Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Lifeguard (11/09/06)
TITLE: Will Be Safe
By Noreen Ophoff
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The squeaky sound of the clothesline wheel was being turned to make it taut as the line stretched from the house to the big maple tree, then to the garage, ending at the windmill.
Eight year old Ally slid out from under the blue flannel sheets and cream wool blanket tucked on her iron bed. Honey-colored broad hardwood planks on her bedroom floor were covered with the little town she built yesterday. The tiny family members were in their beds, and crib, Collie dog at the door. She placed the brown rubber cows, horses, pigs, and little white lamb in separate stalls in the sprawling pretend farmyard.
She quietly changed from her red pajamas with snowmen, into her lined jeans and orange sweatshirt with the hood. To miss the creaks on the stairs, Ally walked way over on the north side, so her siblings could sleep in on this Saturday morning.
Mama heard the footsteps and knew it was her youngest child. She figured her daughter was heading for her favorite spot out in the woods, where her dog, Poppy, would follow along. Mama's heart jerked a little, and two tears slipped out. The lump in her throat ached, but she turned back to the bread she was kneading, planning ahead to the succession of loads of clothes lined up for the wringer washer.
With a quick "good morning Mama", Ally ran down the gravel driveway, past the barn and chicken coop, along the curvy lane, lined with walnut trees. The meadow grasses were tinged with Autumn yellow on this cool October morning. Dog and girl climbed the sandy hill to the gnarled tree where they loved to spend their days.
Bluejays and chickadees sang their comforting songs to this tomboy. Ally climbed the beechnut trees while Poppy followed scents of critters through brush and thorny thickets. Sun warmed the sturdy arms with sleeves pushed up, and the impish face with freckles over her nose, bright blue eyes, and brown hair with hints of red.
Sometimes Ally's face was streaked with tears. Her Daddy had died in April, very unexpectedly, especially to her. The older kids may have had an inkling of the possibility because he had had cancer surgery and heart surgery in recent years. To Ally, it was a deep, wounding shock.
Yet her days went on. There was school, with spelling new words, and memorizing jumprope rhymes. Mama always made sure lost buttons were replaced on the plaid school dresses or the yellow Sunday dress. Saddle shoes came from Huttenga's Shoe Store when the old shoes were outgrown or worn out. The kids all got to the dentist, and Dr. Bass came to see them when they had mumps or strep throat.
Who guarded Ally's life? Who prayed in whispered phrases into the wee hours of each morning? Who prayed for patience and kindness, the strength to sacrifice her own needs for the needs of children, and farm and cows and chickens and apple trees? Who did all these things......Ally's Mom. Through homemade bread and icebox cookies, shirts pressed on the mangle, hand-me-downs and fruits squeezed through the Foley Food Mill, Mama cherished the lives of her little Ally, and all the kids.
Sometimes when purple clouds stretch across a golden sunset, Ally's Mom sighs deeply. She thanks her Lord, Jesus, for safeguarding their lives. She gives thanks for family love to sustain them through whatever comes ----cows in the orchard, shoes floating in the creek, broken arms----whatever it is, they'll be safe, in the hands of Jesus.
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