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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Forgotten Dolls

     A long time ago there were two little girls who lived in a little old farm house, down a winding road, over by a pond, in New England.  It was beautiful there, and such fun they had in that litttle old farm house. They had a bedroom upstairs, and from that bedroom you could go up into the attic. The attic was dark and dusty, and cobwebby, but oh, so fun . Every day the girls had to go take a nap. Mother didn't say they had to sleep, they just had to go up and rest and be quiet. Sometimes the girls would go up into the attic and play during nap time.
     One late fall day when they were playing in the attic, the girls found a big bag that they hadn't seen before. Making sure that no one was coming up and seeing them, they peeked in the bag. OH! Such a delightful sight! There were two identical boxes. Each box held a doll. A most beautiful, amazing ,perfect brand new doll. A majorette doll! Every little girl wanted a majorette doll that year. It was the thing to have. They had been hinting to mother that all their friends had majorette dolls, and really, mother! They needed one, too. Obviously mother had found them somewhere and was stashing them up here for Christmas!
     Christmas was so far away, How could they ever wait that long? They gazed at the dolls. the miniture batons, the boots, the socks, the blue skirts! The white blouses, the red jackets, the jaunty hats! Oh! It was almost as good as being a majorette yourself! Of course, the were only looking at them through plastic. They couldn't really touch them. They would have to stay an unplayed with secret for two whole months.
   Faithfully every couple days at nap time, they went up to the attic and took out the boxes and dreamed of the day when they could really play with them. Finally Chriastmas was coming. The little farm house was bustling with fun and secrets and baking. It was full of company and presents and gusts of cold air everytime the door opened, Mother had warned everyone that they could not, under any circumstances go up in the attic, as she had all the presents up there. The girls really did not dare to go up and check on the dolls.
    Christmas morning came at last! The Christmas tree glowed in the front room. The star on top seemed to twinkle in the dimness of that early December morning. Presents were piled beneath the tree. The girls tip toed around, whispering, anxious for everyone else to get up. Then the fun began, with father handing out presents, children shouting with joy, paper being ripped and crinkled. The girls took each present with baited breath. There were warm mittens, there was candy, there was dolls, cute baby dolls, but there was no majorette dolls. They kept looking at each other with questioning eyes. Where were they? The last presents had been handed out, and they were not there! What could have happened?
     Of course Christmas Day is busy. There was Church to go to, and Grandparents and cousins to visit, and carols to sing, and there was no nap time, and bed time was even late. The girls fell exhausted into bed and fall asleep instantly. The next day it was snowing and every one went sliding and played outside. The new mittens were cozy and the candy was nibbled away.
    When mother sent them up to take their nap time, the girls didn't argue, as usual, and beg to stay up and play.They scrambled upstairs and sat on the bed waiting for every thing to quiet down. Then they made the quick dash up to the attic. They stood there for a moment, breathless, half scared...yes! The bag was still there! They grabbed it and looked at each other. "Mother forgot about them!" they said together.
     Now what was to be done? They couldn't ask mother about them. She would be angry at them for being up in the attic and digging in things that were none of their business. Things they weren't supposed to know about. No, they best not mention it. They took the dolls down to the bedroom. Oh, they were still just as wonderful! They took them out of the boxes, and they played. Oh, how they played! When nap time was over, they carefully put the dolls back in the bag in the attic and went down stairs. Now every day they waited for nap time, dashing up to their room quickly when mother said. If she ever wondered why the sudden aquiesence to nap time, she never questioned them. Every day they had that glorious hour with the dolls.
      The chenille bedspread was the perfect marching field for majorettes, the hollows perfect parade routes. The majorettes practiced and marched and twirled batons for that glorious hour every day, then hidden lovingly back in their attic hideaway.
       When summer came, they didn't play with them as much, because they didn't always have to nap. Sometimes they played out side all day and didn't play with them for days at a time. Then something exciting happened! They had out grown the little farm house. Father had sold it, and they were moving to a new big house up the road! It was crazy and exciting to move to a new house, a new bedroom, a new neighborhood. It wasn't until they had been settled in the new house for a few weeks, that the girls remembered the dolls.At the same moment they both sat up in bed in the new room and said, "the majorette dolls! They got left in the attic!" It was very sad. There was no way they could get the dolls back. It was as if a part of their lives had gotten left in the little farm house.
