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.”