Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chapter Seventy-Two

Chapter 72

January 9th – Nothing much happened Sunday or Monday. Rand and I talked so much at night that I didn’t have any time (or inclination) left to journal; but the time was well spent, we are not quite so much like a pair of Betta fish willing to fight over everything including our own reflection.

About the only things I guess I should note is that we wrote down on our calendar that I’m now officially fourteen weeks pregnant (yikes!) and that we harvested some parsnips that we’d let stay in the ground until after the first frost. The parsnips were good and I even managed to can some of them though I put the canner on the stove before filling it with water and jars. I felt some of that stretching again on my inside but not as bad. I suppose I should say something to Ken next time he gives me a check up. I’m not going to say anything to Rand unless it gets bad again; there is no sense in worrying him for no reason.

It was nice to have a couple of semi-boring days. I like boring. Boring is good after all the excitement of the last few weeks. We didn’t even have a church service since it was an off week. Rand and I have decided that on the Sundays we don’t have a church service, or can’t go to one that is scheduled, we will study on our own. We made a commitment to it; we are trying to be more mature about things like that now that we are going to be parents and have to train up a kid of our own.

I hadn’t planned on today being very exciting since I was just going to go help Mrs. Withrow clean her house and help fetch and carry what she wants to take to her new little house but I suppose it was exciting enough. A little bit like Christmas in a way and a little bit weird and spooky at the same time. It reminded me too much of when my grandparents died and the kids were deciding who got what … all I cared about was that my grandparents were dead, deciding what to do with the stuff they left behind just made it hurt more.

It was about nine o’clock when Rand dropped me off at the Withrow place. “Don’t you two ladies do any moving of anything heavy. I’ll be back around tea time and I’ll do what I can and I’ll talk Uncle George around to letting Mick and Tommy come by and do what I can’t finish.”

Mrs. Withrow arched her eyebrow and asked, “Rand Joiner, are you really telling me what to do in my own house?”

Rand got red in the face but answered, “Not for a bad reason Mrs. Withrow. I just don’t want y’all to get hurt or anything.”

“Humph. Well, since your reasons are pure I’ll let you slide this time,” and she smiled to let Rand know she had got him a good one.

After Rand left, shaking his head, Mrs. Withrow turned to me and said, “I have a plan for how I want this done in my head but if you’ve got any suggestions along the way you sing out child. I want to decide what to take to the little house first and that should make us some room to work with. From there I’ll decide what has to go and where.”

“Sounds like a plan to me. Where do you want to start?”

“Hmm. Let’s go down to the little house and I’ll show you how it is set up and we’ll take some measurements. I meant to do it yesterday but the Rearson baby climbed out of its crib and got into the fireplace ashes. The daddy came got me to sit with his wife while he ran for the Pastor.”

As we walked the few feet to the little house I asked, “Is the baby all right?”

“Will be, praise God, though his hands don’t look too pretty right now. The ashes weren’t red hot but they were still more than warm; it gave everyone a good scare. Mind you I still don’t understand why they would have left the crib unattended like that where there was a fireplace with no screen. Which reminds me, I saw you had a nice set of glass doors on your fireplace but I don’t know if you have any screens for your stove. There are a couple of good strong ones in the upstairs bedrooms if you don’t. You need something once a baby starts crawling. My boys would get into everything. We had to put Ernst – he was our youngest – in a harness and tie it to a door knob or post to keep him from pulling things down on himself. His brothers used to be awful and walk him like a dog but we didn’t know what else to do, the baby gates they had back then were just something for him to knock down or climb over. We tried every high chair we could afford and that little Houdini still managed to escape. The harness was the only thing he couldn’t get out of. Of course I had my mother’s revenge when Stevie turned out to be just like his daddy if not worse. There was one time we came home to find that Rupert – our oldest – had gotten so frustrated babysitting that he had put Ernst in a dog crate and locked it shut.”

Mrs. Withrow told stories on her family all day. It sounds like it was a zoo raising five boys. Hope my baby isn’t like that although with my luck it will be and then some. It didn’t take long for us take the measurements that she wanted. If Mrs. Withrow is a slower version of what she used to be I can’t imagine how she must have bustled before she got sick a couple of years back. I’m not ashamed to say it took everything I had to keep up with her.

