Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chapter 15 begins

Anne-Marie recovered from her illness without lasting side effects, and after the severe winter storms had passed, Emilie and Karl were to learn that many people in their community had contracted the same illness, and for the very young and the very old, in some cases it had been fatal.
With the storms passed and the roads once again passable, three of the Bell children living with Karl and Emilie were able to return to school for the first time since the loss of their home and their parent.  Sue was happy to be retuning to school once again, as she missed being with the other girls her own age that attended her small county school.  George balked loudly, and complained that he was too old to attend, especially since he already knew that he wanted to be a farmer like his Dad, and for that, one needn’t waste time getting an education.  He reasoned he could read and write, and that was just about all the learning skills he needed to make it in this world.  Charles Jr. despaired at having to return to school to the whispers and snickers of the other children.  He knew he was stupid and would never learn the way the other children did, and so he plotted and planned the best ways to avoid attending classes.
Emilie missed the older children during the day, but at the same time was content to be able to spend the extra time with Karl’s small children and Richard.  She coddled the children with stories and songs all the while tending to her many chores as housekeeper and surrogate mother.  She sewed and mended clothes; cooked and cleaned; made butter, soap and candles; and spent hours trying to decide whether to stay on the farm with Karl and his family, or return to Germany, where her other family waited patiently for her return.
The long winter evenings were spent with most of the family gathered around the large kitchen table, the older children doing school work, and the younger children coloring and pretending to be just like their school-age friends.  Karl took his place at the head of the table, and was there to help the children with their lessons, and to write his own correspondence to his sister, or to pour over the week-old newspapers, or tally his account books.
It was one such evening when Emilie surprised them all by joining the group at the table and asking Sue for a piece of paper and a pencil.  The younger children, knowing that Emilie could not read or write English, snickered at the thought that Emilie was going to attempt to write a letter.  They had forgotten that she was fully capable of writing in her own language, and so when she bowed her head over her paper and started to write, their faces became serious.
“Who are you writing to, Emilie?  Raymond asked, ever curious and seldom afraid to voice his thoughts, unlike the other children.
“Raymond!”  Karl scolded,  “It is not polite to ask such a question!”  he informed his son, even as he waited anxiously for Emilie to answer the question.
Emilie smiled tolerantly,  “It’s okay for you to ask, Raymond.  I am writing to my family in Germany,”  she said and then returned to the letter she was carefully composing.
“Oh . . .”  Raymond glanced at his father quickly, knowing that somehow his father would not like the sound of that statement.  Just like he thought, Karl raised his eyes from the newspaper he had been reading and glanced across the table where Emilie sat.  Raymond wasn’t sure, but he thought he had heard his Dadda and Emilie arguing about Germany.  Becoming quickly bored with the adults in his life’s problems, he shrugged his shoulders and returned to the picture he was coloring.
Karl’s heart threatened to jump right out of his chest at Emilie’s words, and the fact that she refused to look at him, but kept her head bent over her page, made him feel sick to his stomach.  Unable to stand her continued silence, he folded his paper hastily and pushed away from the table.
Emilie noticed Karl’s departure and wished to explain the contents of her letter, but knew that if she put off the writing of it, she might just change her mind completely.
Dear Uncle Helmuth and family,
How very nice it was to get your most welcome letter and the money for passage home to Germany.
So much as happened since I last wrote to you, that I must tell you about.  First, I am no longer staying in the city with the Browns, but have secured employment on a farm in rural Manitoba.  I am working as a housekeeper for Martha Brown’s brother and his family.  Just after I started working here, a neighbor four miles away lost his home and wife in a tragic fire, and because the family had no place to go, my employer decided to open his home to some of the children, so you see, Uncle, I am very much needed here.  There are now five children to cook and clean for, and my days are very much filled with good deeds to this family.
Conditions here are not as your farm in Germany, but I am learning more and more every day how to be a good farm woman.  I am treated very well here, and for now wish to remain here where I can be of use to these good people.
I am happy, Uncle; I miss Wilhelm terribly, but this large family has helped heal the pain of loosing my dear brother.
I am sending the money back to you, and also sending my new address so you can send letters directly here.  We only get mail once a week, but I shall look forward to receiving your letters and news of home.
Your Ever Loving Niece,

Friday, July 30, 2010

And so ends Chapter 14

Another new follower - welcome Erin, hope you enjoy my blog!

I will be on vacation for a week after today.  I will still try and post segments of Winter Wheat every day, but if I happen to miss a day, it will be because I took a day trip or have not been on the computer at all that day.  I'm quite sure I will pop on and check emails every day, but I hope to not be spending a lot of my vacation tied to my computer.  If I go somewhere interesting, I might however bore you with the details.
So although you may be reading the book next week, you might not actually "hear" from me.
Have a great week everyone, stay safe and healthy, and I'll talk to you soon...

