Friday, February 22, 2013
The Cookie Jar Pig
It was war time in this country. A young man had come home from Europe. He was home with his family in Minnesota, that beautiful land of one thousand lakes. His family is estatic to have him home again. All those months of worry and letters and prayers are behind them now. A sweet young girl comes from Michigan to see him. They have been engaged for a while. How the letters flew. Even her engagement ring comes through the mail. He was stationed in Little Rock, Arkansas. Her brothers tease her about her little rock from Little Rock. He still has a year to serve Uncle Sam. The war is raging in the Pacific. He doesn't know where he will be sent next. They decide to get married right away before he has to go again.
She calls her mother, in Michigan. She tells her they are coming home to get married. Thats all for planning, in that day and time. She comes with all his family. She has a blue wool suit, even though it is July. She shops for a nice white blouse, but every thing is scarce. She finds a white dicky, and is satisfied. Her mother has cleaned and scrubbed the house. The fresh Michigan breeze comes in the windows and the screen doors. The white curtains flutter and sigh. She is the baby of the family. Where did the years fly, that now she can be leaving the nest?
Her mother tales the white dish pan from the pantry and walks across the road where the wild strawberries grow. Oh, sweet wild strawberries, warmed by the Michigan sun and kissed by the Michigan dew. They grow with wild abandon among the old mines and the rock piles that dot the landscape. They are tiny. They grow so close to the ground. Almost, you can't see them unless you get right down and peer beneath the leaves and the starry white blossoms. Only a mothers love could send her searching, crawling and bending, to fill that pan with tiny red jewels. All the long, warm morning she dances a dance. Kneel and reach, bend and sway, find a berry and pluck it so gentle that it will not be bruised. Does she think that it is the same dance that she has danced to raise this lovely daughter? Kneel in prayer, search for wisdom, pluck the tender fruit, but do not bruise and mar it?
Then, weary, she walks back over the stretch of pasture, her pan of berries on her hip. Into the coolness of the house. In to her immaculate kitchen. Into her organised pantry, where she makes flakey delicate pastry and fills the pie tins with the sweetness of that summer day. She plies the kitchen range with kindling and wood. A nice hot fire in that shiny creamy yellow and green stove that says Martha Washington across the door. I imagine the elusive fragrance that filled that kitchen when those pies came out, golden, with red juice oozing along the edges.
The preacher comes over, and his siters and a friend are witnesses. Those solemn words are spoken and the day is finished off with good strong Finnish coffee and wild straberry pie.
He has to go away soon, and she follows him when she can. Texas for a while, then on to Oregon, and lastly Washington, where he is discharged. They spend a month traveling the state and visiting and making friends, and decide that one day, they will come back. He wants to finish his education, which he had to abandon when Uncle Sam called, though, so they go back to Minnesota. Minneapolis is their ctiy. They have no car, like most other people. They walk or ride the trolley any where they need to go.
What joy to discover that they are going to have a baby! He decides to put off school again, and gets a job. One night, taking a walk, they see a man building a travel trailer. They stop to chat and end up buying it. They bring it to a trailer court. It is tiny and homemade. they have to use a public bathroom and showers. But it is theirs and they love their cosy nest. She sews curtains and they buy a used bassinette. She sews a pretty lining for it. They accumulate the sweet things they will need for their first precious child. It is March. Cold, wintery Minnesota March. He is at work. She wraps up in a housecoat and her winter coat and goes to take a shower before he gets home.
When she walks back to her home, she sees the windows lit up with a strange light. Fire! A neighbor comes to help, but it is too late. The house is all aflame. She stands there in shock, her feet numb with cold, clutching her coat around her swelling belly. All the baby things! All the furniture! All his books, that he dearly loves! All their life. It vanishes in smoke and flame. The fire men have saved a small pile at her feet. A box of books. A blackened diaper pail and a sooty black cookie jar pig.
Some friends happen to stop by. They put her in their car to stay warm until her man cmes home. They load up the smokey, singed books, the blackened diaper pail and the the sooty cookie jar. They take them to their home, give them the spare bedroom and find her a dress from the mending basket. She wears it, because she has nothing else, and she knows they are kind, to give it to her. But, it is old and worn, and unfashionable, and it does not reach across her belly.
When the baby is born, another mother in the hospital room tells them about an attic she thinks they can rent. He finds it and they bring the baby "home" to a tiny attic room, under the eaves. I wonder, did he have to duck or could he stand up straight under the roof? They have a borrowed buggy to sleep the baby in, They have wooden orange crates for cupboards and furniture. The pastors wife gives them some baby clothes that she doesn't use any more. The cookie jar pig has been scrubbed and polished. It sits on a wooden crate and gives them a feeling of home.
The pastors wife has made a lovely new dress for her daughter, but with true christian spirit she gives to this new mother who has nothing, instead. They do not even have a mirror in the tiny attic room.
The dress is yellow. Smart and stylish. New and crisp. She puts it on . She hauls the buggy down the stairs to the street and she and the baby take a walk. They walk down to the stores. She stops by the big gleaming store window. She admires her reflection in the glass. She miles with pleasure. It seems so good!
So the years fly by. They have more children. They are able to buy a house, out in the suburbs. They get a car. They grow in wisdom and grace. The cookie jar pig sits on the counter in that bright yellow kitchen filled with cookies of many kinds.
Finally the time comes when they realize their old dream and move west. They hire a moving van. They pile the kids in the old Ford station wagon. They leave Minnesota behind and head into the setting sun. They love their new state. The rain, the tall treees, the moss growing everywhere, the mild winters. The cookie jar pig survivied the move across the country. It sits on many different counters until they finally settle up on the hill, in a little clearing among the huge douglas fir trees that they love. So many cookies, so many hands reaching with in the depths.
Little ceramic pig. If you could talk, what would you tell us, then? There was always cookies because there was always folks to eat them. Such a stream of friends and neighbors who came and went through the doors. And always they were served coffee and cookies, and meals and other good things. I wonder if you counted them, maybe, keeping a running total in your chubbby little head? Did you hear the laughter, and the the songs? Did you see the tears? Hear the welcomes and the good byes?
They traveled alot, all over the country. Sometimes the little cookie jar pig stayed empty in a quiet, dim house while every one was gone. Were you glad to see them when they came home? I go there, now. He has gone, ninety two years have gone like a vapour. I stay with her for many days. She tells me stories about long ago and her voice is quavery and her eyes are dim. There are no cookies in the jar now. I touch the cookie jar, rubbing it like Aladin's lamp, feeling like I can find the days long gone. She had never told me this story before. I feel privileged and rich. I want to share with you a life well lived. I want to share with you a cookie jar pig, and all the things that memory brings. Sixty seven years is a long time for a cookie jar. I hope she stays on the counter for many more!