The little house needs it all, from curtains to bedding to kitchen ware to just everything. Well, everything except furniture that is, there is already some in the front room and in the back room that is set up like a bedroom. The one thing the little place doesn’t have is indoor plumbing but Mrs. Withrow told me, “Oh I have plans to take care of that too. Dixon Ayers and his son are coming by during the week and they are going to close in that little niche over there that is formed by the closet my husband added when our sons would come visit more often. We never got around to adding a bathroom because of the expense but the plumbing was actually dug and laid to an old dry barrel, we just never hooked it up. Dixon checked and it looks like it is still there, all I need is to find a toilet and he’ll hook everything up. And under that little counter in the front room in the kitchen space, there is the pipe for the pump handle. That’s another one of Mr. Withrow’s projects that never got finished.”

We left and she locked the place up. “I’ll get Rand to trade the mattress on the bedframe for mine. I’ll want my treadle and a couple of my chests and cabinets to hold my patterns and material in. And I want my chair and my rocker brought down and maybe a couple of foot stools. I’ll use that side table by the window to eat at, the one sitting by the pot belly stove … thank goodness Mr. Withrow never went through with his plans to take it out … I’ll have to see how much room I have after that.”

Once we got back to the house we started going through her linen cabinets. She took sets of everything … bed linens, tablecloths, two sets of curtains and sheers for each room, a week’s worth of bath linens, same for kitchen linens, pillows and some other odds and ends. “We’ll take this down – we’ll use the hand cart there by the porch if you’ll fetch it around here – hopefully we can get it in one load. I’m going to give myself a week to get the little house situated before I move in. That’ll give me time to think and be sure of what I want to do.”

The linens took two loads and then came her clothes. My goodness, I never knew anyone but movie stars could have so many. It was mostly because she made her own clothes and they were of such good quality and taken care of that they didn’t really wear out. “Lands child, I’m sure you must think I’m the vainest woman alive. Used to be close to it. Look at this dress, at least thirty years out of date and doesn’t fit any more either. Don’t know why I’ve kept it except it took me forever to hand sew all of those little pleats. Let’s clean this closet out and set all these clothes in the front room. We’ll clean out the other closets as we get to those rooms. There are people in our community … some going to our church … that don’t have much more than the clothes on their backs and here I am with all of this just sitting here dry rotting. Lord forgive me.”

Once she had all the linens and clothes down at the house she wanted she turned to me. “Now, when Rand comes back I’m going to have him pull around back through the carriage drive. We’ll put these old shower curtains in the bottom of the wagon and lay things on top of them. I’ve got some old tarps out in the shed and we’ll tie that over the top of everything and it will keep the road dust … and prying eyes … out as you go home.

“Mrs. Withrow you don’t have to give me this stuff to help you.”

“I know that child. I told you, making sure some of my things get good homes is a load off my mind. I’m not just saying that either. I’ve gotten attached to some of this old stuff and it will be a kindness to know someone else will take care of it when I’m gone. If the Lord doesn’t come first and you are blessed to reach my age you’ll understand but until you do trust me on this. While we old folks know that we can’t take it with us when we go, it doesn’t mean we want to leave it behind to just anybody. We may not be blood related but I have a feeling we understand each other. Now … this here closet,” she said opening a pair of double doors in what she called the laundry room, “was put in by my husband’s grandfather after the house was built. It’s a real cedar closet and it is where all the household linens not in immediate use were kept. My mother in law started using it for her fine linens, table cloths and quilts and I continued the practice. I’m going to take a few of these quilts with me and I want to gift a couple to other people but the majority of them I want you to take home with you.”

“Mrs. Withrow! There … there are … “

“I know child. I’ve been doing this my whole life and my grandmother and mother in law before me. If I’d had any sense I would have put some of these old quilts in the raffle back before, but I didn’t so here they are.”

We made piles … more stuff for the little house, stuff she was setting aside, and stuff she meant for me to take home. Next we moved into the bathrooms. “I’ve got all the bath towels and such that I need.”