Hours past and still there seemed no change in the young child’s condition.  Emilie grew angry with herself and her inability to heal the precious child in her care; she became angry at the severe cold winter, for surely this would not be happening if it were not so cold; but she blamed God most of all, for once again wanting to take away a loved one she held dear.  She was so exhausted by the time Karl came hours later to relieve her that she did not think she could go on one more minute.  She was just leaving the room to get fresh snow for the basin of water, when Karl appeared at her side.
“How is she doing?”  His voice was thick from sleep, but his face still bore the signs of strain and exhaustion.
“Oh Karl, I really don’t know,”  Emilie admitted fearfully.
Karl walked over to where his child lay, and gently rested his large palm across his daughter’s cheek.  He swung quickly to face Emilie, who stood half asleep by the door with the basin of water forgotten in her hands.
“Her fever is down!  Come feel . . . I think it’s gone!”  Karl’s excited words shocked Emilie into action.
She rushed to the bedside and quickly set the basin down on the nightstand.  Ever so carefully as if the child was made of delicate porcelain, she touched Anne-Marie’s skin.  The coolness took Emilie completely by surprise and then immediately sent a moments dread through her sleep-deprived mind.  Without checking to see that the child’s breathing had returned to normal, Emilie spun on her heals tore out of the room, as if the devil were at her heels.
“Emilie . . .!”  Karl called after the departing woman as quietly as he could so as not to wake the child.  He wondered what had put the terror in Emilie’s eyes just now as she had looked at his sleeping child.  He reassured himself that Anne-Marie was comfortable and then went in search of his housekeeper.
He found her slumped over the kitchen table, sobbing quietly as if her heart was breaking beyond repair.
“Emilie?  What is wrong with you, why are you crying?”  he said softly as he tried to pull her shoulders from the table.
“I’m so sorry Karl, it’s all my fault.  I made a bargain with God . . . I told him that if he spared Anne-Marie’s life, that I would go back home to my Uncle.  I would do it gladly if only he would save that poor baby.”  Emilie’s ravaged face contorted in grief.  She pleaded for him to understand.  “But you see Karl, I lied!  I do not really want to go back to Germany, and God – w-well he knows this, so he – he took Anne-Marie  . . .”  Emilie grabbed a hold of Karl’s shirt sleeve and nearly pulled him off his feet,  “ I killed her Karl, it’s all m-my fault!”
Karl dragged the frantic woman off the chair and gathered her into his arms.  “Emilie, no one killed Anne-Marie . . . she’s going to be just fine.  Her fever has broken and she is resting comfortably now.  Come on, come have a look,”  he pulled Emilie along his side toward the bedroom where the child slept.
“No  -o –o”  Emilie fought him and tried to stop their progress across the floor.
“Emilie what in the devil is wrong with you?”  Karl demanded as he struggled to get her under control.  “Why are you acting this way?”  he asked her, and then realized that she had stopped fighting him.  Her body had suddenly gone limp, and grabbing her closely to him, Karl realized that she had fainted right there in his arms.
He lifted her up into his arms and carried her through the kitchen and into his bedroom.  He gently lowered her onto his bed, and bent over to remove her shoes.  She offered no resistance as he pushed her into the middle of the bed and carefully tugged on the covers until she was buried beneath a pile of quilts.  He watched her sleep and knew that her reaction a few minutes ago had probably been a combination of extreme exhaustion and fear.  She’d feel better once she had rested awhile, he thought as he left his bedroom, and returned to the kitchen
He stoked the fire, added wood to the glowing coals in the stove, and filled the tin coffee pot with fresh water and coffee.  Within minutes the coffee was boiling, filling the warm kitchen with the wonderful aroma of morning, but it was far from morning yet.   
He carried his coffee with him back into the room where Anne-Marie and his housekeeper slept, and then retuned to the kitchen for another chair.  He made a make shift bed from the two kitchen chairs, placing his rump on one chair, and stretching his legs across until his feet rested on the other chair.  He dragged a heavy quilt across his body and reached to take his coffee from the night table.  Sighing heavily he readied himself for the hours ahead until it would truly be morning.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

The miracle of medicine

When I was writing this story, my mother's side of my family had their first ever family reunion.  My cousin's wife and myself had been working on the family tree for quite some time, and when we were planning events for the reunion, we decided to so a family search or sorts in the cemetery where most of our ancestors have been lain to rest.
It didn't start out to be a lesson in early communicable diseases, but what quickly became evident was the outstanding number of very young babies and children who were buried in the family plots.  When we started taking note of years, and dates, we could pretty much see where epidemics had devastated the small community our family lived in.
We are so fortunate to live in times when most of these diseases have been eradicated, through either vaccination or modern medicine and antibiotics.  How different our lives are from those early days when young parents often were forced to bury their babies, long before they should have had to.
I for one, am glad I was fortunate enough to raise my child in the times that I did...
So if you have little ones in your life, hug them close, and say a prayer of thanks for modern medicine...

Now back to our story.....

