Head of the Household

Victoria is the head of a household on a homestead in the midwest, in a time before modern conveniences, She is responsible for her 16 siblings and father after her mother passed. Now that she is 18 she will be choosing a husband and just when she thinks everything can just be normal; He comes back into her life and makes her feel everything she thought she never could feel again.

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2. 1 year before (two)

 

this is my first day not going to school my 18th birthday was a week ago and I finished my last day of classes before that. Today is the officially my first day as a women in our society. Our society is set up in a matriarchal way, women are the head of the household, the men often work outside the home doing manual labor building things like furniture housing, or farming. The women are traditionally in the house taking care o the family and razing children. The eldest women of the household makes most decisions, including determining marriages. To secure a marriage a girl over 18 must visit potential husbands homes and speak with the head women of the house hold. The girls will make it known that they are interested in marring one of the boys in the family. From there the family discusses but without the approval of the eldest women in the house the couple can not get married. There is a minimum age for marriage we all finish classes at 18 and we are aloud to get married one month after our 19th birthday. Most of the time people get married by 21, many of us want to get settled and for the eldest daughter the husband moves into the family home then the eldest daughter and the husband then take care of the parents. The best part is that the nieces and nephews grow up with the youngest siblings the family ties are strong and that makes for a support system that helps everyone. Kids stay in the family home until they are married which is the main reason my house is still so full none of my brothers that are of marriage age have found anyone.

            My first official week as the head of the household I thought that I would get more flack from my siblings, but to be honest I have really been head of the household for the past 5 years. When my mama passed away 5 years ago I became the eldest women in the house, there fore I took over the majority of the house hold work and all of the cooking and razing the children.

            Rodger helps around the homestead more than the other boys but the fact that we were twinds and I’ve had so much responsibility he picked up a lot too. Unlike my 6 older brothers Rodger has a women he will be marrying when we turn 19. She was in our class at school and lives over 40 minutes away as painful as it will be to be separated from Rodger I know he cares for her they have been best friends since we started school. Rodger kind of has an unfair advantage because I make a final decision  and I already know as long as Rodger wants to marry her I will say yes. Nancy is her name and she has always been the kindest person in our class. She has been a good friend and a kind person to my brother. I know that she will come over in a few weeks and ask for permission to start the courting process and I will not say no and a month after our birthday he will leave to move in with her as she is the eldest and only girl in her family. Nancy is the only child in her family her parents just were nevere able to have another child so all responsibility will fall on her and rodger. Nancy spent a lot of time at our house growing up she helped me every chance she got and that is part of the reason I have been able to manage this house at all so well for the past five years will continuing classes. She came over we would do home work wile working in the kitchen. She would read questions and senarios and I would give her my answers she would wirte them down for me and we did all group assinments together. She is the reason I never fell behind at school or home. Nancy will be a perfect head of house hold and I always remind my self of this because on some level I want to be mad at her for taking my twin away from me.

            The kids are all at school and my father and the older boys are all off working on the construction jobs, I know I should pay more attention to what they are working on but with the house work and the kids, school work and keeping the house running on top of the homestead going and now looking for a husband. What house they are building is just a fact that is not sticking in my mind lately.

            Rodger is outside in the garden pulling what is ready to be collected and prepared for winter storage. I have already been able to collect 20 more jars over the summer adding to our 160 jar collection. This seems like a lot but when there are 17 mouths to feed and anywhere form 5-6 months of winter, 180 jars of food is not a lot. When you add to that fact that my older brothers eat like they have never been fed and haven’t had a girl to the house asking about courting in almost a year, I feel like they will never get married and that means they will never leave. The main problem is that all of them are of marrying age but the calluses above me had less girls than the ones below me. Our community for some reason for about 5 years had almost no daughters, all the families were just having boys. Some families even ventured out past what most of us live looking for other families to see if it was happening else ware but no one seemed to be able to find anything out. Many of the men from my older brothers classes were forced to leave the area or even a few broke tradition and brought women back to their parent’s home. Those that broke tradition were no looked at to harshly they still weren’t through al the proper ways of asking permission and courting but many of the girls that were not the eldest in their families came to our community to take over the homesteads with their husbands because the family never had a daughter. This doesn’t happen often but for some reason my older brothers experienced a increased number of boys. Im sure if they would just go out and talk to girls younger in my classes or the ones that will finish school next year they would easily find women interested. For some reason none of them seem to have any interest, so until they all do I just keep caring for them like I have for the last 5 years. Its somewhat comforting to know that they are still there especially when I know that Rodger will be leaving.

