Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Papa’s Throne

Jimmy’s Papa was a king. It never occurred to Jimmy that this bit of information meant that he was also royalty. He and his family lived like everyone else he knew, not that he knew all that many people since he was only 6. Jimmy had never met his Papa. The family would get letters from him quite often and Jimmy would get cards and presents at Christmas and his birthday. Jimmy had even heard Papa’s voice twice on the telephone down at the general store!

Jimmy loved his Papa. He would write the most amazing stories, telling Jimmy all about the world and the fascinating things in it. The boy longed to visit with his grandpa, the King. He had visions of sitting on his lap while he was on his throne, listening while he dispensed his wisdom to the masses. He would be so proud!

Lazy summer days found the young man lying in the field, watching the clouds go by and daydreaming about what his Papa’s castle must be like. It was odd that his parents never talked much about how his grandpa was a king. Maybe they were just being modest; not wanting to put on airs. He never spoke of it either. Once, he had said something to Ronnie Simmons about how his grandpa was a king and Ronnie had laughed at him and called him loony! A very unpleasant experience, one that the boy didn’t wish to repeat. It didn’t really matter that no one else knew of his grandpa’s important station, Jimmy knew and he was proud.

Papa was getting older. Jimmy could tell because sometimes his letters were a little confusing and he’d overheard his parents discussing their worry for him. While Jimmy was sad that Papa wasn’t feeling well, he was delighted when he learned that they would be travelling to see him! It was a long journey but his parents decided that it must be done. Jimmy could hardly contain himself. Plans were made and bags were packed. Their neighbor gave them a ride to the train station and then they rode for the longest time! Jimmy enjoyed looking out the window at things he’d never seen before. He couldn’t wait to tell his Papa about his adventure. Eventually, he fell asleep despite his excitement.

When they arrived in Papa’s town they started walking. Why hadn’t Papa sent a car to pick them up? Maybe he didn’t know they were coming. It would be a wonderful surprise! It was Jimmy who experienced surprise when his parents stopped in front of a modest house on a regular street and announced, 

“Here we are”.

Jimmy stood stock still, just staring at his parents.

“Jimmy, what’s the matter?” his mother asked.

“This can’t be Papa’s house, he lives in a castle.”

“Now whatever gave you that notion young man?” his father asked.

“Well, Papa is a king! All kings live in castles.” Jimmy couldn’t believe how silly his parents could be sometimes.

Jimmy’s father said, “What makes you think that Papa is a king?”

Clearly exasperated, the child replied, “You always said that when you were a little boy, Papa ruled with an iron fist. You said his word was law. And don’t you remember the letter he wrote to us telling us all about his new throne?”

Jimmy’s parents were speechless! There just wasn’t any way to argue with that logic. They all went up to the door and went inside to see the old man.

Jimmy wasted no time climbing up onto his Papa’s lap. Though they’d never met, Jimmy felt right at home. He hugged his Papa's neck and patted his cheeks and began to tell his grandfather all about their trip on the train. Papa was tired but his eyes glowed as he listened to his grandson.

After supper, Jimmy had an important question for his grandfather.

“Papa, may I see your throne?”

“Why of course Jimmy. Right this way. It’s in its own room”

Papa slowly lead Jimmy down a hallway, opened a door and there it was.

“Isn’t that the fanciest darn thing you’ve ever seen?”

Jimmy didn’t know what to say. He just stared. His parents, who stood a ways down the hall, could barely contain their mirth.

“Jimmy, what’s wrong?” his Papa asked. “Don’t you like it?”

“But Papa, it’s a privy!!”

“Yessiree it is! A privy fit for a king, don’t you think? Everyone else I know has to walk out to the outhouse, rain or shine, day or night, but not your Papa! I’m a lucky man.”


Words matter.



Photo credit: Kathie Schulte

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Voices

The house was too quiet, and hot. She wasn’t used to being home alone. It’s not that she was scared, more that she felt unsettled without him there. She locked all the doors because she was easily startled and got ready for bed. What else was there to do? The fan in the bedroom was necessary due to the excessive heat. It swayed back and forth, pushing hot air over her as she lay on top of the sheet. Her mind was a jumble of thoughts and she wondered if she would ever be able to sleep.

Then she heard it; a voice.

It wasn’t a speaking voice, more like someone singing far in the distance. She couldn’t make out the words or the melody, just a vague sense that someone was singing.

“Maybe one of the neighbors is playing their Victrola. Maybe there’s a party.”

She lay there for a bit longer and the sound never stopped.

