I am starting to get more and more into Knitting! And one of the reasons is this Lovely Lady and her Blog and Posts. She is delightful, - check her out!
im going to start writing more. DH got me a Writing Class for Xmas and Im jammin. See you all soon!
Tuesday, August 28, 2012
Helga settled into Mary's rocking chair at the Hoist home, weary, yet happy that everyone seemed to be resting. It had been a very long two days in this house. Mary had given birth before, so it was unusual that labor had been so long and tedious. Both Helga and her mother Jeanette had been worried that the stress could have hurt the baby, but the little girl looked and sounded healthy. Even after her mother Jeanette had left, Helga checked the baby's lungs again and listened long to her tiny heart to see if there were any skipped beats. So often in a hard delivery, these things were overlooked and seen as a superstition against faith. But Helga, her mother and Grandma Esther had been a midwifing family for generations, and even though they needed to outwardly respect such beliefs, they did whatever they felt needed to be done to ensure the safety of mother and child.
There were so many situations in this household presently. Mr. Hoist was out hunting with Helga's and Jonathan's father. So there was no man to come and fetch the midwife. The oldest boy, who was nearly in a complete panic when he showed up at their home, was who let Jeanette and Helga know the baby was coming. And once they were at the house, and had Mary calmed down, Helga had noticed that the toddler had a bad cough. While she cooked a simple supper for the children, she pulled Timothy onto her lap to further investigate. He was more than willing to snuggle with Helga, as he missed the attention from his mother, Mary. Helga waited until the little one became drowsy and listened to his chest. Not only was his chest garggling, but his breathing was making a whistling sound. Helga immediately wrapped him in a blanket, laid him in a makeshift bed in the room and set about making a mustard pack for his chest. In no time at all after the mustard pack was placed on his chest, Timothy awoke coughing up a storm. He cried quite a bit, because it scared him, but in a couple hours his chest sounded clearer and he was sleeping peacefully. His mother became alarmed when she heard Timothy crying, but Helga assured her that all was well and let her know that she had been doctoring the toddler.
Once Timothy was sleeping again and she had the other two children busy with washing the dishes she went back in the bedroom to see if her mother and Mary could use her assistance. Mary was not resting as comfortable as Timothy, but she was not yet alarmed as she was pretty used to the birthing process, this being her fourth child. It wasn't until later in the evening when she was practicing the two oldest in their reading and letters that Jeanette asked her to come in the room. Helga spent a few minutes giving the children a few tasks to do, as not to alarm them, but she was aware that if her mother needed her help at this point the birthing was not doing well.
Once in the room she was aware that this was going to be a very hard labor for Mary. The pains were causing her hands to go white as she clutched at the sheets and alternately the bed posts above her head. She did whatever she could not to make a noise so as to alert her children that she was in distress. At this time during birthing Helga was never used to the sacrifice that women made during delivery. Not only were their bodies going through a tremendous strain, but each time she was amazed at the pains the woman took so as husband and children did not know their distress. Often times that is why two women were needed when a midwife was called. One oversaw the birth and the other, even though she was there to help in emergencies, her main purpose was to take care of the family's needs so the mother would not get up and do so immediately after birth. Helga had known of a few families that were now motherless because the woman got up from bed too early, and with just the addition of another woman in the home this could be abated. Even though Helga's grandmother, Esther, was not strong enough to last for a birthing as she used to, she often came to help out in this capacity. And sometimes even Grandpa Benjamin came, although Helga strongly felt he was there more to watch out for his wife.
Mary's little one's birth was hard, mainly due to the same circumstances other's had in this land. Women were tired, often in malnutrition as they sacrificed their food for their children, and often had children one after another, without their bodies having time to recover. Often the three midwives tried to give nutritional and other advice to the women, but this fell on deaf ears more than not, as each family did what they could to survive. Many of these families, came as once Benjamin and Esther did many years ago from a distant land, and carving out a new life was not the business of “milk and honey” that all had been led to believe.
Helga gave her mother a little bit of a break after putting the children to bed. They had a little time together to try and talk about what they could do to make this birth safer for both mother and baby while Mary had a few minutes of sleep in between contractions.
“She is having such a hard time, how is she fairing?” asked Helga.
“Just as most women in this area she has more courage than is thought, until the going gets rough.” answered Jeanette.
“Can you tell how the baby is doing?”
“She is not having any pains other than her contractions, so I can only guess that the baby is holding its own.”
“What can I do to help you?” asked Helga, as she looked into her mother's tired eyes.
“Sit with her awhile, please. Let me freshen up a little bit and I will be back.”
“I have a better idea, Mama. Freshen up and then go rest in the front room. I will come get you if anything out of the ordinary happens or I feel that it is her time. When this baby comes, it will take all the strength we both have. And I have had some rest, while I have been watching the little ones.”
“You are sure?” Jeanette asked
“Go, Mama.” answered Helga.
Jeanette stood up and placed a kiss on her daughter's forehead. “I will obey you gladly.”, she said. “But do not hesitate to call me, Helga.”
“ I will come get you if anything happens, Mama. I promise.”
Helga was able to give her mother about an hour's rest. Mary awoke from sleep suddenly with her eyes wide, and a frightened look about her. Helga immediately took her hands and confidently said, “Take my hands Mary. Hold them as long and hard as you need to.” She had several contractions they went through together like this.
Then calmly Mary looked at Helga after a strong pain and simply stated, “The baby is coming now.”. Helga looked at Mary and saw resignation of the pain to come. These women were truly brave. Mary was exhausted behind measure, yet she would give all she had to bring her child safely into the world tonight.
“Let me get Mama, Mary. We shall all make it through this together.”
“Yes, yes, go, we shall.”
Helga went into the main room of the cabin and saw her mother peacefully sleeping near the Hoist children. She hated to wake her so soon, but it was time. Just before she did though she bent down to listen to Timothy's breathing and was glad to hear that he was still sounding clear, no whistles. Helga gently shook her mother's shoulder. Jeanette's eyes shot open and looked into Helga's face. So as not to wake the children Helga answered her mother with a nod of her head and walked back into the bedroom where Mary had just started with another pain.
