Thursday, January 28, 2010

Chapter Seventy-One

Chapter 71

January 4th – The thoughts in my head are too big. And Rand is driving me up a wall. He acts like I’m going to break or something. He tried to set me a bedtime of all things. He freaked out because the smell of his coffee had me running out the door and gagging. I was petting Fraidy and he started pointing at that list Ken gave him, twitching and saying something about taxoplassomethingorother. I’d finally had enough when I took the dustpan outside to empty it and then bent over to pick out one of my bobbie pins that I had accidentally swept up. Talk about swept up … he ran over, picked me up and took me into the house asking if I was all right so fast over and over that I couldn’t get a word in edgewise to answer him. When he finally put me down on the bed I grabbed a pillow and smashed it on his head. That got him to stop talking long enough for me to ask him what his damage was all of a sudden.

As much as this whole having a baby thing has my nerves in a knot I’m beginning to think that Rand is taking it harder than I am. I’d laugh if I wasn’t afraid that he was going to give himself a stroke or something. I mean, all of this happened and it wasn’t even lunch time yet.

Rand knew it was bad when I was the one pushing for us to talk it out. I hate confrontations. I’m always afraid he is going to misunderstand me and I’m going to say the wrong thing and make whatever the problem is worse. But this time I really was at the end of my rope. He was making me so nervous I itched all over like I was about to pop out in hives.

I asked him how I was suddenly a different person from the one I was a couple of days before. It was hardly a week since I’d been in a tussle with that Lucretia woman.

“God Kiri, don’t remind me. What if you’d been hurt?!”

“I did get banged up. It wasn’t the freaking end of the world Rand. I’ll be more careful from here on out. I know I need to and I will be to the best of my ability. But … you can’t lock me up and keep me from living. They tried to do that to me after the accident. It didn’t help me, it only hurt.. I mean, I know I don’t have all the answers and haven’t got all this being pregnant stuff figured out, but I know if … if I can’t still be me … Rand, don’t you understand? I am still me. You’re asking me to be someone else and … and I don’t think I can be. I don’t know if I want to be.”

Rand was running his fingers through his hair and grabbing it and making it all stand on end worse than it usually does. “Kiri, I can’t stand the idea of you getting hurt. I put up with a lot of stuff up to now, but you can’t ask me to not worry and want to do the best I can for you and the … the baby. You … you heard those stories of those two women who died. You saw Alicia at Christmas. She’s still recovering and the baby is, I don’t know, weeks old at least.”

“I know Rand. It’s there in the back of my head.”

“Well it’s in the front of mine and I can’t think of anything else! My God! There aren’t even any hospitals or anything. What if something goes wrong?”

“You don’t need a hospital to have a baby. My own mother was born at home Rand and she weighed ten pounds and my grandmother was way smaller a woman than I am even. Both my grandmothers were thirteen when they got married. Momma was sixteen. Every one of them were just teenagers when they had their first babies. I’m from that kind of stock … like those cows out there … a hardy, country breed.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me. You are not comparing yourself to a dang old cow?!”

“Oh stop Rand. I was trying to make you laugh.”

“Well, it’s not funny. None of this is.”

“So. You were mad at me because you thought I didn’t want a baby with you. Now you’re acting like it is you who doesn’t want the baby.”

“I … I mean … It’s not that I don’t want the baby. I’ve been thinking about us having kids. It just happened so quick. It’s a lot to take in. We were being careful.”

“I thought so too. I guess God decided he didn’t care if we thought we were being careful or not,” I told him. “Rand, it is what it is. And I am who I am. Don’t ask me to just roll over and suddenly be somebody else – some wimpy, helpless thing – just because I’ve got a baby in my belly.”

“Argh!”

“Rand?!”

“Kiri, maybe I can … I don’t know … calm down about it some but you have got to help by not … not … “

“By not getting into so many scrapes?”

“God yes! I can’t stand to think of some of the things that you’ve been up to over the last three months and then realize you were pregnant while it was going on. If something had happened … I know it’s selfish Babe but … I just wouldn’t have been able to forgive myself, go on living. I can barely breathe thinking about when the VRC …” When he started moaning and groaning I snuggled up close to him.

“Rand. I wish I could tell you I would have done something different but I don’t know that I would have. You are just as important to me as you are saying that I am to you. But … if it is me that is so important to you then you are going to have to let me go on being me.”

“I don’t want you to change, I just want to keep you safe, you and the baby!”

“I know that. But … the way you are doing it … We’ve only known for a couple of days and I already fell … “

“Feel what? That you don’t want me around?”

“Of course not. I’m just feeling … claustrophobic.”

“You mean trapped and tied down.”

“Did I say trapped or tied down?! I said claustrophobic and that’s what I mean. Why? Are you feeling trapped and tied down?”