“If I turn off that noisy fan, maybe I can hear it better.”

She got up and turned off the fan. It slowly came to a stop and she stood in the warm night air, listening. Nothing.

“I must be losing my mind!” With her nightgown sticking to her damp skin, she turned the fan back on and lay down on the bed.

There it was again! She could just barely hear a voice, singing. As she lay there listening, she grew sleepy and eventually drifted off to sleep.

Her days were filled with work at the shop followed by visiting him in the hospital. She worried: about him, about money, about everything! What would she do after he came home? She had to work but who would take care of him? What if he never came home? Her nights were hot, sweaty and miserable. Her only reprieve came at bedtime when she heard the singing. The music soothed her. Sometimes it sounded like a tenor singing opera. Other times it was more like hillbilly music, something you would hear in the Ozarks, not that she’d ever been there. She only heard it at night as she was trying to go to sleep. She came to look forward to the music; it felt comforting. At first, she worried that she was losing her mind but, eventually, she stopped wondering where the music was coming from and just let it lull her to sleep.

He came home, weak but alive. She managed to find someone to check in on him while she was at work. After work she would hurry home to cook for him and help him in any way she could. Having him back home was wonderful and she slowly stopped worrying about the future. It would take care of itself while she took care of her husband.


You never know where comfort and solace will come from in your time of need. It might be a neighbor or family member who is there for you when you most need them. Or, it might be a fan on a hot summer night, singing you to sleep.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Rock Around the Clock








“Turn that music down!!!” Poor Pops. My music drives him crazy! To me, there is nothing better than lying on my bed listening to my favorite 45s. I can do that while talking on the phone, doing my homework, reading…just about any time and the louder, the better. Pops, on the other hand, can’t seem to walk across the living room while my music is playing. He’s so old.

We used to get along really well. I loved sitting by his side while he read the newspaper. We’d go for walks and he’d push me on the swings at the park. That was when I was young. Now that I’m older and more mature (I’m 15 after all!) we don’t seem to get along as well as we used to. He’s always hollering at me to turn down my music, go change my clothes, clean up my room. I wish he was cool like Mom. She understands me a lot better.

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Why doesn’t she listen to me? What happened to my sweet, young daughter; the one who adored me and hung on my every word? She’s been replaced by a defiant, eye-rolling, argumentative girl who seems to thrive on noise and chaos. I love her dearly but I sure don’t understand her. Her mother seems to “get her”. Why is that? Why can’t I understand the changes in my daughter? I’m beginning to wish we hadn’t bought her that record player for Christmas. Ever since then, my ears have been accosted by her loud “music”. Rock Around the Clock? Certainly seems like that around here. Why doesn’t she ever play that Bing Crosby record we gave her with the record player?

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As he walked in the front door after a long day at the office, he could hear the music blaring. “That’s it!” he thought. “This will stop right now! She’s grounded. That lousy record player is MINE!”

He stormed up the stairs and threw open his daughter’s bedroom door, determined to let her have it once and for all. He stood transfixed, a look of horror and disbelief on his face. For there she was, gyrating and twirling; the music so loud that she didn’t even hear the door bang against the wall. 


There she was…his wife.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Snowbound



Their home was miles from anywhere. When they moved there in the summer it didn’t seem like something to worry about. They could get just about anywhere simply by walking. It felt good to walk. His grandfather’s words came back to him: “It’s just a good stretch of the legs to get to town”. They were young and strong. Life here would be good, much better than the city life they’d led before. So crowded and dirty there. Here there was fresh air and sunshine. This is where they needed to be. A place to raise their family.

Now it was winter and Emily had just had their first baby. Town seemed much, much farther than his legs could carry him these days. The snow was deep and the wind often howled. That’s ok, we’ll make it, he thought.

The baby was wonderful. Never had he felt the way he did about his new daughter. She was the best thing he’d ever done; he and Emily made a beautiful baby. They had plenty of provisions set aside to get through this latest storm. He wasn’t worried, but the baby began to cry…a lot.

“Nathan, something’s wrong! She seems to be hungry all the time. What am I doing wrong?”

“Emily, don’t worry, you’re a wonderful mother. Maybe she just needs more milk. I could walk to the nearest farm and ask if they could give us some milk.”

“It’s too far and the storm is so fierce! Besides, we don’t have any money to pay for the milk.”

Nathan let it go but that night the baby’s howls grew louder as she grew weaker.

The next morning: “I’m going to walk to the next farm. The baby needs milk and I’m going to bring her some no matter what the cost”, said Nathan.