Near the end of the siege, that had lasted hours, each woman wondered if this baby would ever come. And when it did, would it be healthy? Jeanette looked again at Mary, but this time she was encouraged. “Push Mary, push! Bring this baby into the world!” Mary's eyes shone with a new glow and with more strength than it looked possible she grabbed the bed post behind her and gave one hard push after another until in three monstrous heaves Mary's little girl dropped into Jeanette's arms. Everyone was silent for a moment. Mary was catching her breath. Helga was holding on to Mary's hands and Jeanette was sitting still as could be watching the chest of the baby. Then piercing the silence Mary's little girl inhaled deeply and then let out a monumental scream for one so little. All three women burst out in laughter and Jeanette laid the baby in Mary's arms.
“She is beautiful Mary” simple stated Helga.
“What name do you have for this strong girl child, Mary?” asked Jeanette.
“It must be something showing her strength, eh? But I will wait until my Mr is home and we will talk it through. Are you hungry little one?” Mary asked this question of Baby Girl Hoist as she slid her in position to nurse. Just then there were tiny knocks on the door. “Is the baby here? Can we see it?” chimed the children in the front room.
“Go ahead, please, let them in to see their little sister” smiled Mary.
Jeanette wordlessly opened the door with a wide smile on her face as the children came running into the bedroom. Helga stopped them just as they all almost collided into the bed. “Gentle, gentle.” she said calmly. Now the children tiptoed up close and “oohed” and “ahhed” at the little creature their Mother was holding. “This is your sister. Papa and I will name her, like we did all of you as soon as he returns from hunting. Now, let us take a nap and you children go back to bed. It is late for all of us.”
“Yes, Mama” all three chimed again.
After the children left Jeanette went into action taking precautions on the necessary tasks after birth and making sure that mother and baby were comfortable. When she and Helga were done , Helga looked at Jeanette and said, “Now you go home Mama. I will spend the rest of the night here. Let Grandma know that all is well. And then you come tomorrow afternoon after you have rested.”
“I will come in the morning as soon as I awaken.”
“Sleep Mama, Sleep.”
“Yes, I will. Thank you daughter. They should be fine now. Everyone should rest for a little while. But you should have much on your hands at daybreak when the other three wake up.”
“We will manage fine, Mama. They will have chores and I can keep them busy while Mary and the baby rest.”
“You have convinced me, Good night.” said Jeanette as she gathered her basket and quietly left the room and then the cabin to her horse that would take her to her parents house.
Since her mother left Helga had yet been able to sleep. She was glad that her grandparents home was not far. There she knew they would take care of her mother when she arrived, although she would not get to spend time with Helga's young brother just yet, he would be asleep by now. Helga knew that sleep would not come for awhile for her no matter how tired she was. As hard as this birthing was it was stimulating enough that her mind would be awake for hours. So to ease her mind she opened her knitting basket and worked on finishing a gift for the baby. This had become a tradition of the three midwives. She was glad that Grandma Esther had taught her to always bring her string bag. Sometimes there were long long stretches with nothing to do for the mother, but when one needed to be alert. Knitting was the perfect remedy for such moments.
As Helga knitted she listened to the breathing of the Hoist children. They all slept soundly and all now breathed quietly. She let her mind wander to what she would make the children for breakfast that would be fun so they would have a good remembering of their baby sister's entrance into the world. The next several weeks they might tend to feel neglected with Mary having so much to do for the baby and time for herself to heal. So one good memory could do a lot of good to get through the coming days.
“I am glad this little girl was born while the weather is still good. Not only did we not have trouble getting here, but there still will be enough good days that the children can play and work outside. It will be good for them and also give their Mary a break.”
Helga also thought ahead if she could come back a little more often than usual to give Mary a respite in the next few weeks. She did not foresee any births or grave illness they were attending just now. Although an emergency could come at any time. Helga resolved to stop in and make sure she could entertain the children. She would offer herself as a 'Mother's Helper'. Mary's children were good well behaved children, but they were still children and there was one more being to give attention to. And Mary was a good friend to all, it would be pleasant to be able to help her in a time of need. As she had often done for others.
Just as Helga was finishing the last stitches on her gift for the baby Mary's oldest son awakened. “How are you feelin' little man?”, asked Helga.
“I'm alright”, said the boy. He sat up on the makeshift bed and then quietly moved himself over closer to Helga. “Is my mama really alright? Did the baby hurt her?”
“When babies come into this world, they come with pain. But that pain is quickly forgotten by its mama when she sees their face. It was the same when your mama first laid her eyes on each of you, as it was tonight when she first saw your little sister.”
“I've been worried about Mama, she is so tired.”
“She will be fine. It's hard work carrying a baby. But now you can help.”
“Your Mama will need time to get some strength. You can help by doing all you can without her having to ask. And I know it is hard, but if you can keep your brother and sister busy it would help. Do you think you can do all that?”
“Sure!. I am almost 10.?”
“That old?” thought Helga. It did not seem that long ago when she had been in this very room helping to give birth to him also. “Yes, you are.” she assured him. “And I will be around to help too. Would you like that?”
“Yes Sister Helga and Mama would like it too. Sometimes even with us and Papa she seems mighty lonely. But she always looks good and sings more after company comes 'round.”
Helga smiled at the boy. Mary and her husband had raised them to address others in their traditional way of 'Brother' and 'Sister', 'Aunt' and 'Uncle' for those not so close and 'Grandmother' and 'Grandfather' for the elderly. Truly they were teaching their children community and family was more than what they saw in their own little cabin. She also mentally made a note to come a little more often even after Mary got her strength back. And to talk to some of the other women about stopping by. Mary loved to sing and had a beautiful voice. So if she went a time without singing, then perhaps 'cabin fever' was getting to her as she struggled to keep house and take care of her little ones. Not that this was all that unusual. That is why it was so special when the women got to visit each other and get together. They needed another 'Quilt In' perhaps. Helga would mention that to Grandma when she got home. All the women for miles around young and old could not say no to Esther. They all enjoyed her company and each other's as they gathered and also shared some wonderful delicacies. They often each brought some baked goods and then divvied them up after so they could each have something special to take home and enjoy.
