…and it came to pass in the mid days of September in the year of our Lord 2009 that a decree (well, to be truthful, a request) came to my ears. And when the days were accomplished that we should do so, we traveled to Crestline in the state of California–both Jerry and I–there to be taxed, but more importantly there to be blessed with the arrival of a child–not just with one child, but with five. Five grandchildren! For their parents had been called…and had responded…to a time of vacation.
Hills lay about as we traveled–known as the San Bernardino Mountains: sleek horses grazed in green pastures along the roadside as we neared Crestline, but there were no shepherds. I neither smelled or saw sheep, nor did I see anyone cavorting around dressed in sheep-tending attire. The skies were devoid of heavenly beings, but not to worry, I knew angels would come later.
They arrived, did the angels, bearing parents with them, stomping up the front steps, pushing open the door, grinning, hugging, yelping, tugging. “We’re here. We’re here, Granny and Pappy!” A small one rushed to where I sat and began helping me fold clothes. “When can we mop?” the little boy asked.
Daddy Andrew took to the floor, rolling his eyes in disbelief. “Mom, at home I can’t even get them to empty the trash.” I smiled and pondered these things in my glowing heart.
Earlier, in an Eastern land–Lake Havasu to be exact–wise people had laid plans, plans whose studying had resulted in the purchasing and laying away in cupboard, refrigerator and freezer, a massive amount of food. And now, although we had no star to follow, we did have The Plan. The Plan allowed each of the four older children to devise a day’s menu, cook the food, select the dishes, table cloth and napkins, set the table, and be fervently involved with the clean-up that would be necessary following such activity. That person could also choose locations for the meal; dining room, bar in the kitchen, or out on the back deck. Six-year-old Brady yelled the loudest to be first, so Monday morning found us in the kitchen cooking up a pound of bacon and frying pancakes. He close shrimp and chicken gumbo for his evening meal…and wonderful addition…Rebecca and Nathaniel drove up the hill, shared dinner with us and stayed into the night. These cousins are close and they had begged for Nathaniel to also miss school during this week and stay at Granny and Pappy’s, but wise mother, Rebecca, said she didn’t think so, but she would bring Nathaniel up to visit when she could. They came again on Wednesday evening, and on Saturday around noon, staying then until the returning parents arrived, which was well past midnight, I understand. Jerry and I had to leave at 5:00 pm for we had our Sunday morning service to attend in Lake Havasu. “Dark Hall” was the order of that evening, I am told, a game which calls for wandering around in the dark playing hide and seek. After the younger ones were in bed Rebecca let the three older ones stay up until Andrew and Shawnna arrived.
These children really get into cooking and setting tables–never saw anything like it. Among other things they chose to cook chicken enchiladas, hamburger steaks, spaghetti with marinara and meat sauce, and when Chloe was choosing her meal, she said, “I don’t care what I cook as long as it has mashed potatoes and gravy with it!” Eight-year-old Cole decided on biscuits and gravy for his breakfast; I showed him the recipe, watched as he took down the ingredients, showed him how to measure, and directed his mixing it together. He did it all, cutting the biscuits perfectly, although I had to help get them in the hot baking skillet. They were especially scrumptious. Chloe prowled through the table cloths and napkins and thought to set the table with sterling silver. That’s okay, Chloe, I had said, but I reminded her it would require hand washing, and so Chloe’s meal of hamburger steaks with onions and bell pepper and mashed potatoes and gravy was consumed with sterling silver forks, knives and spoons. They were wonderful at this task; all flagging a bit at the required clean-up in the evening, but I cheerfuly urged them on, and each evening we left a spotless kitchen–well spotless in a relative way. Helped if your vision was a bit lacking in clarity. 🙂
“They have to do their home work first thing in the morning,” Andrew had told me before they left. “We’re strict about that.” The youngsters seemed to have a clear understanding of that rule and I believe it was on Tuesday morning as I sat in a chair drinking early morning coffee, here came Gentry and Brady wagging their home work backpacks. It was still dark outside.