The young man set out walking in thigh-deep snow. His wife stood watching him at the window worrying that he wouldn’t return; hoping that he’d get back with milk for their daughter in time. It took him hours of difficult walking to reach the next farm. Half frozen and weak, he knocked on the door.

“My goodness young man, you’re a snow man! Quick, come inside.”  The woman led him to a chair by the kitchen stove. She appeared to be about his mother’s age and had a kind face.

“Whatever brought you out on a day like this?” she asked.

“My daughter, she’s newborn and needs milk. I don’t think my wife is able to give her enough. Can you help?”

“Land sakes, of course we can help. George, come here!” Esther called to her husband. “This frozen young man needs some milk for his new baby. Would you go and fetch some for him to take home?”

“Heavens boy, you are a sight. Sit here with Esther while I get you some milk for your baby” said George.

“Thank you sir, but I need you both to know that I have no money to pay you.” Nathan was embarrassed but determined.

“Goodness, that’s not a problem. Let’s get that little girl some milk.” George put on his coat and headed out the door.

“Here, have a cup of coffee and I’ll get you some food” said Esther. 

“You are too kind. Thank you.”

Nathan sat by the fire, drying out and warming up while Esther fussed over him. She fed him a warm meal and a huge slice of apple pie. By the time George returned from the barn with the milk, Nathan was beginning to feel better.

“Thank you both from the bottom of my heart. I will return after the storm subsides and repay you with labor. Any job you need done and I’m your man.” Nathan meant every word. 

“Here boy, take these snow shoes to wear on your way home. They’ll make the journey much faster and easier” said George.

“I couldn’t! You’ve been too generous already.” Nathan was amazed by these people.

“Nonsense. You can return them when you come back with the milk jug. You need to get home to your family.”

Nathan set off with the snow shoes on his feet and the milk jug under his arm. The way made much easier due to the kindness of these strangers.
-------------------------------
A few weeks later:

“George, remember the young man who came looking for milk for his baby? I’m surprised he never returned. I really thought he’d come back, at least to return the snow shoes. I guess you can’t always tell about a person.” 

“Yup, I sure hope that storm kicking up didn’t give him any grief.” 

That next Sunday afternoon, while they sat in the kitchen enjoying a piece of pie after church, there was a knock on the door.

“Hello” said the young woman. “I’m looking for the people who gave my husband some milk for our baby. Would that be you folks?”

“Why heavens yes, it is! Come in, come in” said Esther.

The woman came in carrying a pair of snow shoes.

“We were wondering about your young man. I hope the milk did the trick,” said George.

“I’m afraid the news isn’t good,” she said with tears in her eyes.

“Oh my, please sit down dear. Can I get you something to drink?” asked Esther.

“Something warm would be lovely, thank you.”

Esther made the girl a cup of tea and placed a piece of pie in front of her, which she pushed aside reaching for the tea instead. Esther and George waited patiently for the young woman to continue.

“Nathan told me of your kindness. He planned to return and work for you to pay for the milk but things didn’t go as planned.”

“The payment isn’t a concern, but your family is. I’m sorry that you lost the baby,” Esther said with tears in her eyes.

“Oh the baby is fine. She’s at home with relatives right now. The milk you provided probably saved her.” With hesitation she said, “It’s Nathan, he didn’t... The storm was... Nathan died soon after coming back home. He said that he would bring back milk for the baby no matter what the cost. I just never dreamed that he would be the payment.”


Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Armoire



Genevieve hid in her grandmother’s armoire.  She wasn’t supposed to, but it was one of her favorite places in the house.  Being the only child in the household meant that Genevieve was often lonely.  Her mother grieved for her dead husband, and her grandmother, although terribly saddened by the loss of her son, ruled her home with a stiff back and strict rules.  The only time anyone paid much attention to the child was when she was doing something she oughtn't.  Thankfully, the armoire was in a seldom used guest room so the girl was rarely found there.

The year was 1780 and Genevieve’s life was in turmoil.  This upset didn’t stem from the political upheaval of the times, but more from the fact that her life had been turned upside down.  Her father had died during the war; not because he was a brave soldier, in fact he wasn’t a soldier at all, but because he’d been in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Genevieve and her mother were forced to move into her grandmother’s house where they were tolerated, at best.