“Lie back down and get some more sleep now.” Helga smiled and touched the cheek of this brave boy in front of her.
“What about you, Sister Helga?” he asked.
“I will if you will. How about that?”
“Sure,” he said.
With that he went back over and gently put himself back to bed with his brother and sister. Helga herself finished binding off her project for the baby, a blanket, that hopefully would be special to her and could someday be a keepsake for Mary and maybe even the baby, when she gave birth. Quietly she got up, slowly opened the bedroom door, hoping it did not creak. She tiptoed in, checked on both Mary and the baby. They were both sleeping soundly, breathing in unison. 'Just as in the womb.' she marveled. She then retraced her steps, again hoping that the door would stay silent and went back to the chair where she had spent her knitting time. She tucked the blanket in her bag, reminding herself to give it to Mary in the morning and she laid her cloak down near the fire and allowed herself some sleep. 'Just a few hours and we will all have much to do.' she thought to herself. 'Midwifing is a good life. It is worth the tiring out to feel as I do now.'
Joseph had watched the boy run across the field until he no longer could make out his form. Then he stood just a little longer, as if staring guaranteed his safety. In fact he stood still as he could willing the boy until Thunder got nervous and nosed his hand. “You're right Thunder. He got to us without help, he can get home too. It's just.... Come on Thunder, we better get back while we can. We aren't used to venturing this far either.”
Joseph turned around, lifted his arm a little ways so the lantern set light on the path just a little ahead of him. Thunder was to his side, but a little bit behind, wary of walking places they did not know, especially in the dark. They weren't used to being out this late anymore. Days past, yes, but that is what they were, days past.
Joseph marveled at how the boy must have walked these woods with his limp. 'He is no quitter, Thunder. And he is curious too. I like that.' Thunder made a quiet moaning sound. “Yes, yes, he liked you too, Thunder. In fact, if he comes back at all, I'm sure it will be 'cause he wants to see you.” Thunder must have understood, as he pranced a little bit and made a joyful sound.
Joseph and Thunder got back to their homestead and immediately sat down on the porch. Joseph was in his rocker and Thunder lying beside him. Joseph slowly rocked until he knew it was time for him to retire. “Thunder, there are ghosts all around aren't there? Well, at least they have revisited my mind again. That boy brought them back, brought them all back. But, he also let me find my voice again, let me feel like I want to smile again. It's been a long time hasn't it, boy? Let's get some rest, we'll figure something to do tomorrow?” Joseph picked up his lantern, walked in his door and went directly to his bed. He changed into some night clothes, blew out the lantern and Thunder climbed up to lie by his feet. “Yes, it was a good day, Thunder. Best we've had in a long while.”
Joseph slept through the night but he often tossed and turned, moaned and sighed. Thunder was concerned and jumped off the bed to stare at his face, lick his hand. The dreams would stop for a little while, then return with a vengeance. Daylight did not come soon enough for either. Sunlight woke Joseph as it always did. He sat up in bed, grateful that the night was over. “My wife used to call them Night Demons, Thunder. She sure was right. Let's see if we can scatter the cobwebs away and start our morning.”
Joseph started his coffee on the wood stove and got some jerky in the pantry to surprise Thunder. He sat on the porch and drank one cup of coffee then started out for the barn. He grabbed a three legged stool off the wall and commenced to milking Daisy his cow. From there he let his two horses and two mules out. He fed them outside and went back in to feed Daisy, her cohort Susie and his bull, Red. There were also three sheep, two ewe and a ram. Then over to the chicken yard to gather eggs and feed his brood and roosters.
“Well, chores don't take too long now do they, Thunder? We don't have much, but all we need, eh?” As they were walking back to the porch for a second cup of coffee Joseph started to whistle. He did it before he even noticed himself. He stopped short, looked at Thunder who was wagging his tail Joseph swore in rhythm and chuckled. “One visit from that boy and look at us. Hope we ain't gettin' our hopes up too much. But this feels good, don't it? Come on, one more cup of coffee and I'll make us both a real breakfast.”
One thing about living where he did now Joseph only heard nature. For years he and his wife lived in town and that was fine when the children were little and he was working in the mill and had a little land. But this was the life. His only regret was that his wife did not last to enjoy it with him. They were all gone now. Just him. Most days he didn't feel lonely, but now that they had had a visitor, everything was different.
Joseph fixed them both a hearty breakfast and afterwards they went on their morning walk. Joseph could walk forever in the direction opposite the woods without seeing another human. But the rest of nature was in abundance. Joseph found himself humming and whistling in spite of himself and decided it was just fine. Thunder seemed to enjoy it. The rest of the day Joseph sat at the table and on the porch. He seemed happy enough, but there was a restlessness in him now. “Maybe we needed something to stir us up, Thunder. Maybe we been living too quietly. Even if that boy never comes back, he surely awakened something in me. And I'd like to keep that. I don't want to be afraid. I lived in fear way too long. I think fear killed my daughter and I'm sure it killed my wife. It killed my own life for a long time. I came out here to leave fear, and sometimes I still think I foster it. I don't know Thunder, maybe I'm just an old man ramblin'.” Thunder wagged his tail as if he agreed that Joseph was just rambling. Joseph burst out laughing out loud and rubbed Thunders head. “Well, thanks for the support, buddy.”
