A young woman with wide eyes and long curly dark hair gazed out of the mirror at me. Three weeks before, I had turned 15 years old. I was getting’ older all right – nearly a grown up woman! So, why did I still feel like a little girl? I smiled at my reflection, but the smile was dishonest. It betrayed me – anyone who wanted to look beyond that wooden smile would see I was scared.
I walked down the creaky staircase of our big old farmhouse to help Mama with chores in the kitchen. My brothers, the ones that hadn’t been sent off to the war, were already outside helpin’ fix the tools they’d need to start hayin’ soon.
Mama handed me the large mason jar and kissed my forehead. “Mornin’ Sweetheart.”
“Mornin’ Mama.” I began shaking the jar absent-mindedly. This was a near-daily chore for me – definitely not my favorite. My little sister would be down soon to relieve my aching arms, but it always seemed to take forever to turn that jar of cream to butter. Being the youngest of 13 children, this mindless chore had belonged to my sister and me since we were able to hold that big jar without droppin’ it.
I watched Mama cookin’ bacon in the big black skillet on top of the wood stove. She was hummin’ an old hymn. Her eyes looked distant as she sang. I could barely hear her, but I knew all the words by heart, “How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, is made for your faith in his excellent word…” It was a favorite of mine too.
“Have you heard anything from Tommy or Frank yet, Mama?” My question cut into the sound of her song. My two oldest brothers had been reported missing-in-action a couple of weeks ago. Tommy was in France and Frankie was somewhere in North Africa.
“No, Honey.” She breathed a little sigh. “Not yet.”
I shook my jar some more.
Mama turned the bacon and pumped some water into the sink basin, singing softly again. She put some bacon on a plate for me with some bread and wild raspberry jam. “I want you to help me with the canning today. We need to get those tomatoes stored up before you head off to town. How’re you comin’ with your suitcase?”
Mama had hit on the very thing that was botherin’ me. Tomorrow, my Mama and Daddy would drive me to town where I’d be rooming with a family I’d never met before. My folks had arranged for me to work for them in exchange for room and board for the whole school year. I am the first girl in my whole family to have the opportunity to move on to High School. I was lucky, they all said, and I know they were right, but I didn’t exactly feel lucky today.
“I’m gonna miss you, Mama!” I didn’t mean to blurt it out like that. I was trying to be brave. After all, what right did I have to be thinkin’ of my own little troubles with Frank and Tommy still missing? My face was all screwed up tryin’ to hold back a cryin’ fit. I turned to look out the window so Mama couldn’t see my face.
She came up behind me, and wrapped her big, strong arms around me. That always felt so good. She pressed her cheek against mine and kind of swayed back and forth while she held me. We just stayed like that for a while.
“God is good.” Mama finally said. “You belong to him. Just like Tommy and Frank belong to him.” She kissed my cheek, then turned me around to face her. “And as impossible as it seems for me, God loves you children more than I do. He loves you, and he promised to take care of you. There ain’t no better promise than that, and its good enough for me.”
She squeezed me tight as I let the tears trickle down my face. She spoke softly in my ear, “Do you think you can let God be God and trust that promise for yourself?”
I pulled back to look at her, and wiped my wet cheeks with the back of my hand. “I reckon I can do that.” I was feeling better, maybe not as confident as my words sounded, but I guess I could let God work on that too.