Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter 112

written 10 January 2008

Helena was having a good day. Everyone was there: Ava, Cathy, Gilly, Nan, Esmeralda, Polly (with her new baby) and her mother in law, Doris, Meg, Inge, Daniel's bride to be -- even Nancy had come to tea and talk.

Tea and Talk. It was her favorite day every month. All the women and girls in the family would gather, bringing nice treats and their handwork. They would sit and talk all afternoon. The men would be responsible for supper.

THAT was always an adventure!

But it gave them perfect chance to connect and work through things, to learn new techniques, and to rest.

Polly set down the handkerchief she was working on and sighed as the baby chirped again. "It's like I can't feed him enough!" she exclaimed, nuzzling him briefly as she fumbled for the buttons of her blouse.

Gilly and Helena nodded. They remembered those days -- before mother and child learned each others' rhythms, when the baby was growing so fast that he needed to eat every two hours...

Polly propped her arm on the end of the sofa and accepted a fresh cup of tea from Nan. She smiled as the baby started to gulp hungrily. Motherhood was good to her. A strong, healthy baby was a joy to a young wife.

Her mother in law leaned forward to get some new twist for a buttonhole, "My son, your husband, was just like that, Polly. Always hungry!" She paused a moment and winked, "I guess he's still a good eater..." and the women laughed. Polly's husband had gained weight as fast as she when she became pregnant. He was not thin to begin with, and the extra weight had given him an air of indulgence which belied his hard work.

Inge tied off the doily she had been working on, and set it on the tea table for everyone to admire. Nan quickly set the napkin she had edged next to it. The two cousins looked at each other in surprise. Inge had chosen a pattern Nan had invented; Nan had copied the floral design that was usually Inge's. Everyone laughed again, and the girls nipped into the kitchen to put some treats together.

Ava was knitting a large blanket, wide stripes in blue and brown, of the softest wool. Her eyes were starting to fade, but her nimble fingers quickly worked the pattern she had memorized as a girl. cable on blue, ribs on brown. It would be a warm, durable blanket. Esmeralda hummed a lulluby softly as she rolled yarn into balls, and Nancy picked up the refrain in her low, subtle voice.

It was a gray, chill day outside, but inside the house was bright and warm.

Meanwhile, Paul and Peter, Daniel, Andy and his brothers, and Polly's husband Gio were busy in the kitchen on the other end of the farm. They opened the oven door to check on the roast so often that the kitchen was hot and moist from the steam. Andy scrubbed the vegetables so hard the color started to wear off.

Daniel and Gio were in charge of pie... Peter looked a Paul and rolled his eyes. Gio was struggling to make a crust, while Daniel tried to keep the filling from burning on the stovetop. Finally, Paul whispered to Gio, who laughed and nodded. Putting the dough in a large bowl, he set it outside the door on the rail to cool a bit. Daniel looked quizzically at them.

"Well, Ava taught Gilly that the dough rolls best and is flakier when it's cold first," rumbled Paul, and it always worked for me, as well.

Otto laughed, "I guess we ought to hang around Mother when she's cooking!" And Owain nodded, "And focus more on what she's doing rather than on stealing the end result!"

The men kept working, talking about the last town meeting, the repairs to the Market, the progress on the firebreak, and the pregnant animals in the barn. Spring was on its way.

As the day faded, the women made their way across the fields, escorted by the dogs, singing and laughing, Gilly and Polly's mother in law taking turns holding the baby. Nan dashed on ahead, to be met by Andy who had been set to fetch them for supper.

Tea, and talk. And supper afterward. What more could a famiy want?