Storytime with Stidmama

Chapter Eighty Two

Gilly carefully pulled on the ancient gloves, straightening the fingers gently and caressing the soft leather.

Every time she wore the gloves, she could see them on her grandmother's hands, which had been so delicate and so strong.

She never saw her grandmother just sitting.

No, her grandmother always had something doing; knitting, embroidery, tatting... if nothing else, a book lay on the table in front of her as she sipped her afternoon tea, or a small stack of stationery set next to the ancient pen she wrote with, waiting for her thoughts to be collected.

Grandmother was never unkind, but had seemed -- at least when Gilly was very young -- a bit remote, reserved. And sad. She had seen many things in her long life...

Still, she never failed to smile when the children came in the room, and laughed in a way that even the most persistently shy person lit up. And she was always ready to put down her needlework, her book or her broom (for of course, she kept the house spotless), and take a child on her knee to sing songs or tell stories.

The gloves were kept in the top drawer of Gilly's dresser. She took them out now only for special occasions, though once she wore them nearly every day. Most days now, she had a very serviceable and sturdier pair that wouldn't show stains.

Today though, her grandmother's gloves just seemed to beckon when she opened her sock dresser. There they were, waiting patiently to be used.

Gilly shook her head, but pulling on the familiar gloves scented with woodsmoke and the herbed shelf-paper she used in the dresser (the same type of shelf paper her grandmother had liked) always felt as if her grandmother were kissing her, admonishing her to enjoy the things she had rather than try to preserve them. Reminding her to make each day last.

As if with so many children anything could be preserved! Of course, practical wisdom -- plain old common sense -- if you had something, you used it. And you enjoyed it while it was there. Gilly snorted, and Paul looked askance at her as he helped her on with her traveling coat.

She sighed, and kissed his cheek gently. He kissed back and held her in a long embrace. The tears began to fall...

Adam's coffin was loaded on the big farm cart in front of the house. All day long villagers, neighbors and relatives had been stopping by with a plate of this, a jug of that, a kind word or a sorrowful look.

All day long, the children had been restive, fractious. Alternately gentle and kind or impatient and hurtful. They had finally gone ahead to Peter's to help set out the food, and would meet them at the tree in the field, leaving the house feeling empty and cold.

All day long, the dog had paced before the door, back and forth, back and forth; then taking turn around the house, sniffing along the base of every wall, whining at the closets, pawing at the pantry door. Finally, Paul let him outside and he jumped up on the cart next to Adam's coffin and refused to move.

Grandmother's gloves were a soft, dark tan color, though once they had been more buff colored, the years of use had softened them and they now matched Gilly's long blue coat perfectly. Paul held her hand as they stepped out the door and walked across the yard to fetch Ava and Cathy.

Tor was already at the door when they arrived. Adam's chair by the fire was empty, and Gilly was caught off guard. It would take time to get used to these things.

Tor looked devastated, and Gilly started to cry again as she hugged him. But he stepped back after a moment, and noticing the gloves he whispered so only she could hear, "They never really leave us, do they?"

No, thought Gilly, they never really do. They leave us memories and lessons, and strength. Today we will cry. Tomorrow we will go on.