Read an Excerpt
In Grandma's Attic
Grandma's Attic Series Book One
By Arleta Richardson
David C. CookCopyright © 1974 Arleta Richardson
All rights reserved.
Pride Goes Before a Fall
"Grandma, what is this?"
Grandma looked up from her work. "Good lands, child, where did you find that?"
"In the attic," I replied. "What is it, Grandma?"
Grandma chuckled and answered, "That's a hoop. The kind that ladies wore under their skirts when I was a little girl."
"Did you ever wear one, Grandma?" I asked.
Grandma laughed. "Indeed I did," she said. "In fact, I wore that very one."
Here, I decided, must be a story. I pulled up the footstool and prepared to listen. Grandma looked at the old hoop fondly.
"I only wore it once," she began. "But I kept it to remind me how painful pride can be."
* * *
I was about eight years old when that hoop came into my life. For months I had been begging Ma to let me have a hoopskirt like the big girls wore. Of course that was out of the question. What would a little girl, not even out of calicoes, be doing with a hoopskirt? Nevertheless, I could envision myself walking haughtily to school with the hoopskirt and all the girls watching enviously as I took my seat in the front of the room.
This dream was shared by my best friend and seatmate, Sarah Jane. Together we spent many hours picturing ourselves as fashionable young ladies in ruffles and petticoats. But try as we would, we could not come up with a single plan for getting a hoopskirt of our very own.
Finally, one day in early spring, Sarah Jane met me at the school grounds with exciting news. An older cousin had come to their house to visit, and she had two old hoops that she didn't want any longer. Sarah Jane and I could have them to play with, she said. Play with, indeed! Little did that cousin know that we didn't want to play with them. Here was the answer to our dreams. All day, under cover of our books, Sarah Jane and I planned how we would wear those hoops to church on Sunday.
There was a small problem: How would I get that hoop into the house without Ma knowing about it? And how could either of us get out of the house with them on without anyone seeing us? It was finally decided that I would stop by Sarah Jane's house on Sunday morning. We would have some excuse for walking to church, and after her family had left, we would put on our hoops and prepare to make a grand entrance at the church.
"Be sure to wear your fullest skirt," Sarah Jane reminded me. "And be here early. They're all sure to look at us this Sunday!" If we had only known how true that would be! But of course, we were happily unaware of the disaster that lay ahead.
Sunday morning came at last, and I astonished my family by the speed with which I finished my chores and was ready to leave for church.
"I'm going with Sarah Jane this morning," I announced, and set out quickly before anyone could protest.
All went according to plan. Sarah Jane's family went on in the buggy, cautioning us to hurry and not be late for service. We did have a bit of trouble fastening the hoops around our waists and getting our skirts pulled down to cover them. But when we were finally ready, we agreed that there could not be two finer-looking young ladies in the county than us.
Quickly we set out for church, our hoopskirts swinging as we walked. Everyone had gone in when we arrived, so we were assured the grand entry we desired. Proudly, with small noses tipped up, we sauntered to the front of the church and took our seats.
Alas! No one had ever told us the hazards of sitting down in a hoopskirt without careful practice! The gasps we heard were not of admiration as we had anticipated—far from it! For when we sat down, those dreadful hoops flew straight up in the air! Our skirts covered our faces, and the startled minister was treated to the sight of two pairs of white pantalets and flying petticoats.
Sarah Jane and I were too startled to know how to disentangle ourselves, but our mothers were not. Ma quickly snatched me from the seat and marched me out the door.
The trip home was a silent one. My dread grew with each step. What terrible punishment would I receive at the hands of an embarrassed and upset parent? Although I didn't dare look at her, I knew she was upset because she was shaking. It was to be many years before I learned that Ma was shaking from laughter, and not from anger!
Nevertheless, punishment was in order. My Sunday afternoon was spent with the big Bible and Pa's concordance. My task was to copy each verse I could find that had to do with being proud. That day I was a sorry little girl who learned a lesson about pride going before a fall.
* * *
"And you were never proud again, Grandma?" I asked after she finished the story.
