Saturday, January 23, 2010

Chapter Thirty-Eight

Chapter 38

July 30th – I am now Mrs. Rand Joiner. How cool is that?!

August 2nd – Haven’t had a lot of time for writing in my journal and frankly I didn’t know what to write that wouldn’t embarrass myself when I’m old and gray and reading this all again to remember things the way they really happened.

Rand and I were both awake earlier than usual on Sunday. We were so nervous we didn’t know where to look. We managed to get up, tend the animals, and put what we needed in the wagon but Rand told me not to worry about breakfast. It was already turning hot and neither one of us could have eaten anyway.

Before we left I said, “This is your last chance. I won’t be hurt if … “

“Forget it Kiri. My last chance came before the first time I heard your voice. God already knew about Julia and sent me something so much better that I’m glad I was smart enough to grab with both hands and hang on to. I suppose I should give you the same chance but I’m not going to. I’m not letting you get away. This may not be how I planned it but it gets us where I wanted to go and a whole lot faster than I could have hoped. I intend on spending a lot of time over the years making sure you don’t have any regrets. I know that this is a little out of order from how things have being going but …. ,” and then he bent on one knee and asked, “will you marry me?”

He had this little box in his hand. “I looked at my Mom’s rings and they are way too big but they’re yours now too. This was my Dad’s mother’s ring. I know it isn’t fancy but it came with her all the way from Spain and belonged to her mother before her. It’s small and it’s old … but there is a lot of history to it and it’s been in my family for a long time. Now I want you to have it, no matter what Kiri.”

No one has ever given me jewelry before, not even my parents. Jewelry was for “grown ups” and inheriting jewelry didn’t count in my eyes. We took the time for a kiss and all it did was make my stomach flutter even more. I told Rand I hadn’t even thought about rings and then got upset that I hadn’t figured out something as meaningful for him.

“Girl, are you crazy? This place, this house, your dad’s files and guns … besides, I never even wore my class ring in highschool because I worked on machinery so much. As long as I have your hand, I don’t need a ring.”

I closed my mouth and I prayed that everything would be all right and that I don’t keep making mistakes like that even if Rand doesn’t think of it as a mistake. I should have been praying all along but I hadn’t. Now I just hope that praying in hindsight helps just as well.

We got to the park the same time as Pastor Ken. The Crenshaw clan showed up a few minutes after that. There wasn’t going to be music this time. Something had eaten a hole in the organ bellows and it had been such short notice that no one had thought to load a piano in a wagon.

There were three other couples that wanted to make public commitments at the same time once they found out that Mr. Barnes and Judge Walker were there to witness and make it official. Mr. Barnes laughed, “Well, it does appear to be contagious does it not?”

One couple was older, Mr. Barnes and Judge Walker’s age. Apparently they were a widow and widower whose attachment was an open secret around town for years. The next couple was the young woman with the two small children that I met at Laurabeth’s wedding and a man who looked older who was carrying a baby still in diapers. The last couple shocked me. Ron Harbinger eased over to Rand while we were waiting for Pastor Ken to finish speaking with the other two couples. “Joiner, I’m not here to spoil things. I don’t want to cause problems.”

Julia Winston and Ron Harbinger. Rand’s face was completely blank. “If Kiri doesn’t object I don’t," was all he said after Ron wanted to know if we objected to he and Julia taking advantage of the opportunity that was presenting itself. Rand’s face may have been blank but his hand in mine was stiff as a board and clammy.

For the first time I felt some sympathy for Julia. It was wasted on her though because she would hate me even more if she knew. We had all gone to freshen up and change except for Julia who was only wearing a dress already too tight for her as the whole getting married thing was a surprise. I overheard her mother saying, “Frankly Julia I don’t care what you want. You made your bed, now you can lie in it.”

“But you’re the one that told me to have some fun before I got married and my life was over!”

“I didn’t tell you to make a complete fool of yourself. How many did you sleep with anyway?! Ron admits the baby could be his. Could be. Then there is poor Freddie and that crazy drugged out Chase Peters. Have I gotten them all are there are few more? What people must think of me I can only imagine. And your father has been impossible to live with. Just be thankful you’re moving in with the Harbingers. You’ll have to put up with Ron’s grandmother and two spinster aunts but that’s fitting punishment and no concern of mine. I did my best and this is how you repay me. With you out from under foot hopefully your father will calm down and get off my back.” Nice mom. I wonder if she ate the rest of her young and only kept Julia and JR by accident.

