The next day Emilie was baking oatmeal cookies with the children when she spotted a man crossing the yard coming towards the house.
“We have a visitor,” she said to no one in particular, as she wiped her hands on her apron and reached for the pan of unbaked cookies.
The smaller children rushed to the window to see who approached. “Oh no!” Charles Jr.’s face paled as if he’d seen a ghost. “It’s Mr. Olinski, the school teacher!”
“The teacher; children, come away from the window!” She straightened her apron and smoothed her errant hair into some order.
George was at door before the teacher knocked, and helf the door ajar for the man entering the house. “Hello Mr. Olinski.”
“George,” the teacher regarded the oldest student in his classroom, “I’m so sorry about your folks, George.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“I wanted to come and see how you all were doing. I stopped by and spoke with your brothers at Frederich’s earlier.” The teachers’ eyes had left his student and were now focused on the pretty young woman who stood nearby.
“You must be Emilie,” he reached across the space to shake her hand. “My name is Aaron Olinski, and I’m the school teacher. I hope you don’t mind my stopping by to visit with my students.”
Emilie smiled at the young man who by now had removed his wool hat and heavy boots. “It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Olinski. Please take off your coat and come in by the stove where it’s warmer. You will have to excuse the mess in the kitchen, but we were just in the middle of baking some cookies. Come, have a seat and you can sample some.”
“Thank you kindly, Emilie.” He followed her into the kitchen and sat down at the cluttered table.
“Hello Sue, Charles Jr., and who are these young ones?”
“This is my little brother, Richard,” Sue placed her hand across her small brother’s shoulder, “And these are Karl’s children, Raymond and Anne-Marie.”
“Well, you have quite a houseful, that’s for sure.” He commented as he accepted a freshly baked cookie from the plate Sue held.
Emilie nodded without comment. “I’m sorry the kinder have not been in school since the fire, but there has been so much change for them. We thought they could return after the New Year.”
“Actually, that’s why I stopped by. I was concerned that the children would fall behind in their lessons if away too long, so I was going to offer to come and teach a few lessons once a week until they were ready to return to school.”
Charles Jr. rolled his eyes heavenward. The only good thing to come out of his family’s tragedy was the fact that they had not returned to school. He hated school and would have been happy to never have to go back.
“I was going to do some lessons with Sue and Charles Jr.” George said. “They could read to the little ones, and they can practice their writing by doing a letter for our father.”
“That sounds very good, George. Perhaps I could bring you some readers and workbooks and you could help them with some addition and subtraction as well.”
“Sure, I could do that.”
“The other thing I wanted to ask you is about the Christmas program.” Aaron turned to Emilie, “The children put on a Christmas program for the community every year. We do a pageant of the Christmas Story, and then there are some musical numbers, some recitations, and a few comedy skits. Everyone comes from around the countryside and we have a nice social evening. Sue was to be our Mary this year, and I believe George was chosen to be Joseph.” He turned in his seat to find Charles Jr. “And weren’t you to be one of the shepherds, Charles?”
“Well do you children think you will be able to participate? The pageant is a week away.”
George looked at his siblings and then at Emilie. “I don’t know sir.”
“Do you want to?” Emilie wondered aloud.
“I want to,” Sue said while her brothers remained silent.
“Yeah, I guess.” George didn’t want to disappoint his sister. “Sure, maybe it would be good to see everyone again.”
“I think you made the right decision, George. You will enjoy the evening and get to see your classmates all at the same time. We have missed you all. You will have to come to the school for a practice the day before the pageant. You will need to have your costumes then too”
“We don’t have costumes. Mother hadn’t made them yet, and anyway . . .” George swallowed hard and couldn’t continue.
“I can make whatever you need, George.” Emilie turned to the teacher, “Whatever they need, I’ll make.”
As they were discussing the details, Karl returned home from town. He was surprised to see the school teacher sitting at his place at the table and even more surprised when Emilie invited the young man to stay for the evening meal. He had only met the teacher once, as his children were still too young to attend school but Karl was sure that he’d be seeing much more of the man in his house in the days to come.