After a simple supper for both of them Joseph and Thunder retreated to the smokehouse to check on the meat they had started yesterday. “Just think Thunder, if we hadn't started the meat smokin', he may have never found us. But, Eileen always said, he would be lead to us somehow. She was grateful to Benjamin's family, but it always weighed heavy on her heart.” After Joseph had let his pipe burn out several times thinking, sitting on the porch. “Well, I've been whistling and humming, might as well go all the way, Thunder. Wait here, I got a surprise.” With that Joseph walked directly into the bedroom. He knelt down easy, reached under the bed and brought out a box. He put the box on the bed and then pulled himself up, not nearly as easy as he got down. He opened the box gently as he sat on the edge of the bed and pulled out the contents. Then he carried it out to the porch where Thunder was standing in the doorway, wagging his tail. “You sure have done that a lot today, Thunder. Hope you do the same now.” And with that, Joseph brought the bow to his fiddle and played a jig. He even moved his feet a little in rhythm. Then he sat back down in his chair breathing hard and laughing, brought the fiddle to his chin again and played a waltz. Tune after tune he played and depending on the meter Thunder would prance around and wag his tail in excitement or lie down and rest his eyes. This continued until Joseph could play no more. He went in the bedroom and put his fiddle in the box, but not under the bed. He changed into his night shirt and patted the bed for Thunder to get up by this feet. “I think we'll sleep better tonight, Thunder. Things are changin'. Well, I'm changin', and I think it's for the good. Just wish I could have done it a little sooner.”
That night Thunder wasn't awakened by Joseph's dreams and restlessness. They both slept all through the night until the sun rose again. Joseph sat up when the sun beckoned him and started again to make his coffee, feed Thunder and start his chores. He did all the feeding in the barn and put the horses, mules and sheep out and was starting for the chickens. All of a sudden Thunder started barking and went back toward the house. “You find a squirrel? Enjoy, I'll be back at the porch after I feed the chickens.” He was just rounding the chicken yard to go back for his second cup of coffee and there he was. Jonathan was standing on the porch with two cups of coffee in his hands grinning from ear to ear and Thunder was beside him wagging his tail.
“I got 'em ready when I saw you coming out of the barn. You didn't see me yet, but Thunder did. You do things like Grandpa does, so I knew I had a few minutes. Thought I'd surprise ya.”
Joseph took one of the cups of coffee, thinking to himself that it had been been a long time since he had used two coffee cups at the same time. “They let you drink coffee at home?”
“Well, not really. More like Milk Toast. I just put a little bit of coffee in mine and filled the rest with milk. Is that alright?”
“Sure, sure. Want to pull a chair out or do you want to sit on the porch?”
“I'll sit on the porch with Thunder.”
“He'd like that.”
For a few minutes they sat there silently, content with coffee and company. “So did you get in trouble for being late the other night?”
“No. Grandpa always says I'm like the cows, come at the last minute for supper. Grandma was starting to worry, but I told them how I had stumbled on you and Thunder and how you had helped me home back through the woods to the back pasture. Grandpa told me to tell you today that he's grateful.”
“So you told them my name? What did they have to say?”
“Grandpa said you and he were friends a long time ago. And Grandma said that she knew your wife from her old country. That they had been the best of friends.”
“What about your Ma and Pa?”
“Well, Mama was midwifing, so I didn't get tell her anything 'til the next day. She was awful tired from birthing the Hoist baby. But she listened to my story and just told me to be careful I didn't take a wrong turn in the woods. Papa is hunting about four days away with Mr. Hoist. They aren't home yet.”
“I'm not sure your Papa would know me. I knew your family long before that.”
“Papa has the general store with his brothers.”
“Don't you help in the store?”
“Sometimes, but not usually. Papa's brother's all got sons a lot older than me. And they are all in line to get the store long before I do, as they remind me all the time. And Papa and and Mama decided a long time ago that Helga and I would help Grandma and Grandpa. Grandpa says the farm will be Mama's and ours someday. And Papa says he would like me to learn farming and carpentry and everything Grandpa can teach me. He says he can teach me how to run a store later in life. He would rather I would be 'full of fresh air, hard work and sunshine now', as he puts it.”
“Sounds like your Mama and Papa are smart folks.”
“I think so,” laughed Jonathan. “I love working on the farm. And Mama and Helga are midwives and do doctoring so when they are busy I stay at the farm with Grandpa.”
“You never are alone are you?”
“No. Grandpa says there's no time for that in life.”
“Benjamin always knew the ways.”
“The Old Ways Grandma says.”
Joseph chuckled, “Well, I guess they are old ways now. Never thought much about it before. But either way, they are good ways. Never be afraid to live the way your grandparents live Jonathan. They are good people and have lived good lives.”
“Yes, How is Sister Helga? I have not seen her in a long time.”
“She said to send her blessings. She said to tell you that she will come up for a visit, as soon as there ain't a lot of babies birthin'.”
“Well, that will be a treat. But you know, babies just keep being born all the time. So that could be awhile.”
“It seems like they are always birthing babies or tending sick.”
“You get to see your Mama enough?”
“Oh yes. And sometimes I get to help. I go and carry things for her. And I help with the wood and the fire and heat water and sometimes get to play if they have some children already.”
“Helga says that men can help tend the sick too. She says in big cities they call them 'doctors' and they don't let women help at all. She says I could learn like she did, but that I would know that women can help too.”
“Yes, that sounds like Helga. She has been a good friend to me and my animals through out the years.”
“So you want to meet the whole family here on the farm?” asked Joseph.
“Sure, love to.” Jonathan jumped up and Thunder did too wagging his tail.
Joseph took Jonathan through the barn, the pasture, the chicken coop, his garden and even showed him the creek where he fished and some back land where he planted crops.
“You would never believe that there would be all this good land when you are walking in the woods. You got a nice place, Joseph.”
“I was surprised when I happened on it one day walkin'. I knew when I found this land that this was where I wanted to live. At the time I didn't want to be by any people. You see I didn't have any family left to speak of and I was sad and mad and wanted to be alone. Fortunately Sister Helga wouldn't listen and came up to check on me real regular. That first Winter and Spring if she hadn't made it up here to see me, me and most of my animals might have died. And she is the one that brought me your friend.”
“Thunder? Helga brought Thunder here?”
“Yep, I had a fit when she did. Didn't think I wanted a puppy to contend with. But when she put him in my arms, we belonged to each other. She told me I had family know whether I liked it or not.” Joseph chuckled at the memory.
“So, what do you do at night at Benjamin's and Esther's?” asked Joseph.