Grandma thought soberly for a moment. "Yes," she replied. "I was proud again. Many times. It was not until I was a young lady and the Lord saved me that I had the pride taken from my heart. But many times when I am tempted to be proud, I remember that horrid hoopskirt and decide that a proud heart is an abomination to the Lord!"CHAPTER 2
When God Knew Best
My day was ruined. I had been promised a trip, and one of those freak, sudden spring storms had come in the night. The ground was covered with snow, and more was falling. Of course we couldn't drive to the city in a storm. I could understand that, couldn't I?
I couldn't. As I poked moodily at my cereal, Grandma bustled cheerfully around the kitchen. How could she be so happy when my whole day lay in bits around my feet?
"What can I do all day? No one can even come to play. How come it had to storm today? It just isn't fair!" I complained.
"Well, child," Grandma replied, "the Lord has a reason for changing your plans. He always knows what is best for us."
This I doubted, but since Grandma was so much better acquainted with the Lord than I was, I didn't like to dispute her. I could see no possible reason for a disappointment like this, and if the Lord did have one, He wasn't telling it to me. Finally finished with breakfast, I stared grumpily out the window. Grandma's voice broke into my unhappy thoughts. "I'm going to tie a quilt today. Maybe you'd like to help." That would be better than nothing, I guessed. The quilt was laid out on the big table and the yarn for tying it was threaded in big needles. In spite of myself, I found the brightly colored quilt pieces fascinating.
"Look, Grandma," I exclaimed. "Isn't this a piece of your dress? I remember it when I was little. I tried to pick the flowers off in church!"
Grandma laughed. "Yes, that was my dress all right. And here's a piece of your uncle's first suit with long pants. Oh, how proud he was of that suit. And here's your mother's first school pinafore."
"This one is pretty, Grandma. What did it come from?" Grandma looked at the square of lavender cotton with small white flowers on it. "Why, that is a piece of my birthday dress," she replied. "I'd almost forgotten about that."
"Which birthday, Grandma? You've had a lot of them."
"Yes," replied Grandma. "I've had a lot of them, but never one like that one. I was twelve years old that year, two years older than you are."
"Tell me about it, Grandma," I begged. "What made that birthday so special?" Grandma thought quietly for a moment. Then she began.
* * *
My birthday came in June. We didn't have much money in the summer. Pa depended on good crops in the fall to supply the money for things we needed and couldn't grow on the farm. But this year, Ma had a surprise for me. She had bought this piece of fabric the fall before and had saved it for a dress for summer.
Oh, it was a pretty dress. There were tiny tucks in the waist, and Ma had put handmade lace around the neck and sleeves. I had never had such a wonderful dress. And it was to be worn on my birthday for a very special occasion. An all-day picnic was to be held in Carter's Grove about ten miles from our home. I would see all my best friends and have a whole glorious day with no chores to worry about.
The dress was hung where I could see it as I helped Ma get the food ready for the picnic. I was so excited that I wasn't really much help, but Ma understood how I felt. I dreamed of nothing but that picnic and the new dress.
The night before the big day, I began to feel funny. My throat scratched and my head hurt. I thought it best not to say anything to Ma, however. Nothing was going to spoil that picnic. But when morning came, the dreadful truth was known. I was sick. I struggled bravely to the table, but Ma took one look and announced, "Mabel has the measles, Pa. You'll have to take the boys and go on to the picnic. I'll stay home with her."
Oh, what a terrible disappointment! Not to be able to wear that beautiful dress, or see my friends, or celebrate my birthday!
Ma did her best to comfort me, but I would not be comforted. "The Lord has a reason for it," she said. But I wouldn't believe it. There couldn't be any reason for a disappointment like this.
I dozed off and on through the day between times of feeling very miserable and sorry for myself. Finally, toward evening, the buggy turned into the lane, and Pa and the boys returned from the picnic. As the boys hurried to the barn to take care of the chores, Pa remarked, "Well, Mabel can be glad she didn't go to the picnic in her nice new dress today."
