Evelyn was crying. You really wouldn’t have noticed, except for the occasional sniff, as she stood at the kitchen sink washing dishes. Her eyes were red and teary though, and her little brother who stood by her side drying the dishes noticed something was wrong. A family of seven makes a big pile of dirty dishes, but Sammy didn’t mind helping Evelyn. She could be a bit bossy, but she was usually full of chatter about school or friends or the animals in the barn. Tonight though, Evelyn was silent and Sammy was worried.
“Evie,” Sammy finally ventured. “What’s wrong? Are you sick?”
“No,” Evelyn said softly. “No, I’m not sick. Pop just told me tonight I can’t go to school next year.” Another tear slid down her cheek.
“Oh,” Sammy frowned. Sammy quietly finished drying the dishes, clearly puzzled by his big sister. “What,” he thought, “Would be so bad about not having to go to school?”
Evelyn loved books and reading and learning. While most girls her age dreamed of handsome men and marriage, Evelyn had her heart set on finishing high school and then maybe even attending college. But tonight Pop had shattered that dream. In no uncertain terms he had told her there was no money for high school and that she needed to find a job. Money was scarce, the poor slate land barely providing for the family. Evelyn didn’t mind working hard, doing more than her share. She willingly picked huckleberries to sell for cash and helped Mum with the extra ironing they took in, but to give up school was just too hard.
Eventually though, Evelyn dried her tears and faced the cold hard facts of life. She knew Pop wasn’t being mean or hard hearted. The whole country was facing hard times and going to school was simply out of the question.
Evelyn determined to not let hard work dull her mind. Much to Sammy’s amazement Evelyn always carried a book with her and read every possible moment.
Even though Evelyn wasn’t looking, a handsome farmer found her and she married before her twenty-first year. Stanley didn’t exactly share Evelyn’s passion for education, but he did share Evelyn’s love for books. They worked the farm together in the summer and read together on winter evenings. When the babies came, two little boys eighteen months apart, Evelyn dreamed of they day they would go to school. Her boys would not only have an elementary education, but would also go to high school and college. Each month Evelyn and Stanley saved every cent of extra money in an account labeled “college”. Lack of money wasn’t going to keep Evelyn’s boys from school!
Evelyn wasn’t too worried when her rambunctious boys didn’t show a great interest in schooling at first. They reminded her of her Sammy, full of live and living, but not too serious about books. She did become a bit more concerned when in high school the boys still didn’t seem to care much about their education. Sure, they were smart enough and good workers too. Evelyn and Stanley were proud of their boys, but as they neared high school graduation, Evelyn had to face the fact that the boys did not share her vision. They had no desire to go to college. Once again Evelyn shed a few tears because of school.
Sammy chuckled at the irony of the whole situation when Evelyn tearfully told him of the boys’ decision. He patted her on the back and assured her the boys were smart and would be successful. And they were.
It was Stanley who suggested Evelyn go to school again. The boys were married, had children of their own and were well established. The college fund was untouched.
“Me? I’m too old! I don’t even have a high school diploma!” Evelyn countered.
But Stanley insisted and eventually Evelyn obtained her high school equivalency and enrolled in the local college. Although Evelyn’s middle aged mind struggled to keep up with the twenty year olds, she rose to the challenge and made the deans list every semester.
Sammy shook his head in amazement at Evelyn’s bravery and determination, but he was there four years later at her college graduation. Stanley, the boys and Sammy cheered and clapped as Evelyn proudly, tearfully walked across the stage to receive her diploma.
Once again Sammy marveled at Evelyn’s tears.
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