Gentry is eleven, and works as does a man. Of moderate build, he is strong and ambitious, and when Pappy set him to work offloading flagstones and a heavy birdbath we had brought from Lake Havasu, he did an amazing amount of work. Thus began the “pay” jobs. Now there were many regular jobs which saw no exchange of money; making their own beds, keeping their rooms and their bathrooms in reasonable order, putting their dirty clothes each evening on the washer, and taking the clean clothes to their designated spot after I had laundered them each morning. They were really good about it. Gentry and Cole’s bed looked professionally made every morning…but then to be honest, there were other things…towels thrown about in the bathrooms and blobs of toothpaste on the counter. But all in all, they were excellent little house guests.
And now the question of paying jobs had arisen. The yard was littered with twigs. We needed starters for the winter fires, so I rounded up containers and set the little ones to gathering twigs. 25 cents a bucket, unless the container was really big which led then into a few rounds of negotiation. It was definitely a win-win situation; allowed me to be out in the gardens of my beloved Crestline, snap a few pictures, direct the gathering of twigs, and the boys knew their wealth was increasing by the minute. Plus, on our deck now, we have several containers smack full of fire-starting twigs.
Paying jobs emerged inside also, and every child was involved in this one, even two year old Ella who rubbed a rag over the same book for about five minutes. She grinned as I pushed a nickle into her tiny skirt pocket. Our bedroom needed attention, so we stripped the bed to the mattress, flipped it over (had to enlist Jerry for this one), then dusted, washed and polished all the furniture. Pot shelves rim two walls of this very large room, and neither Jerry or I can clean up there. Up from the garage, Gentry carried a tall ladder, and while Chloe and I handed up equipment and held the ladder securely, Gentry cleaned that area. (I was touched when a week after they arrived home Andrew told me that when he did the church accounts that week, there lay an envelope bearing Gentry’s name. With no prompting from his parents, Gentry had given $2.10 tithe from the money he earned from his Pappy and Granny.)
It’s hard to imagine a better sister to a little sister than Chloe is to Ella Claire. They adore each other, and Chloe virtually took care of Ella while they were with us, dressing her every morning, bathing her in the evening, combing her hair two or three times a day, and in general clucking over her. My job was to change particular diapers, but I decided that job will probably be ending soon, when once Ella scooted down the stairs from the room she and Chloe shared waving a diaper at me. and letting me know she needed a job done. Once when I was changing her, she reached into the Wipies packet, pulled out one, and handed it to me. “Here, Granny.”
Ella loves books…and loves her Pappy, especially when he takes her up and reads to her. She will listen forever; when one book is finished, go directly to find another and bring it to the reader. When she was with us, she was especially taken with The Three Pigs. “I’m a wolf,” she told me once.
“You are, Ella? You’re a wolf? Are you bad?”
“No, I’m a good wolf,” she soberly replied.
Tuesday’s lunch, sans Pappy, consisted of ham sandwiches, chips, cookies and lemonade, poured for convenience into a plastic bottle that had previously held strawberry soda. We dined in the woods, our food having been transported by a family wagon with red wooden side slats. As we ate, Ella looked across a meadow and distinctly said to me, “I see Piggy’s house!”
“You see Piggy’s house?” I felt the need to verify the information. “Where?”
“There.” She pointed again over the meadow past the high trees. “There is Piggy’s house.”
We stared. Cole chowed down on his sandwich.
…And it came to pass as the angels were gone away from them to San Diego, that the grandparents decided:
1. They were tired.
2. They are extremely blessed.
3. They didn’t take as many pictures as they had intended and they certainly didn’t take much care with the ones they did snap.
4. They slept longer at night than they do ordinarily.
5. They didn’t miss having the internet during those days for they had no energy to write anyway.
6. Angelic visitations are rare…and coveted.