Glad! Whatever did he mean? How could I be glad to have missed the biggest picnic of the year?
Pa was going on. "Carter's river is pretty high today, and the children were warned to stay away from it. But the little girls forgot, I guess. They wandered too close and slipped in. The current was so strong that they were carried nearly to the pasture before we could get them out. They were a scared bunch of girls, I'll tell you. They all had to be taken home."
Pa looked at me reflectively. "Your friend Sarah Jane ruined her good dress," he said. "And you would have been right with her."
This was true, I knew. We were always together. And what if we hadn't been pulled out in time? Why, this might have been the last birthday I would have had! As the rest of the family ate supper, I thought about the day and Ma's comment that God had a reason for my staying home. Maybe I did believe it after all.
I wore my birthday dress a little late, but whenever I wore it, I was reminded that God orders the lives of His children for their good.
* * *
Grandma and I continued to tie the quilt in silence. I was still disappointed about my missed trip, but if, as Grandma said, God knows what is best for His children, maybe I should just be glad that I was one of them! There would be lots of days ahead for trips to the city—and surely there must be a lot more stories in these quilt squares!CHAPTER 3
The Red Bonnet
One of my favorite squares in Grandma's quilt was a soft red velvet one. When I brushed over it with my finger, it seemed to change color. One way was dark, and brushing the other way made it look lighter.
"Grandma," I said, "did you have something made out of this material?"
"Yes," said Grandma. "I was the last in the line to have that. When Ma was married, she brought many things with her to Michigan. One of her most prized possessions was a pair of red velvet drapes. When she and Pa moved into the new log cabin, Ma decided that the drapes wouldn't look especially good at the cabin windows, so they were cut to cover a cushion for Ma's rocker. Another piece made a pretty pincushion for her sewing basket. The rest of the material was put in the big trunk to be used later when the need arose.
"The winter when I was four, Ma brought out the red velvet and made a coat and bonnet for me."
Grandma looked fondly at the soft square. "It seems as though I can still feel how soft that bonnet and coat were. I wore them for several winters, but the time Ma remembered the best was the first time I had them on."
* * *
We lived several miles from the nearest neighbor, and it was often lonely for Ma with just the two boys and me to keep her company during the day. So when Pa came in one evening to announce that there was to be a sing at the Carters' the following Friday, Ma began at once to make plans for the big event. Shoes were brushed and polished, the boys' clothes were put in good order, and I would wear my new coat and bonnet for the first time.
Everyone was excited about the outing because it was so seldom that we had a chance to meet with the neighbors for social time.
When Friday arrived, it was snowing. The ground was covered, and more snow continued to fall throughout the day. We children were sure that this would put an end to our trip, and we couldn't enjoy the snow as much as we usually did. But Pa was not to be deterred by a little snow.
"I'll hitch the horse to the sleigh," he told Ma. "You get some quilts to wrap around the children, and I'll fill the sleigh with straw. They'll be warm enough."
With great excitement we were dressed and wrapped warmly for the trip. The snow had stopped and the stars were beginning to come out when we reached the Carters'. I don't remember much about the evening, aside from hearing the singing and talking, for I went to sleep on Ma's lap before it was time to go home.
Ma told me later what happened that night that made it so memorable for her. When they were ready to leave, Ma put my coat and bonnet on me, and Pa wrapped me in a big quilt. Then he put me in the sleigh with the boys, where I continued to sleep during the ride home.
I can remember waking and seeing a light shining from the cabin door. I climbed out of the sleigh and headed straight for my bed. I slept in the trundle bed that slid under Ma's bed. Normally it was pulled out at night for me, but since we had been away all evening, my bed was not ready. This made no difference to me; I just climbed in with my clothes on and promptly fell asleep again.
No one had seen me enter the cabin. Roy had gone to shut the gate, Reuben was helping Pa unhitch the horse, and Ma had returned to the front of the sleigh to get the blanket and warming brick she and Pa had used. After putting these things in the cabin, Ma returned to the sleigh to get me.