“No! Of course not!”

“Then why do you think I would feel that way?!”

“I don’t know! Missy said … “

“Oh, here we go. Stop listening to Missy … and Laurabetth and Alicia and all those other females. I’m not them. I’ll never be them. I’m me! And since I don’t plan on letting you escape you are just going to have to learn to put up with it!!!” I ended up yelling even though I hadn’t meant to even start.

I thought I’d gone too far. Rand kept inhaling like he was going to say something only nothing was coming out. His mouth was moving but no sound. I had visions of a major explosion and was getting ready to cry when all of a sudden he started laughing. And then he scooped me up and sat down with me in his lap and just never mind the rest. We made up real nice.

I think we are still on a learning curve as some of my teachers would have said. Rand is still watching me like a hawk but it feels different when he does it. I don’t feel like I have to be so on guard. His looks feel like a … a … a caress and not so much like a poke at my commonsense. I don’t feel like I have to constantly defend myself from his caring. I’m not sure that makes sense but that is how I feel.

I know Rand and I need to sit down and talk about more stuff but I didn’t feel like another fight right after we had made up from this one. We never fought so much as we have the last couple of days. I hope it isn’t like this the whole time, I really will turn into a puking machine.


January 5th – It’s bizarre. I’m able to forget that we’re having a baby for a little while and then I’ll do something and think something like, “In a couple of months I won’t even be able to get close enough to the counter to make biscuits ‘cause I’m pregnant.” Or, “It won’t be long before I won’t be able to see to tie my boots because I’m pregnant.” The hardest was realizing that I’m going to start busting out of my clothes and I don’t have anything to wear. I wonder if Momma left any patterns for maternity clothes in her stuff? It is so weird to think about.

But at least I don’t have to think about it all the time. It’s just there when I am ready to think about it. That’s not so bad. Besides there are a ton of other things we need to think about … and do.

Today we got the garden planted. Rand hovered a little bit but it wasn’t too awful. It works a lot better when we prep the garden the day or two before we plant. This means that we can plant more seeds on planting day. We planted celery, cauliflower, mustard greens, onions, English peas, white potatoes, spinach, turnips, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, Chinese cabbage, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, lettuce, romaine, mustard greens, green onions, English peas, potatoes, radish, and turnips. We put some opaque row covers on some of the stuff. On others we put two-liter soda bottles that have had the bottom cut out of them. It looks a little dorky, like our own personal landfill or something, but the bottles should act like mini-greenhouses. In another area we put this frame that Rand built on skids. The wood frame is covered with heavy duty plastic. It looks like a green house on sled rails and we can move it up and down rows as we need it or we can push it out of the way.

I can’t wait until some of this stuff comes up, I’m dying for fresh stuff especially greens. We are growing some of the some of the greens in cold frames made from old window frames. I’m so desperate for something fresh that I’d eat the flowers out of my garden if they were ready. Marigolds, nasturtiums, chive blossoms, violas, pansies, and even rose petals are all edible. Once I started thinking about a fresh salad it was terribly hard to stop; I guess this is what you call a craving. I’d heard that the Crenshaw girls had had a few cravings, some of them strange. Personally I don’t think eating flowers is strange but I’m sure I would get a few looks if I mentioned it to the wrong folks.

Since we didn’t have anything fresh I opened a jar of the canned slaw I had done last year. It wasn’t quite as good as if it had been fresh but I sure wasn’t going to complain about it. Rand seemed to enjoy it too and I didn’t feel like I was being strange when he said that he was eager for the fresh veggies to start coming in too. It gets old eating dried, canned, smoked, or salted stuff all the time.

The hardest thing about today? Planting those potatoes. I wanted a baked potato so bad but they weren’t the kind that were the best for baking though I could have. And they were smallish, not the big Idaho potatoes you used to get in the restaurants. These were “junk” potatoes, or seconds, I would guess. I haven’t a clue where Ram even got them. I hope he didn’t swipe them off of a supply truck. Ram means well but when he is determined he can … well, never mind. I suppose I should ask him next time I see him, I'm just not sure I'll like the answer.


January 6th – Rained a little today but that was good for the plants. Cows aren’t giving as much milk. Rand said it is because the calves aren’t drinking as much so we’ll need to go back to two milkings to keep their supply up. Add that to the chore list. Rand and I made a compromise; he would do the morning milking to give my stomach time to settle and I could do the evening milking. At least he didn’t try and stop me all together; he just wants me to be careful if the cows decide to do some kicking.

I was working on laundry when I heard the clatter of a buggy. I went to the window and saw Brendon helping Mrs. Withrow down. I wasn't expecting company but when I went to the door the first thing out of Mrs. Withrow’s mouth was, “I don’t want a fuss, I just wanted to come by and see how you were and since Brendon was coming over to see Rand anyway I begged a ride.”