      The new people in the farm house had girls, too. They went to school together. They always wanted to ask them about the dolls, but they felt shy about it. Finally after many months went by, they asked about them. "Oh, yes," the new girls said. "They were there in the attic. We played with them, but now they are wrecked, and we threw them out."They wanted to cry, but they wouldn't, not in front of those awful girls who had cared so little for the forgotten dolls that they had ruined them and threw them away! They could never be friends with those girls anymore!
       How the years have flown by! The little girls are grandmothers now. They never told their mother about the dolls in the attic. But I heard the story, and we laughed and cried over those lost times. Christmas forever young in memory, dolls still beautiful, marching in their shiny boots and twirling their batons.Can't you hear it? The whisper of the new england wind when the door opens? The smell of Christmas baking? The soft echo of Christmas carols? I do! I do!

Monday, November 19, 2012

November in the Raggedy Garden

        Some times November is still pretty green.  Sometimes not! This year , it has still been nice, so far. This is the scene we see at the end of the road that goes to our wood lot. A beautiful old farm hunkered down at the bottom of Kidder Mountain. Yup, New Ipswich is rural. The Raggedy Garden has been put to bed from several heavy frosts. Frost is beautiful. A frosty Raggedy Garden is beautiful. Before the sun comes up, all white and clean,, every last left over leaf, every blade of grass, the swing, the fence, the leafless pear tree, all are coated with crystals. When the sun comes climbing up over the hill, over the tops of the pine trees, every thing turns to diamonds, then as the air warms, they glimmer with prisms and then turn back to their sere, brown selves. So, there is magic in the garden, after all. I know it in the spring, when it suddenly begins coming to life, I know it in the summer, all richly colored and frilly, I know it in the fall, ablaze in glory and frost, and I will know it in the winter, when its covered in ice and snow.
         We did have our first dusting of snow. It didn't amount to much, nor last very long. I love snow shadows. They are so blue, and exagerated. Foot prints look bigger, and old rusty buckets take on a shabby chic of their own.
         The nights come so early, now, and the warmth of the day disappears with the sun. The wood box needs filling every day. The kitchen range hums along, radiating warmth, fragrance and cheery crackling as it eats up copious amounts of birch, ash, oak and maple. At night, when the lights are out, it gives off the softest glow, that comes from within, and keeps the kitchen cozy. Its big black surface has a hundred uses. Keeping food and coffee hot, making the tea kettle whistle, cooking meals, drying mittens and gloves. Its great for huddling around, too, when you come in from the cold. It worries not about power, or electric bills, or oil tanks. It is my friend of November days!
       The November sunset hangs fierce and intense in the western sky. It gradually fades to grey, then inky black. November nights are black velvet nights, star filled nights, meteor shower nights. November has the trappers moon. Trappers, like hunters, get their own moon. How lucky is that? No month has a mothers moon, or even a thanksgiving moon, do they? I don't mind, though. I know trappers and hunters need a moon, a frozen marsh, strong legs and a brave heart. I am partial to November nights.
      Thanksgiving Day is coming soon. Thanksgiving at the Raggedy Garden is loud and boisterous, with lots of children, lots of food, lots to be thankful for. I am thankful for Thanksgiving, for all its legends and stories, for all the Thanksgivings that I remember, for all the Thanksgivings yet to come.
       I don't know if you've ever read Robert Ruarks "The Old Man And The Boy",  but according to the old man, " he would pick November as the best month, because it wasn't too hot and it wasn't too cold, and you could do practically anything in it better than any other time of the year, except maybe get sunburned, or fall in love. Although he added that "there ain't nothing wrong with falling in love in November if the moon is right."  Then he asked the boy if he could see what he was driving at, and the boy answered, "yesssir" because he didn't want him to start explaining it all over again. So we'll leave it at that. I do beleive the moon is right...


Friday, November 9, 2012

Veterans Day

    It began as Armistice Day, to remember the veterans of World War 1, the great war, the war to end all wars. Armistice was signed in a rail car on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year 1918. But after all, it wasn't the war to end all wars, and after world war 11 it was changed to Veterans Day, to remember all veterans from all wars.
