Authors: Janette Oke
Tags: #Fiction, #General, #Romance, #Christianity, #Fiction - Religious, #Christian, #Religious - General, #Religious, #Love stories, #Christianity: General, #Large type books, #Romance - General, #Large Print, #Davis family (Fictitious characters : Oke)
a houseful of children leave one by one. She thought she understood better now.
"But life is like thet," Marty acknowledged, squaring her shoulders. "One mustn't stay pinin' fer the past. Thet don't change a thing. One must be thankful fer what the present offers--what the future can promise."
Marty lifted a corner of her apron to dab at her eyes. When she looked back at Belinda she was smiling.
"My" she said, "I wouldn't want a one of 'em any different than they turned out to be. Independent! Responsible! Grownup! I look at folks round me, an' I think how blessed I've been. All good children, with keen minds and sturdy bodies. Thet's a powerful lot to be thankin' God fer."
Belinda knew that Marty meant the words with all her heart. She nodded in understanding.
"Let's have us some tea," Marty hastened on. "I'll git it ready whilst ya call Kate. She gits lonesome, Kate does. She still misses her Amy Jo." Marty shrugged resignedly. "But she always will," she admitted. "Thet kind of lonesomeness never goes away."
Belinda left the kitchen. She did not hurry on her way to fetch Kate. She was looking at things--at life--far differently than she had ever done before.
She had never considered loneliness as something universal. She had never supposed it to be anything other than temporary and something to be resisted. In her innocence, she assumed it should be, and could be, easily disposed of. Fixed up. Remedied. And now her mother was calmly, though with open painfulness, admitting that lonesomeness was an unavoidable part of life.
When one loved, one was vulnerable. There was no guarantee that things would remain constant. Older folks died.
Youngsters grew up. Children chose lives of their own. Nothing stayed the same for long.
It was a troubling thought to Belinda. Wasn't there some way--any way--a person could hang on to what was good? Couldn't one have some control of tomorrow?
But she already knew the answer to that. Would Missie and Ellie be living out west if Marty could have held on to them without at least partially destroying them? Would Amy Jo be miles away from home if Kate could have kept her and given her freedom to grow at the same time? One could not control life, it seemed. Particularly the lives of those you loved. To love was to give freedom. To give freedom often meant pain and loss.
Then why even have a family?
Belinda asked herself.
Why let yourself love? Maybe without intending to I've chosen a wiser way. If I never love, never marry, never have children, I won't have to face what Mama--or Kate--is facing now. Is that the answer? Perhaps! Perhaps it is!
For a moment Belinda felt satisfied. She had solved one of life's riddles for herself.
And then another thought came.
But I already love--it's too late. I was born loving, I guess . . . or I was taught to love awfully early. I love deeply. Pa . . . Ma . . . each of the family. Aunt Virgie. Even Windsor and Potter and the household staff in a special way. I'm not safe. Not even now. There is no way that anyone can be safe from the pain of love. Not ever. Not as long as you love
anyone at all.
And Belinda knew better than to assume that life would be better with no one--not one soul--to love.
I guess it's like Mama says,
she admitted at last.
One just has to let go of the past, enjoy the present, and look forward to whatever the future holds.
She lifted her face heavenward. "But, oh my, God," she said in a whisper. "Sometimes that's hard. Awfully hard."
A few days later Belinda decided to make a visit to the little log house. She asked Marty about it. After all, it had belonged to Clare and Kate long after it had been Marty's home. They might still feel some ownership and not be comfortable with others snooping about. Belinda didn't want to intrude.
"Go ahead," responded Marty.
"You don't think Kate would mind?"
"Mind? Why no. I think she's as happy to be in a new home as I was."
"But I don't want. . ." began Belinda.
"She's moved everything out," Marty assured her. "The house is totally bare now. S'pose it would be wise to tear it down . . . but there it still stands."
"Why . . . why. . . ?" began Belinda, but she didn't finish the question. She couldn't imagine the farmyard without the old house.
But Marty must have misunderstood, and instead of answering why the house would never be torn down, she tried to explain instead why it was still standing.