I had her come inside and asked if she minded sitting in the kitchen since a fire was already going in the stove in there. “Lands no child. You don’t need to stand on formality with me.”

Formal or not I was a little embarrassed that there were a couple of dishes in the dishpan and no tablecloth on the table. The table cloth was in the load of laundry that was soaking and the dishes were from my later than normal breakfast. I threw a dishtowel over the dishes real quick and then put the kettle on the stove top to heat. I didn’t have anything but cornbread to go with it but I sliced a little and put fresh butter and honey on the table to drizzle over it.

“Well, this is nice. You have a neat and tidy place here. I vaguely remember your mother you know. She came to one of the Quilt Guild shows after they first built this place.”

“I didn’t know. Momma liked to go to the Quilt Shoppe over in Trenton every time we came up here. She’d go in the shop and Daddy would take brother and I walking on the bike trail that was by the old train depot.”

“I’m sorry to say I don’t think I ever met your father. He sounds like he was a good man,” she said and then stopped only to start back up again. “Child … well, I’m not quite sure how to start without it sounding pathetic. You know I’m a widow. I was Mr. Withrow’s second wife, he’s first left him with he got religion and changed all his ways. He had two boys from his first marriage and we had three boys together. I’d always wanted a girl and finally decided I’d have to wait for the boys to marry. But only two of the five married and of those two only one stuck and they never lived close. The two grandchildren we were blessed with were both boys as well. One turned out to have lots of problems and I haven’t heard from him in over ten years. My other grandson is a good boy but he lives out west someplace. The girl he married couldn’t have children but they adopted a couple of boys that belonged to her sister that died in a car wreck. We exchanged Christmas and birthday cards, and I’d get the occasional school picture, but I haven’t heard from them since the flu got real bad. Stevie had some land out there and was into all that survivalism stuff that was on the television the last couple of years. I expect they are doing well enough eating all of that rice and those beans he was forever buying.”

I didn’t have a clue where this was heading so I just let her talk.

“Well a day, makes me sound like a lonesome old woman but I haven’t been. I’ve lived a good life and then some. Had a few adventures and more than my share of blessings along the road including a good man that I was married to for over forty years and whom I am sure I will see again in Heaven. But I’m still here and I am now a woman on my own and as such I need to deal with my own business. And part of that business is that I don’t have anyone to pass my things along to when the time comes. I had thought to leave them to DeLois and that young daughter in law she now has, even started to make out a will to that effect but I’ve changed my mind. I thought about leaving it to George’s girls but that Missy would only put it in the trading post and Laurabeth already has her hands full with what is in her father’s house not to mention what came from Jonathon’s parents’ home before it was burned down. I gave serious consideration to Alicia, she is a sweet girl, but it is some time off before she and Brendon have a house of their own and when they do they’ll fill it with things that Alicia has from her family. I didn’t know what I was going to do until recently. Nothing I thought of gave me any peace. Then you come along and I know exactly what I want to do if you’ll help me.”

“I’ll do what I can ma’am but I’m not sure how I can help.”

“Well, for starters, I’m getting too old to take care of my house. There’s a young couple one farm over living with his folks and all his siblings in crowded conditions. The boy was a favorite of m’ husband when he was still teaching up at the highschool. I know they’d appreciate the house and take care of it. I’ve been renting the land to his Daddy for a number of years anyway so it’s not like things would really change all that much. But that brings me to a problem. I’ve lived in that house for over fifty years and my husband lived there his whole life as it was his parents’ home. There is over a hundred years of accumulations in that old place. I likely don't know what is hidden back in some of the corners and closests, especially up in the attic.”

“If you need some help cleaning things up I’m sure Rand won’t pitch a fit over that. Anything we need to move we could get Mick and Tommy to help with or Rand when he came to pick me up.”

“Child, I don’t just want some help cleaning the old place up, I want someone I can give stuff to.” At the look on my face she laughed, “Lands girl, I don’t mean to dump all of it on you but my quilts and such and some other things, well, when it’s my time I want to know that the person they go to will appreciate them for what they are.”

Rand had come in at that point and I’m glad. I’m not sure I would have ever come up with something to say.

“Mrs. Withrow, are you sure you want to do this?” he asked.

“Son, I’m sure you remember how sick I was three years ago. I’ve never gotten my full strength back. I’m not getting any younger either. I don’t have any plans on dying tomorrow but I’m not privy to God’s plans on the subject. I just want to find some peace on a subject that has been worrying at me for some time. I prayed that the Lord would present me a solution and I believe He has, but I won’t force it on you.”

