Jackie tells of the many adventures and emotions of a little girl growing up in a large family in the fifties.
Mandy - From City to Country Girl
Kathie and cousin Mandy was having such a terrific time. It did not even matter anymore that they could not jump in the river to swim or wade. There were still sunny days enough to walk in the woods and fields. Golden leaves floated through the air almost continuously on a breeze. If they found a sunny log to sit on it could be quite magical.
Mandy had arrived dressed like a little princess but now she was just another Kathie and seeming to love it. Kathie did wonder why she did not have at least one dress like Mandy's, but then, where would she wear it? No one dressed up like that but city people she guessed. Kaitlin, Mandy's mother, was the only one of those she had ever seen. Well, there was Uncle Bob, Mandy's dad, but as her mom said, he would always be a country boy at heart.
There had been a letter from Mandy’s mother to say that Uncle Bob would be there to pick her up before the first of the New Year, just after Christmas. Her mother would not be coming, still in much pain from her broken arm. Bouncing in a car would naturally be painful, especially traveling so far.
Her dad would spend a couple of nights and Kathie looked forward to that. Mandy’s mother, Kaitlin, monopolized all conversations when she was there. Katie hardly ever got to spend any time with her uncle Bob, who she really was so fond of. He was very friendly and just listening to him talk and laugh warmed Kathie’s heart. She so looked forward to that. She wished her own dad was more like him. Her dad was a man of few words, and outward emotions.
Thanksgiving had been so festive with Mandy there. Kathie’s mom had let the two girls take part in the pie baking. They cut up small pumpkins to be added to a large pot and cooked. The pot was huge and it took many pumpkins to fill it. It was cooked slowly all day and popped in tiny bubbles.
She showed them the spices as she measured them and added to the pot and it was so much fun taking part. The aroma was so very good. It was a real blessing for everyone that Mary saved some of the pumpkin pudding back from the pies to have after supper. They loved it so much even without the pie crust. The aroma hanging in the air lasted well past everyone falling asleep.
The next morning early, Mary had to put a large turkey in the oven and there would have been no room for pies. Those stood ready and covered from the night before. By the time the girls got back inside from gathering eggs, scattering seed, and bringing in an armload of wood, the turkey was making everyone’s belly growl. In no time at all, the table was quite ample with hot biscuits, fried eggs, and sausages. Jelly and apple butter on biscuits to top it off let everyone wait the hours it would take to have a juicy, delicious bird. The wood needed to be fed to the stove at timely intervals to keep the oven range just right and it felt so warm no sweaters were needed in the kitchen as they were in the rest of the house.
The weather was really unpredictable as it always was this time of year. There could be days almost up to eighty degrees and then spit snow a day or two later. There might be a white Christmas, but usually, there was not. Kathie loved just flurries, personally. It caused no problems and was simply a beautiful decoration in the sky.
There was a nip in the air and a cloudy day so the girls gathered by the fireplace to read. The brothers played on the closed in back porch so all their noise seemed muffled and did not interfere with lessons. Kathie and Mandy made the best grades and enjoyed their days at school but always dawdled coming home through the falling leaves with the cooling breezes.
Kathie’s mom, Mary, didn’t mind since there was nothing they could do this early. She knew they were safe and counting the days until Mandy would have to go home until another summer. She knew the weeks would pass fast but she also remembered being a young girl. How the sense of time did change as we grew older. The days flew and the children grew and too soon she would be here with no little ones to love and look after and that was not something she wanted to dwell on, being as bad as the girls in dreading time passing too fast!
Time for a Feast
As soon as Mary took the turkey from the oven and covered it to rest everyone hurried to do all the evening chores early so there would be nothing left to do but enjoy the feast and desserts Mary had prepared. She whipped up potatoes and side dishes while all pitched in to do her chores which were getting to be less and less as the boys grew older. Her husband Daniel worked in town now so he had no chores, leaving so early and getting home so late. He did all the plowing and most planting and hoed when he could. Seemed the family rarely saw him anymore so this would be an enjoyable time having him around the house a few days.
After everyone washed up and gathered around the table Mary said the prayer, as she always did. Kathie’s daddy loved Jesus, she knew, but being shy, all he ever said was Amen. He was served first as always and then the rest and Mary, who did the serving always last, of course. Kathie’s sister helped make up the plates so it was not a very long time until everyone could begin. The meal was eaten quietly as everyone was very hungry by now and the food so good to concentrate on. As they got to dessert conversation started with the boys talking amongst themselves and the adults with Kathie and Mandy.
Mandy, not really knowing the shyness of her uncle Dan started chatting with him right away. Katie sort of flinched, for although her dad was no mean man or monster, his children just more or less knew to not make small talk with him. If you had a question, you asked and that was it. To Kathie’s surprise her dad started talking back to Mandy, in the same manner, she was talking to him. It felt so funny to Kathie, witnessing this, it almost hurt. Mandy was laughing and having a good time talking to Kathie’s dad who rarely if ever talked and laughed with his own children.
Some Mothers Are So Special
Kathie’s chest felt tight and looking over at her mom she could tell she had read her feelings and that looks almost made Katie cry. She concentrated hard on the pumpkin pie she was eating and gathering all the crust on the prongs of her fork. Mandy was talking about her dad, Uncle Bob, to Kathie’s dad. They were laughing about the crazy things he did. Now the whole family was in on the conversation, everyone loving Uncle Bob so much. So did Kathie but she had let her emotions get the better of her.
Kathie made it through the meal with no one but her mother guessing her feelings. As Mandy swept up the floor and cleaned the huge table Kathie helped her mom take scraps out to the dogs who were waiting anxiously for their part of the meal.
Mary stooped down and gave her young daughter a hug. She knew all Kathie was feeling and why and told Katie that surely she knew her dad loved her, he just had a hard time showing it like most dads. He worked hard for all his family and he loved every one of them she was so sure. Bad fathers did not work and take care of their families and worry when they got sick.
Well, her dad was the one who usually held a cold cloth to her face when she had a fever or bandaged her up if she got a cut. It always felt so good when he took care of her and she supposed it was his way of saying he loved her.
Cry Baby or Not?
It was jealousy, Kathie knew, which was so stupid, why would she be jealous of Mandy who she loved so much and who had such a bad mother. (Well, in Kathie's opinion, she did.) She had never thought of that. Mandy’s life in a family was not perfect either. Mandy just laughed at her mom instead of being hurt. What a big cry baby she was, getting upset over this.
Actually, it was very nice seeing her dad laugh and talk, which he did little of. She really only overheard him talking to her mom. Her mom had mentioned to all her children when the war was over her dad fought in, that many men came home different from this terrible experience. They needed time to get over it. To forget it.
One day she would be adult and mature enough to understand these things and not be hurt by them. Her mom told her to think on it awhile. She had to think about her cousin and her happiness. Never would she have her dad ignore Mandy's friendly banter. Really, Mandy had made the meal so much more than it might have been and Kathie was too selfish to enjoy it!
It was time they got ready for Christmas, bringing up so many things to be happy for. She fell asleep remembering the laughter and counting her blessings. She had so much to be thankful for. She realized that, now.
Questions & Answers
Question: Did I detect a subtle shadow here & there of your memories of your real-life dad? Your prior tale is still fresh in my mind.
Answer: Yes, although I am venturing away from true non-fiction, there is enough truth to pull in the emotions I experienced as a child. Hopefully, this makes for better storytelling.
© 2018 Jackie Lynnley