            The boy’s classes is part of the reason mama had so many of us, mama had Maggie who is number 13, mom told dad that after their streek of girls they should keep going. Our family tree is interesting so ill lay it all out for you. Mom and Dad got married when they both turned 19 and just about 9 months latter Sammy was born today he is the oldest of us at 23. The just about 9 months latter David and Ken came along, they were mama’s first set of twins they are 22, Then a year later mama had another set of twins. Mark and Nick are 21, and then Luke a year later making hime 20. In hind site mama and her sets of twins may be why there were so many boys and not enough girls. After Luke mama had Rodger and me, now 18 I was the first girl so of cores this made mama want even more girls. Four years later they got Macy 14, then Laura 9 months later 13, Marie was next she’s 12 and grace 11, and Maggie number 13 she is now 10. Dad thought that was plenty of children but mama thought there still might be a few more kids and she was right when 9 months latter Mattthew came now he’s 9. Mama thought that might be the end of our family but two years latter Nathan came he’s 7 and two years later at 42 my mama had Sandra who is the baby at 5. Sandra was a risk everyone knew it there were a lot of us mama had gotten older, and we could tell this pregnancy was taking more out of her than any of the other ones. The day Sandra came into the family my mother had told me a feeling that she had, I tried to convince her that I should stay home until the baby came she might need me. The last thing my mother ever said to me was:

            “I love you my first baby girl. Today is the day you will have your youngest sibling and baby I think this might be my last day with you.”

            I pleaded with her to let me say and help but mama was not having it and sent me to school. That afternoon I ran home as fast as I could leaving Rodger far behind, I burst through the door to find Liza holding Sandra and explain to me that mama had lost to much blood when my baby sister was born. It started the night before when the labor started and there was nothing that could have stopped it. Liza handed me Sandra grabbed her bag and left me holding my youngest sister and last sibling fully starting to understand that I was no in charge of all things that my mother had handled. At 13 almost 14 I now was going to run the household and make major decisions. I looked at Sandra’s red little face, her eyes were squished shut almost like she knew something bad had happened and if she just kept her eyes closed it wouldn’t be real. I started at her little face for a long time thinking about how this little girl would think I was her mother and knowing I was never going to be an adequate substitute for mama but I was sure as hell going to have to try.

            Rodger brings in a batch of veggies we were able to plant almost 3 weeks early. For some reason the winter was forgiving this year and we got an entire crop in early and were even able to plow and plant almost another whole garden. We doubled our whole crop which is one reason we needed more jars and after last winter we ran out of fruits and vegies in January. Normally the winter will last into march or April thankfully we were able to get out and get some wild greens and fish because we ran out of food far faster than we should have and if the winter hadn’t have broken early I don’t know what would have happened. One of the reasons I insisted we double the garden and I knew I would be home all summer and rodger too so we could keep an eye on it and make sure we really got as much as we could out of the food plot.

            I start looking at everything we have and know that I need to go to the small trading post to see if anyone put some more jars there. I always take one or two quilts that I make over the winter in order to trade. Many women make quilts but my mother passed on a dying technique for fabric that is almost a lost art so my quilts have a look all there own. This allows me to trade them for just about anything that I might need at the trading post, Trish always talks about how they sit on the shelf for a few minutes and they are sold. I have two quilts ready to trade and I am hoping to find 20 more jars this would give us 200 jars giving us a little breathing room over the winter especially because I can feel its already cooling outside and this winter will not be as kind as last years.

            Rodger and I gather everything that is ready to preserve for winter I start by cleaning all the jars and pulling all the dried spices that I have ready. By the time the kids get home from school I have just started getting supper ready. All the kids start their chores, the older girls get the eggs from the chickens, milk the goat and cow, and bring in the flower from our outside storage bins. Matthew gets wood for the stove, we store less in the house in the summer not needing to run it all night to heat the house. Sandra is my helper she sets the table and tells all the other kids what to do. She will make a great head of household some day she is stern and knows what needs to be done first. Truthfully Sandra is more my daughter than my sister and it hurts sometimes knowing that it also brings me joys because she is amazing and I razed her not our mother.