     I remember they always sold, or gave away, crepe paper poppies, beautiful red ones, for veterans day. This of course, because of the poem by Captain John McCrae who wrote "In Flanders Fields". Flanders fields encompased a huge area where many battles were fought, and many thousands of soldiers died. Legend has it that all the soldiers feet churning up the muddy soil here, aerated the ground and in spring thousands of brilliant red poppies sprang up, blooming and beautiful.
                                     In Flanders fields the poppies blow
                                     Between the crosses row on row,
                                     That mark our place; and in the sky
                                      The larks, still bravely singing, fly
                                     Scarce heard amid the guns below.

                                     We are the dead. Short days ago
                                     We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow.
                                     Loved and were loved, and now we lie
                                      In Flanders fields.

                                    Take up our quarrel with the foe;
                                    To you from failing hands we throw
                                    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
                                    If ye break faith with us who die
                                   We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
                                   In Flanders fields.
     Captain McCrae, by the way,  did not live to see his poem published, but also died during the war. The paper poppies were to symbolize this great sacrifice, red for blood, the black heart of the poppy for grief, and the green stem for hope. There is a Somero buried in Flanders fields. Some where there is a photograph of it. I have seen it. All those white crosses, row on row, and one says Somero.
      I once recieved a gift of a poppy. A gift of more than a poppy. Let me tell you a story....
       When the cold November rain pelts on the car window, and the pavement and the buildings shine wetly in the city lights, I can close my eyes and remember. Its funny how out of so insignificant a thing can come so vividly a memory of a long lost thing. The years and the miles stretch by so quickly, you don't stop to remember. Rainswept fall evenings bring a glimpse, a half forgotten scene, and then faster and faster they crowd upwards, full blown.
         I was only a  girl, playing at being grown up. Newly married, my world colored with love and
happiness. I can smile, now, at how little I knew then of life. Sometimes glancing at the man beside me, I can feel that after so many years, he can feel what I am thinking. We went to Portland alot in those days. We had spent our honeymoon high up in the Portland Hilton. We often went on Fridays nights to pick up my sister who worked right down town.
         This was the kind of night it had been. A damp, chilly, rainy Pacific Northwest fall evening. Dark came early. We had crossed the Columbia on slick, wet pavement. We would park the car and sit and wait for Mary to get out of work, the radio softly playing love songs, watching the people go by. A man had a little three sided shelter where he sold newspaperson the corner. I don't remember how we figured out that he was blind, but we were fascinated with the way he handled the steady stream of customers that bought his papers. How he took money and made change. My father in law was blind, so we felt a kindred spirit with him.
          We would buy a paper from him and talk with him for a bit. His name was Bob. He wasn't exactly unfriendly. You couldn't say he was angry or sad, really. It was just as if he was unhappy, and he wanted to stay that way. Well, it didn't seem very pleasant, out there in all kinds of weather in his yellow slicker and his worn out shoes.
         It was Bob, who had a box of blood red paper poppies near his change box. I still remember how he handed one to me, how I took it, how cold my hands were as I twisted the stem around my jacket button. We would buy a paper and go sit in our warm car, then go home to warmth and lights and supper at home. Where did he go? Did he have any of these things?
         He was a lesson to me about thankfulness and not taking my life for granted. I would think about him through the week, wondering... I wore the red poppy on my jacket. One night he wasn't in his little shed. We went window shopping, kind of waiting for him to come back, so we could say hello and buy our paper. There was a little drug store with something in the window that caught our eye. When we went in, we saw Bob sitting at the lunch counter. His slicker was dripping wet, making a big puddle on the floor. His cane was leaning on the counter beside him. He was eating a bowl of steaming hot soup. I wanted to turn away, ashamed of myself for the fascination and horror with which I watched him. He was so clumsy. He made loud slurping noises. Things got knocked around.
         We were holding hands. I felt Boones grip tighten. I looked up at him. His eyes were filled with tears. We turned around and left. Did Bob have anyone to love him and care for him? Yet somehow, I felt as though he did not wnat his life any other way.
         You know what gift Bob gave me, besides that blood red poppy to remember veterans? He gifted me with a glimmer of understanding about Boones tender heart, that he has tried so hard to hide. He gave me the gift of knowing, that if you are brave enough to get close to blind, wet, ragged, uncouth people,  you find out that they have touched your heart. They have made you more compassionate and understanding. They have showed you the gift of finding beauty in the ugly. They have given you blood red courage. The petals of which surround the blackness of grief and despair and make it beautiful. They give you green hope for a better tommorow. Perhaps a tomorrow that has no wars, no blindness, no cold rain.