“Well, most nights I have school books to work. And lots of nights Grandpa reads books to Grandma and me. Sometimes he lets me read too. Grandma likes that. Grandpa is teaching me to whittle. So while Grandpa reads I whittle and Grandma does her needlework. Aunt Helga too if she is there. She helps me a lot with my books. And some nights we make up stories to tell, and sometimes we sing.”
“Do you like music?”
“Sure. It's fun to sing with everyone. And Grandpa says that soon I can learn to play music.”
“Would you like that?”
“Oh, yes! Do you play music for Thunder?”
“It's funny you should say that. Let me show you what I got out from under the bed last night.”
With that Joseph went inside and came out playing his fiddle. He was playing a jig again and shuffling some, in attempts to dance. Jonathan started clapping his hands and Thunder was circling everyone, wagging his tail.
Joseph played one song after another, waltzes, ballads and jigs. At one point he played a sad song and Jonathan immediately started to sing along. When the song was finished Joseph said, “You know the language of your Grandma?”
“Some. We are only supposed to speak it at home and with family and certain friends when we get together for parties. But since you played the song I thought it was alright. It was, wasn't it?”
“It was more than right, Jonathan. I have not heard those words in too long of a time. Thank you. Do you know others?”
“A few. But I don't know if I can name all of them.”
“Don't worry, in time maybe I will play more you know and you can remind me of the words again.”
“Sounds good, but I must be going now. I promised Grandma that if I came early in the day that I would come back to help her with the afternoon chores. But I will come back again if you and Thunder would like me to.”
“Thunder and I agree that you should come back anytime you want and are allowed. How's that?”
“Fine by me!”
“You want me to lead ya in the woods again?”
“Na I think I'm fine. It's more daylight now than it was my last visit. But if you and Thunder would like to keep me company we could talk more.”
“Well, Thunder and I usually take a walk 'bout this time, so why don't we join ya?”
“Great!”, said Jonathan.
The threesome started into the deep woods silent. But it was a silence of ease that they shared. Soon they talked of simple things. They talked of the plants that Jonathan recognized and what they were used for, the birds they saw and even a few tracks that they found along the way. When they got to the back of Benjamin's land, at the clearing of the woods, Joseph turned to Jonathan and said, “We'll leave you here and start back once we can't see you no more.”
“When I get far I'll turn and wave to you and Thunder.”
“That'd be nice. I'll wave back and Thunder will be waggin' his tail I'm sure. But you probably won't be able to see that.” They both laughed at the thought.
Jonathan started walking through the pasture and then surprised Joseph by running coming back and wrapping his arms around his waist giving him a quick hug. “I'm glad we are friends” Jonathan said, and then quickly let go. Then he leaned down and hugged Thunder, much to Thunder's delight. “You too, Thunder. Next time we'll play fetch.”
“He'd like that.” Joseph said quietly, savoring the moment.
Jonathan started out again, and quickly turned around in place. “I almost forgot to tell ya.”
“Grandma says that the next time I come you have to come back with me for supper and that she won't take any excuses. And she says Thunder is welcome too. I would come if I were you. Grandma is serious when she says 'no excuses'.
Joseph was stunned and just stood there at the edge of the pasture for moment. This was definitely a walk of surprises. He couldn't remember the last time a child had hugged him, or anyone for that matter. And now he was being asked to supper with other people. And more than that people that he never thought would want to talk to him again. Except for Helga, all these years. 'Well I guess she learned her heart at home too.' he thought.
“You tell Esther and Benjamin that I will surely come to supper the next time you come and that Thunder and I gladly accept the invitation for her good cookin'.”
“I'll tell her,” Jonathan said and started running again.
Joseph and Thunder watched Jonathan run across the pasture, and true to his word just before he was out of sight, he turned and waved back to them. And true to their word, Joseph waved back and Thunder was wagging his tail.
“It's been a good day so far, hasn't it Thunder? I think we have a second chance. And this time, we're gonna take it.”
Sunday, July 29, 2012
Jonathan was in bed and fast asleep. Esther was in her favorite chair, a rocker that Benjamin had made her their first year in this new land. He had wanted her to have a comfort, and it still was after all these years. She sat and knitted socks tonight. As hot as it was, she knew that Summer heat meant that cold needed to be prepared for soon enough. Benjamin wore out so many socks and after awhile it was just too hard to mend them. He worked hard and his socks showed it. She not only wanted to keep him warm, but foot problems could keep them from working, it could be their survival. Also she was working on many socks for her Grandson, Jonathan. He didn't live with them all the time. But he often helped Benjamin and he stayed with them when his mother was busy birthing babies or tending the sick.
Benjamin was at his desk. He had built it also. It wasn't far from Esther's chair. Often they would spend the night with Benjamin reading aloud at his desk to her as she did her needlework. Benjamin was always surprised at all the different crafts that Esther knew. She made all of their clothes, knitted socks and hats and gloves for all of them. She made the quilts that covered their beds and the rugs beneath their feet. And when he thought she could do no more, she made fine lace for herself, their daughter, Jeanette, granddaughter Helga, and friends. She also helped Helga make lace to sell. She had started this tradition with Jeanette and it continued through the generations.
Many a night Esther and Benjamin had spent together and they had never run out of things to talk about, or to do. Benjamin, when he was not working on farm records, wrote down the family history and stories, often asking Esther's opinion on his writings. They also read to each other books they had brought from the old country and new ones they had found in this land. Their lives were rich and full.
Tonight though they anxiously awaited the return of Jeanette to let her know that, just as they had all thought would eventually happen, Jonathan had found Joseph. “It was bound to happen,”, Esther said again while she frantically knitted socks.
“He was not a bad man, Esther. In fact I am not convinced that he knew or had anything to do with the decision.”
“Oh, I am not questioning the decision, I was there, remember?”
“Yes, I do. All of you were there, for the birthing of Jonathan.”
“I surely would not fault the decision Eileen made that night. And I know it is selfish of me, but because of it, look at the love that we have had in our life. We all love Jonathan. Truly he is ours.”
“And he came to Jeanette at an important time,” Benjamin remembered. “She had so much loss, she needed something to help fill. She had Helga, but Jonathan finished the circle at that time.”