On the fifth day of their enforced confinement, Anne-Marie became seriously ill.  One day she was fine, and the next her little body was assaulted by a hoarse raspy cough, a high fever, and severe chills.  
Her condition deteriorated quickly, far more than that of a normal cold or flu, but due to the severe weather there was no possibility of sending to town for the doctor.  Karl and Emilie were left with no choice but to tend to her illness as best they could by themselves.    
They took turns bathing her small feverish body with freshly melted water from the buckets of packed snow that Karl brought in the house almost hourly.  The instant the cool cloths touched her fevered body, they warmed alarmingly.  A pan of cool water lasted mere minutes before another would be brought in to replace it.  Anne-Marie whimpered and cried while her body moved restlessly on the make-shift bed that Karl had made for her in his bedroom.  The two adults who loved and cared for her tried in vain to lower her temperature and ease her restlessness as best they could.
Karl sat through night after long night caring for his youngest child, and as he silently watched the fever suck the life from his spirited young babe, he acknowledged the certainty that he was about to loose his little girl to the relentless fever that was taking her so quickly from him.  The cough that tore at her lungs lifted her small shoulders away from the bed with every breath she took, and as he sat with his elbows propped on his knees his head in his hands he prayed,  “Please God, don’t take my little girl from me!” over and over again until it almost drove him mad.
Emilie appeared at his side, looking as tired and haggard as he felt.  She gently touched his shoulder thinking he was asleep, but he was not.  He lifted his head from his hands.
“Karl you should go rest now, I will stay with her,”  Emilie’s voice was barely a whisper.
He rose from the chair and offered it to her.  “I am going to mix up a mustard plaster for that cough, it will help ease it some,”  he announced wearily.
“Show me how’s it’s made, then you can go and rest.”  
He shook his head in agreement.  “I’ll need some soft flannel if you can find some,”  he told her then moved towards the kitchen.
Emilie quietly slipped up the stairs to the trunk in the children’s room, and lifted the heavy lid.  There she found the small baby clothes that must have at one time adorned Anne-Marie’s small body.  There were tiny woolen sweater sets, in white and yellow, and one in pink.  Digging down the through the pile of clothes she found tiny flannel nightdresses, and finally flannel diapers.  She grabbed a handful of the diapers, gently replaced the lid and hurried down to the kitchen.
Karl was stirring a mixture of flour and mustard powder in a small bowl to which he added water a little at a time until it formed a heavy paste.  He took one of the diapers she had found and tore it into four pieces.  He spread the mixture on the clean flannel, and folded it in half.  He placed the small bundle slowly in Emilie’s hand, so she would feel the heat that the plaster made.
“Put this on her chest and wrap her up in the blankets.  You will have to keep an eye on her skin, because this could burn her if left on too long, but it should help.  Keep bathing her with the cool water too . . .”
Emilie’s eyes returned to Karl’s face.  He is so worried, she thought and her heart softened as she regarded him closely.  “We will get her through this, Karl,”  Emilie said softly, as a huge lump formed in her throat.  The thought of loosing little Anne-Marie was just not acceptable.  
Karl watched Emilie struggling with her emotions,  “ I pray that you are right, Emilie,”  he said so softly that she almost could not hear him.  “We need a doctor or a miracle, and I’m just not sure either will help our little one now . . .”
Emilie spun on her heels and returned to her restless patient.  Karl was wrong, Anne-Marie would be just fine once the fever broke and the cough was under control.  She would not let this little girl die! 
She gently pulled the thin nightgown away from Anne-Marie’s chest and placed the mustard plaster on the child’s chest.  She replaced the nightgown and wrapped the blankets tightly around the child as Karl had instructed.  She dipped her hands in the cool water in the basin beside the bed and found the cloth that floated there.  She wrung the cloth out in trembling hands and after lifting the one on Anne-Marie’s head, placed the cool cloth across the child’s forehead.
She repeated that motion hundreds of time throughout the night.  She checked the plaster every few minutes like Karl had instructed her to, and she prayed like she never had before.   

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Knit, Purl, Knit, Purl

I remember very well learning to knit as a child.  I hated it!  My mother, who was a fantastic knitter taught me to knit when I was about 8, and many an evening I would sit with needles in hand, bawling my face off because I just couldn't do it.  Then I joined a girls' group called Explorers, it was the younger girls group prior to CGIT in the United Church. 
As luck would have it ( or not) my mother was one of the leaders of this group.  To earn one of the badges we had to learn to knit... I thought she had rigged it just to get even with me, but in later years when I too became a leader - there it was in the group manual!
Anyway, I along with all the other girls in my group stuck with it, each learning to knit squares (corner to corner).  You can't imagine how quickly one learns, when her little friends are actually doing better than her! By the end of the year we had knit enough squares for 4 blankets which were donated to a local woman's shelter... 
Mom knit the "Continental" way - and I did learn to master knit and purl, but because it was not something I really wanted to do, I shut my brain and hands down there.
Years later, after Mom was gone, I got the urge to knit a sweater.  I found a simple pattern and made my first garment.  Then I did another, and another, and pretty soon I discovered that the grown me really enjoyed to knit.
I have kicked myself many times for not being a better student, because there are so many knitting stitches that I have had to teach myself, that would no doubt have been much easier to learn with a visual from my Mom.  
Who knew the www. would come along some day, with a handy thing called YouTube -  where one could learn just about anything... and to my delight... Continental-style knitting! Knitting has never been as much fun as it is now...

Emilie is getting ready to teach knitting to the children... all of them, and it really was not unusual for males to knit back then.  Several of my uncles were knitters, and learned as children.  One uncle was particularly good at socks, a talent that made him very popular with his fellow soldiers while serving in WW11 overseas.

So lets see how Emilie's knitting class goes....