Momma O patted my arm making me jump at getting cause eaves dropping, “Don’t waste your time worrying about Julia, she’ll land on her feet. Jared’s sisters are terrors but his mother is a good woman. And Ron has had a change of heart like at an old-time Revival. She’d be a fool not to jump on his offer and make the best of it. Now let me look at you. You clean up pretty well. Here, let’s straighten those flowers. Well, for Heaven’s sake child, you aren’t wearing those old boots are you?”

I’d figured out a dress with only a day to do it. I’d remembered to do something with my hair and to get something old, something new, and I even tied a piece of light blue string on my finger but I had forgotten all about shoes. I know I blushed because my face was hot. It was Alicia who came to my rescue. “All I have are the flat patent leathers Daddy would make me wear but … look, I’ll go barefoot if you will. I don’t want any reminders of my old life today.”

I was the youngest so I was the last in line right after Alicia who came out after Julia. Brendon had to poke Rand twice before he moved. “Old son, I know she looks different in a dress but the rest of us wanna get this show on the road, so close your mouth and move.” On Brendon’s tombstone it is going to read, “My mouth got me where I am today.”

Each couple got their turn saying the words. It was short but still felt like the words were being etched on a place inside me I thought had died with my family. I was crying and didn’t know why. I had to squeeze Rand’s hand to let him know I was OK.

Then it was over and Pastor Ken said to kiss the bride and pronounced each couple man and wife. Momma O laughed when she told me where to sit while a plate of food was brought over. “Girl your face woulda lit up a Christmas tree.” I couldn’t stop blushing and Rand couldn’t stop grinning which only made me blush that much more.

All of us brides got passed around for hugging and kissing. I avoided what I could and endured the rest. The grooms got their share too. The food was more like a banquet. An old man, rarely in town, had roasted a whole pig. “Aw well, I needed to cull her anyway. Feed’s low and she had a bum leg.”

Brides aren’t supposed to worry about bringing food to their own reception, or so I had been told, but I had fixed a large bowl of fruit salad. I had also fixed three baskets; one for Pastor Ken, one for Mr. Barnes, and one for Judge Walker. Each basket had a couple jars of preserves, a tin of cookies I had baked the previous day, and fresh fruit. When we gave the judge’s to his wife she was really very sweet about it and made a nice fuss even though you could tell she was used to the finer things in life. The pastor and Mr. Barnes were appreciative as well.

“My dear, unfortunately we have run out of time, my transportation is leaving in but an hour rather than tomorrow and I must not be late. In this envelope are the details of what has occurred over the last year and some months since last we spoke. A copy of my personal notes are also in there as well as directions for contacting me if you have need. God’s Blessings on you young lady. I know your life has been … challenging … but you are being presented an opportunity here. Do not squander it wishing for what might have been.”

His words were accompanied by distant thunder. The old thespian grinned like he’d timed it himself and then left to catch a military transport from at the 129 and I10 on ramp. I hope he got home OK. It’s still hard to believe that if he hadn’t worked so hard, not even knowing whether I was alive or dead, I would be sitting on the side of the road wondering what to do with no home and a very uncertain future.

The thunder moved everyone to action. Momma O sent all of us newlyweds home so “the rest of us can stop playing and start cleaning. Now get.”

Rand helped me into the wagon seat and then was called over by his uncle and Mr. Henderson. I was holding the reins when Missy and Laurabeth came over for a quick goodbye and to put a box in the wagon. “No cooking tonight or tomorrow. We’ve put some goodies in here that should help with that. And no I didn’t cook it, Missy did.”

Missy had a look in her eyes that should have warned me, “I’ve tucked a few things in there as well. My only advice is to relax and enjoy yourself.” Uh huh. It has to be Uncle George’s genes for both Missy and Brendon to have got whatever it is they’ve got. There was also a box from Momma O in there.