            By the time dad and the boys are home I have the dinner on the table and all the settings ready and waiting for their corresponding sibling. The kids cores are done and so is the work for classes the next day. Tonight I have to get the youngest four to bath before bed and that is not always easy. Dad gets to the end of the table at his seat and takes the first bite. Conversations start flowing, normally I try to just listen figure out what everyone is doing and who’s future plans may effect the family. Normally I don’t say much but tonight my father changes all that.

            “Victoria, you are 18, you ovolisy know how to run a house and your brother Rodger is ready to stat courting Nancy.”

            I freeze mid bite and just stare. Now my father is not a cruel man or cold or unkind but he doesn’t really connect to me well. I haven’t really talked to my father about anything but the kids and the house for over a year. I am now well aware it is because I look just like my mother. I am the only child of all 16 of us who got my mothers fiery red hair and with that I got her pale skin and even more rare I got her violet eyes. The other kids all got a range from a sandy blond hair to the Carmel colored brown of my fathers, all of them to my dismay got beautiful olive coloring that picks up a tan from the sun in the summer.

            I refocused on the dinner table and just nod at my father, a bit to stunned that the conversation so pointedly became focused on me.

            “Well you need to go to the trading post tomorrow maybe you should visit some house holds, mothers would be expecting visitor and you should start talking to them.”

            “Alright I can do that I will make sandwiches and sides and leave them in the cellar where its cool for dinner.”

            “Ok.”

With that dinner goes back to normal everyone starts up those normal conversations and I go back to listing. When everyone’s finished I leave the dishes on the table knowing that if I want to get the kids bathed and into bed before I run out of sunlight I need to do dishes later. I hurry the kids out to the creek in the back of the house. A few years ago my brothers dug out a little alcove in the creek so when its nice the kids can bath in the creek and I don’t have to fill and empty the washtub in between each child. The creek tub as we call it was a birthday present and it cuts my work load when its bath night. I get all four of the kids scrubbed redressed and into the house and hurry them up the small set of stairs that go up to the loft with the bedrooms. I find the older girls changing and getting ready for bed all the girls are bushing out their hair and fashioning them into lose braids for bed. Macy, Laura Marie and grace share a room on one side of the loft. The youngest kids are all in the other room upstairs on the left side with Maggie and Sandra in a bed and Nathan and Matthew in another. Last year I knew Maggie and Sandra were going to need some privacy so my brother built a divider down the room a wooden frame with a fabric hung around it.  When we realized the older boys were in no rush to marry Dad built a smaller cabin about 100 yards from the main house with 5 rooms, there’s no kitchen just a wood stove for heat in the summer and 5 bedrooms. Dad will continue to live there when I married and any of the kids that say and don’t marry or get land and a home right away.

            Mom and dads room is in the main house, this should be where I am staying but I usually sleep in front of the wood stove. Most of the time I am cooking bread or a roast for the next day so it just works better if im right there.  Also feel guilty for having a whole room to myself most of the time when one of the kids gets sick they end up in that room.

            I put 3 loaves of bread in the low kindled oven and let them  start to cook, while they brown I go and get the roast ready for the next day I rub it with the spices and let it sit. When the bread is done I pull it out let it rest on the table tnd put in the roast. The roast will cook the rest of the night so I get ready for bed, I pull my hair out of the bun it ends up in most days on top of my head and out of the way. I pull my navy dress over my head and check the seems, they are worn and starting to fray. I inspect the other two dress that I own and see they both could use some attention from my needles, my deep purple dress is in the best shape so ill wear it tomorrow with my brown lace up riding boots. I will have to pick up some fabric for dresses before winter ill need a new one this year and im sure that means Macy, Laura and Marie will need new ones too. The other girls are still small enough that I can make new dresses for them from our dresses that are worn around the edges. I try to make a mental note to talk to Trish tomorrow at the trading post, Trish is the head of the household that runs the trading post. The family had a boy in my grade Leo and another son Shawn that is a few months younger than me. I think about how much the girls will grow in the next two years and wonder if I can get enough fabric to make Macy 2 dresses and Laura two dresses that may help with the other girls, the dresses wont get as worn out and they can pass them down without much work between kids. I check to make sure the two quilts I’m taking to trade look good all the strings are clipped and they haven’t wrinkled since I ironed them a few days ago.

            I find myself at the sink staring out the window at the creek. How am I going to go to houses and ask to be courted by their son? And to make things worse where my mom would normally talk with my intends mother it will be me negotiation and taking rejections, because I am the head of my household. Around 2 am I make my way to my bed and fall asleep, my head still spinning from all the things the next year of my life will teach me.

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