“So do we.”

“So you think. What do you plan on using for diapers.”

I opened my mouth but it just sort of hung there swinging in the breeze.

“Uh huh, that’s what I thought. Now towels won’t be as good as real cloth diapers but beggars can’t be choosers. You take all of these and you can cut them down to the size you need. They’ll also be good for making baby clothes with. And slippers until they are big enough for whatever you wind up using for shoes.”

It was like that everywhere we turned. I’d think of a reason why we had enough and Mrs. Withrow would show me a reason we probably didn’t. The morning was gone and we’d only covered the linens, including most of her quilting supplies.

“I’m going to set some of this aside to put with the Ladies’ Auxiliary’s supplies. Christmas may only come once a year but charity should last all year long. You know what fat quarters are child?” At my affirmative nod she continued, “I expected you did. I’ve got boxes of these things tucked all over the house. Can’t even remember what I’ve got any more. After the boys grew up and moved away I had too much time on my hands and I got a little silly with my allowance. If a piece of material was on sale I had to have it. Lord a mercy, what I could have done with all that money if I had it back to spend when groceries started going up so fierce. Anytime you find a box of materialjust put it in the parlor and I’ll go through the pieces later. Any sewing notions you find put them by my sewing box in the same room. I’ll go through them later as well.”

We had a nice lunch of these little pie thingies … like a meat pie but all filled with vegetables. After eating and cleaning up we went to work in the kitchen.

“I already know what dishes I want to take and have moved them into that cabinet over there so don’t bother with tanking anything out of that one. I also want my every day tea service and my small cast iron pieces, but I want you to take the company tea service and the bigger cast iron pieces home. I can’t lift ‘em anymore anyway. Even if I could I have no reason to use anything that big anymore. As I recall Rand is hollow from the feet up and you could likely use some bigger cookware.”

I couldn’t deny Rand’s appetite, it’s pretty legendary. How he can eat like he does and stay so thin I’ll never know. If there was food for it he’d probably graze all day long. I started having to piece out the baking or it seemed to just disappear before it was time to get another baking done.

The pile for us to take home kept growing as we went over the house in a first pass … sad irons; hot irons used to warm your sheets before you climb in bed; cast iron trivets; all sorts of glassware, pewter, speckleware, something called Depression Glass and Carnival glass, fancy dishes, and silverware; canning jars, crocks, and stoneware; bottles and jars; trays and platters; just about anything that you can imagine as far as houseware and kitchenware. To be honest there was plenty of junk there too. Old melamine dishes, electric clocks of all shapes and sizes, Avon perfume bottles in more shapes than I thought possible, gifts and awards she and her husband had received over their many years of community service and teaching … just stuff upon stuff upon stuff. A lot of it was interesting but I had to keep myself from cringing in fear when she’d run across something that seemed to me to be completely useless even if it was kind of cute. But Mrs. Withrow is smart, she kept her sentimental stuff, set some of the silly stuff aside to think about, and then the useless stuff went into another room all together.

Eventually we made our way through the house. “You likely have quite a few pattern books from your Momma so I’m going to donate these … and my husband’s library … to the Ladies Auxiliary. One of those storefronts next to where we will be having church services from now on is going to be turned into a lending library. Ada Chilton and her two sons are going to move into the living space above the shop – it used to be a dry goods store back when I was a girl – to keep an eye on things. Now, I know you are gonna think I’ve lost my mind but I want you and Rand to take that old wind up record player over there. My father in law had a huge collection of those old 78’s and 33’s and … you … you do know what a record is don’t you child?”

“It’s a big black disk they used to record music on.” My parents had had a load of them but the few I found up in the bonus rooms when I was cleaning up there were warped from the heat since they hadn’t been stored flat for several years.

“Well, thank goodness. Do you know some of my Sunday School students had no idea what those were last time I had a party out here. They wanted to know how to play CDs on it. Anyway, there’s a box of vinyls … the old name for records … in the cabinet that it is sitting on. And someplace around here I have my son’s battery operated record player that they used to take down to the springs when they’d have their parties; it might still work.”