Winter reared its ugly head in earnest two weeks after Christmas when the temperatures plunged to thirty-five below freezing and the snow fell in blinding sheets of white for well over a week.  Road travel became impossible as the narrow country roads drifted closed with packed snow and ice, effectively cutting the residents of Karl’s home off from the rest of the community.  The snow blew into every crack and cranny it could find.  Doors and windows covered over with snow became walls of nature, which blocked, concealed and detained every human strong enough to try to remove them.  
Emilie thought she had experienced the worst that a Manitoba winter could offer the night that they were stranded in the storm before Christmas, but this was much worse.  To her, the noise of the wind was especially disturbing - it howled like a lone male wolf calling to its mate, and it knocked at the doors and windows like an intruder demanding entrance.  The massive oak and elm trees in Karl’s yard, bent and twisted with the wind, like giant dancing figures moving to some unheard music.  She watched the dancing trees from windows that were covered with packed snow and ice, and wondered with each passing day, how much longer the bitter cold would remain.
No one, except Karl and George ventured out into the blizzard conditions, and had it not been for the animals that needed his care, Karl too would have remained securely indoors.  The small one-room school that the older children should have been attending had temporarily closed due to the severe weather.  No parent in the community was willing to subject their child to the risk of frostbite, or even death, if an accident would occur while out in the severe cold.  
The children grew restless, cooped up in the house as they were day in and day out.  Arguments erupted, and tempers flared between the siblings and friends that normally would have had an abundance of tolerance for each other.  
Karl, who battled the inclement weather each morning as he set out to feed and care for his livestock, grew moody as the days stretched onward without a break in the weather.  He worried about everything.  He worried that the red-hot stovepipes which kept his family warm would cause a chimney fire leaving them homeless like his neighbor, Charles Bell.  He worried that his most treasured possession, his small herd of livestock, would suffer or even perish without proper shelter, food and water.  He worried that the constant heavy snowfall would cause spring flooding that would prevent him from planting the necessary crops that would sustain them all for another year.  He could not tell Emilie his fears, because she too was his responsibility, and although it hurt him to admit it, he feared that she might just be better off returning to her homeland after all, like her uncle wanted her to do.
The days were endlessly long, and she tried to amuse the children as best she could.  There were after all, only so many stories of her homeland to tell, and more and more she noticed that her cherished memories, related to them in what she thought was interesting ways, no longer had the appeal she desired.  As well as the children’s unrest was the increasing feeling that Karl was in some way disappointed with her.  She spent hours trying to figure out what she had done to change the behavior of the man she had begun to consider her best friend.  There was no mistaking Karl’s change of disposition when it came to his dealings with her.  He was detached, abrupt, and sometimes just plain rude, so unlike the man she had come to care about.  He never talked to her anymore, and for the life of her, she could not understand what she had done this time, to turn him away from her so completely.  As the days moved on, his behavior became more abrupt, until once again they were returned back to their original feelings for one another.  She was his housekeeper, and he her employer and all the wishing that it were not so, could not change it.
Each day George spent time teaching the children lessons from the school books their teacher had provided.  His efforts were met with complaints and stubbornness the likes of which Emilie had never before witnessed in these children.  She knew a diversion was in order so she called the children into the kitchen and ordered them all to sit at their places at the table.
“Now, I am tired of all the long faces, so today I am going to teach you all something new.”  She walked the floor behind their chairs like a drill sergeant and one by one reached over each child and plunked a set of knitting needles on the table before them.
“What’s this for?”  Charles Jr.’s voice broke in its adolescent way.
“Yeah, what’s this for?”  Raymond mimicked the older boy.
“This is for learning to knit.”  Emily continued her way around the table.
“No way am I learning to knit,”  This time George piped in obvious displeasure.  “Knitting’s for girls.”
“No it’s not.  In my country there are many men who know how to knit, and so I will teach you.”
Emily retrieved her sack of scrap yarn and started to circle the table again.  She offered no smile of encouragement, and no opportunity for further discussion.
“Now – pick up one needle with this hand the wool with the other. First we have to cast on to the needles.  You will all make a new scarf for yourself.”  She picked up her needle and demonstrated how to cast the yarn on the needle.  
The room became quiet, as her students attempted to duplicate her actions.  Sue and Richard got the motion right away and long before the others had even one stitch on their needles they were ready to learn the next step.
“This is dumb.”  Charles Jr.  threw his needle and tangled wool onto the table with disgust.
“Charles Jr., you will pick up that needle and get it right, or you will go to bed without supper tonight!”
Raymond bent his head back down over his work and renewed his efforts with new purpose.
She made them stick with it for more than an hour and by the end of their first lesson everyone could cast on stitches, and Sue and Richard had knit several rows.
Knitting became their afternoon past-time during the inclement weather.  After the first week Sue had knit two scarves and was learning to knit socks; Richard had completed his first scarf and was started on a second, and the rest of the group continued to labor with their first project.
Emilie allowed no excuses to halt their progress, every day right after the noon meal, she demanded her class form at the kitchen table and no one dared question her right to do so.  
Karl watched in fascination as she bullied the children, especially the older boys to learn a task that they’d likely never use.  He’d considered stepping in on their behalf until he realized that they were actually accomplishing what she asked.  So he remained quiet, but many times he had to turn away so they could not see the smile that lingered on his face.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Mother Nature's beauty and Winter Wheat

Taken @ 9:35 pm when it should have been getting dark

Two more followers... welcome Office and Iona, glad to have you join us.