         Life isn't all warm and loving. Alot of it is dull and sordid. If I tell you this story, will it enrich you, will you understand? I wish you a veteran for a friend, a poppy, and a blind Bob....

Friday, November 2, 2012

"If You Hear A Robin Sing..."

   The afternoon sun was warm here. It mellowed the old logs of the porch, making them look smooth and golden. A few geraniums still bloomed bravely on the rail. Red against their bright green leaves. Linnea sat in the old rocking chair. Its familiar dull squeak - squeak rested easy in her ears, a kind of soft musical accompaniment to this September afternoon. The faded crazy quilt lay across her knees. She knew every scrap of it. In her mind she strung them on, like beads in a necklace. Grandmothers wimter coat, plain brown plaid, the red dress they had gotten for christmas one year, the yellow apron... She remembered stitching the quilt and tying it. Could it really be so long ago? Where do years go, when they are done? She thought they stayed, like this , a crazy quilt of memories in your mind. Sometimes, on a quiet afternoon, you could sit there and and run your fingers over the years, too, stringing them like beads on a necklace.
    An old cemetery sloped down the hillside across the road. Orderly rows of saints and sinners washed white and clean by the rain and the wind and the sun. In all her eighty years, Linnea had never once seen a burial there, nor even a mourner. Thats how old it was, how long it had been here. Before her grandfather had built this cabin. She had lived here all her life. She had played among the stones. When she had learned to read, she had spent days there, tracing the letters and reading the quaint old names and sweet little verses. She remembered that she and Liisi never thought it was a sad place. It was just a peaceful part of their very small world.
    Liisi was her older sister. One year older. This cabin in the North Carolina mountains was their very life. It was here they were born, here they were raised. It was here that her heart was. She had never desired to go any further. Liisi was the one with the feet that couldn't stay still, the one whose heart flew over the hills looking for something else.
     Now they were old. Liisi had gone, up over the mountains with the traveling man.Oh, Linnea remembered still how Liisi had looked that day! So glowing and beautiful and and full of life. She wore her blue wedding dress and store bought shoes, some of grandmothers red geraniums in her hair. Linnea could still feel the great wrench in her heart as she watched her and her man walking off down the road to town where they would get on the train and go to the city. So far away it had seemed, as if she had flown to the moon.
    Linnea laughed to herself, now. Now people really did fly, any where they wished, some of them had really flown to the moon! She searched for the scrap of  blue in the quilt. There it was , still a piece of that wedding dress, here with her in the mountains. Liisi had never come back. Still she lived there in the city. Every week she had written to Liisi and every week, she had gotten a letter, too. She felt she knew intimately all the places that Liisi had been, all the things she had seen, and done. This is what she, Linnea had done every Wednesday since Liisi had left. Sat here on this porch, in this rocking chair and and read her letter.
    She opened todays letter carefully, unfolding it and pushing her glases up on her nose. Liisis perfect, neat handwritting was now faint and scratchy, as though written by a trembling hand. Linnea knew that hers was, too. She thought about that. She remembered how grandmother had made them walk that mile to school in every kind of weather and how proud she had been for them to know reading and writing. Grandmother had never known herself, but through them, she had felt herself an educated woman. She remembered the teacher holding her hand over hers and guiding the pencil. She remembered how they had practiced and practiced until they could do the magic of making such lovely smooth curving letters that turned into words. She remembered the green checked gingham dresses that Grandmother had made for them to wear to school, one for each. How they took such care with them, carefully taking them off as soon as they came home and hanging them on the nail. There was alot of those green gingham pieces in the quilt.
     Now their letters weren't so interesting any more. Liisis man had been gone for many years. Her only son lived near her, but he didn't have any children. There wasn't much to write about. Both of them had legs that didn't work so well anymore. Linnea remembered how they used to run and walk and climb, here on this farm of Grandfathers. This hilly steep, barely making it farm in the mountains. Here the winters were cold and snowy. The wild winds skirled and moaned around the upstairs loft where they slept and the snow blew in between the logs and rattled the window. Here spring came late, but it came in all its green glory, and the snow melted and the ice chunks chased each other down stream. The leaves furled out and the fruit trees blosssomed and the plowing and planting began. Summers were warm and  and chancy, for a mountain farmer. This Linnea knew, for after Grandfather had died, she had been the one who kept the farm going. Fall here was the beautiful, mellow time, when the work was winding down. When the mountains were painted with brilliance, when the air hung smokey and blue.
