Like a mantle of gold, a carelessly flung shawl, bright yellow flowers lay across the lawn. Along the hedges, among the swords of the spring flowering bulbs, lilac, pink and white Vinca’s warmed themselves in the early autumn sunshine. In spring, their colours would be echoed by the bells of the Freesias and the spires of irises, but for now the Vinca’s held sway.
Amelia fetched the yard brush to clear the leaves from the paths. An onerous autumn task, but yet one that provided mulch in the future, building up the soil, enhancing the fertility of her small patch. She stooped to lift a coloured Photina leaf, turning it in the rays of sunlight to highlight the gloss, admiring the vivid brightness, testing the sharp, ragged edge with a cautious finger. Brushing the paths was an uncomfortable task. She stopped often to straighten herself and give a rub to the lower section of her spine, thinking how much she missed Gilbert, not only for his company, but also because there was no one to help her with these tasks!
Alice-next-door popped her head above the fence.
“Hi, Melie,” she called. “Would you have a cup of sugar to spare? Forgot to get some when I went shopping.”
Amelia laid the brush aside with a half smile, and went to fetch a small jar of sugar. Alice-next-door had the best ‘forgettery’ in town, regularly stocking her larder from her neighbour’s shelves. She also forgot to return her borrowings, so that some of her neighbours closed their doors at sight of her and refused to answer her knocks. Now she laid wait for those who stepped into their gardens, like Amelia who enjoyed working amongst her shrubs and flowers.
As she opened the door of her ‘Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard’ – lovingly stencilled by Bert – Amelia paused. Like the original Mother Hubbard Amelia’s cupboard was almost bare. There was a jar of sugar, but not a great deal else. She shrugged and lifted the sugar from the shelf. The next quarter’s money was due soon and then she could restock. So long as she wasn’t extravagant, and had no visitors, she would manage.
Returning to her brush and her enjoyment of her garden, Amelia soon forgot Alice-next-door. It was a cold autumn day and she welcomed the warm sunshine on her back as she crouched to weed a border, remove a few dead blooms, or re-arrange the trailing stems of ivy geranium.
The morning passed all too soon, the light breeze growing into gusts, the sun fading behind accumulating cloud banks. The loss of light and warmth coaxed Amelia indoors. Surprisingly, it was passed midday, time to make herself a bite of lunch and, more importantly, a cup of tea. She would relax for an hour or so, perhaps make a start on the new book from the library, before doing a few housewifely tasks. She was just settled in her comfortable chair with her tea to one side and the book on her lap when the telephone rang.
“Hello, Mum. Will you be home this afternoon?” Phoebe didn’t stop for an answer. “I have an appointment this afternoon and I need to leave Susan with you. She gets so naughty when she is bored. I’ll be with you in about ten.”
Wordlessly Amelia replaced the receiver. This was typically Phoebe. Her daughter didn’t even stop to make sure she had the right number, or if it was convenient for her mother to have the little girl.
She drank the tea and washed the few dishes in the sink. Another trip to Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard: was there anything she could offer Susan as a snack?
Phoebe’s arrival was as short-lived as her telephone call. Thrusting Susan through the door she called, “Suzie says she has a tummy-ache but I don’t think it’s anything much. Just let her lie down for a bit.” Then she was gone, leaving Susan and her grandmother to sort themselves out.
The child was pale and weepy, and reluctant to be left on her own even for a moment. She hung on her grandmother’s arm while Amelia collected rugs and pillows and built her a nest on the sofa in the living-room. Amelia sat close, singing softly and stroking the child’s hair until her eyes closed and she slept. Leaning back, warmed by the child’s warmth, she thanked the Lord for another day of His loving presence, His provision.
“So rich,” she said, “I am so rich!”
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