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.”