Rand was back and everyone waved and then we were off. Rand had a happy look on his face and said, “Guess what Mr. Henderson said. Never mind, you’ll never guess. Four of those cows that he took off that eighty that sits beside us are already gonna have calves. He said he’ll pick the best of the heifers and once it was weaned he’d bring it and its mother over as a wedding present. That’ll give us a head start and time to get an area fenced off properly. And Uncle George said in addition to the pig and beef that he plans on butchering once it cools off, he’ll give us two gilts and the use of a boar if I haven’t managed to get one before then. If your little hens get busy and if I can get enough hay and forage to keep us all fed we’ll be good for a long while!”

“That’s good right?”

“Oh yeah Babe, that’s very good. It’ll be more work but it’ll also mean bigger rewards. I can’t wait to try the plow and disc on that garden patch we have been breaking our backs on. Just don’t get your hopes up too high about getting much this first year. But think of it. Next year after adding a year of manure from the animals … and cow and pig manure are gonna be great for that … discing in the old hay bedding from the chickens … that sand should start learning to be dirt. The orchard will like the manure tea I’ll show you how to fix and … “

“Manure tea?!”

“Trust me, the plants will love it. And a milk cow will be good too. And the cows, chickens, and pigs are all free range. I know somebody that has goats too. They can be wicked silly and up to all kinds of mischief but they’re living lawn mowers and will clear a piece of land and keep it cleared nearly as well as a bush hog can, and they don’t have to worry about stumps. And that box from Momma O? Paul said it has all sorts of seeds and bulbs in there, and not just vegetable seeds. He said to tell you his grandmother said that if you followed her directions on each envelope you could have flowers too.”

I listened to him go on like that the rest of the way home. Home. Our home. Before it was an idea, now it was suddenly a reality.

We finally arrived in our yard and Rand jumped down and tied the mules to the ring and then handed me his rifle while he got the box. He opened the house up and then set the box inside the door but when I tried to go in he turned around and lifted me up and carried me over the threshold. “Old fashioned or not Kiri, I’m starting as I mean to go on. You deserve the same kind of stuff that other girls … women … expect. Just because you don’t think of them doesn’t mean that I don’t mean to see that you have them at some point. If you want to change, I’m gonna go unhitch Bud and Lou.” He keeps saying things like that and the sweetness of it makes my toes curl.

He went out and I went upstairs. It was very warm up there but not as bad as it use to be. Rand found where the vent fans had never been hooked up. I guess that was one of Daddy’s projects he had been working on. I put on a sun dress just because I knew I wouldn’t have to cook later and because it would make Rand happy. Then I looked at his bed and then at mine.

I had a choice to make. Nothing had been said and I knew that Rand wouldn’t push me but … something about making the promises in public and what they felt like when he and I said them … I can’t put it into words. It was a promise and a sacred trust. If I could say those words in front of God and everyone then I realized I could trust him with this last thing. I peeked out the window and he was still messing with the mules, probably giving me extra “girl time.” I tore the bedding off the mattress and slid it over to and down the stairs. It was a bit of a pain but I was able to hide it in the storage room and throw the covers in with the dirty laundry before he came back in.

“You look flustered. You OK? You don’t need to be so nervous. We’re married now … I don’t have to worry about you getting away … so we can slow down as much as you need.”

I blushed and hugged him and I guess Rand figured he’d said the right thing. I was just hugging him because what he had said proved my own thoughts and made me even gladder I did what I did. I turned to take stuff out of the box. There was a loaf of bread and several MREs. I guess that was Missy’s way of saying don’t cook. There were also two packages in there; one said “to Rand from Bill” and the other said “to Kiri from Missy.” On the back of each note it said, “take your time and don’t get caught.”

Well, I didn’t have the sense to be careful and I upended my bag in my hand. Out falls this silky piece of material that wasn’t much longer than a camisole and it took me a while to realize it was supposed to be a nightgown.

“Well, what’s yours?” I asked determined not to be the only one embarrassed.

Rand was red in the face. “Don’t worry about it. Let’s just say that Missy doesn’t have a subtle bone in her body. I’m gonna run upstairs and change real quick and when I come down we can talk.”

There is sound proofing in the floor but with the door open I could hear him run up fast and then sort of just stop in his tracks. A few minutes later after he changed he came down slower. I was putting things away that I had left undone in the morning. Rand came up behind me as asked, “Are you sure?” All I could do was nod and I did wear that little piece of silliness from Missy, but only for a little while.

