Jackie tells of the many adventures and emotions of a little girl growing up in a large family in the fifties.
A Home Away From Home
Mandy would be going home in about three weeks, back to the city and her mother. Her mother, Kaitlin, is almost mended now from her fall, breaking her arm. When Mandy's mother is unable, her father knows, that only leaves his two stepdaughters to look after her. Although his relationship with them is well enough, he can see the jealousy at times they have for his and their mother's daughter. She is their sister, of course, but with too many years between them, a sisterly relationship just never formed. It was too bad but that was just the way things were. In fact, Kaitlin was, as it became clear after marriage, not the mothering type. Yet she loved her girls he knew, in her own way. She had more in common with her older daughters and that sometimes left Mandy feeling neglected, he knew, since her sisters did not want her included in much they were doing. They called her "the baby" when her father was not around. Yet he was well aware Mandy lacked much at home that she needed.
This was why he gladly let Mandy stay with his brother' family in the south, where he grew up, as often as possible. She had a cousin Kathie who was Mandy's age. He could tell how much happier this made her and he knew himself what a good environment the country and farm life was. She seemed to be much happier at home now and although none of the rest of his family had an interest it gave Mandy and him many enjoyable conversations of this place he sometimes missed very much himself. He had grown up there and although wanting away from it in his youth he sometimes now had regrets. The conversations kept Mandy and her father content and kept Mandy from missing Kathie and the farm so bad when she was home.
A Home in the Making
Living Life on Sassy Creek
A New Way of Thinking
Mandy lived up north and did not mind at all not seeing snow and cold weather for she had plenty of that. She loved visiting her cousin in the south and seeing so many beautiful flowers and trees she had never seen in the city. She loved the country and openness. She loved sleeping with only a light blanket up past Thanksgiving.
The animals and business of survival here made her aware of things she had never given thought to. They never ran out of milk or eggs and went to the store for practically nothing. Mandy could live here all year round. Everyone here felt just like family.
Kathie had taken her cousin Mandy who was spending the summers with her to meet Callie and see the beautiful farm two years ago and of course, the three sat together in church, but just going to someone’s house to play was not something that was done in these days. If you had time to play you did after some chores and before others. Who was to know when Callie might be busy though or when she had time to relax or play? Callie had invited them home with her after church for a meal and walks around the Sassy Creek Farm a couple of times in the last two summers though, and swimming in the cool clear pool her dad and brother had made from the springs that ran off the mountains to form Sassy Creek. They had hoped it would happen again this summer and they could go back.
Each Farm Pretty Much the Same Way of Life
Some of Kathie and Mandy's walks took them near to the Sassy Creek Farm where they may spot their new friend, Callie. Usually, Callie's dog spotted them and gave big growls but Callie seeing who it was would shush him making him go on and behave. That was the great thing about a good dog on a farm for they warned of all things showing up. Human or animal, they alerted everyone to look. If an animal, he would have been hard if not impossible to stop, but he was well behaved around people. He looked very mean to protect this family but once he was given a command he quietened and went away. Kathie was glad of that. Katie's brother's dog Bounce was rarely seen unless it was with her brother. He did spend summer and all but cold nights on the porch protecting all. He could hear just as well on the inside in winter though, it seemed.
Callie was in the barn spreading down the clean straw. Her brother's job was to clean the barn floor which was a much harder job than hers so she did not mind at all.
She was finishing up and joined these new friends she had met at school and liked so much. They were hoping she would have some time to ramble in the woods today but she sadly told them her mother would be canning tomatoes and had no one to help her but Callie. Katie and Mandy would be helping do the same for Katie's mom in a couple of days so Katie wondered if they helped Callie if she might be allowed to come over and help them when they were ready. It was work but more like play if they could all be together. There was joy in the plan in all three faces but it had to be put to Callie's mom for deciding. Katie thought Callie should go on her own to ask her mother to be embarrassing to no one if the answer was no.
In just a couple of minutes, Callie's mom stepped out onto the porch to ask if they were sure Katie's mom would approve of this, without asking her also. Katie assured her it would be fine since they had a couple days of play anyway waiting for her mom and brother to get all the tomatoes in and cleaned for the canning. Katie's sister now was washing up the many, many jars that would be needed.
Callie's mom said she would really appreciate the help, having fallen behind so bad in canning. Now her husband worked away from home she was naturally doing twice as much and even with her children's help it could get to be a bit much.
Having Fun Helping Out
Kathie and Mandy helped Callie wash up the last of the tomatoes outside while her mother brought out pans of scalded tomatoes to cool with knives to peel and dice and buckets and bowls to put them in.
Finally, the girls were sitting and peeling and cutting as if they knew just what they were doing, which of course they did. Even Mandy, who had only last summer learned to do this, was every bit as efficient as the other two. The girls talked and giggled without slowing at all. Work could be so much fun like this!
Callie's mom came out to gather up the tomatoes to put in huge pots to cook as quickly as they were filled. Thankfully the back porch where they sat was shaded and overlooked the large creek. There was also a well-water pump on the porch there and they all washed up once they were done and drank long from the dipper. The porch had to be cleaned good and the peelings dumped in the almost bare garden.
They would have loved to have gone inside and looked at Callie's beautiful room she had told them about, but it was getting near suppertime and they would be expected home soon.
Turn About Fair Play
Callie was true to her word and showed up to help Kathie and Mandy with Katie's mother, Mary's, canning. Just as at Callie's they used the back porch with the well for cooling off and have dipper drinks after finishing up their containers.
They all got to be together at school and church on Sundays but this was so much more fun, getting to relax and talk to their heart's content. Kathie's older sister would collect the full containers and bring out clean ones and always give them looks of contempt. It was shocking at first (not so much to Katie) but when she got out of earshot they all burst into fits of giggles. Little hurt their pride. Big sisters were always a pain.
Mary brought the girls big dinner rolls with ham for lunch and a tall glass of apple cider. Katie's brother had two rolls at least with a big hunk of cheese in a paper sack tucked under his. He tipped his hat and was gone. He had his rifle and big dog right at his heal. He would be gone until he caught a buck or maybe a couple of rabbits, so he could be late for supper. There were springs in the mountains so he did not have to worry about anything to drink. He could even run into some juicy blackberries if the deer had not finished them off. He had brought a big pailful home last time, so they could be getting scarce.
Callie had to head home as soon as the job was done as her mother had said she must. It had taken a good part of the day and all three were so full of joy from the laughter and fun it seemed a shame to see it end.
Kathie and Mandy walked Callie far into the woods so she had little to walk on her own. They waved her out of sight shouting sorrowful goodbyes. Having friends was such a good thing. It was nearly as good as having extra sisters. Ones you could pick for yourself. Callie would make a very good sister, they both agreed.
They had made plans before Christmas to hunt beautiful pine cones and ground pine. The thrill of this kept the cousins from thinking that the time was running out quickly. The day after Christmas, Mandy must leave for home!
© 2018 Jackie Lynnley