We had a very hot humid day here yesterday, and as always the storms were all around us.  It rained in the early evening, but not a lot of rain, no wind - no real storm, just a little rain.

After 10pm, the street lights are on, but the sky is still light
At 9:30pm I was sitting in my sunroom, just kinda gazing in space and the room was quite dark as it was getting dark outside.  All of a sudden it was like the sun had come up was shining right in the sunroom.  The whole room glowed. 
I jumped up and looked outside and we had the weirdest sky.  It was getting dark but and there were still a lot of clouds around but behind the clouds the sky was just glowing.  It cast erie shadows everywhere.  I grabbed the camera to see if I could get some pictures, but they don't really show what I saw.  By 10pm it was dark out but the sky was still light, I attempted to get pictures of that too, but didn't quite pull it off.

Anyway, I was one of those wow, would you look at mother nature moments... totally beautiful, and then gone forever...

Winter Wheat....

As the radio played softly in the background, Emilie returned to the kitchen and started on the breakfast dishes.  The children were so obviously taken with the new radio, that their promise to help her with the dishes was long forgotten.  She did not give it another thought as she poured heated water from the stove into the dishpan, and started carrying the dishes to the sink.  Truthfully, she was glad of the distraction - this way she could ponder the circumstances of Karl’s gift, without interference from anyone else in the room.
There was a lot for her to think about.  Karl seemed to be moving their relationship to a new plateau, one that she was not entirely sure she was ready for.  In the first place, she had made no decision about her future here with him.  She didn’t know if she was going to return to her family in Germany, or if she would stay here and work for Karl.  And what if he wanted more of her?  What if he wanted her to be the children’s new mother; then what was she to do?  She never wanted a marriage without love, but would she be willing to settle into just such a relationship, if only for the sake of his two small children?  She didn’t know…  she didn’t know… she repeated the thought over and over in her mind, as she made swift work of completing the dishes.
“Emilie, what are you doing?”  Charles Jr.’s voice broke into her thoughts;  “we were supposed to do those dishes for you!”
She waved his concern away,  “Oh, don’t worry about that, Charles.  You just go and enjoy the day with the other children.  I have other things I needed to do for our dinner, anyway.   Go now – off with you,” she shooed him out of her domain.
“The children should have kept their promise,” Karl’s low voice startled her into a jump.
She turned to face him as he moved closer to the counter;  “It’s okay Karl, really – just let them enjoy the day . . .”
He had reached her side and stepped closer still,  “Are you enjoying the day as well, Emilie?”  His eyes roamed her face, and settled on her mouth.
He was too close.  She scurried from under his scrutiny, and moved to the stove, where she busied herself stirring something that was boiling on the stove.  
“I am,” she glanced at him quickly then turned her attention back to her stirring.
“Why are you running away from me, Emilie,” Karl’s voice lightly caressed her nerves.
“I am not running away from you Karl Wright,” she protested with dignity,  “I merely have many chores to do this morning before our dinner guests arrive.” 
Karl threw back his head and howled his laughter.  “Oh Emilie, I can see right through you,” he said merrily, as he moved close, pecked a kiss on her flushed cheek, and exited the room.

The day was like a dream.  Time and time again throughout the remainder of the day, Emilie thanked her God for the blessings of her new friends and family.  Not in a long while had she laughed as much as when Frederich and Annie and the other Bell children had joined the merry makers already present in Karl Wright’s home.  The children delighted her, her friend Annie inspired her, and the men-folk reassured her that life here on the Canadian prairies could be good – even in these troubled times.
Frederich had arrived with a bottle of homemade liquor of some sort, and he and Karl had regular samplings of the brew throughout the day.  Annie bustled around Emilie’s kitchen with authority, and helped produce the wondrous Christmas feast, that they all were fortunate to eat.  
They feasted on a beautifully roasted goose, raised by Annie herself, along with meatballs, potatoes, turnips, carrots, and assortment of pickles and pumpkin pie for desert.  While the women cleaned the kitchen after dinner, the children entertained each other with their new toys and games, and at the end of the evening, delighted the grown-ups one more time with their own version of the Christmas Story.  Emilie provided another late meal of cold meat sandwiches, tea and baked cookies and cake, and then Frederich and Annie and the children in their care hugged their goodbyes and headed for home.
By the time the children were securely tucked in bed, and all the work for the day was over, Emilie was more exhausted that she could ever remember having been before.  She hung the last towel to dry on the handle of the cupboard drawer, and stretched her aching back.  She could barely keep her eyes from closing, and looked forward to the comfort of her thick feather bed.
Karl appeared at the doorway to the kitchen and leaned his body into the framework of the opening.  He had witnessed the stretch of her tired body, and the monstrous yawn that had accompanied it, but he couldn’t help wanting to spend just a few more minutes in her company.  He had an overwhelming desire to sweep her in his arms and swirl her around the room.  He wanted more than that . . . but she wasn’t ready for him – he knew that with a certainty. 
He leaned away from the door, and cleared his throat,  “Are you all done in here?”  He asked from where he stood.
She smiled tiredly at him,  “Yes, finally.  I think I’m off to bed now.”
“Thank you for the best Christmas that I can remember,” he said softly, and took a step forward.
She shook her head in denial,  “That can’t be true, Karl . . .”
“Oh but it is.  Never has a day meant so much to me as this day has,” he took another step.
She regarded him closely;  “ I had a wonderful day too.  Thank you as well, Karl.”
He had reached the spot of the floor where she stood.  He reached for her tiny hand and gathered it into his own large one.  With his free hand he cupped her chin, and lifted it so he could gaze into her eyes.  She moved not a muscle; neither toward him nor away from him, and he was encouraged.  Slowly, oh so slowly, he lowered his head until his breath mingled with hers.  Still she stayed.  Down went his head until their lips met - and then time stood still.  The world ceased to exist, but for the two of them - it spun and tilted and spun some more until he thought he might fall, but he held fast to his anchor, and realized that his anchor was the woman he held in his arms.
He removed his lips from her mouth, and used them to graze a path across her brow.  He enfolded her securely in his strong arms and swayed with her resting there.  Before releasing her, he washed the skin of her brow with his lips once more, and then set her away from his body.  He gently turned her in the direction of her room, and urged her on her way.
“Good night, Emilie,” he whispered, but she had already left the room.  He turned to his own bedroom, and knew it would be a very long night indeed.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Well, here we are, another weekend come and gone - finally we had a nice one here in the "Peg".  The weather was hot, the sun was bright - no hint of rain anywhere - absolutely perfect summer days!  For the first time this summer, I spent almost all the weekend out of doors.   After all I need to have some recollection of summer a few months from now when we are house-bound and snowed in!!  