It was getting towards time when Rand was supposed to pick me up so she said we’d just take a quick peak up in the attic before I left.

Momma had a cousin that used to exclaim “Oh my stars and garters!” when she saw a mess or something outrageous. I always thought she was being silly on purpose to break the tension, but I have to say that when we got to the top of the attic stairs and I looked around at the mess up there I nearly said it out loud myself. Right around the stairs it wasn’t too bad. There were boxes labeled for holiday decorations mostly, but the further away from the stairs you got the deeper the dust got until by the time I was looking as far back as the light would carry shapes were only vaguely recognizable under who knows how many generations of dust bunnies.

In a pretty big understatement Mrs. Withrow said, “Well … I do believe I had forgotten just how big a mess it is up here. We certainly have our work cut out for us.”

Mrs. Withrow is lucky I didn’t turn tail and run after I’d taken my first look. She’s even luckier that I didn’t turn tail and run after my second and third looks.

Rand arrived then and was drug upstairs to help bring some of the boxes of decorations down so that Mrs. Withrow could go through them. Then she had Rand bring down a few more things to give her room to look around a bit up there. There was a wash stand with a porcelain bowl and pitcher that she said would fit into an empty corner in her new bedroom, a full length mirror that was missing most of its silvering, a couple of old steamer trunks, and an old wooden card table whose top was warped and rotted and the chairs to match it that were missing their woven bottoms.

“Good Heavens. Looks like I’ll need to have a bonfire in the not too distant future.”

Rand looked thoughtful and then said, “Actually, I might have a better plan. From what I understand there is going to be a meet-and-swap not this Saturday but next. You can either use the stuff you don’t want to trade for stuff you do or you can put it in a pile someplace and hang a sign on it that says ‘free.’”

“Hmm. Won’t do a bit of good unless I can get some help hauling these things. Where is it going to be held?”

“In the park. I think Pastor Ken is hoping to have some kind of mission table or something like that to see who the families are in greatest need.”

“That means the Auxiliary will probably need to set up a table as well to help out. Let me think on it and see if it is even worth the bother. Now boy, you take Kiri on home and help her put this stuff away where she tells you to.” She gave me a hug that caught me off guard and said, “We’ll see each other again soon. Maybe next Tuesday if nothing comes up. That’ll give me time to think and do some planning. Now let’s get your wagon loaded, I hadn’t realized how late it was getting. And Rand, before you go can you light the kitchen stove up for me and bring in some wood from the wood pile?”

We waited until we were half way home before we started laughing. “Lord Kiri, what all is in those boxes and bags?”

“You really don’t want to know. I’m embarrassed by her generosity but I didn’t know how to stop her. She’s something else.”

“You can say that again. When she and Momma O get going at the same time it is a sight to see … or used to be. She’s aged a lot this last year. I think half the reason why I came around and gave up the worst of the stuff that I was getting into is because of those two old couples. If they weren’t meddling in my business they were praying for me. As bad as I was they never gave up on me. I’ll never forget that.”

“I wish … “

“Wish what Babe?”

“Oh … just … I missed that.”

“Missed what?”

“After the accident … I missed … missed … having someone care that way. Mr. Barnes did I guess but not in that everyday kind of way. It makes me think about stuff I’d rather not.”

“Like what? You know if it is bothering you this much you need to talk it out. I … Kiri? Babe? Are you crying?!”

I wiped my eyes, “I don’t know what my problem is lately. Every time I turn around I’m turning into a dang old watering pot!”

“Babe … what is it?”

“Just, it makes me wonder if … you know … something happens to me … to us … who will be there for our baby.”

I pretty much gobsmaked Rand with that idea. Now I wish I hadn’t mentioned it because I can tell he was thinking about it most of the evening when he was supposed to be working on his project plans.

When we got home I was tired and having a hard time shaking off the depression that had hit me out of the blue. I guess Rand had picked up on my mood because he was being sweet and said he’d make dinner. As sweet as the offer was it didn’t make good sense. He had the animals to take care of and we needed the wood boxes refilled before dark set in. I gave him a kiss and said I’d take him up on it another time and then made a pan of cornbread and opened a quart jar of venison vegetable soup for dinner. It was warm and filling, quick to fix and quick to clean up; a winning combination after the day I had had.

