Mary Elizabeth


I debated on whether or not to post this one. It switches to first person. This is when she ceased talking to me and started talking through me. Her interview didn’t quite go as expected. For days she evaded me, refusing to even answer my calls. Once she opened up, I guess I wasn’t fast enough for her because she just took the pen and began telling what she had to say. It actually ended up giving insight into other characters. You have to listen to who is talking to see her, though. So, here she is. Momma. Mary Elizabeth.

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She removes her bonnet the moment she walks through the door. Her hair is twisted tightly into a bun. Stray hairs stick out in every direction. She attempts to smooth them out as she takes her seat. She sits rigid on the edge of the chair. Her back is straight and stiff. Her ankles are crossed, and her small feet are tucked beneath her. Her knees are firmly together, and her palms rest gently on them. Her lips are pursed. She carries a no nonsense aura around her.

She complains about the mud along the bottom of her skirts. It’s impossible to keep your skirts clean, she tells me. The dirt kicks up on the farm, it kicks up on the roads, and you can’t raise ’em high enough to avoid the mud after a good, hard rain.

I never planned on being a widow, she begins. Though, I suppose no one plans it. Iowa was his dream for us. Our sons have done a wonderful job at building his dream. He’d have been proud. Still, I’d rather have him here, building that dream with us.

The house feels quiet without him. None of his children inherited his loud, booming voice. He was a large, imposing man. I felt safe with him near. Sanders reminds me the most of his father. When I look at him, I see the young man Byrum was. Our son is headstrong and independent like his father was.

Sweet Laura Bell was so young when we lost him. Her only memories of him are through the stories we tell. He would have loved her. She would have been his little princess, and he would have spoiled her rotten; I just know it.

Meridian is so different from his father. He’s always so serious and properly composed. His smile is a rare but beautiful thing.

William tries so hard to be like their father. He always has a long, hard talk with his dad before making any big decisions. Asked him once if he ever hears him answer back. Only in all those lessons he gave me. I think he’ll be alright, our William. He’s off building the railroad. He writes from time to time. He’s made some friends and seems to be having a good time. He comes home to visit once in a while, railroad work being so near right now.

Lewis. My sweet boy, Lewis. Such a gentle soul. Byrum always complained the boy was too soft. Didn’t have much faith in his abilities to handle manual labor. Shame his father can’t see him now. He’s been doing a fine job running the farm these last few months. He thinks it’s because Meridian’s been there, guiding his hand. He’s wrong. Meridian’s been shocked and impressed by his handling of the farm and his smooth transition into his newly acquired station. He’d never tell him that, though. Too much pride in that one.

Mary Cardelia. Don’t tell anyone, but she’s my favorite. I’d had three boys already, and then there she was; a little doll for me to play with. I kept her by my side constantly those early years. When I finally let her venture off with the boys, it was her that kept them out of trouble —  or dragged them out of it once they’d already fallen in. So responsible is that one. There’s a wild child reigned in under all that responsibility.

Her eyes have been wandering towards the boys around town. There’s a spark of a fire burning in that girl and heaven help the boy who ignites the flame.

Mary Cardelia has a big, loving heart. She’s shy and timid until she gets to know you. She’s been reading most of her life, and can engage in just about any topic of conversation. The whole town turns out when she holds a meeting.

I’m not sure where she learned to cook the way that she does. The flavors she creates are sinful. Since she entered the kitchen, my whole family’s been chasing me away from the stove.

I guess I’m in charge of all of this now. Seeing to the growing of my children. Sending them out into the world, ready to make their own way. It’s sad in it’s own way. My husband was lost on the trip from Illinois, my oldest taking his wife to Nebraska to raise a family, and my second oldest has been gone a while now, working on those railroads. We work so hard to end up alone in the end.

The light is fading outside the window. Mary Elizabeth is anxious to return home to join her family for supper and to bask in the laughter and conversation before relaxing in front of the fire to listen to Mary Cardelia read.

 

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