Just then their was a knock at the door and a voice, “Mama, Papa, it's me.”
Benjamin rose to open the door. Jeanette walked in with her midwifing basket. She reached up and kissed her Papa and bent down to do the same to her Mama. As tired as she was she still put the basket in it's place and sat in a chair across from her parents.
“That was the longest birth I have had in a long time.”
“Is everyone alright?” asked Esther.
“Yes. To be honest I didn't think they would be. But, Mary made it through and the baby was stronger than I thought. I still will check on them in the morning. But now, I need some rest. How is Jonathan?”
“He is fine. You know we never have trouble with Jonathan, he's such a good boy.” started Esther.
But before she could finish, Benjamin piped up, “There is something we have to tell you. Today Jonathan came home a little late for supper.”
“Oh, I am sorry, I'll talk to him.”
“No,” said Esther, “that isn't what we mean. He was out exploring and he came home telling us that deep in the woods he met a nice old man named Joseph who invited him to come back and visit him again”
Jeanette sat there as still as could be when she heard the news. Benjamin cleared his throat and looked to Esther for encouragement. She gently put her finger to her lips and then continued knitting. 'She is so much better at these quiet times than I am', Benjamin thought.
“It was bound to happen sooner than later,” said Jeanette.
“You two women always sound alike,” said Benjamin.
“How was he, was he alright, was he scared?” asked Jeanette with darting eyes to Benjamin.
“No, he was happy. Joseph seem to treat him just fine. And he has a dog. So you know how he is about that.” Answered Benjamin.
“I have been fussing about this all night,” said Esther. “And I have come to some reasoning within myself. I am glad he found him now. Now when he feels secure and loved and everyone is here to talk to him. I think it is better to fine out now rather than as a young man and full of wild oats.”
“That's a good point,” said Benjamin. And Jeanette nodded her head and searched for her extra work basket she kept at her parents. She always was able to calm herself with the gentle repetition of her hands working lace. Now was no exception. Before she was able to speak again, she got a good start on a tatted collar.
“Do you think Jonathan's alright? Do you think Joseph will try and change things?” finally asked Jeanette.
Benjamin let out a long loud sigh. “ I've been askin' myself that question all evening. I think that if Joseph had wanted to start trouble he would've done it already. He could've told the boy lots of things, even today on the first visit. But he didn't. He just let Jonathan know that he knew us, talked kindly of us, in fact. And then, he led the boy to our back pasture. He didn't have to do that Jeanette, but he did.”
“What did you tell him?”
“I told him , 'Yes we knew him'.” said Benjamin.
“I asked how his health was and Jonathan said he was mighty thin, but spry. He did notice about his legs and his arm, but he did not seem to go anywhere with that thought.”
“Didn't Helga know where Joseph was.” quietly asked Jeanette.
“Yes, she used to check on him regular. She stayed with him many a time when he was ill. She said he never asked about Jonathan all the times that she was there. It always amazed her. She said she kept it to herself. If he had wanted to know, he would've asked.”
“Where is Helga?” asked Esther. “My goodness I have let all this get to me to the point that I didn't notice my missing granddaughter.” She let out a nervous chuckle.
“Oh, I am sorry Mama. It slipped my mind also. I am just bone tired tonight. She stayed behind at Mary's house to help with the other children. She was afraid that if she did not that the mother would try to get up and fix supper. I was glad she was there. I was so focused on the baby, I was not really paying attention to the rest of the family.”
“She was always good at that, Jeanette, from the very beginning that she went with us on birthings.” said Esther.
“Yes, she always has been Mama that's true. Just tonight I had all my attention on Mary and baby and fortunately Helga noticed that the youngest girl had a cough and immediately started making a poultice and some tea for her. She sounded better already by the time I left.”
“What are you going to do?”, said Benjamin, bringing back the subject that no one really wanted to talk about.
“I am going to let him go Papa. There is no real reason not to let him visit Joseph. And we all know that there's nothing so tempting as being told not to do something. All I can do is answer his questions as they come and hope he continues to see our love here for him.”
“I don't believe you have to be concerned about that Jeanette. He is his Grandfather. And maybe, just maybe it has pained him also all these years to be away from his grandson. He did not have a say in the decision made. I'm not sure that I could be that strong.”
“I hope he tells me about it. I mean I hope he shares this with us, as he always has his joys and fears.” wistfully whispered Jeanette.
“There is no reason to think that he won't, Daughter.” said Esther. “We must remember that we know the past, we know the fears. All that Jonathan knows is that he made a friend today, that he sees as a family friend at that. And he willingly came home to share that with us. The only reason he did not tell you is that you were not here.”
“A friend with a dog at that.” said Benjamin to try to lighten the mood a little bit. . “I think our fears are just trying to deceive our hearts.”
“Yes, yes, I see what you both are saying,” said Jeanette. “Actually I am glad I was not here when he came home with the news. I'll be able to react better in the morning.”
“Heart to heart, Jeanette,” started Benjamin. “Neither one are doing anything wrong. Deep down inside don't you know think they know , that they know each other?”
“Truly, they must Papa. Truly. And I would not want to keep that from happening. But for now, all I want is to get some sleep. Will you wake me, if I sleep too long, Mama?”
Esther laughed. “I certainly will not. Helga's at the house if there is any problem she will send someone over or come herself. You'll be no good to anyone if you don't get your rest. Now go and sleep as long as your body or that baby wills.”
“ I'll sleep in the room with Jonathan. I want him to see me when he wakes up. And I want to fall asleep watching him breathe. Who would have believed Mama? Who would have believed that such love could grow from such fear?”
“I know dear, I know. Just get some rest.”
Jeanette got up and kissed her parents again and then went off to bed. Esther and Benjamin sat up long after Jeanette went to bed. “Do you think she is worried?” asked Benjamin.
“Of course, she is, we all are.” said Esther. “But I don't think she is contrary about it.”
“No, no.” said Benjamin. “Neither do I. She is a good woman, Esther, thanks to you.”
