Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter Two

July 27,2006

The eldest son was not the eldest child, but he was by far the biggest and strongest of all the ten siblings.

He was the first to get a "real" job and help his mother with expenses.

He was the first to move out of the house (but he came home when he could on Sundays).

He was the first to get married.

And, he was the first to have a child of his own.

He and his family, which by the time of our story, numbered five members, lived on the other side of the mountain, half a day's journey away. So obviously, they couldn't visit as often as everyone would have liked.

Still, several times a year, they made the trek around the mountain, to see his mother and his grandparents and his siblings.

In some places, the path was wide and easy and two large carts could pass each other easily. In other places, it was so narrow their small cart could barely get through.

There were dips and rises, as there often are, on circuitous mountain lanes.

And every so often a bridge -- this one of stone, this one of wood, crossed a narrow canyon in which tumbled a waterfall.

About halfway on their journey, there was a wide spot on the far side of the bridge, in the shade of a great spreading tree.

Here, spring, summer, autumn and winter, the eldest son and his family would shelter while they ate their meal and rested.

On hot days, the tree made a comfortable, cool shade.

On cool days, the tree provided a baffle so the wind passed around their picnic spot.

On rainy days, the large branches and wide leaves formed an umbrella and let the family dry out by a small fire while they ate.

This tree was a special favorite of the man and his wife, for here they had first met, traveling in opposite directions as children with their families.

And it was here, when they were a little older, that they met again, by chance, as he traveled to a new job and she to help her sister with a new baby.

And it was here that, not long after, they had plighted their troth one to the other.

So now, they brought their own children, often meeting up with other families in the shelter of the tree, which was never too small for any number who wanted to rest by the gushing creek.

On this journey, the man and his wife, their eldest child and middle child walked, while the baby slept contentedly in a basket in the middle of the cart, swaying -- and occasionally bumping -- in rhythm to the cart.

The eldest child, a young boy, eagerly raced ahead, just out of sight, and then waited for his family to reappear. He looked for all the world as if he had just received the best present ever.

The middle child, a girl just past toddling, walked carefully beside her father, holding his hand most of the time, but often stopping to look at a pretty pebble or talk to a bird in a briar.

Now, the family was not wealthy, though the man and his wife worked hard, but they were comfortable. They had a small house near the shop where the man crafted saddles and furniture out of a wood peculiar to their area.

This wood when rubbed with sand became soft like leather.

When rubbed with oil, the wood became hard as steel.

And it was light, so light that horses didn't mind being saddled, and often the top beams in houses could be put up by just two people.

Unsurprisingly, the items made in this village (and one other, further out on the plain) were highly sought after, and brought good prices.

Still, the people of the village were level-headed, and continued to make what they needed first, and then sold the rest. In this way, all the people benefited from the wealth around them.

Once a year, in the Autumn when it was too hot to work and the nights were not too short, the village held a festival and celebrated their good fortune.

It was just after this festival that our family was traveling, bearing gifts to the man's mother and siblings.

Soon, the little girl's legs grew tired, and she rode on her daddy's shoulders.

Soon, the little boy's legs grew tired, and he stopped running ahead and walked steadily by his parents.

Soon, the little girl's head nodded, and she fell slowly to one side... to be caught by her mother's strong arms and set gently on blankets in the cart next to the baby.

The little boy climbed up and sat at the front of the cart, holding the ends of the reins -- of course his daddy held the working end.

And so, in silence and in quiet conversation, the man and his wife walked along. The little boy finally tired of his game and lay down next to his sister and watched the clouds and the birds and the trees and the rocks and he finally fell asleep also.

Before long, the man and his wife looked down upon the village where he was born. He turned to her and smiled, "I believe we are home."

She glanced at him and replied in soft tones, "I am glad we are here." She reached over and picked up the baby who had begun to fuss and soothed him with a gentle touch.

And the man and his family walked on.