January 24th – Four more days, I can stand this for just four more days. I think. At least I have lots of thinking time. That’s both good and bad. I have time to go through more of the books and grab ideas from Momma’s files but if I have time to think about how things can work, I also have time to think about how things can go wrong. When that happened I forced myself to stop and start thinking about the good things in my life.
For instance, it was nice to have the house to myself today. Austin is a better kid than I expected. I think he was just starved for affection and has latched onto Rand and I because we treat him like he belongs already. I saw some of the boys in foster care that were young like that really latch onto Aunt Wilma looking for a mother figure. Aunt Wilma talked to me one time after a really bad case. She said the boys would mistake her caring for love. I was fourteen at the time and I think it was her way to warn me off of getting too attached to her as well. I hadn’t thought about that conversation in years. I promised myself right then that I wouldn’t be like Aunt Wilma with Austin. It would either be for real or it wouldn’t, none of this caught in the middle stuff so that the poor kid would only get confused.
The reason why I had some alone time today is that Austin went with Rand to pick up the limestone chunks. Woofer looked at me like a lost soul, already missing Austin. I told the big goofy mutt to go chase something and after giving a doggy groan he went out and started sniffing around in the woods which is his second favorite past time.
I sat on the sofa and worked on a list of things I wanted to do. First off I had sent a list with Uncle George to give to Missy. Austin needs clothes and Rand doesn’t have any to spare. And there is no way it would be fair to cut down any of my clothes for him. I can make him some button down shirts, I can even make him jeans since I have those bolts of denim that Ram sent me, but if I don’t have to I’d rather try and get him something off the rack to save some time. And he needs it all … jeans, t-shirts, and underclothes. I found a packaged pair of boys pajamas that I had picked up when I had first salvaged one of the houses that are now demolished but they aren’t exactly meant for warmth and they are going to swallow him whole. I took the elastic out of the waist band and changed them to draw string. They’ll certainly give him growing room but I have a feeling he’ll out grow the legs before he out grows the waist. That only took me an hour since the treadle was still downstairs, then I got going with my next project.
One of the things that I had noticed from the swap meet, after thinking about it for a while, was that while there was a lot of staple food items, and basic services and materials, I didn’t see any convenience foods or mixes. Not even any soup mixes. I know it makes sense as most of those have probably been used up by people long ago. We have quite a bit left but I’ve been rationing ours and using it to piece out the fresh stuff coming out of the garden and smokehouse. But, you’d think someone would have come up with something to replace the store bought mixes.
I also gave Missy’s idea another think about lingerie. It won’t ever become a career for me but I’m thinking at the next swap meet to have a booth. On the other hand, I might be better off trading the stuff at the Shack that way no one would know where it came from. I’ll have to talk it over with Rand. Either way I need to make up some more of those mixes for us, especially since “us” isn’t just Rand and I any more. There’s Austin to think about and the baby.
And speaking of the baby, I snuck the booklet off of Rand’s nightstand and started reading it. I figure I can’t make the situation go away by hiding from it. I flipped through the book and got a pretty graphic picture of what is going to happen to my body. Funville here I come but what I was actually looking for was the list that Rand had mentioned. Toward the back there was chart that showed all the different stuff the modern baby was expected to have in the nursery. Man oh man. On the other hand I could pretty much dump about half the list because we weren’t “modern” any more. For instance a car seat. If there was a wagon accident not even a car seat was going to save the baby so I'm not going to worry about it. There were toy things in the list too like those jumping saucer things. Might be nice to have but it’s not like I could go down to the wallyworld and buy one. On the other hand a highchair and cradle are pretty important and we already have both of those thanks to Rand’s foresight. We also have a lot of baby clothes and things like that only I’ve never really taken a good look so cleaning and organizing the baby’s room went onto my priority list, not the top but up there.
I remember Daddy talking about how his parents were so poor when his oldest sister came along that she slept in a wooden grocery box until his mother’s father built them a cradle and they used that for all of their babies after that. Daddy also talked about baby clothes made out of old flour sacks and he remembered wearing “big boy pants” that had the flour mill logo on the seat of them. Are we going to go back to that? It looks like it. For how long I wonder.
What went on the top of my list was to find some way to get some clothes that were gonna fit me. I’ve only been wearing these overalls a little over two weeks and I can already tell they are only going to fit another couple of weeks … maybe. I think I can make do with some of Momma’s old tops, she was bigger than me on the topside and didn’t ever wear fitted shirts so they should work. What is going to be a bear is finding something to cover the bottom half of me with. I suppose I could make some fleece pants with a drawstring waist band but I hate to use the material for something that will only be used for a few months. Maybe I can make some jumpers if I can just find something to cover my legs up with. Maybe I can knit some really long socks.