I have been thinking about winter, and Christmas quite a bit.  I love winter, in fact it is probably my favorite season.  I am a cold weather baby...bundle me up and I'll play outside all day!!!  Truthfully - I loved when my son was small, we would put our snowsuits on, go outside and build forts.  He and I (and often many other neighbourhood children) would spend hours out in the -30 temps creating the most elaborate winter shelters from blocks of frozen snow left behind by the snow-plows.  Often our forts were the last things to melt in the spring, that's how sturdy and well-built they were. 

Anyway, I can't do that anymore, folks might wonder why a woman my age is lugging big blocks of ice and snow into her yard - and my son would not want to be caught anywhere near my fort creations these days!  Maybe someday he'll give me grandchildren to build forts with.

Now where was I going with this?  Oh yeah... Christmas!  I have decided to do a Christmas Craft Sale this year... which means, I will need to focus on getting a lot of inventory of my Victorian Crochet items built up.  Hope to start that next week when I'm on Vacation... although if the weather is nice, I just might want to sit outside and enjoy the rays - and so we are right back where I started on this post....

I know - shut-up woman, and give me Winter Wheat.... okay here it is!


The Bell children were delighted with each new item of clothing and stood to hold up each new garment every time one was opened.  The toys they received were passed from one child to the other and admired dutifully, before carefully being placed to the side for playing with later in the day.
Gradually the space under the tree emptied, except for the gifts reserved for the remaining Bell children who would be joining them later in the day for Christmas dinner along with Fredrick and Annie.
Karl selected one of the few remaining gifts and looked across the room to Emilie and smiled warmly.  “This one says,  To Emilie, from the children,”  he winked across the room at her and passed the gift along until it reached her.  He turned back to the tree, prepared to find his gift to Emilie, and his hand stopped.  “Oh look!”  He said surprise softening his voice; “ Here’s one that has my name on it!”
Emilie took the gift that had been passed to her, and looked at the perfectly wrapped package.  There was a card tucked under the string that was wrapped around the gift; she tugged it out from under the string, and opened the card.  The only words she recognized were her printed name.  George, realizing her dilemma, rose to his knees and read the card for her.  “To Emilie, from Raymond, Anne-Marie, Charles Jr., Susan, Richard and George …” he recited in his deepening voice.
“Oh . . . thank you children,” her misty eyes touched on each beloved face before she lowered her head and proceeded to unwrap the heavy gift.
Inside the wrapped box, she found a sturdy pair of leather boots.  “Oh look – new boots!”  She exclaimed with excitement,  “These are wonderful new boots, thank you very much, children!”  Her eyes met Karl’s across the heads of the children, and she smiled her thanks to him as well.
“Here’s one more,” he said softly as he handed her a small package.  “This one is from me . . .”
“Oh  . . .” her hands received the gift and she turned her attention to the small package.  It was wrapped in the same manner as the other gift, but held almost no weight at all.  Her hands shook as she carefully peeled the wrapping away and opened the blue velvet box.
The children sensing the importance of the gift drew near to stand around her and gaze over her shoulder.
“What is it, Emilie?” Susan asked quietly.
“It’s a locket,” Emilie could hardly breathe, as she stared at the delicate gold locket that lay against the velvet.
“It’s lovely, Karl . . .” she whispered to him, as he sat across the room, watching her reaction to his gift.  He wasn’t disappointed.  Her pleasure in his gift lit her eyes brighter than the candles on his tree, and her soft warm smile did things to his innards that thrilled and at the same time as scared him silly. 
“Put it on, Emilie!”  Sue urged excitedly, her young female heart beat with romantic anticipation,  “Oh Emilie, it is so beautiful!”
Karl rose from the floor where he had been sitting with the children and came to sit beside Emilie on the sofa.  He held his big hand out for Emilie to place the locket in it, and carefully released the clasp.  Emilie lifted her hair away from her neck and waited as Karl slowly raised the locket over her head and lowered it to her neck.  As he did so his arms enclosed her shoulders and his breath fanned the back of her neck, sending small shivers up and down her spine.  He fumbled with the clasp, and when it was closed placed his hand on the fine chain where it rested at the back of her neck.  His hand warmed the spot where the chain lay, and he lingered there a moment before removing his hand.
