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More Stories From Grandma's Attic
By Arleta Richardson
David C. CookCopyright © 1979 Arleta Richardson
All rights reserved.
The Nuisance in Ma's Kitchen
When Grandma called from the backyard, I knew I was in for it. She was using her would-you-look-at-this voice, which usually meant I was responsible for something.
"What, Grandma?" I asked once I reached the spot where she was hanging up the washing.
"Would you look at this?" she asked. "I just went into the kitchen for more clothespins and came back out to find this."
I looked where she was pointing. One of my kittens had crawled into the clothes basket and lay sound asleep on a clean sheet.
"If you're going to have kittens around the house, you'll have to keep an eye on them. Otherwise leave them in the barn where they belong. It's hard enough to wash sheets once without doing them over again."
Grandma headed toward the house with the soiled sheet, and I took the kitten back to the barn. But I didn't agree that it belonged there. I would much rather have had the whole family of kittens in the house with me. Later I mentioned this to Grandma.
"I know," she said. "I felt the same way when I was your age. If it had been up to me, I would have moved every animal on the place into the house every time it rained or snowed."
"Didn't your folks let any pets in the house?" I asked.
"Most of our animals weren't pets," Grandma admitted. "But there were a few times when they were allowed in. If an animal needed special care, it stayed in the kitchen. I really enjoyed those times, especially if it was one I could help with."
"Tell me about one," I said, encouraging her to tell me another story about her childhood.
"I remember one cold spring," she began, "when Pa came in from the barn carrying a tiny goat."
* * *
"I'm not sure we can save this one." Pa held the baby goat up for us to see. "The nanny had twins last night, and she'll only let one come near her. I'm afraid this one's almost gone."
Ma agreed and hurried to find an old blanket and a box for a bed. She opened the oven door, put the box on it, and gently took the little goat and laid it on the blanket. It didn't move at all. It just lay there, barely breathing.
"Oh, Ma," I said. "Do you think it will live? Shouldn't we give it something to eat?"
"It's too weak to eat right now," Ma replied. "Let it rest and get warm. Then we'll try to feed it."
Fortunately it was Saturday, and I didn't have to go to school. I sat on the floor next to the oven and watched the goat. Sometimes it seemed as though it had stopped breathing, and I would call Ma to look.
"It's still alive," she assured me. "It just isn't strong enough to move yet. You wait there and watch if you want to, but don't call me again unless it opens its eyes."
When Pa and my brothers came in for dinner, Reuben stopped and looked down at the tiny animal. "Doesn't look like much, does it?"
I burst into tears. "It does so!" I howled. "It looks just fine! Ma says it's going to open its eyes. Don't discourage it!"
Reuben backed off in surprise, and Pa came over to comfort me. "Now, Reuben wasn't trying to harm that goat. He just meant that it doesn't ... look like a whole lot."
I started to cry again, and Ma tried to soothe me. "Crying isn't going to help that goat one bit," she said. "When it gets stronger, it will want something to eat. I'll put some milk on to heat while we have dinner."
I couldn't leave my post long enough to go to the table, so Ma let me hold my plate in my lap. I ate dinner watching the goat. Suddenly it quivered and opened its mouth. "It's moving, Ma!" I shouted. "You'd better bring the milk!"
Ma soaked a rag in the milk, and I held it while the little goat sucked it greedily. By the time it had fallen asleep again, I was convinced that it would be just fine.
And it was! By evening the little goat was standing on its wobbly legs and began to baa loudly for more to eat. "Pa, maybe you'd better bring its box into my room," I suggested at bedtime.
"Whatever for?" Pa asked. "It will keep warm right here by the stove. We'll look after it during the night. Don't worry."
"And we aren't bringing your bed out here," Ma added, anticipating my next suggestion. "You'll have enough to do, watching that goat during the day."
Of course Ma was right. As the goat got stronger, he began to look for things to do. At first he was content to grab anything within reach and pull it. Dish towels, apron strings, and tablecloth corners all fascinated him. I kept busy trying to move things out of his way.
From the beginning the little goat took a special liking to Ma, but she was not flattered. "I can't move six inches in this kitchen without stumbling over that animal," she sputtered. "He can be sound asleep in his box one minute and sitting on my feet the next. I don't know how much longer I can tolerate him in here."
As it turned out, it wasn't much longer. The next Monday, Ma prepared to do the washing in the washtub Pa had placed on two chairs near the woodpile. Ma always soaked the clothes in cold water first, then transferred them to the boiler on the stove.
I was in my room when I heard her shouting, "Now you put that down! Come back here!"
I ran to the kitchen door and watched as the goat circled the table with one of Pa's shirts in his mouth. Ma was right behind him, but he managed to stay a few feet ahead of her.
"Step on the shirt, Ma!" I shouted as I ran into the room. "Then he'll have to stop!"
I started around the table the other way, hoping to head him off. But the goat seemed to realize that he was outnumbered, for he suddenly turned and ran toward the chairs that held the washtub.
"Oh, no!" Ma cried. "Not that way!"