      All of Grandfathers years, he had worked hard here, first of all thinking he would be leaving something for his son. But Linneas father had died before she was old enough to remember him, and her mother soon afterward. Still Grandfather had plowed his meager fields and worked the soil to make it more fruitful. Still he had raised his cows and pigs and chickens. Still he had planted his apple trees and cherry trees. Still he had made his barn weather proof and strong, to last the years.  She had watched him growing old there on that farm, and wondered. What would happen then? Who would be wise enough, who would love this little hilly farm as much as he did, who would carry on the work, then? Not once had she thought, "it will be me. I, Linnea will love this land, and keep it."
      Now she let her fingers smooth the quilt. With out looking, she could find those squares of faded denim. Grandfathers shirts. The ones he wore until the elbows wore out, and Grandmother would patch them. The ones with the frayed collars and cuffs. After they were too worn, Grandmother would carefully cut off the butttons and put them in her button box, and cut the better pieces into quilting squares.
     One afternoon, an afternon much like this one, she had walked with Grandfather across the road. It was only a gravel road then. They had climbed the hill, up to the top of the old cemetery. There Grandfather had put his frail, work worn hand on her shoulder. It had surprised her. grandfather was not one to show affection. Neither was he garrulous, but said only the words that needed to be spoken. He had stood there with his hand on her shoulder, looking off into the distance. His eyes where a faded blue and she could see the colorful mountains reflected in them. He seemed remote and far away. "Grandfather?" she asked softly. Slowly he turned to look down at her. "This ," he said with a sweep of his hand, "all this is all that I give you. Not just this hard scrabble farm, Linnea. Always remember this. Look around you." He slowly turned her around in a complete circle. "These mountains, these skies, these trees in all their glory, these rivers and streams. Everything that you can see. You can have it everyday for the rest of your life. Only you have to work hard to survive. Your survival only comes from that small holding on this hillside. If you can keep that, then you can always,always have all this loveliness to call your own."
      Tears had burned in her eyes. She knew what he was saying. She was honored that he had such faith in her, that he would entrust a lifetime of toil into her hands. She had looked at her hands, up there on that September hill. They were small. They were untested. One day would they look like
Grandfathers hands? His hands were sinewy and brown, they sprouted grey hairs and dark age spots. His fingernails were bent and yellowed. Did she want hands like that? Ah, youth cannot see themselves bent with age!
      Linnea looked down at her hands now. They were tracing a small yellow quilt piece, a piece of the dress she had worn that day. Yes, her hands did resemble Grandfathers hands. They were still small, of course, but they were sinewy and brown. They, too, had dark age spots and her fingernails were bent and yellowed. They are worthy, she thought, they are worthy of Grandfathers faith in me. I worked hard, and I still have this home that he built so long ago, and I can still see these mountains, all decked out in fall colors, I can still feel the wind and see the trees. I can hear the brook babbling and the sky above me is still smokey blue.
       She put Liisis letter down, and just like she always did, she took out a pen and a paper from her pocket and wrote her return letter. You have to do it right then, or else it might get delayed or forgotten. her hand trembled so slightly, making the beautiful cursive writing jiggly and crooked. She saw that, but she smiled. "I did it. Liisi," she wrote. "I did what Grandfather asked of me all those years ago. It came to me today, while I sat here enjoying your letter. We are old, and the years have flown by, and I did it! This farm on the hillside still keeps. "
       Linnea got up, taking her cane, and went down the porch steps. Yes, grandfather would be surprised to see all this. The privy was never used anymore. There was plumbing in the house, running water, a bathroom, hot water whenever you wanted it, electricity...things Grandfather would never have dreamed of. They made life much nicer, indeed they did. The barn even had lights. There were no cows any more, she still had a few chickens pecking around, giving her some eggs and making some noise. No pigs. No hay piled, fragrant and golden in the hay mow. People couldn't make a living on a small farm any more. That kind of life was past.
        Perhaps Liisi was right. Up out of the mountains you could make a living all sorts of ways. Everything was handy, people every where to look after you. A few times, Linnea had gone over the mountain. It had been exciting. Liisi lived a good life. She had kept her mountain values and her mountain faith. She had tried to persuade Linnea to stay with her. But Linnea knew she never could be away from the mountains too long. They were a part of her that couldn't be taken out. She had always gone back, content with her choice.
