Home > Uncategorized > At Home in Heinz Hollow – #4

At Home in Heinz Hollow – #4

I’ve been pretty busy lately, but I didn’t forget about this story. I hope everyone is loving these last days of summer.

*    *    *    *

“Good afternoon, Sepp,” said Elizabeth Millar.

Startled, he sprang to his feet, nearly tripping over the plain gray gravestone he had been trying to straighten.

“Mrs. Millar,” he exclaimed. “Good afternoon. What brings you out here?”

The woman standing in front of him looked quite different from the beautiful young woman of his strange fantasy, he thought. They had known each other all their lives, but since they came of age, and especially since her marriage at twenty, the distance had grown vast between them and Sepp realized that he hardly knew her anymore.

“I led one of the Eli Monroe’s milk cows back to their pasture, and I’m taking a shortcut through the cemetery,” she replied. “The cow was ailing and Peter tended her back to health. I heard that you take care of the cemetery, but I thought you just mowed the grass. I didn’t know it was such hard work.”

Elizabeth Millar had grown heavier after years of childbearing and from spending so much time doing housework and cooking for her growing family. Her hair, formerly bright gold, thick and wavy, had lost some of its brightness and was smooth and sedate, covered by her white cap. The most striking difference was in her expression, however. She was a good woman and devoted mother of four, but the brilliance was gone from her blue eyes. She was calm and serious, and the absence of her youthful radiance made Sepp feel a pang of loss. Having heard little Katie’s announcement at school the day before, he noticed that Eliza’s waist was thicker than usual. In one fleeting second his mind transported him back to his waking dream and he imagined that her child was his, and then flushed as reality rushed back. What had she said?

“Are you all right?” asked Eliza, eyeing him with concern. “You look like you’ve been out in the sun too long. Maybe you should go home and have something cool to drink.”

“I’m fine,” he said abruptly. “In the winter, freezing and thawing can move the stones. I try to get everything stabilized in the fall so when spring comes there’ll be less to do out here.”

“I didn’t know it was so difficult. Maybe we should all help more with it. It doesn’t seem right that you should do this alone,” she told him.

How strange that she was persisting, and why was she even here? They hadn’t spoken with each other alone in years, he thought, irritation rising in him.

Forcing a tight smile, he fumbled for a courteous answer. “I have the time, and really, I like doing this for the community. I think it’s a good way to spend a Saturday, and this is a way I can contribute to the community.”

Their eyes met, and a faint confused frown wrinkled her brow. “But isn’t it lonesome, working out here all alone?”

She seemed to really want to know, so he chose his words carefully. “I’m in the school with the students most days, all day long, so I don’t get tired of being outside. I enjoy being alone with my own thoughts while I work here.”

She smiled. “I guess I do see. I’m home with little Matt all day, and that child talks all day long. I enjoy the afternoons that he’ll take a nap. But you’ll find out what he’s really like next year when he starts school. He’s a smart boy, but he’ll be a handful.”

He nodded pleasantly. This was comfortable and familiar, talk of school and students, and it steadied him. “How is your grandmother?” he asked, recalling that the elderly woman lived with her and was reportedly in declining health.

“She sleeps most of the time these days, and the visiting nurse says it won’t be more than a week before she passes,” said Elizabeth. “She doesn’t seem to be suffering, and she has some good times when she knows we’re with her. Katie and John are grieving already. They’re too young to remember when my dad passed.”

“Is there anything I can do to help?”

“We’re grateful for your concern. Grandmama is in the Lord’s hands, as we all are,” she replied calmly. “She’s had a good life and soon she’ll go home.”

What more could he say? The silence would soon be awkward, he thought. Luckily, she seemed to realize this too.

“I should be heading home then,” she murmured. “I left Katie to tend the baking, but if Matt wakes up, I’m afraid she’ll forget. It’s been good to talk with you, Sepp.”

He wasn’t sure if he agreed with her, but nodded pleasantly. He watched her stride briskly down the hill, headed for home. Maybe it was good for him to realize how much they had both changed since they were young together.  Eliza no longer had that spring in her step that used to delight him. She was mature and serious, as befit a mother and homemaker. She seemed many years older than he felt. He turned his attention to the grave marker he had been trying to straighten when she appeared. This one and a few more still needed his attention. Then with his work finished, he could head for home. He glanced up at the sky, and saw that clouds were quickly rolling in to block out the sun. It smelled like rain too. He bent to his work, hoping he could finish before he had to walk home in a thunderstorm.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. August 29, 2010 at 19:14

    I like the contrast to how she was and is now. Motherhood really does age a woman. LOL

    • October 9, 2010 at 11:10

      Motherhood doesn’t have to age a woman quite this much, but in a traditional farming society, the gap between the girl and the adult woman is more substantial, I think.

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