She reached into the straw and pulled the quilt toward her. It was empty!
"Pa!" she called frantically. "Pa, Mabel isn't here!"
Pa ran to the sleigh.
"Now, Maryanne," he said, "she has to be there. Where else would she be?"
He climbed into the sleigh and held the lantern high while he looked through the straw. Ma pulled the quilt out and began to shake it, as though she might have overlooked me in the dark. As she did so, my red bonnet fell out on the snow.
"Oh, Pa," she wailed. "Here's Mabel's bonnet. Now I know we've lost her. She must have fallen out of the sleigh along the road somewhere. We'll have to go back and look for her."
The boys stood silently by as Ma continued to shake the quilt, and Pa felt around through the straw. "Didn't you boys watch out for your sister?" he asked them. "Didn't you see her when she fell out?"
They shook their heads dumbly, and Roy began to cry. Reuben protested that I couldn't have fallen out; he surely would have seen me fall.
Finally Pa told Ma to get the boys to bed. He said he would go back over the road and search for me. When the boys were in bed, Ma began to walk back and forth across the little cabin, clutching my red bonnet and praying that the Lord would help Pa find me before I froze to death.
When Pa returned home much later and reported that there was no sign of me, Ma was in despair. Pa had gone back to the Carters', and Brother Carter and his boys were joining in the search. With lanterns swinging, the men tramped through the ditches beside the road, calling my name. When they had finally covered all the ground several times, they came back to the cabin to decide what was to be done.
Ma had fixed hot coffee, and they sat around the fire, warming their feet and hands before starting out again.
"Well," Pa said, "we'll just have to trust the Lord to take care of her. I can't imagine where we could have lost her. I know she was in the sleigh when we left for home."
About that time I must have awakened and heard voices, for I crawled out from under the big bed to see what was going on. Ma and Pa stared in disbelief when they saw me, still dressed in my red coat, standing in the middle of the cabin. Of course I had no explanation. I had been sleepy and had gone to bed. It was as simple as that to me. The relieved Carters left for their long ride home, and Ma put me back to bed.
It was a long time before Ma or Pa could see the funny side of that evening. They made sure it never happened again by keeping me in front with them whenever we went somewhere in the sleigh. But in later years they laughed about the night I "fell out of the sleigh" and caused a search party to spend many anxious hours looking for me.CHAPTER 4
Ma's Busy Day
Grandma's quilt was almost finished. We had been tying it and talking about the brightly colored squares that had so many good stories in them.
"I'd like a dress like this, Grandma," I said, pointing to a square with tiny green leaves and flowers. "This is pretty."
"Yes," replied Grandma. "That was pretty when it was made up. It was one of Ma's dresses before she made it into an apron. In fact, a lot of these squares came from Ma's aprons. She was never seen without an apron on anyplace but in church."
Grandma laughed. "Pa never let her forget that she tied an apron over her nightgown one night before she got into bed! I remember another day that Ma didn't live down for a long time."
Grandma sat down by the table, and I pulled up the kitchen stool.
* * *
When Ma dressed in the morning, she put on a clean apron over her housedress. Then she carried a fresh one with her to the kitchen to hang on the back door. This was to make sure that, should we have company, a clean apron in which to greet the visitor would be nearby.
This morning, as usual, Ma hung her extra apron on the door and prepared to fix breakfast. I was setting the table, and the boys were coming from the barn with the milk. Ma hurried to open the door and let them in. Pep, our big dog, had also seen them coming and figured this might be a chance to get into the warm kitchen. He lunged for the door just as Roy was going through. One of the milk pails flew into the air, and Roy and Pep were covered with fresh, warm milk.
"Oh, that dog," Ma sputtered. "There's only one thing he can do better than make a mess, and that's eat." She mopped up the milk, sent Roy to change his clothes, and rubbed at the front of her apron with a towel.
"I haven't time to change now," she said, grabbing the apron from the door and putting it on over the spattered one.
Excerpted from In Grandma's Attic by Arleta Richardson. Copyright © 1974 Arleta Richardson. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
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