She gently fingered the locket that now lay nestled above her breasts, and her eyes sought those of the gift giver.  Karl’s smiled touched her to her toes as he leaned forward and right there before all the children placed a gentle kiss on her cheek.  “Merry Christmas, Emilie” he breathed in her ear, before raising himself off the sofa and returning to his unopened gifts.
The children, not sure what to make of the kiss they had just witnessed, stayed silent.  Emilie knew that they would be discussing it amongst themselves later in the day, when she and Karl were not listening.  For now they smiled and admired her gift, and wondered at the change of atmosphere they could feel in the crowded room.
Karl opened his gifts, and found a new woolen toque, mittens and muffler from Emilie, and socks from the children.  He thanked them all in turn then once again levered himself off the floor.  “There is one more thing that was left here . . . sometime this morning I think!  I found it at the front door when I went out early this morning to do the chores . . .”
The children all rose to their feet, the excitement that had disappeared, now fully rejuvenated.  They followed Karl to the door, and stepped out of his way as he removed his coat from around a large article sitting on the floor.
“I think Santa Claus must have left this here,” he told the children, as he lifted the large cardboard box high into his arms.  He strode towards the kitchen table and placed the large box down with a heavy “thunk”.
“Whatever is it, Karl?”  Emilie’s interest was piqued along with the children’s.
“Why I don’t know,” he replied as he opened the flaps of the cardboard box.
Every head in the room now bent forward to get a closer view of the contents of the box.  A couple of the children banged foreheads together in their attempt to see.
“Holly cow!”  George’s throaty voice yelled loudly.  “It’s a radio!”
Pandemonium broke loose in the tiny kitchen.  Everyone pushed forward again, and Karl had to hold his arms out to stop the charge of the excited family.  Karl’s’ large capable hands slipped into the box, and withdrew the large wooden radio.  A collective sigh went through the room, as he carefully placed the radio on the table, and turned to his family.
“Does it work?” Raymond asked his voice portraying his breathless wonder at the new radio sitting on the table before him.
“I don’t know, maybe we’d better turn it on and see,” Karl answered his son seriously, not for a moment giving in to the merriment he felt.  Karl turned one of the large round knobs, and the radio gave a high-pitched screech followed by some strange whistles in the same tone.  
Not a breath was expelled, as the entire family stood rooted on the spot, watching and waiting as Karl slowly turned the second knob until a human voice was heard.  Through the static they heard a man say “Merry Christmas listeners”, and then everyone started talking at one.
Karl’s laughter peeled through the room as he watched the excitement die down to calm as the occupants of the small room settled down to listen to the words of another human being so far away. 
  In utter silence now, they all listened; captivated beyond anything they had ever known before.  There was music - a Christmas Carol was sung by a choir, and then a male voice read the story of Christmas, followed by yet another carol.  They sat as a group, enraptured as never before, until at last, the program came to an end.
“How does it work, Karl?  There is no wire, and anyway you don’t have electricity here.”
“It runs on a battery that is inside the radio,”  Karl explained.  “We will have to change the battery often, but at least we have a radio.”
“Boy, I never thought Santa would bring something like this,” Raymond said as he inspected the wooden box.
Karl rubbed his son’s head affectionately and said,  “You just never know what Santa will bring I guess.  That’s why you must be a good boy all year long.”
“Yeah, I guess . . .” Raymond replied.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Warm weather, Victorian Hats and Winter Wheat -

I apologize for the broken link on yesterday's post to the information on Breast Self Examination.  I have fixed it now, and if you have a few moments, check it out, it is a terrific site with good information and even a video.

It was a lovely day here yesterday.  For the first time this summer, I actually took some time and sat outside on the patio and read a book.  That was after I watered the plants, brushed the dog, washed all the patio furniture off and swept the patio.  But still it was nice to sit out under the elms, listen to the birds, and the hum of the air conditioning unit and read a pretty informative book on dressmaking for dolls.  I found a few really good books at the local library which have everything in there from undies to hats.  The hat section really sparked my interest, in particular the fancy Victorian hats with all the ruffles, ribbons and feathers.  My fingers are dying to try one of those out...

So where were we with Winter Wheat?

I believe there was a kiss, and then a bit of a spat?  Hummm, not so good that close to Christmas.

Okay, here we go, back to Winter Wheat...finishing Chapter 12 and on to 13!