Next Tuesday, if the weather is appropriate, I’ll go “visiting” at Mrs. Withrow’s and I’ll help her to start downsizing. As soon as the house is squared away, she plans on moving into a smaller building her husband used to use as his office space that is a converted detached garage about a quarter mile down the road from the main house. Rand will time my visits to Mrs. Withrow to coincide with when he is working at Uncle George’s or over in that area cutting hay, plowing, or whatever. Several people have asked him what he would trade for an hour or a day worth of work with the mules. If Rand was looking for work turns out he won’t have to look far and now it looks like I’ve found a bit of work for myself as well.

After Mrs. Withrow and Brendon left I finished the laundry that could be dried before the sun went down and fixed Seafood Delight using some of the cans of stuff that Ram left us and some tea-sized cornmeal biscuits for our supper. I made a little potato chowder from my LTS dried soup mixes but if I’d had it canned, or maybe some corn chowder, I could have used that instead. To the potato chowder I added a six ounce can of crabmeat and a six ounce can of shrimp both of which were drained and a third of a cup of dry bread crumbs from the toast I couldn’t finish at breakfast. I dumped that into a baking dish and sprinkled it with about another cup of dry bread crumbs from a loaf of bread that didn’t rise when I was baking it. I sliced the bread thin and then dried it like melba toast and then when it was cool I ran the toast over a grater.

The Seafood Delight baked in a 350 degree F oven for thirty minutes and came out all nice and bubbly. The biscuits went really well with the super rich seafood dish. Rand really liked it so I gave him the rest of mine. It tasted good but I’m not sure that maybe it was a little too rich for my taste.

During supper Rand said, “Brendon brought some harsh news. Hiram Gilkins is dead.”

“Who?”

“The father of those three little kids that you made the coats for.”

“That woman … Lucretia … her huband? The one that drinks?”

“Yeah, that’s him … or was. You saw 'em with their uncle and aunt at Christmas. Well, the next day Lucretia talked her brother into letting them visit for the day. Apparently it was against his instincts but their mother pushed him to be forgiving and let the kids visit one more time and get their things. What a mistake that was. The way Brendon tells it Lucretia sent one of the kids over to the still to tell their daddy to get up off his lazy backside and cut some wood for the fireplace. The kid comes back and says that Hiram is asleep. She says fine, let him sleep. Apparently Hiram was higher than a kite and too drunk to wake himself up. In the morning, one of Hi's drinking buddies showed up and found that he died in the night … of hypothermia. Lucretia left him there to freeze to death though most folks says it wasn't intentional.”

“Oh no! How on earth is she going to get her children back now?”

“I don’t think she’s too worried about that. From what has been said she hasn’t asked after the children even once since they went back to her brother's house; sure hasn’t been by to see them or do a thing for them. Guess she is taking the chance to be free of all of her responsibilities and move on.”

“That’s a lot of ‘they say.’ I can’t imagine anyone would … I take that back. I can. I saw too much of it in foster care. Is it for sure that the brother is going to keep the children for good now?”

“Oh yeah. He and his wife wanted to adopt them before now. I remember he tried to get the law on it but that was back when things were really falling to pieces. He and his wife decided not to have children of their own because she has something genetic in her family, I think it is that stuff they used to have the big telethon for around Memorial Day. Brendon said that the only problem now is the that the kids are scared their mother is going to come steal them away and they’ll have to go live with her again. Leonard ... that's Lucretia's brother ... is kicking himself for letting the kids go back there at all.”

“Could she take the kids back again?”

“Maybe, but I doubt she would. She already has the guy Lemuel … Lemuel … I can’t think of his last name right now. Anyway, he's living with her and it isn't just as a friend if you know what I mean. I know we moved kind of fast but that beats all I’ve ever seen. The dirt hadn’t even settled on her husband’s grave.”

I suppose it takes all types but that is a type I’d rather not have to deal with if I don’t have to. After dinner Rand and I went out to the barn together; he took care of putting the animals to bed and I milked the cows. Rand was right, the cows weren’t giving near as much milk as they had been but it is still more than we need.

We came back in and while Rand cleaned up from working outside I finished the dishes and set them in the drainer to dry, banked the fire in the stove and refilled the water reservoir and by that time I was just flat tired. Rand came out of the shower, saw how I felt and offered to scrub my back. Who can turn an offer like that down? I caught him looking and all he said was, “I don’t see any difference. It’s hard to imagine there is a baby growing right there.”

I really don’t feel different. Mentally yes but aside from being sick and a little more tired than normal I’m having a hard really believing that I’m as pregnant as Ken says I am. Oh, I believe him but maybe I’m not as far along as he thinks. If I am we’ll have a baby to take care of come July. That sounds like a long time from now but I have a feeling it is going to sneak up on us a lot quicker than we’re ready for.

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