Belle slowly moved a low padded stool over to where here mother sat. She carefully lowered herself to the stool, and lay her gray head on her mother’s knee. At a time like this, no matter how old you were, you were always your mother’s child. Ellen looked at the head resting on her. She thought of that hair when it was gray and faded, when it was brown and healthy and long, when it was finer and childlike and she had brushed it at night before bed, and neatened it into braids in the morning before the day truly began. She pictured that head covered with fair baby down, that tiny little body nested in the crook of her elbow. Ellen swallowed and blinked twice. This mother love that never faded, the mother memories that did. She breathed deep, hoping for a moment to catch a whiff of baby smell long gone. She let out her breath and said only, “Well.” in a way that was final and ending of her story. There was nothing left to say today. Nothing more to share that wouldn’t wait until a different day. another day when it seemed her turn to talk long and wear out the ears of her listeners.
When the facts were strung together like that, it seemed a bald and harsh life. It left out the stories of the farm, of the quilting, of the boys bringing her flowers for the table, of having enough, of games and popcorn and church socials. Of the smell of rain and walks along horses. Of having family close by – of sometimes longing to get away from them all. It had been a long good life and she was glad it was hers. There would be other days for story telling like this. In the blink of an eye and also years away, the next would join them at the table and the old stories would be new to someone again. Another would be welcomed and comforted and shown the way of the watching. But not yet, not today.
The women collectively rearranged themselves. Mothers looked at their daughters. Leta looked out the window at the house where her daughter was. Wondering what she was saying or doing to help or … not help… her granddaughter. It was hard to tell what words would feel right to say and what words might make all the difference. Leta half expected to see the girl slamming defiantly out of the house, angry gestures and spinning gravel. Sometimes it was hard to have things in common with the heart of the person who was aching in such a way. LaVerne might get it all wrong, there was just no way to tell until it passed. However it passed would only show in time. it was a curiosity how love worked. Perhaps the girl was right and this was the one for her. Perhaps she would also learn that could be more than one right in this world. Hopefully whatever happened would work out in the end. Aggravating as it was, only time would tell. The women knew many things, but telling of the future was not something they knew. It was both a bane and boon that they did not know what was coming. But then, if they knew everything, then life … or afterlife… would be quite tedious for sure. They had just a little to keep them entertained, so it really was better to just watch it unfold and see when they were supposed to step in at all. not that stepping in was easy. Well, the act of stepping in was easy enough, but they all had to agree to do it, and getting that table full of women to unanimously agree to anything required an act of God. Leta laughed to herself as she thought that. No kidding.
Leta’s thoughts were broken by Kesiah speaking up. “I was widowed almost longer than I was married. If you add in that I got married late, I spent most of my life without a husband. A rarity in my day.” The women nodded. It was true. She had spent 25 years without a husband, after hers had died. This was unheard of in a time when men and women would marry out of convenience and merely hope for the best when it came to compatibility. Kesiah stayed independent after her husband died. The women could only wonder if this was by choice or by circumstance.