Leta watched Abby’s face. It was different that before. She felt an honesty there that was usually lacking. Not to say that Abby had ever lied, but she had always kept the part back about feeling that failure, feeling that despair. This was thing that Leta had always needed to hear. Leta had felt a touch of that failure before, when LaVerne was stricken with the Polio on her 9th birthday, as she grew up with a crippled leg. Leta had felt that failure of not protecting her child well enough. She’d always wanted to share that with Abby, but always felt that her mother would only speak to her of God’s will and faith, and chide her for ever doubting what was happening in her life.
Leta let out a sigh of relief, there was no way she could quickly find her words, to tell her mother that she had finally said what she needed to hear. She only nodded at her mother and tried to let the light in her eyes say what she could not find the words to express.
She started slowly, wandering down another path of thought. “I remember looking through Grandfather’s Bible at all the names and dates. I remember seeing all the babies who died so early and I thought they didn’t matter. I thought that because it happened before I was born, and because there were just so many babies, that somehow the babies weren’t loved until they were older, that they weren’t valued until they could do work, that they weren’t real until you got to know them. It took holding my own babies to even begin to understand that those little babies mattered. That they meant something from the time you could feel the quickening, through their birth and their life and their death. I never understood how much it must have hurt to lose Glennie. How hard it was to be pregnant and mourning and baby at the same time.”
Abby nodded. “I do understand that. We don’t think of the humanity in the stories. In the dried ink on the brittle pieces of paper in some musty book. We don’t think that those names drew breath, that they cried, that they breathed their sweet breath onto the necks of their mothers. I didn’t understand either until I watched your Grandfather write the date of Glenna’s death in that very Bible. Then I understood with ever fiber just how much my own mother must have grieved for my siblings.”
“May I ask her about it when she comes in next?” If Abby was tricky to question, then Elizabeth was the Sphinx of Egypt.
“You watch me, if I nod at you, then you may feel free to question. I can not assure you that she will answer you, but you may attempt if you feel necessary.”
This was the best Leta could hope for. That Abby had not shut her down with a thin lipped, stern glare, was nothing short of amazing.
They sat in silence and watched the girl in the yellow sundress. Leta’s great granddaughter. Abby’s great great granddaughter. The girl was walking in and out of the house, carefully setting small glass jars on the steps of the while house, where there were 6 jars, she returned with what appeared to be a metal pie pan. She carefully walked in her bare feet to an area of the lawn that had soft mud in it. She scooped the mud in her hands and walked it back to the house where she set it in the pan with a soft “plop”. She opened the small jars one by one, sniffing at their tops until she found one that suited her. She went to sprinkle a bit of the contents onto the mud in the pan, but seemingly overshot her sprinkle and created a cloud of dark brown powder around her that she tried to sweep away with her hand in front of her face, but not before she let out a sneeze.
The breeze carried the smell over to the wood slatted house, through the window to the women. Leta was confused. “Cloves? What on earth….?”