But it was too late! Tub, water, and clothes splashed to the floor. The goat danced stiff-legged through the soggy mess with a surprised look on his face.
"That's enough!" Ma said. "I've had all I need of that goat. Take him out and tie him in the yard, Mabel. Then bring me the mop, please."
I knew better than to say anything, but I was worried about what would happen to the goat. If he couldn't come back in the kitchen, where would he sleep?
Pa had the answer to that. "He'll go to the barn tonight."
"But, Pa," I protested, "he's too little to sleep in the barn. Besides, he'll think we don't like him anymore!"
"He'll think right," Ma said. "He's a menace, and he's not staying in my kitchen another day."
"But I like him," I replied. "I feel sorry for him out there alone. If he has to sleep in the barn, let me go out and sleep with him!"
My two brothers looked at me in amazement.
"You?" Roy exclaimed. "You won't even walk past the barn after dark, let alone go in!"
Everyone knew he was right. I had never been very brave about going outside after dark. But I was more concerned about the little goat than I was about myself.
"I don't care," I said stubbornly. "He'll be scared out there, and he's littler than I am."
Ma didn't say anything, probably because she thought I'd change my mind before dark. But I didn't. When Pa started for the barn that evening, I was ready to go with him. Ma saw that I was determined, so she brought me a blanket.
"You'd better wrap up in this," she said. "The hay is warm, but it's pretty scratchy."
I took the blanket and followed Pa and the goat out to the barn. The more I thought about the long, dark night, the less it seemed like a good idea, but I wasn't going to give in or admit that I was afraid.
Pa found a good place for me to sleep. "This is nice and soft and out of the draft. You'll be fine here."
I rolled up in the blanket, hugging the goat close to me as I watched Pa check the animals. The light from the lantern cast long, scary shadows through the barn, and I thought about asking Pa if he would stay with me. I knew better, though, and all too soon he was ready to leave.
"Good night, Mabel. Sleep well," he said as he closed the barn door behind him. I doubted that I would sleep at all. If it hadn't been for the goat and my brothers who would laugh at me, I would have returned to the house at once. Instead I closed my eyes tightly and began to say my prayers. In a few moments the barn door opened, and Reuben's voice called to me.
"Mabel," he said, "it's just me." He came over to where I lay, and I saw that he had a blanket under his arm. "I thought I'd sleep out here tonight too. I haven't slept in the barn for a long time. You don't mind, do you?"
"Oh, no. That's fine." I turned over and fell asleep at once.
When I awoke in the morning, the goat and Reuben were both gone. Soon I found the goat curled up by his mother.
"Will you be sleeping in the barn again tonight?" Ma asked me at breakfast.
"No, I don't think so," I said. "I'll take care of the goat during the day, but I guess his mother can watch him at night."
* * *
Grandma laughed at the memory. "After I grew up, I told Reuben how grateful I was that he came out to stay with me. I wonder how my family ever put up with all my foolishness."
Grandma went back into the house, and I wandered out to the barn to see the little kittens. I decided I wouldn't be brave enough to spend the night there even if I had a big brother to keep me company!CHAPTER 2
"Something is wrong with this, Grandma," I said. "It doesn't have as many stitches as I started out with."
Grandma took my knitting and looked at it carefully.
"You dropped a stitch back here," she said. Using a crochet hook, she worked the missing stitch back up to the needle.
"It's easier to pick up a stitch as soon as it's dropped than it is to go back and get it later. Sometimes you have to take your work out all the way back to the mistake."
Grandma handed the knitting back to me and picked up her own work. "I remember that I never had much patience with doing things over when I was your age. In fact, one time I decided not to bother, and I was sorry about it afterward."
"Were you knitting something?" I asked.
"No," Grandma replied. "It was a sampler I was embroidering. It was in the spring, just before school was out."
* * *
The teacher had announced early in the year that there would be a contest. Everyone in the room would enter some kind of handwork to be judged by the school-board members the last day of school. The prize would be a book—and we didn't have many books of our own back then.
I determined that I would win the prize and announced my intentions at the supper table the very day we found out about the contest. "I'm going to have a new book the last day of school," I said to the family.
"You are?" Pa said. "Are you saving all your money to get one?" Pa knew that I didn't have any money or any prospects of getting any, so I knew he was just fooling.
I shook my head. "No. I'll get a new book for winning the contest for the best handwork."
"What makes you think you'll win?" Roy asked. "I'm going to enter the contest too, you know."
"Yes, but I'm a more carefuler worker than you are," I replied.
"You mean a 'more careful' worker," Ma corrected me. Then she eyed me thoughtfully. "On the other hand, you aren't the most careful worker I've ever seen."
"I will be this time," I said confidently. "I won't hurry, and I'll take lots of pains to do it just right. And besides, I already prayed about it. I asked God to let me win."
This seemed to settle the matter for me. Since I knew the Lord answered prayer, I had no question about winning. Even when Pa reminded me that God wasn't going to do the work for me, I was still sure I would win.
The next day my friend Sarah Jane and I decided that we would enter the sewing division and make a sampler. Between our two homes we would surely find enough brightly colored thread to work with, and a square of white linen was not hard to come by.