Genevieve’s grandmother came from France with her husband and son.  She never liked the New World and resented having to live out her life in “this backwater”.  Her home was filled with fine furniture and art, brought with her from her home in France.  The armoire that Genevieve liked to hide in was an example of the high quality of the furnishings.  Hand crafted and carved out of walnut, the piece was styled in the manner of Louis XIV.  It featured a bold cornice with a lavishly carved baroque piece centered in the doors.  Genevieve thought it was rather imposing but it made a wonderful place to be alone and let her imagination run away with her.

It was summer in Newport and Genevieve wasn’t allowed to leave the house.  Specifically not alone but rarely with her mother or grandmother.  The city was crawling with French soldiers who had arrived to assist in the fight against the British.  Genevieve was weary of hearing about “the war” and wished it would just go away.  It was a pretty afternoon, filled with sunshine, so Genevieve decided to spend a little time in the garden reading a book.  It was difficult to read in the armoire unless she left the door ajar and that increased her chances of being caught.  The garden was lovely, filled with fragrant flowers and soft, green grass.  She sat on a quilt under a pear tree, enjoying the dappled sunlight while she read.  

The nearby bushes rattled.  That’s odd,” she thought.  It must be a bunny or a cat.

A moan.  

Bunnies and cats don’t moan!

Genevieve was nervous but her curiosity overcame any fear.  She slowly crept up to the bush and peeked inside.  There, lying among the gnarled branches, was a man.  A weak, injured man.

Startled, Genevieve darted back to her quilt and stared at the bush.  Who is that man and why is he moaning in our bush?  She walked back to the bush and peeked again.  The man’s eyes met hers and she wasn’t afraid.  She knew instinctively that she needn’t be afraid of him; that he needed her help.  Without a word, she went to the kitchen and got a pitcher of water and a glass.  “I’m thirsty” she told the cook.  She felt that she needed to keep this man a secret so she found a way around the back of the bush so she wouldn’t be seen from the house.

“Here, have some water.”  He could barely sit up so she cradled his head and helped him sip.  As he lay back down on the dirt, she realized that his coat was red, but not from blood.  He’s a Redcoat,” she thought!  Leaving the pitcher and glass, she retreated to her quilt.  What should she do?  He obviously needed help.  If she told her grandmother, she would contact some official and they would cart the man away, probably to prison.  He might die!  Perhaps if she left him there with the water, he’d feel better and go away.

At breakfast the next morning, Genevieve’s grandmother was talking about her list of activities for the day.  

“First, I must attend a meeting of the women of the church.  We are planning a dinner for the officers of the French troops.  Next, a visit to the hospital to pray for the injured and then off to tea at Madam Bellamy’s home.  Charlotte, will you be joining me today?”

Genevieve’s mother roused herself from her daydreams and looked blankly at her mother-in-law.

“Oh never mind.  I can see that you weren’t even listening to me.  Stay here and watch after your daughter.”

“Miss Genevieve, I’m unable to find the pitcher you borrowed. Have you returned it?” The question from Mrs. Leatherby stopped Genevieve in her tracks. Before she could answer, her grandmother said,
“What’s this? Genevieve you must be more responsible with things, especially when they don’t belong to you. Make certain you return the pitcher today!”

“Yes Grandmama.”

The fact that her grandmother would be out of the house all day, and her mother’s inattention, gave Genevieve hope that she could do something about this soldier without being seen. She actually hoped that he would be gone and she could retrieve the pitcher without having to deal with him. If only.

The girl hurried out to the garden as soon as her grandmother left the house and her mother retired to her room. At first glance, she thought he was gone and a huge wave of relief engulfed her. The pitcher and glass were there but no soldier. As she bent to retrieve the glassware a hand reached out and tugged at the hem of her dress! Genevieve shrieked and then quickly ducked down into the bush when she realized it was the soldier.

“Help me, please.”

He was ever so weak. Genevieve could barely make out his words.

“Why are you here? Go away!”

“I tried to leave but am too weak to go. Please help me.” And he fainted.

Lord help me,” she thought. What was she going to do? He obviously needed help. Food.  She’d bring him some food and then he’d leave! Heading to the kitchen with the pitcher and glass she approached the housekeeper.

“I’m sorry Mrs. Leatherby for failing to return the pitcher. It won’t happen again.”

“Not to worry luv. I knew you’d just forgotten” Mrs. Leatherby was rather fond of the girl.

“It’s such a lovely day, I was thinking of having a picnic in the garden this afternoon. Would you mind making me some sandwiches?”

“Not at all. With your grandmother out for the day I’m certain your mother would prefer to eat in her room. I’ll have the cook make you something extra nice.”