“Thanks to us and I believe thanks to herself. Jeanette works hard to be the woman she wants to be, and she is more than any mama and papa could ask for. We are so blessed to have her close and to be so much a part of the lives of her and the children. She shares her children and her life with us Benjamin. There's no reason to believe that she won't continue, or that she wouldn't give Joseph the same chance.”
“We must put this all to rest and we must go with it as it unfolds.” said Benjamin. “Very early in the morning we'll have a young boy awake and about and we must be ready.”
“Yes, very true.” said Esther as she put her knitting away.
Benjamin got up from his chair and took Esther's hand helping her out of the rocker. “May I escort you to bed, my dear.”
"Yes, yes,” said Esther. “Wouldn't want it any other way.”
Monday, July 23, 2012
Jonathan wandered through the woods, as was his habit after his chores and schoolwork were done. Each day he tried to venture a little farther, or in a different direction to see what he could see. Often he imagined himself as a great explorer like the ones he had read about in books. He also looked for plants different than the ones near home. He took starts of these home to Aunt Helga and Grandma Esther. They were able to tell him what they were and explain their uses. Often Grandma Esther asked him to take her where he had found them. She would examine the area, the other plants that were their neighbors and asked the plant if it would like to live in her garden. Jonathan could not imagine one of the plants disagreeing with Grandma. Her garden was wonderful.
One of the reasons she always asked to be taken to where he had found the plants was she needed to know what it's “house and neighbors looked liked”, as she put it. Her garden had sunny spots, shady spots, woodsy areas, dry soil and very moist. And when she took a plant from where Jonathan had found it on one of his explorations, she always took “it's neighbor, so they wouldn't be lonely” and placed it in a spot just like it's old home in her garden.
Jonathan hadn't seen any new plants today, but he was wandering in an area where he'd never been. This morning he decided to go to the left of the cabin and go as far as he thought he could and still get back for supper before dark. The woods were getting darker, although when he looked up the sun was still hanging in the sky high enough to let him know he could still go farther and make it home. Moss had grown on all sides of the trees here. He knew it was a sure sign that the sun didn't get to the floor of these woods much at all. This is what Jonathan had figured made the difference between a woods and a forest, although he really wasn't sure of this point, it was an idea he would ask Grandma Esther about later.
Walking wasn't easy. Jonathan had to watch his step and pick his feet up high, so as not to trip himself in the brush that covered the ground. He was starting to get thirsty and also wondered if he'd be able to find his way back home. Always before he knew that if he would just go back a little ways he could see something that he recognized. But not so now. All around him were darkness and trees. Often Jonathan looked for a place to look through the trees and console himself that truly the sun was still up and he had time to still make it home before dark. “Maybe I should just leave anyway and start home. This really isn't leading me anywhere.”
Just then Jonathan noticed thin puffs of smoke high in the trees ahead of him. Not smoke like a dangerous fire, like the one his family was awakened to when the neighbors' barn caught flame. No, it was more like when Grandpa Benjamin used to smoke the hams. 'Someone lives all the way out here? I don't know who that could be. Maybe though they would let me have some water.' Jonathan knew that it could not be far, so he decided to follow the smoke and see what he could see.
It wasn't easy to follow the smoke in the trees and still walk through the thick under brush of the forest. But still even with the rough going he was there in a few minutes. It took his eyes several seconds to get used to the light. For when he was able to see the smoke close enough to see the smoke cabin it came from the deep woods had stopped and, just as magic, there was a clearing with a cabin, smokehouse, large garden, fields down below some way and even a meadow to the far side of the cabin. Sitting smoking a pipe was a thin old man slowing rocking back and forth in his chair. Although the scene had startled Jonathan, the old man didn't seem to bat an eye at a young boy suddenly appearing through the woods.
“Hello, it'll be nice to have a visitor today. Would ya like to wet your whistle?” cheerfully asked the old man.
“Why, thank you. I was just going to ask for a drink of water.”
“Over there is the well. Help yourself. But if you have trouble let me know. By the way, my name 's Joseph.”
“Pleased to meet you. My name is,”
“Your name is Jonathan. You belong to Jeanette. How is Benjamin?”
“You know who I am?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Grandpa Benjamin is fine. I was out exploring in the woods and have gone farther than ever. I was looking for some unusual plants for Grandma Esther.”
“You can find some unusual ones I'm sure, but never any that she doesn't recognize.”
“I know. She knows all the plants, wherever we go. She and Aunt Helga are teaching me.”
“Now Jeanette used to know how to keep a garden and know all the healing ways.”
“Oh, Mama knows all of them too, yes. But Mama does all the midwifin' now. So Grandma Esther and Aunt Helga and I make sure we have plants for medicine. We also help Grandpa Benjamin with the crops and keeping the garden going. Mama seems to be helping someone sick or birthing a baby or even a calf every day. She sure gets tired.”
Joseph stopped a minute before commenting on the boy's family. He let the vision of the boy soak in. The boy looked small for his age, but still healthy. His hair was streaked from spending so much time in the sun. He saw that Esther still prescribed to the Old Ways. He was glad. And Jeanette had nursed him well and raised him to be a fine boy. Benjamin had obviously taught him the joy, not the drudgery of work. Yes, when he looked at this boy, Jonathan, he saw all of them too. The boy limped some, but not as bad as he remembered. And his one arm was a little shorter than the other, but he noticed that the women had tailored his sleeve so it was not noticeable unless you knew what you were looking for. His speech was a little halting. But he looked you in the eye, he thought clear, and he was not ashamed of himself. He remembered the night this boy was born. And now, Jeanette, Esther, Benjamin, they had done a good job. No, more than that, yes, they loved him.
While Joseph was giving Jonathan a look-see Jonathan was doing the same. He didn't think he had ever seen someone so thin. His clothes hung on him, even though they really were not that large themselves. His hands looked like Grandpa's. He had farmed and worked a long time, and still at it. His eyes looked dim, yet clear as the spring sky. Jonathan had known old men in town whose eyes were dim, and their light was extinguished. But not ol' Joseph. Joseph had a limp too. “Just like me, Jonathan thought.” But Joseph's limp was much bigger than his. And one arm was shorter. So much that his sleeve hung limp. The place was neat enough. He could get around, but he also knew how to just sit. Grandma and Grandpa were like that too. Himself, he could never imagine it.
