nature. Tonight was special, however, for when one shouted, “Hi, Happy Birthday, Samwise! Come of age, ‘ave you now, then?!” the rest chorused after with many, “Happy Birthday, Sam, old chap!” and “Will you be staying in Hobbiton, then, Samwise?”
“I’ll be here for quite some time,” Sam replied.
There was some applause after this, and Rosie laughed. Sam knew her eyes were shining.
When they came to the door of the Green Dragon Inn, Rosie stopped, suddenly turning to Sam.
“Listen, Sam, I was, well, actually, we were wondering, if maybe you would, perhaps, if you’re not busy, if you would come to tea on Wednesday?” she asked, “Would that be too much trouble at all?”
“Well, uh, no, no actually, it wouldn’t be much trouble at all,” Sam stammered, scratching his head, “I’ll just get Marigold to do the shovelling for the Bagginses, if there is any, and I’ll be happy to be there, then.” Rosie smiled.
“Good, because, well,” she stumbled a bit, stepping a little closer to Sam, as though she had some sort of secret, “I know it’s been years, Sam, but I really do miss speaking with you. I miss it a lot. And…well, I miss the tales you used to tell. All those stories of Mr. Bilbo. So….”
“Rosie, I’d be happy to tell some tales. I’ve got some new ones, so…well, yes. New ones,” Sam said. He felt a little dizzy. He couldn’t believe all this was happening, especially from Rosie.
Rosie just laughed a little, smiling her wonderful smile.
“Good, well, then….” she hesitated, “um….”
“What?” asked Sam.
“Uh–” She quickly embraced Sam, wrapping her arms around his waist. It caught Sam off guard, but he responded, so Rosie wouldn’t think he was being cold. He hugged her, putting his arms gently around her shoulders. He smiled to himself, for her head rested on his shoulder like it was meant to be there.
After a moment, she stepped back, and didn’t even apologize for hugging him like she had once when they were younger. It was all right this time.
“Happy Birthday, Sam,” she said, softly.
“Thanks, Rosie,” he replied.
“Well, noon on Wednesday?” Rosie checked. Sam nodded, smiling.
“Don’t forget!” said Rosie, turning.
“I don’t mean to!” responded Sam. Rosie laughed again, and this time, Sam could see her eyes shining.
“Of course!” she said, “I’ll be seeing you, Sam!”
“Absolutely,” Sam said, quietly. And he wondered if she had heard.
When she had gone inside, Sam lingered a little at the door. This day had brought on some surprising truces that may just change his life. The new page of his life, that is. And, in this case, a new page was just about the best thing that had ever happened to him.
He peered inside the door way, and smiled. In the far corner, where he and his Gaffer usually sat, an entire table was full of his friends and family. So that’s the way the wind blows… Sam thought. It was a surprise. His Gaffer was there, as well as all his brothers and sisters. Mr. Frodo was there, and Mr. Bilbo, too. Mr. Merry and Mr. Pippin sat among them, with Fatty and Estella Bolger, and the rest of the Cottons. Mr. Frodo’s friend, Folco Boffin, was with them, and several locals with whom Sam was well-aquainted. Sam’s face felt like it would break from the smile that spread from ear to ear. And to think he thought no one cared for him!
And somewhere, out among the stars etched in the deep violet nightsky, he knew his mum was watching. Watching, and smiling, no doubt. And she was happy.
Sam drew a long breath. Yes, he was ready. It was time to move on and leave behind the young Gamgee. And he was happy, too.
Author’s Notes: It’s farewell to Sam now, and time to haul in Young Took. Any ideas from the readers? I could use some wonderful, smashing ideas from all you geniuses out there! I hope you are still enjoying these! Comments would be lovely. Thanks for reading! And also an enormous thank you to PrincessofNúmenor for posting this for me, since the computer at the library won’t let me log on. Thanks soooo much!!!!! ~Ainariel