She shrugged. "I dunno," she admitted. "Maybe yer pa an' me are jest sentimental. I dunno. We keep sayin' things like, 'Dan might want it,' and stuff like thet. We even talk about makin' it into somethin' else--a granary or a chicken coop-- but we won't. I think we both know thet." Marty chuckled, amused by the little game she and Clark continued to play between them.
"Well, I need a key. Is it locked?" Belinda asked.
"Oh my, no. Don't s'pose it's ever been locked. Don't know if we even could. . .'less one put on a padlock of some sort."
Belinda walked down the short trail that led to what used to be Amy Jo's house, feet dragging. She wasn't sure if it was really wise to go there. But she felt she had to--really must do it--if she was to put the past to rest.
The door opened slowly, creaking its complaint on rusty hinges. Belinda pushed harder and managed to squeeze herself through the small opening that she forced from the tight-sticking door.
The back entry had the same brown walls, the same square in the middle of the floor that opened up to the dumbwaiter into the cellar. More than once she and Amy Jo had been scolded for playing with the ropes.
Belinda stood and looked around. The room seemed very small--and bare. There were no coats on coat hooks. No boots in the corner. No pail of slop for the pigs. No life here at all.
Belinda shivered slightly and moved farther into the kitchen.
Belinda could not believe her eyes. The kitchen looked as if it belonged in a dollhouse. She had always thought it--well, at least adequate if not big, but now it looked so small and simple. Much too simple for a woman to really live with each day. The colors were still the same. There was an outdated calendar on the wall, a picture of a little boy holding a brown, curly-haired puppy on the front. Belinda guessed that Kate had not had the heart to discard the picture when the year ended. The last sheet with its month had been discarded.
Belinda crossed into the room that had been used by the family. Memories flooded her mind as she looked about the small area. Here she and Amy Jo had flopped on the floor, lying on their tummies, to draw. Here they had stretched out before the open fire to eat popcorn and giggle over boys. They had rocked in the big rocker that had sat right over there. They had bundled up baby dolls and propped them against the mantel.
She didn't bother with the bedroom Clare and Kate had shared, and she didn't check the room the boys had used. Instead, she passed directly to the room that had been Amy Jo's. It had always been a pale green and white--until Amy Jo herself had decided to change that. Amy Jo had wanted a room that was "vibrant." She had been allowed to have her way, and "vibrant" her room had become.
Belinda would have been terribly disappointed if the room had been changed--but except for being unfurnished, it was the same. For a minute Belinda stood stock-still, the memories flooding over her and giving her goose bumps. Then she shut her eyes and pictured again the room as she had last seen it. The bed--right there. Against that wall, the dresser with Amy Jo's socks and undies. Amy Jo's nightie always hanging from the peg in the corner. The little desk where she sat to do her drawing. The dolls, the books, the paints and pencils. Belinda could see it all as vividly as if it were actually before her.
And then she opened her eyes slowly. The empty room stared back at her, the marks on the floor where the bed castors had rolled. The smoky blue paper with its small violet flowers and green leaves was marked here and there by a tack or a smudge. There was a rubbed spot where the desk had stood. Amy Jo had spent so many hours at that desk that she must have soiled the paper. Perhaps Kate had even needed to wipe it with a damp cloth on more than one occasion.
Belinda looked again at the room. In her mind she could hear the childish voice of her then-constant companion. "Oh, Lindy!" Amy Jo would exclaim in exasperation, and Belinda smiled. They were so different, but so close.
With a shiver Belinda turned from the room. Memories were not always pleasant, she decided. Memories could bring pain, too.
She retraced her steps without looking back and slipped
through the door into the afternoon sunshine. The shiver passed up her spine again. She felt she had suffered a chill. She tugged the complaining heavy wooden door tightly closed behind her.
On the path to the white house, Belinda's thoughts were delivering a sharp message:
Nothing is the same. The place, the family--nothing! I am not the same. I love my family. . . but I don't fit here anymore.