        Linnea made her way slowly back to the orchard. The trees were old and gnarly. A few apples still hung high up in the trees waiting for a brisk wind. The bees bumbled about groggily in the september warmth, gathering in swarms on fallen apples. She could hear their drowsy hum. She leaned against a rough trunk. How many happy hours had been spent in this orchard. As far back as she could remember she had loved this place. Nothing was ever so beautiful as the orchard in the spring. All the blossoms of white and pink, falling in drifts. How they had played of princesses and queens. Shady hiding spots in summer, she would climb to a comfy crotch to sit and read a favorite book.
        Suddenly she laughed aloud, remembering.  That was a spring morning. The first of May. They were about twelve and thirteen, her and Liisi. Long ago Grandmother had told them about it. The first day of May. You open your window and lean out, and say, "If you hear a robin sing, you will marry in the spring, if you hear a coffin fall, you will never wed at all." They had done it faithfully for years. Now Liisi was quite anxious that she would have a boy friend that would marry her and take her out of the mountains. She already had her heart set on the young man who came over the mountain every spring selling seed and farm equipment. Linnea was horrified and not wanting to think about Liisi ever going away. What would life be with out her?
       Linnea had it all planned out. Early on that May first morning she snuck out of bed and raced out . It was absolutely clear, blue, the sun just beginning to come over the tree tops. The grass was dewey. She ran out to the woodshed. Catching her breath she waited, peeking from behind the door frame. She had a good view of the loft window. Sure enough, there was Liisi, pushing the window open. She leaned on the sill, looking about her. Her hair was tousled and golden, her arms shapely and her neck smooth ,rising from her white night gown. Her clear voice carried through the morning air. "If you hear a robin sing".... Linnea was ready. As soon as the ditty was finished, she hurled down her piece of cord wood. It made a  true THUNK of wood landing on hard clay. It made her shiver, because it really did sound like a coffin hitting the bottom of the grave.  There was a terrified shriek from the house and another THUNK! The window slammed shut. Linnea didn't know what to do. She glanced around wildly, then took off at a dead run for the house. She slammed through the door and climbed to the loft in record speed. Granmother had beaten her up there. Lisssi lay on the floor in a dead faint. Grandmother was splashing water on her face from the wash basin.
        "What is going on, Linnea?" Grandmother was fuming. Liisis eyes fluttered open. She groaned. Big ears were rolling down her face. Suddenly Linnea had a desparate urge to burst out laughing. She did . "I'm sorry, Liisi, really I am," she gasped between laughs. "If only you could have heard yourself!" Grandmother gave them both a good shaking and went back down the ladder. They had looked at eachother and sat down on the bed and laughed themselves silly. Oh! That had been a morning they would never forget.
         Many times afterward, she had wondered. How could they have been so ignorant as to really think that a robin singing or a coffin falling would have anything to do with their fates? After all, robins sang every day in the spring, and coffins were lowered all the time. Liisi did marry the young man from the seed company, though, and was happy, so it just goes to show! Don't believe old wives tales.
        Linnea made her way back to the barn. It seemed strange to see it so empty and echoing. She thought of days past. She had spent so much time in here. Milking cows, forking down hay, finding eggs, feeding the grunting pigs. The hay mow should be full now, all ready for winter. Stuffed to the rafters, amok with kittens. There was still a trace. A trace of the oiled leather, a trace of manure, a trace of hay sifting down with the sun beams. She saw her son, a little lad with hair like a crows wing and eyes of swedish blue. Eyes like her Grandfather that looked at faraway places. He had loved it here too, but she had persuaded him to go to school and find a career. Already then she had known that this was coming to an end.
       And of course, she saw Normie there, just like the first time. She had been needing help, after Grandfather had died. There was some things she just couldn't do. She needed someone she could depend on. It was June and the barn was shadowy and cool. She was cleaning the cows stall. A shadow paused at the door and she glanced up. He was standing there in the sunshine. He was the most beautiful man she had ever seen, not that she had seen many. He was tall and lithe. His hair hung low over his collar, shiny and raven black. Only a Cherokee could have that hair. It was straight and glossy, teased by the June breeze. He definitely should have had a feather in it. His eyes also were bright and black, his nose perfectly shaped. His shirt was open at the neck ,his skin  smooth and amber, like coffee with a little cream.