I ate the beans and rice that Rand left for me in a thermos and then I got flustered and decided to go sit on the porch for a little while. I took the rifle outside but I felt guilty and couldn’t settle. I was just about to go back inside when I heard a buggy coming down the road. I was just about to run inside when I heard, “Kiri? You outside? Is that dog gonna eat us up?”
I called Woofer to my side and then shouted back, “I’ve got him Cassie.”
From around the hedge came Cassie and then came Julia carrying her baby. I heard a couple of out riders staying with the buggy. “Hope you don’t mind company. Julia needs to feed the bottomless pit.”
Julia grumbled, “Enough Cass, I warned you when you volunteered to take me over to Momma O’s for the morning.” To me she said, “Do you mind Kiri? I … I just … not in public in the buggy going down the road, no matter how much he hollers. Especially not with Hoss and Brian following along.”
I was about to explain that I couldn’t get up and offer them anything when Cassie said, “Take a load off your feet or we are going to hear it from Rand. You are feeling better though I guess since you are outside on the porch.”
Trying to answer them both I said, “No I don’t mind Julia. And yes, I’m feeling better.”
They didn’t stay long, only about thirty minutes. That was just long enough for Julia to feed the baby … and didn’t that give me something to think about … and to change him. I didn’t ask questions about the baby and stuff though I suppose I should have. I’ve let the things with Julia go but I’m not that comfortable with her yet. “Julia, I heard y’all had a stranger on your land.”
“Yeah, Ron says that part of the property is in a bad location. We get a lot of non-locals passing through there. Mr. Henderson has suggested that we get together with some of the other River Road families and put a patrol out there to … deter strangers from crossing the land instead of using the established roads. People just don’t read No Trespassing signs these days. Have you had anyone?”
“Not for a while, not since those bandits or whatever you want to call them. But then again we aren’t on the road and Mr. Henderson’s men patrol around here all the time.”
Cassie jumped in with, “Poppy tries Kiri, but he says there are signs of strangers a lot more than he is comfortable with. People come out this way to hunt and leave a mess behind. If we have a dry spell and some hunter leaves a campfire or coals unattended … it doesn’t take much imagination to figure out what could happen. Poppy said that it has been a couple of decades since we’ve had a really big fire threaten the town itself but …”
Nope, it doesn’t take much imagination to picture what could happen. Cassie and Julia left and Woofer was fascinated with the leftover smell of baby and spent a good ten to fifteen minutes memorizing the new odor. I was feeling a little worried and chilled so I moved back inside and stayed there making notes until Rand and Austin got home looking real pleased with themselves although I wasn’t to know why until dinner time.
I was trying to clean up my stack of notes and listen to Austin rattle on about all that they’d done … how cool Bud and Lou were, how Rand let him drive the wagon, the number and size of the limestone chunks (they dumped the rock near the gully), and on and on. I’m glad he had a good time but I was having a hard time concentrating. I’d never tell him that, especially as he was building a fire in the fireplace the entire time he was talking.
“I couldn’t do much after the wagon was full of rocks so I picked up all the fallen limbs and put them in a pile. I really surprised Rand. We tied the wood onto the rocks and brought it ho … um … back.” He then fell silent and acted busy. It didn’t take a genius to figure out he’d embarrassed himself and was worried that he had talked too much.
Rand had come out and caught the last little bit, looked at me and winked, and then said, “You had it right the first time little man. This is home. So long as you want to stay with us call it what it is.”
I could see Austin getting wound up and trying really hard not to let it show. To help him out and give him something to focus on I said, “Come here Austin so I can see how much I need to take these legs up.”
That got his attention and he warily came over and tolerated me putting the pajamas against him. “Well, I’m glad I didn’t cut any of the leg off yet, you are going to need the length. I’m sorry I can’t do much about …”
“These are for me?!”
“Yeah, I know they don’t fit really well and … “
“Really for me?”
“Uh … yeah. Really for you. If you want them I figured you could use … “
He reached out and touched them with his finger tips. “If you don’t mind rolling the sleeves and pants legs up for tonight I’ll hem them tomorrow. Go on, you can take them if you want.”
I actually had to put them in his hand and then he hugged them to him and his eyes were really big. “I don’t mind big. I always wore my brothers’ old clothes. Peepaw had them in boxes. By the time they got to me they never fit right but Dad said I had my school uniform for my good clothes and the others were good enough to work and play in.”
Rand broke in, “Hey buddy, go put those in your room and we’ll have some dinner.” And then he winked at Austin.
“Ok, what are you guys up to?” I asked. When guys get like that, I don’t care how old or young they are, they are up to something.