After dinner Rand disappeared for a bit and I eventually found him in the room that we’d put all the baby stuff in.

“I’m sorry I brought up bad memories Rand. Sometimes I just … “

“Don’t apologize. I guess it is something we need to think about. We both know what can happen. Bad things happen. But, if you don’t mind Babe I … I just don’t want to think about it right now.”

“Sure. I don’t really want to think about it right now either. Besides, we have your family.”

“That’s the thing, we do but … I never wanted my kid to feel like I did, like … “

He had trailed off so I guessed based on what we’d talked about before and said, “Like you were never quite as good as if you’d been picked on purpose.”

“Yeah … yeah, exactly that. I know Uncle George loves me but I always felt like I was never quite good enough. It wasn’t all the family’s fault but some stuff … I just don’t want that for our baby. I don’t want anything to happen to us at all.”

We gave up doing anything constructive after a while and came in here to our bedroom rather than waste any heat in the rest of the house. Rand fell asleep and I’m finally winding down. I wonder how other couples are handling this. I hadn’t been paying that close attention like I should have thinking it wasn’t going to happen to me for a while.

I just had a thought. What is Ram going to say when he comes by this way again? I don’t know when we’ll see him but the look on his face ought to be hysterical.

January 13th – Haven’t felt much like writing, I’ve been tired. I don’t know if it is a real tired or something I’ve talked myself into now that I now I’m pregnant and that is what pregnant women are supposed to be … tired … tired and emotional. Ick. I don’t like this one bit. I mean, OK, maybe I like the warm fuzzies that I’ve started to get when I think about the baby but the tired and weepy part I can totally do without. I feel like some alien has taken over my body. What gives with that?!

I said as much to Ken when he came by today and did his measuring thing. He said it was normal. The last thing I feel right now is normal. And worst of all? I can’t get my jeans buttoned. It happened yesterday when I was getting dressed in the morning. I just started crying … stupid, stupid. Rand heard me and ran in and then just didn’t get it at all. He laughed. That only made me get mad and cry harder because he didn’t understand. I tried to explain it but I still don’t think he gets it. It’s not like there are any stores I can go to for clothes that are going to fit and I can’t imagine wearing a dress all the time though it may come to that at some point. How I’ll hide my legs if that is all I’m left with I don’t know. Maybe Rand will make me some knee length moccasins.

For now I’m leaving my pants unsnapped and I’m using some cord to hold my pants up. My t-shirt covers everything up and then I have a couple of flannel shirts that I can wear like a jacket over that, at least for a while. Rand was going to sit in on this exam but Mr. Henderson showed up wanting to know if Rand would do some mowing for him so that he could open up another field. So Rand stayed outside talking to Mr. Henderson while Ken and I talked inside.

Ken gave me this booklet that showed all the symptoms and junk that I’m likely feeling depending on how far along I am. It has pictures and everything and Rand has been all over it tonight. He’s looked at it more than I have and I swear he was making notes and using a highlighter like he was studying for a test. Ken says everything looks normal and that now I’m probably going to start showing real fast since I finally started. Lovely. When he went to leave he asked me if there was anything else. I almost didn’t say but figured just in case I had better. So I told him about the stretching feeling. He asked if it was the same kind of feeling that I’ve had in the past and blah, blah, blah.

“I take it this isn’t something that you’ve mentioned to Rand.”

“No. ‘Cause if you want to know the truth I think he’d use just about any excuse to freak out again.”

Pastor Ken laughed, “Well, he’s going to be a father, that’s something worth getting a little wound up about.”

“Humph. A little wound up I could handle. No, I guess you’re right and he is better than he was at first, it’s just that he is worried enough as it is and I’m worried about him thinking he has to do it all and then something going wrong because of that.”

“Well, worrying isn’t going to do either one of you any good.” That’s when he gave me the booklet and told me to just monitor the feelings I’m having and that if they get worse to let him know.