       She straightened up and wiped her hands off on her apron. He held out his hand. "Normie ," he said, "I hear your looking for help.""I am, indeed," she had answered. They had arranged it all. He would get room and board and half of whatever profits they might get. He would sleep in the barn and come in for meals. He was soft spoken, kind to the animals, knew how to do things and he worked hard. Often they worked together, and they sat at table twice a day. He never said much about himself, and she wondered sometimes, if he was hiding something. She was anamored of him, no matter how she tried to talk herself out of it. They liked and respected each other. She was older than him, and not getting any younger.
       Sometimes in the evening they sat together on the porch and she read him books until it got too dark. Harvest was done, winter was on its way, she didn't want him to leave, because she liked having him around. She didn't have alot for him to do in the winter, but she would need him again in the spring. It was Liisi who had suggested it." Ask him to marry you," she had written. "That will solve it." So she had. "Linnea, I am not the marrying kind, and I'm definitely not your kind. I can't even read or write. All my life has been spent on the road, criss crossing the country. Staying a few months here or there. I don't want to stay here forever." Linnea took a deep breath. She thought it would be worth it even if he did only stay a while. It was a risk she would take. So they had gone into town and got married. It was a lovely, long winter they spent. Two years slipped by. One November day, Normie slung his bag over his shoulder and stood on the porch.
        He kissed her gently. "Thank you, Linnea, I've had a wonderful time. But now its time for me to go. Don't cry. I'll always remember you." And he had walked off down the road. That open road that was his real home, that had been callling to him for awhile now. Linnea knew that. He never turned back, just swung off, whistling into the wind. She never saw him again. It was in December, though that she knew she was pregnant.
         Linnea walked back to her rocker on the porch. Old memories always came back to that. That gripping fear and joy that had filled her heart at that moment. Oh, those months that followed, hollow and lonely and cold and afraid. If it hadn't beeen for Liisis Wednesday letters, she didn't know how she would have made it. Linnea smoothed the quilt over her knees. Here was no record of Normie or his child. The quilt was made before they had come into her life. She had named him Lars, after her Grandfather, and they had had a good life here in the mountains. Now she didn't see him that much, he lived away, but their love was the tie that binds. She had thought that the years would fade that picture of Normie, standing at the barn door, but it was still as vivid as ever. The old quilt had faded much more than that.
          When Lars was older, she had taken him up the hill and they had sat among the gravestones, shimmering white in the sunshine.Peaceful and quiet as always, they drank coffee and talked of cabbages and kings. She saw his eyes, those same faraway blue eyes of Grandfather, looking at visions that she could not see. She knew they were looking at two different things. He was seeing a future and she could only see the past. Linnea showed him his heritage that day, all that could be his, but now it could not be had with what she and Grandfather had done. If he wanted to keep it he would have to work hard some other way.
        Lars smiled at her that day. He had his fathers smile. It could charm you. He told her all his plans and dreams. How he would work hard to keep this place in the mountains, and she had to be the one to have faith now, to believe in this child of her love for a man.
        The afternoon was waning. Linnea finished her letter. "I will come and see you, Liisi," she wrote. "The next time Lars comes home, he will take me over the mountains. We will see each other one more time, before we leave our earthly homes. And then when we meet again, we will have crossed all the mountains and waded through the Jordan over on the other side."
        Linnea folded up the quilt to go inside, she folded it slowly, seeing each peice not as a quilt square but as a person, a day, a year , a crazy quilt of Grandfather Lars, Grandmother, her mothers wedding dress, her fathers coat, dresses from when her and Liisi were babies,curtains that had hung in the kitchen window, blankets from long ago beds. She had never made a quilt after this one. She had been too busy working the farm, keeping the faith. She wondered, should she regret it? But she thought, no. There is a box in  my closet with all Liisis letters, and a box in her closet with all of mine. One day they can read them, and know what life was like. They will become familiar with all that we know. They will have a crazy quilt of letters. They will know that though we are far apart, we were always together in our hearts.  
        This story is for Margaret and Jessie. They knew about God and love and the North Carolina mountains.They knew about sisters. They have crossed all the mountains and waded over Jordan.Thank you, Margaret and Jessie.