"What are you going to say on yours?" Sarah Jane asked.
"I haven't decided yet," I replied. "What are you putting on yours?"
"I think I'll put 'home is where the heart is' and make a border of hearts and flowers. Doesn't that sound pretty?"
"Yes, it does," I said. "I think I'd like something about friends on mine."
"How about 'a friend loveth at all times'?" Sarah Jane suggested. "That was our Bible verse last week."
"That's good. I'll use that. We'd better practice on something else first though. The one for the contest has to be perfect."
Sarah Jane agreed, and we began drawing the patterns for our letters and flowers. When we finally had them just right, we carefully transferred the work to the cloth.
In the weeks that followed, we used every spare moment we had to embroider our samplers. I did the border with little flowers and leaves first, and I thought it looked quite pretty. Ma agreed.
"You are doing better than I expected, Mabel," she said. "If you do as well on the words, you may have a chance at winning that book."
"Of course I'll win, Ma! Sarah Jane's looks nice, but it's not as smooth as mine. She said so herself."
"Just don't be disappointed if you aren't first," Ma warned. "It doesn't pay to be too sure of yourself."
But I was sure of myself. I just knew that mine was going to be the best one.
About two weeks before the end of the term, Sarah Jane and I sat on the porch, working on our samplers.
"I have just two more words to do, then my name and the date," I announced, spreading the sampler out on my lap to inspect it again. Sarah Jane looked at it carefully, and an odd expression came over her face.
"Something is wrong, Mabel," she said.
"There can't be!" I exclaimed. "What is it?"
"I think you spelled friend wrong."
Horrified, I looked at the word. Sure enough, I had sewn "a frend loveth at ..."
"Oh, no! What can I do to fix it up?"
"You'll have to take it out, back to there," Sarah Jane said. "There isn't room to squeeze in an i without it looking funny."
"But I don't have time to take it all out," I cried. "Besides, it will leave holes where I sewed it, and that will look worse!"
Sarah Jane was sorry, and so was I. It was either take the stitching all out and probably not finish in time, or leave it in and hope the judges wouldn't notice. Either way, I knew I wouldn't win.
Ma was sympathetic. "I think you should put an i in there, even though it looks crowded. That would be better than having the judges believe you thought it was spelled correctly. As many times as you've looked at that sampler, I can't understand how you missed it."
"That's what Sarah Jane said too," I replied sadly. "When I looked at it, I just thought how pretty it was. I wasn't expecting anything to be wrong. I did so want to win that book! I was sure the Lord would answer my prayers."
"Maybe you should have prayed to do your best rather than to win, Mabel. The Lord is willing to help us, but we need to do all we can with the intelligence He gave us."
I knew Ma was right, but I was pretty sad the day I took the sampler to school. The teacher agreed that if it hadn't been for that mistake, it might have been a winner.
The last day of school was still exciting. When the contest winners were announced, Roy came in first place in the wood-carving division with a small squirrel he had whittled.
"You can be the first one to read my book, Mabel," he offered generously. "Maybe next year you can enter again and win your own prize."
* * *
"That was a good lesson for me," Grandma said. "I was often careless after that, but I was careful not to be quite so positive about what I would do again. And I never blamed the Lord for my mistakes either!"CHAPTER 3
Mrs. Carter's Fright
"Grandma, you never told me you dressed a pig in baby's clothes! What did you do that for?" I asked, wondering why my commonsense grandma would do such a thing, even when she was a little girl like me.
"Oh, Sarah Jane and I should have been whipped for that prank! We frightened poor Mrs. Carter nearly out of her senses. If she hadn't been such a kind, forgiving lady, I'm sure we would have been punished severely."
"Tell me what happened, Grandma," I begged.
"After I get the bread in the oven, we'll sit on the porch," she said. "You can help me pick over the beans for supper."
Soon we were seated on the porch, and Grandma began.
* * *
This story happened right on this porch. At least most of it did. It was a beautiful day in the spring, shortly after school was over for the year. Sarah Jane and I were wandering about, trying to think of the best way to spend the day. We had about decided on a trip to the woods to look for berries when Ma changed our minds.
"Don't go too far from the house, girls," she called. "Mrs. Carter is coming to spend the day sewing, and she's bringing her new baby. I know you'll want to see her."
Of course we did. There weren't a lot of new babies in our community, and Sarah Jane and I both loved them. We even thought Mrs. Carter might let us play with little Lucy. So we hung around the gate and watched the road for the first sight of the Carters' wagon.
Very soon it appeared, and we watched Mr. Carter drive up to the front porch. After helping Mrs. Carter down from the front seat, he went to the back of the wagon and took out a beautiful baby buggy. Sarah Jane and I had never seen one so fine before.
"Oh, Mrs. Carter," I said, "may we push Lucy around in the buggy?"
"We'll be very, very careful," Sarah Jane chimed in.
Excerpted from More Stories From Grandma's Attic by Arleta Richardson. Copyright © 1979 Arleta Richardson. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
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