I suppose the booklet did help Rand. He keeps asking me if I know this or that and I keep telling him no. What?! Are girls supposed to just suddenly know this stuff just by osmosis or something? Sure, I guess I feel some instinctual stuff but how the heck would I know that our baby is about four inches long and weighs in at about two ounces. And I don’t know about everyone else but talking about heartburn, indigestion, and constipation hasn’t beem exactly normal after dinner conversation for us and I’d rather it not become the main thing we communicate about.

When he wanted to compare how I looked to the woman in the picture in the booklet I told him I’d had enough questions for the night and unless he wanted me to develop a headache of ginormous proportions he’d find something else to talk about real quick.

He came over and snuggled up and said, “You know I’m only wondering. I thought girls would like it that the guy was involved.”

“There you go again, thinking I’m just like these generic girls you keep mentioning. I’m me … remember?”

“So you don’t want me to be interested?”

“Of course I want you to be interested. I just don’t want you to be interested to the exclusion over everything else. We used to talk about other stuff, listen to the radio, play a game of chess or cards. We haven’t done any of that in a while. I feel like a brood mare. Suddenly being pregnant is all I’m good for.”

“Hey! Hey, hey, hey! That’s not true. Come on Babe, don’t be this way.”

“Look, I know I’m acting like a spoiled brat and I’m sorry.”

“It’s all right. Come here, the book says that back rubs make you feel more relaxed.”

You know, on the one hand I’m beginning to hate that booklet … but on occasion it might actually be worth something after all.

January 14th – I swear I never realized how nosey some people can be. Church today was just completely awful. I couldn’t even concentrate on the sermon for all the stares and pointing that was going on. I mean some people just came right out and asked when I had gotten pregnant … like I was going to describe the evening to them in detail.

It’s not like I wasn’t due to have my nose rubbed in it a bit. I guess I’d been a little prideful comparing myself to the women who had got caught pregnant before me, thinking I knew more than I did. So in that sense I understand some of it was just plain consequences. But some of it … sakes alive! If one more person rubs my belly like I’m some good luck charm I’m not going to be responsible for my actions.

January 15th – Rand got a turkey right from the wagon seat as we were coming home from church yesterday; it weighed every bit of sixteen pounds. Yesterday we had roasted turkey breast for dinner and today we are having turkey sandwiches of what is left of. The dark meat I canned some of but I saved most of the carcass for make soup today.

Turkey Soup with Slickers is something Momma used to make after Thanksgiving or when Daddy would bring home a turkey he got on sale at the Commissary. You start with a turkey carcass from at least a fourteen pound turkey and you put that in a big stock pot with five quarts of water, a half cup of chopped onion, a half cup of chopped carrots, a half cup of chopped celery, three tablespoons of dried parsley flakes, two teaspoons of salt, one-half teaspoon of pepper, and two bay leaves. Bring it to a boil, skim the fat off, and then reduce it to simmer for two hours. After that you take the bay leaves out and then the carcass and let it cool. Whatever meat hasn’t fallen off the bones already, you remove and put back in the broth.

Next you take one cup of the broth only (no chunks of anything) and mix that with one egg and enough flour to make a stiff dough, somewhere between two and a half and three cups of flour. Turn your dough out onto a floured surface and knead it eight to ten times to get it smooth. Then divide the dough in half. Roll a half until it is one-eighth of an inch thick and then cut it into two-inch by quarter-inch strips. Repeat with the other half of the dough.

To the broth left in the pot add one-half teaspoon of dill, one-half teaspoon of poultry seasoning, and one cup of dried peas if you have them. Bring it all to a gentle boil and then add in the dough strips (the “slickers”). But a lid on your pot and let it cook for about thirty minutes or until the slickers are cooked and the peas are tender. Yum yum!

The other thing I managed to do today was to put away the last of the stuff that came to us from Mrs. Withrow and a good thing too because I’m supposed to go over there again tomorrow. I’m going prepared this time though with bandanas for my hair and face and a pair of goggles to keep the dust bunnies out of my eyes too. I have a feeling I’m going to get absolutely filthy up in that attic and goodness only knows what is hiding up there waiting to be found … or wanting to not be found. Ew.

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