What they were up to was a surprise for me. Seems several palm trees had to be taken down to clear the field and make it ready to plant for pasture so they broke into the heart of them and brought me home some fresh “swamp cabbage.” These weren’t sabal palms but Rand said most palms you can eat the hearts of. He stripped the core down to the ivory-white heart then he julienned it and you can then use it the same way you would any salad green. Rand left ours raw and then just made a vinegar and oil dressing and yum yum. I ate more of the “salad” than I did of the beans that we are still finishing off. Man, I knew I was craving fresh food but I guess I hadn’t realized how much. Now, I burped for a couple of hours afterwards but I didn’t care. Good food is good food.
Rand and Austin cleaned up the dishes and themselves and I had a few minutes of peace. It was too cold for them to fool around much and when they came out I told Rand that I was going to take a bath. “Nope. Ken said not until …”
“Oh …grrrr. Fine, I’m going to go wash up. I will be so glad when Sunday gets here.”
“I’ll just be glad to know you’re going to be OK. I know it’s hard Babe. I didn’t like being stuck in bed when Ken and I were here sick or after the VRC got through with me. It won’t be much longer … hopefully.”
Hopefully is right. But I have to admit if I had to go through this to get Rand some help then I guess it is for the best. You can already tell that Austin thinks Rand is something else. It’s kinda cute. Gosh! Where did that come from?! Ew. I better watch that or Rand is going to think I’ve gone off my rocker for real. That booklet warned that I might get emotional and something called “nest-y.” It is like some alien is inhabiting my body and turning me strange. This is so bizarre.
Not too long after dark we all headed off to bed. I know seven o’clock is pretty early to go to sleep but when you are getting up around four or five in the morning and then working hard all day, seven o’clock sounds about right on most nights. I had Rand take a warming pan for Austin’s sheets while the wood stove in our room warmed things up. Both Rand and Austin were asleep in no time but I’m not doing enough to get to sleep as fast so I finished today’s journal entry.
Tomorrow Austin is going with Rand again, at least for half a day. That should give me time to work on a schedule of things I want to get done. I have got to get out in the garden. It’s warm enough, even though it is still cool at night, that the covers need to come off the seedlings. I also need to get my seeds going in the greenhouse and … well, that’s for tomorrow. If I start thinking about that right now I’ll never get to sleep.
January 25th – Three days and counting then I’m free, free, free!
January 26th – Two days and counting and Sunday can’t get here soon enough. My to do list is now officially longer than I am tall. I’m not kidding. I got bored and laid the pages end to end and the list is actually twice as long as I am tall plus a couple of inches. I hope Rand and Austin leave some room in their schedule to help me because I feel like I’m a month behind.
January 27th – I came real close to throwing something at Ken today. The guys all thought it was just so funny but I am telling you I did not. He took my blood pressure on one arm then squinted his eyes and then took it on my other arm. Then he took it on the first arm again. I was fit to be tied and worried sick. “Well,” he said with a deep sigh. “I’ve checked it three times Kiri … “
“What?! You can’t be serious!”
“Oh I am. You’ve got a clean bill of health. You can get up tomorrow but I still don’t want you to lift much more than a cast iron pot.”
I heard Rand snorting and snickering, the rat had been in on it. I swear, half the human population must suffer from terminal testosterone poisoning.
January 28th – Free at last, free at last! Of course that was just in time to go to the church service and become the main course in a banquet of gossip.
OK, maybe that came out a little nastier sounding than I meant it but I sure am sick of being the center of attention for some folks. It was good to be out but there were a few uncomfortable moments as well. Lucretia was there, it’s the only place her brother has agreed to let her see her kids. The little children were already having their own Bible study time when we arrived later than normal – I was a little puke-y this morning – and as we were passing by trying to make sure Austin got to his group with Mick and Tommy I heard Lucretia raise her voice enough so everyone could hear her tell her kids, “That’s the … the … female … what killed your precious uncle.”
Oh great. But I heard a couple of adults being forced to cough into their hands when Brendon comes up and says all innocent like, “You think she’s telling ‘em so that they can thank you?”
I was so tempted to hit him with the pillow I’d brought to sit on but that would have only made things worse. Suddenly I was surrounded by Crenshaws, Crenshaw in-laws, and assorted other people. It was like being walled in and it stayed that way the whole time we were there.
When services were over I made sure that everyone got their pans and bowls back and made sure to tell them all thank you real nice. I won’t be forgetting these folks anytime soon. They did what they didn’t have to do. If the chance comes around for me to help them I will.
I found out today what Rand is being paid for his work and I’m not quite sure if I like it or not though I understand it. He’s being paid in shares; shares of future gains. Some of it is feed and hay for the animals, some of it is crops like sorghum or soybeans, and from Mr. Henderson he is getting shares of trade goods that will be coming in shortly … or it’s supposed to. I guess that makes sense but it is also a risk. It seems like everything in life is lately.