It’s been nice … very nice. But I can’t begin to imagine how anyone could call this “casual.” My goodness, talk about interpersonal communicating. God has quite some imagination to have created this.

The next day we worked as usual but it was kind of different too. Neither one of us could seem to get the grin off of our face, not even when it turned blistering hot again. More apples and nectarines were coming in and I couldn’t let them go to waste. The animals needed taking care of because, well, they’re animals and ours to take care of. We did take a couple of long walks. And of course there was the daily target practice that Rand continues to be a bear about me keeping up with. I have to admit I’m getting better. Nothing fancy, but at least most of the time I now hit where I’m aiming.

Rand also managed to get the garden well and truly broken in. First the plow since the area hadn’t really been planted in anything except the rye grass that Daddy would put on it in the winter and then rototill into it in the spring before it turned brown. The plow also finished the deep trenching we had started by hand. Next he ran a harrow over it to even the dirt back up. After that he ran the disc to break up the rest of the clods that the harrow hadn’t dealt with.

“Your Momma knew how to pick ground. This is good dirt for these parts … hardly any clay it it at all except for that corner over there and I can probably dig it out next season. We’ll need to add more manure and some of that compost when it finishes making but tomorrow, if you’re ready, I’ll help put the seeds in.” We also finished setting the posts and hanging the fence to keep the deer out of the garden. Rand said, “I want some more venison but not bad enough to go to all the trouble of planting a garden to attract them.”

Yesterday, on top of everything else in the orchard that is coming in, the pears were ready but I had to do the canning in the afternoon after we got some of the seeds in the ground. Rand had studied the square foot gardening method when he was in 4H. “It’s convenient for small gardens but for commercial size stuff it is a pain. We’ll try it your way but you’ll need to leave me room to work the cultivator. And don’t make your squares too big or you won’t be able to reach the stuff in the middle since you’re so short.”

I laid off the grids the way the book said and then went to town planting some of what Momma O had sent me in trade for the fruit. First the beans; some were bush and some were pole which required Rand cutting me some bamboo poles. We tried a patch of corn where it wouldn’t shade out anything. Cucumbers and watermelons were given room to spread. There were a couple of different patches of peppers; some hot and some not. The winter and summer squash were planted in their own areas. I planted onions by the row, bunching and multipliers. We also got a row of collards and a row of turnips planted. Next month we’ll get more of the leafy green plants going, it’s too hot for them right now.

I was beat after all that bending up and down but if Rand could toss hay I could can fruit. The dehydrator runs nonstop although I don’t really have to do anything to it except to make sure I’m drying the fruit and not cooking it. Today the first sweet peaches were ready and when I put them on the table for dessert Rand blinked his eyes like he was seeing things. I don’t know what the big deal was, we’d had nectarines for over a week. He peeled and sliced one for me as the fuzz just freezes me to death.

“I saw Uncle George today while I was getting that hay. How would you feel about some company tomorrow?”

“Company?”

“Help too. It turns out Alicia and Melly and the boys are coming over while Brendon and Clyde help me see about breaking in a little more space in the utility easement. Uncle George wants to know if we’ll grow some for him and if I can get the help I don’t see what we shouldn’t try. And they’re going to help cut up some more of that wood and take some with them as well. Uncle George cleared most of his land years ago for the cattle and they go through more wood than we do. There’s a couple of dead trees around here that need dealing with and we’re going to mark off and cut them down over the next couple of days and we’ll split it between the four households. Bill is helping Uncle George get the new addition plumbed out and get the floor leveled. I hate that they undid all that work we did to the new kitchen but they just couldn’t work around it.”

The days are just as long as they ever were but the nights are a little shorter and I’ve noticed Rand isn’t jumping up and out of bed quite so quick in the mornings. As tired as I am I’m not sure I’m going to be able to keep up the pace much longer. I haven’t even looked at the papers that Mr. Barnes left for me. Rand is looking over them now because the way Mr. Barnes writes things out gives me a headache; legalease is his second language but thank goodness he doesn’t talk that way. And thank goodness Rand was getting a business degree; at least he’ll half way understand what all the gobbled-gook is that Mr. Barnes was forever going on about.

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