Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter Forty One

The story began at 9:11 pm on September 9

The morning dawned bright and clear.

Esmeralda was up before everyone, and had the fire in the kitchen blazing, tea made and special breakfast cake in the oven before Gilly came in.

She smiled as her younger cousin entered, and handed her the bowl of batter for cream puffs to stir.

Gilly put on her apron and they talked about the children, the men, the state of the road through the village and whether the weather would hold out until the end of the harvest.

Esmeralda looked out the window briefly and smiled, "I think the weather will hold -- but I wouldn't dawdle if I were Peter and Paul!"

Gilly laughed, "As if they dared, Helena staring down their necks!"

Anna came in with John, Sarah on her hip. They set the table and sat down as Polly, Meg and Doris trouped in."

Andy followed, his shirt mis-buttoned and the tails hanging out. "Where's Nan?"

Esmeralda gestured with her head toward the back room. "She came down in the middle of the night. I expect she's ready to wake up, if you want to get her, Andy."

Paul wandered in, snagged a piece of cake and sat on the back steps to pull on his boots. John followed with two cups of tea and some sausages, and they walked to the barn to hitch up the horse to the wagon.

It was a beautiful day, with just that hint of sharpness to the air that ripens the last of the fruit on the trees and sends the flowers into their last glorious bloom.

The twins came down last right behind Gray and Olivia (who were still in jammies), looking almost as well put-together as Andy. Their beards were scruffy and their hair stood on end, but their eyes were clear and their smiles were bright.

Olivia ran straight to Nan, who set her up on a chair with a napkin and a "bidge" piece of cake.

Gray solemnly accepted the seat his grandmother had vacated and helped himself to a bit of cake and some tea.

Meg was right behind him with a towel to catch the drips.

"Gray solemnly accepted the seat his grandmother had vacated" That's your vocabulary? It's almost too good to believe.

Soon, the "menfolk" and Doris and Meg were on their way to the harvest.

Nan had wanted to go along, but Esmeralda suggested that she could use Nan's help putting together the usual poultices for "harvest burn" as it was called.

Ava and Cathy came through the door about that time, and Cathy swept up Olivia in a swinging hug as the little girl toddled over.

Anna turned from the sink, "Hello Grammy -- did you sleep well?"

"Yes, dear," sighed Ava, sitting at the table and reaching for the bowl of peas that Polly and Gilly were shelling.

Esmeralda looked up from the recipe card she and Nan were consulting and eyed Ava cautiously.

"Ava," she asked gently, "Did you have that dream again?"

Ava nodded, "I don't want to talk about it, Esmeralda."

Nan watched the doctor and her grandmother carefully, as did Gilly and Cathy.

Anna was just finishing at the sink when they heard a crash from the other room.

She and Polly rushed out and came back with a very shame-faced -- and grimy -- Gray.

Polly grabbed the broom and dustpan while Anna marched her son outside to the well.

She stripped him down and he shivered in the cold morning air as she dumped a bucket of water over him to wash off as much of the ash as she could.

Gilly laughed and took the soft soap from the kitchen and a large towel. She had been through this routine so many times...

Polly soon emerged from the front room with the ash can (half empty) and the dustpan (full) and the remains of the vase that had stood on the table near the comfortable chair.

Ava grimaced as she noted the grime at the edges of Polly's skirt. Though it was her working skirt, still it would take some careful brushing to get it clean before it could be washed.

Polly went back to the front room again, and after a few minutes called for Nan's help. Together, the girls managed to roll up and pull (through the kitchen) the carpet that went before the hearth in the warm months to the back yard.

Gray's howls of unhappiness echoed through the yard and came in the kitchen window.

Eventually, he returned with Gilly, wrapped in the towel and much cleaner. She sat him in the chair nearest the stove and washed her hands. There was a meal to prepare for the harvest workers. The rest of the cleanup could wait.

Anna came in, having done her best on Gray's clothes and hung them on the fence to dry.

Ava pushed the bowl of peas toward Gray, "Here. You're old and strong enough to help shell these. Watch how it's done..."

Esmeralda and Nan excused themselves and took their ingredients and a large bowl to the back steps to sit in the sun while they worked.

Soon, Adam arrived with his little cart, having heard Gray while he was hitching up.

When he saw his great-grandfather, the little boy's face crumpled up and the tears started again.

Slowly, he told his tale, "Grampy, there was a pretty bird on the mantel, and I wanted to look at it. But -- I wasn't big enough to reach it!"

Adam nodded sagely and picked up a knife to start cutting the root vegetables Ava pointed to.

"I thought, if I stood on the table I could reach it!"

"But I leaned over and BOOM!"

Olivia looked up startled from the corner where she was sorting dry beans for the next days dinner.

Adam laughed, "BOOM, huh? Did you ever get to the bird?"

Gray shook his head. Gilly made a strange face, and stood up. "I'll get it for you, Gray, but you must always ask if something is up where you can't reach it with your feet on the ground!"

Gray's face lit up and he nodded. "I promise, Grandmother!"

Nan poked her head through the door. "The doctor says we need some little jars to put the salve in. May I get them out of the pantry?"

Polly stood, "We keep medicine jars in the shed by the wood pile so we don't make a mistake, Nan. Can you find them or shall I help?"

Nan smiled confidently, "I can find them, thanks!" And her head disappeared.

Gilly came back to the kitchen with the little bird in her hand and gave it to Gray. He inspected it and put it to his lips.

The bird gave a strange, funny warbling sound -- like children playing in a distant field.

Adam tried it next, and got a deep, mellow sound -- not unlike a quiet snore.

Ava laughed, "It sure seems to know you, dear!"

Anna stood up with Sarah, and excused herself, "Naptime. I'll be back once I have the baby down."

Adam looked at the shadows on the window frames and stood up. "Looks like it's time to take lunch to the fields again. Coming, Gray?"

"I have to put on clothes Grampy!" He jumped up and ran upstairs after his mother.

Polly and Gilly helped Adam load the cart with food, and Esmeralda handed him a basket with little jars of salve. Soon he and Gray were headed down the narrow path to the other side of the farm.

Esmeralda looked up at the mountain as she headed in. A little cap cloud balanced on the tip. And a flock of birds circled over a promontory just visible under the shadow.

She shook her head and smiled at Nan who was watching her from the stoop. Together, they went in, to help prepare the next meal.