What the hell had he done now!  He watched her move around the room with no more regard for him, than a piece of wood for the fire, and he became instantly aggravated.
“Emilie . . .” his voice rose in agitation.  Gone was the soft warm fuzzy feeling of just minutes before, now he felt hurt, confused and somewhat betrayed.
She turned at his angry voice, and stopped half way between the kitchen and the living room.
“I thought you wanted to belong . . . I pour my heart out to you and you turn away from me like it means nothing to you!  For the life of me woman, I can’t figure you out!”  He slapped his hand angrily against the side of his leg, and then jammed both hands angrily through his hair.  Getting no response from her, he threw his hands into the air and stormed past her on his way to his bedroom.
Emilie watched him leave the room, and then tiredly returned to her work.  She still had stockings to fill, gifts to wrap and a kitchen to clean.  As strange as Karl’s behavior was to her, she had no time to dwell on the events of the past hour right now.  Tomorrow was Christmas, and there was still much to do, if she was going to make it a special day for the children.  She steadied her resolve, and turned her thoughts away from Karl for the moment.  Never had she met a man quite like Karl Wright!

Christmas morning had arrived.  Karl Wright’s small prairie home was rocked to it’s foundations with the thunder of children’s feet pounding down the staircase to gain access to the living room, where their stockings hung, now filled with treats.  They flew down the stairs with eager hearts, and imaginations that had been fueled by weeks of anticipation of the big event.  
No day had ever seemed so important to the occupants of the tiny country home.  In the hearts and minds of everyone residing there, Christmas Day had come to represent a new promise for better things to come.  This day they all could set aside their pain and loss and be carefree happy children and contented adults.  They could enjoy the ritual of giving and receiving; they could be excited, and they could dream of new beginnings for themselves and the others in their new extended family. 
The children piled into one another as they stopped abruptly in front of the fireplace where their bulging stockings hung.  One by one their eyes swung to the Christmas tree in the corner, where wrapped gifts were piled hap-hazardly under the tree.  They exchanged wide open-mouth smiles with one another, and then they ran into the kitchen where Emilie had already prepared a special Christmas Day breakfast.
On the table was bacon and eggs, cream of wheat cereal, hot cinnamon buns fresh out of the oven, and oranges; a special treat that none of the children had seen since Christmas the year before.  
They each took turn greeting Emilie with a joyful “Merry Christmas” along with a hug and a kiss for the special woman in their lives, and then they seated themselves at the long wooden table to wait for Karl’s appearance.
Karl joined the boisterous group, after donning his only pair of dress pants and cotton shirt.  He had shaved and combed his hair long before anyone else in the house had been up, and now he sat down at his place at the head of the table, and asked each person to join hands with the one beside them.
“Children, we are going to say a special prayer this morning,” he announced as Emilie took her place and joined hands with Anne-Marie and Richard.
Dear Lord, we thank you for your generous gifts on this Christmas Day.  We thank you for the gift of family, and friends and especially the gift of love for one another.  Remember us to our loved ones with you in heaven, and help us as we continue on with our lives without them.”  Karl raised his head and looked at Emilie and then lowered his head once more.  “Thank you for bringing Emilie to us, and help us to let her know that without her here with us, our Christmas would have been very different than it is today. Amen.”
“Amen,” echoed along the table and the children dug into their meal with an urgency that brought smiles to both Karl and Emilie’s faces.
“Can we open our presents right after breakfast?”  Raymond asked for all the children, his anxious expression moving between Emilie and his Father.
Karl smiled,  “Yes Raymond, after breakfast, we will all open our gifts,” an excited murmur swept the room,  “But only if you all promise to help Emilie with these dishes just as soon as all the gifts have been opened.”
“We’ll do the dishes ourselves, and let Emilie rest,” George announced as spokesperson for all the children,  “Right, kids?”  
“Yes,” they all agreed in unison as they hurried to down the huge breakfast that Emilie had so lovingly prepared for them.
Karl gazed across the table to where Emilie sat assisting Anne-Marie with her meal,  “I think that’s very thoughtful of you, I’m sure Emilie will appreciate the rest.”
“I will, and Danke,” she smiled at all the children.  She glanced around the table to the family that had become so familiar to her.  She watched each child as they enjoyed their special breakfast, and felt a swell of pride in the young family that surrounded her.  These were good children.  They were kind, and of pure heart, and their parents could be proud to have raised such wonderful offspring.  She felt a momentary pang of regret that they were not her children, but quickly pushed that thought aside.  Today was Christmas; there was no time for selfish thoughts or moments of self-pity.  There was fun to be had today, and she was just as determined as everyone else to enjoy the day to the fullest.
After the table was cleared and the dishes were piled in the sink to be washed later, the children gathered around the tree that now glowed with warm light.  Long before morning had arrived, Karl had pinned small white candle holders on the tips of the trees branches.  Minutes before the children had arrived from their beds upstairs he had inserted the candles and while the children cleared the table he lit each one carefully.
“Come Emilie,” Karl called out to her from his spot closest to the tree.  “Leave the kitchen as it is, it’s time to pass out the gifts.”   He sounded almost as excited as the children.
She quickly made her way to the living room where everyone sat waiting patiently for her to join them.  As she lowered herself onto the sofa beside the tree, Karl reached under the tree for a gift and started calling out names.  He selected one gift for each child, and then instructed the children to open their presents.  They did so, with much commotion, laughter and excited sighs.
“Oh look,” Raymond squealed when he opened a book of children’s poems.  His words of delight were echoed time and again by the other children as they filled their laps with handmade clothing and toys, and nearly new toys that had been generously donated by the neighbors and friends of the community.