“Thank you for the water, sir. It sure hit the spot.”
“Glad to hear it. Joseph, remember?”
“Oh, yes sir...Joseph” At the end of the sentence Jonathan made the most contagious grin Joseph had seen.
“Come sit a spell, and then I will take you back to the path leading home.”
“Would you like to come with me? You know Grandma and Grandpa, I'm sure they would love to have you to supper.”
“All in good time. We will soon. But tonight I will lead you back, and when you know where you are I will come back home.”
The two sat in silence watching a hawk fly. Often they would look at each other when they thought that the other was not watching. They were fascinated with each other, but neither one wanted to be the first to tell.
When the hawk was no longer in the sky, they could not help but look at each other. “Mama will be wonderin' where I'm at.” Jonathan left his rocker and went inside to fetch a lantern.
“It will be dark in the woods, till I get you where you know where you are at. Come on, we don't want anyone to worry.” Then the man turned and whistled out the side of his mouth, a short shrill whistle. Jonathan hadn't noticed him before, but out from the other side of the porch came a large dark brown dog.
“Can I pet him?”
“Sure, he'd like that. He's nothing to be afraid of, unless you're stealin' chickens.”
Jonathan looked up and as he hoped Joseph had a smile on his face. “Yes, that's just the way our dog is too and Grandpa's”
The three of them started back through the deep woods. Jonathan was amazed at how fast the old man could walk through the brush. Several times Jonathan got behind. But the dog stayed with him and when Joseph noticed, he stopped also and waited. Each time Jonathan looked to see if Joseph was impatient with him, but no, his face still had that peaceful feeling he got when he looked deep at Grandpa.
“What's his name?”
“I forgot to ask you what your dog's name was.”
“Oh, well, take me a minute, we are pretty silent back here in the woods. I hardly have to call his name, we just seem to know each other. Jonathan waited, although they kept moving.
“His name is Thunder.” said Joseph.
“He was afraid of thunder when he was a pup. And I wanted him to know it was no bigger than him. In fact it's smaller, because it's just a sound. So I named him Thunder. It seems to have worked so far.”
“I like that. Nice to meet you Thunder.” Jonathan paused and watched his new friend Joseph ahead of him, making sure the light shined for all. He made his way through the woods, without any doubt which way to go even though it was getting darker and darker. “I'm glad to meet you too, Joseph”
“Good. You are welcome back anytime. Will ya come? Didn't really get to show ya the place and we didn't really converse much.”
“Sure, I'll come back if you'll have me. Like Aunt Helga says. I never know when I get to roam, got to wait until after all the work is done. But it will be this week. Is that good enough?”
“Thunder and I will be glad to see ya whenever ya come, Jonathan. Won't we Thunder?” At that Thunder stopped walking and looked at the two of them like he was supposed to be doing something, but he wasn't really sure what. Jonathan and Joseph laughed together and both reached down to pet Thunder. “See, he will glad to have ya back. He agrees with me.” said Joseph.
The trio was mostly quiet for the rest of the journey. Then suddenly, Joseph turned around and looked at Jonathan. “Do you recognize those fields?”
“Yes, we're at the back of Grandpa's land, ain't we?”
“Will ya be alright to get back from here?”
“Sure will. But I'm gonna run now. Supper will surely be on the table and everyone will be worried.”
“When you get there, you tell your Grandpa that you were with Old Man Joseph. Ya hear me? He'll understand, and besides, it might keep you out of trouble with Esther.” Joseph said with a wink.
“Will do. Good bye Joseph, Good bye Thunder!”
Joseph and Thunder watched as the boy ran across his Grandfather's field. His gait was hard and he was probably no faster than Joseph himself. But the boy ran free.
“The woods were good to us today Thunder. Maybe I will get a second chance. And maybe. Just maybe, I'll be able to show my face to some old friends.” Thunder looked up patiently into Joseph's eyes. “Don't worry Thunder, they'll probably like you better than me, when we visit,” he said with a chuckle. With that Joseph turned around and started back toward his place with the lantern closer to him now, as it was getting harder and harder to see. Thunder kept close watch on the way back home, they weren't use to these nightly excursions.
Jonathan barely slowed down as he opened the door and ran inside. “I'm home. I'm sorry I am late. I met a new friend Joseph and his dog Thunder, through the woods.
“We were worried, I was just going to send your Grandfather out looking for you. Your mother is still at the Arnold's waiting for that baby and you out 'who knows where'.
“I'm truly sorry Grandma. What's for supper?”
Esther straightened up over the fire and Jonathan wrapped his arms around her waist and hugged her. She reached down and completely engulfed him into her body.
“All is forgiven. Wash up and sit down.”
Jonathan did as asked and sat next to his Grandfather. “He said you would know him Grandpa.”
“What is this?” Benjamin asked.
“Joseph, He told me to tell you that I was with Old Man Joseph and you'd understand.”
Both Benjamin and Esther stopped and looked at each other over Jonathan's head. “I guess I wasn't listening,” said Benjamin.
“How is he Jonathan? Is he well?” asked Esther.
“He seems to be. He out walked with me in the forest. But Grandma, he is thin as thin can be. He said that he wanted me to come back and visit him and his dog Thunder, can I?”
Once again Esther and Benjamin looked at each other and first Benjamin nodded his head to Esther and then after barely a hesitation she did the same so only Benjamin could see. “Just make you are home for supper next time.” said Grandpa.
“I will. I can hardly wait to tell Mama.”
“Yes, she will be interested to know about your adventure for sure.” said Esther.
After supper Jonathan went out to the barn ahead of Grandpa to bed the animals. “Time can heal, Esther, “ said Benjamin.
“Yes, yes it can. Do you think Jeanette is ready?”
“He means no harm. She will be wary, but she will see.”
“We all will see,” said Esther, “yes in time.”