You don't fit. You don't fit,
her shoes seemed to squeak with each step that Belinda took along the path back to the big house. She had a hard time to keep from running.
Return to Boston
Belinda knew the time of her visit home went far too quickly for her mother, but the days dragged somewhat for Belinda. Each morning as she climbed from her bed to face the inconvenience of no bathroom, she was reminded that she was no longer the young girl who had occupied the room where she now slept. No longer did she fit in with the farmhouse, the outdated clothes in the closet, the hens and horses. boston had changed all of that.
Belinda told herself,
it must have been Boston.
There was only one place where she felt she still fit. The little country church--for though the people dressed plainly, the warmth and the preaching tugged at her heart. She had longed for such messages, had ached to be part of such worshipful services. She had sometimes sensed deeply within herself that something important seemed to be missing in the big stone church in Boston.
Yes, in the little country church Belinda felt at home--all in one piece. Whole and complete. But one could not take refuge in the church all week long.
For Belinda, the family devotional time was an extension of the Sunday worship service. She felt mentally and spiritually restored and nourished during the time spent with her mother and father as they read from the Word, discussed thoroughly
each Scripture passage, and spent unhurried time together in prayer.
This is what I've missed the most,
The spiritual feeding. The sharing. It's hard to grow if a person is not nourished.
Belinda decided to make each day at home a source of spiritual refreshment. Often the morning hours slipped by while the three sat and talked and prayed.
"I knew I was missing--what does one call it--'fellowship'? These talking and sharing times," said Belinda one morning as she sat with her mother and father after their devotional time, "but I hadn't realized just how much."
"Don't ya have anyone to talk to?" asked Marty
"Well, not about. . . about spiritual things. Not really talk." "What 'bout yer church?" asked Clark. "Does yer preacher give the Gospel?"
"Well . . . yes . . . sort of," faltered Belinda.
Clark and Marty both looked questioningly at their daughter.
"He . . . he preaches that Christ is the Son of God," went on Belinda. "And he preaches that Christ came to bring salvation to man. He even talks about our sin and that we need to turn away from it . . . to repent of our sinful deeds. He uses all the words. Repentance. Redemption. Salvation."
Clark nodded, looking pleased at Belinda's report.
"But he never really tells people how to find that forgiveness or claim that salvation for themselves," Belinda went on. "Sometimes I get so frustrated, wishing that he'd go that one step further . . . that he'd tell folks to ask God for His forgiveness . . . to ask Christ to come into their lives and take over. Trying to be good--all on one's own--isn't the answer."
Clark nodded solemnly. "Does he encourage folks to read
the Scriptures for themselves?" he asked.
"No . . . no, I don't think I've ever heard him suggest it."
Clark was shaking his head, his eyes full of concern. "Thet's a shame," he said soberly. "If folks was readin' the Word, they might discover on their own how to find salvation."
"That's why I worry about Aunt Virgie," went on Belinda. "I'm afraid she just doesn't understand that she has to make a decision herself--a commitment."
"We'll pray along with ya," put in Marty "We've already been a prayin', but now thet we know how things are, we'll do it even harder."
Belinda nodded, appreciating the concern of her parents. She was glad they would join with her in her prayer concern.
Many things began to crowd into her visit at home. Belinda spent some time with Luke and Abbie, with Arnie and Anne, with Clare and Kate, and she enjoyed catching up on the happenings of each family. She and Marty hitched the team and drove to Nandry's, Belinda's foster sister. Nandry and Josh were alone now, too. All their children had homes of their own, and Nandry boasted proudly about their seven grandchildren.
Belinda was also brought up-to-date on Clae and Joe. They had never come home to the little town they had left so many years before--though they had always intended to. And now Belinda felt that she knew the reason. Clae and her pastor husband, Joe, would fit in here no better than she herself did.
Belinda heard all the news of Willie and Missie, Lane and Ellie, and their families in the West. She was especially anxious for every scrap of information she could gather about Amy Jo and Melissa. Without consciously realizing it, she found herself expecting that the two girls would still be there at the farm, now that she was home.