“Emily, you come back here and finish your house chores first!”
But I was down the driveway and on the well-worn path before the screen door slammed, the empty pail banging against my leg. I could taste the sun-kissed strawberries before I ever reached the patch. Mama would be so proud of my pickings she might forget about the dusting, I reasoned with my conscience. White baby butterflies skimmed across the edge of my vision as I bent over double to taste another juicy berry. I closed my eyes, savoring the succulent flavor.
Two hours later, I was helping Mama stem and wash the bounty for preserves and whatnot in our spacious farmhouse kitchen. Baby Ben sat in the high chair Papa had fashioned from one of our felled trees, pounding on the tray with a spoon. Denny and Abbie were at school and Lem was helping Pa out in the Back Forty.
It was Friday, and tonight the whole family would sit by the hearth, eating fresh strawberry pie and listening to Amos and Andy on the radio.
“OH, IT'S GOING TO BE A GOOD DAY,” I EXCLAIMED AS I AWOKE.
I arise and walk through the bedrooms one by one carefully, my injured ankle slowing me down.
“I must have sprained my ankle out on the pond yesterday when I was ice skating,” I murmur as I continue my search for the attic. It is my favorite place to read and daydream and play dress-up from the trunks of antiquated mothball ridden clothing stored there.
“EMILY, WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN THE LAUNDRY ROOM? THOSE CLOTHES ARE ALL DIRTY. COME ON OUT, NOW, AND JOIN THE OTHERS—WE'RE PLAYING BINGO TODAY, REMEMBER?”
I sit down on the hearth and put the buttons on the correct spaces as Denny calls out the numbers.
“No fair, Abby! Ma, she’s cheating again!” I accuse, disgruntled.
“Bin-go! I win!” shouts Denny triumphantly, brandishing his spilled card over his head.”
Disappointed, I hang my head and begin to cry.
“WHY, EMILY, IT'S OKAY. DON'T FRET. YOU'LL WIN ANOTHER TIME.”
But I turned my back and walked away, shoulders sagging, still trying to find the attic.
“HI, GRANDMA! HOW ARE YOU DOING TODAY?"
“I'M JUST FINE, HONEY. HOW WAS COLLEGE?”
RELIEVED, BETHANY SAT ON THE EDGE OF HER GRANDMOTHER'S BED, AND TALKED ABOUT HER CLASSES, HER FRIENDS, AND A PARTY SHE HAD ATTENDED THE NIGHT BEFORE.
“DID YOU WATER YOUR FLOWERS YET, GRANDMA? I BROUGHT YOU A PRETTY PITCHER TO USE.”
“Oh, thank you, Abby. That’s so nice! Say, let’s go the attic and play!”
I rise and take Abby’s hand as we stroll down the hall. I know that, together, we will find our playroom.
“I'M BETHANY, GRANDMA. BEN'S DAUGHTER. REMEMBER?”
“WHY, SURE, CHILD, I REMEMBER. HOW NICE OF YOU TO VISIT! LET'S GO OUT ON THE VERANDA WHERE IT'S COOL.”
AND, THEY PASSED A PLEASANT AFTERNOON TOGETHER, BETHANY AND HER GRANDMA EM.
I smell the sauerkraut and sausage permeating our house and my mouth waters. I go looking for the kitchen to help Mama with supper.
“EMILY, THE DINING ROOM IS THAT WAY,” SHE POINTED IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION.
“But I want to help, Mama,” I insist.
“SNAP OUT OF IT DEAR, I AM NOT YOUR MOTHER! GO ALONG NOW. IT'S ALMOST TIME FOR YOUR DINNER."
DISAPPOINTED, EMILY TURNED AROUND, LITERALLY RUNNING INTO HER BEST FRIEND, AMANDA.
“OH, THERE YOU ARE, EMMIE. I'VE BEEN LOOKING ALL OVER FOR YOU! LET'S GO EAT!”
“HELLO, SWEETHEART. HERE--I BROUGHT YOU SOME DAISIES TO PUT IN THE WINDOW,” THE OLD GENTLEMAN PATTED HER FOLDED HANDS AND GAVE HER A PECK ON THE CHEEK.
Straightening up from her dozing position, she stared confusedly at the stranger.
“Do I know you, sir? Do you want my father? He’s back in the parlor with Mother. I can take you to him if you like."
JOHN, EMILY'S HUSBAND OF FIFTY YEARS, SMILED GENTLY AT THE WIFE OF HIS YOUTH, AND WILLINGLY ACCEPTED HER HAND TO GO FIND THE PARLOR THAT WASN'T THERE. THEY WANDERED THE HALLS OF HER PRESENT HOME TOGETHER, SEARCHING EACH ROOM, ONE IN HOPE THAT IT WOULD BE THERE, AND THE OTHER IN HOPE THAT SHE WOULD COME BACK FROM HER CHILDHOOD HOME TO HIM.
SHE RARELY DID THAT ANYMORE, BUT WHEN IT HAPPENED, A LIGHT WOULD SWITCH ON BEHIND HER EYES AND SHE WAS ONCE AGAIN HIS EMERALD, THE JEWEL OF HIS LIFE, AND THAT REWARD WAS WORTH IT ALL.
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