Once she was ensconced on her quilt with her lunch spread before her, Genevieve couldn’t wait for the housekeeper to go inside and ignore her. Wrapping the sandwiches in her napkin, she grabbed the pitcher of lemonade and made for the bush. The soldier was sleeping but roused easily when Genevieve shook his shoulder.

“I’ve brought you some sandwiches. Eat.”

He was so weak that she had to feed him bits of bread. Eventually he raised himself to one elbow and managed to eat the sandwich by himself.

“I have to go now. I’ll leave the food and drink for you.”

“Thank you. You are kind.”

Lunch for the girl consisted of cookies, having given the soldier her food. She didn’t care as long as he would just leave!

Next day, the soldier was still there. Genevieve begged Mrs. Leatherby for another picnic which she gladly agreed to.  

“You’ve forgotten the pitcher again, young lady!”

“Oh my, please don’t tell my grandmother! I’ll return it promptly.”

“Not to worry luv, there are others.”

Bless Mrs. Leatherby!

Genevieve liked the young soldier. As he gained strength he was able to tell her a bit about himself. Injured and separated from his brigade, he had spent many weeks hiding from soldiers. His condition had deteriorated to a point where he just couldn’t go on. 

“You remind me of my little sister,” he said.

“Do you like your little sister,” she asked nervously?

He laughed, briefly, before he began to cough.

“Yes, I like her very much.”

“What am I to do with you?” Genevieve was in a quandary. She wanted to help him but what could one small girl do?

“Please don’t turn me in. If you could get me some clothes I could possibly sneak away without being noticed.”

“My grandfather’s clothes wouldn’t begin to fit you! He is rather…healthy. Stay here and rest and I’ll give it some thought.”

As she began to leave, he said, “What is your name?” 

“Genevieve. What may I call you?”

“Stephen”

A summer storm was brewing which added a new concern for the soldier. Genevieve decided that she should sneak the soldier into the house until she could figure out where to find him some clothes. He could hide in her armoire! It would have to be during the night.

Armed only with her determination, she snuck out to the garden after the house was quiet for the night. Stephen was right where she’d left him, sleeping. 

“Quick, come with me!”

“Where are we going?”

“Into the house. I have a place for you to hide until we can figure out how to get you away.”

“This doesn’t seem to be a good idea, but I can’t think of a better one. I’ll need help.”

It began to rain. By the time the small girl was able to help the injured man into the house, they were both soaked to the skin. Moving as quietly as they could, they made their way to the guest room and the armoire. Genevieve had gathered some blankets and made a nest for her new friend.

“Stay here and be quiet!”

“I’ll do my best. Thank you for your help. You are my angel.”

Genevieve couldn’t sleep that night for fear the Stephen would be found. She was certain she heard him cough once or twice but, other than that, the night was calm and peaceful. What was she going to do?

The next day was uneventful.  Genevieve visited Stephen whenever she could, bringing him bits of food and drink. She was amazed at how well he was doing considering his condition when she first brought him inside. That evening, her grandmother was complaining about the events scheduled for the next day. 

“We will be storing some items in our house meant for the less fortunate. Only for one night, but I hate the idea of what filth might come with the mess. I think we’ll store them in the downstairs guest room.”

On no! Stephen will certainly be found! There was nothing to be done about it but Genevieve was worried. Sure enough, the next day brought a line of men carrying boxes of household items, food and clothing. Mrs. Leatherby was standing right in front of the armoire, directing the men! Genevieve hovered nearby just waiting for the alarm to be sounded. A shout or screech was surely coming at any moment. The girl was on pins and needles, but nothing happened! To make matters worse, Genevieve found it impossible to visit Stephen without raising suspicion. 

Another sleepless night.

The next day, the men returned to retrieve the boxes. Genevieve waited in the hallway, near the front door. She had half a mind to bolt out the door at the first indication that Stephen had been found.

Nothing happened. Was he still there? How could he not be found? As the men filed out past the girl, one of them stopped, cleared his throat and spoke softly.

“Thank you, my angel. Every time I awoke I found you had left me such lovely food and drink! You have saved me and I will never forget.”

Genevieve stood transfixed, her mouth agape. It was Stephen, dressed in some non-descript clothes, carrying out a box of goods. He was free! She had done it! Genevieve continued to stare out the door with a confused but happy look on her face. What food? She had never left food while he slept!

“I’d better get busy. Lots to do today. The floors need attention. I can’t, for the life of me, figure out how all that water got inside. Oh, and there’s those extra blankets that’ll need washing.”

Genevieve turned and watched Mrs. Leatherby walk toward the guest room, a smile on her face and a wink for the girl.