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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4. Four

When I get inside Sandra rushes me already in her night gown and ready for bed. Macy follows her to the door wearing the apron I wear when in the kitchen, it hits me that I should make one for her she will need it when she starts working with me in the kitchen learning how to take over a household.

            “sorry I couldn’t get her to sleep until you got home, she wanted to say goodnight.”

            “it’s ok you have her dressed and relay that’s great.” Macy smiles appreciating that I noticed the work she had accomplished.

            “ I have the dishes done and three loaves of bread razing and ready to bake.”

            “Wow, Macy thank you did great. You are learning so fast and I haven’t even thought you much, your just watching and learning.”

Macy smiles she pulls the apron over her head pulling her braid through that is covered in flower, and needs the ends cut. I make a mental note to cut the kids hair on Sunday before they go back to classes.

            “Sandra its time for bed, did you listen to Macy tonight?”

A sheepish look crosses her pink little face, leading me to believe that she was not good for Macy.

            “ She was mean and she pretends like she was you telling me what to do.” there’s a pout to her little lips making it difficult for me not to smile.

            “Sandra when I’m not here Macy IS in charge. She will run things in the next few years so she can learn to be a mom, and how to run a house like I do.”

            “Fine, next time I will be better, but she is not my mom you are.”

She jumps from my arms and runs to the loft. I try to keep the tears from my eyes, I love that little girl like she is my daughter and I really am the only mother she knows, but it hurts just as much to know she will never know our Mama.  I grab the quilt that I have finished for Mirrium and one more with the dyeing similar to the quilt that I gave to Trish. I was going to give it to Macy for her birthday , but now im thinking if I can trade it for fabric I can make her an Apron and maybe even a new dress.

 I knock on the cabin door and Nick opened the door.

            “ Hello, I have these for Mirum at the trading post. She will give you 4 cases of jars for this one. I have this one if you can ask her for as much fabric as she can give me for dresses and aprons for the girls.” Nick looks at me for a moment absorbing the information that sort of just fell out of my mouth quicker than I intended.

“yeah, ok ill put it with all the stuff that were loading up. How did the visits go?” he asks with a tone of unrest in his voice, he wants to know but at the same time is not sure he wants to know the answer.

            “Well, it wasn’t as bad but I’m not sure if it will work with Shayne, Trish was a little bitter.” Nick gives me a look that tells me he knows what im saying.

            “well, lets be honest we all know my looks are not helpful when dealing with mother’s and big sisters.”

            He nods and I back up to leave, Nick grabs my hand and I look back at him.

            “I saw him on the property tonight.” I freeze, I look at Nick and process that it was real he was on the property I did not imagine it because nick is telling me.

I just nod at Nick, he is the only one that knows about him they were friends, I slide my hand out of his and walk back to the main house with my head down.

            I put Macy’s bread in the oven, they look perfect and I relized that I have only walkedher throught the process of mixing and making bread one time before. She has either been studying on her own, watching me all this time, or just remembered. I am impressed with her abilities and I make a note that I should really keep her home soon and start working on homestad things and house keeping with her. This winter with her month off I will have to hand over most of the control, I think letting her run everything for a month will be the greatest training and she really can handle it.

            I sit on my bed and pull out the quilt that I keep in what should be my bed room, there is something special about this one. I have been working on it for three years its how I have channeled my emotions everything from my irritation, frustration, love, hope, joy and disappointment. Today I work on the portion that signifies my hope. I curl up in my bed nervous that I will end up alone, that I will never find a man to marry and help me run my household. I worry that I am just to different looking, to stand off ish, and not enough of my childhood is left to make me appealing to anyone.

            The next morning I wake up when I stab myself with the sewing needle that I must have fell asleep with in my hand. I get up grab one of Macy’s loafs of bread and a dozen eggs to start breakfast. I see that we have no beef and no pork left from the summer pig or summer cow, but I find there is some smoked fish left from last week and grab that. Thinking at least there will be some form of meat on the table, I am going to need to talk to dad about getting more meat this family does not last long on eggs, bread and caned vegetables. I start toasting a loaf of bread and grab a jar of jam from last fall and start setting the table.

            One hour later everyone is eating and getting ready for the day. Rodger will be gone this morning he’s taking Kick to see Nancy. The boys are getting supplies and off to a big job they start today. Macy and Laura got all the kids up and ready and now are getting them to do chores before classes.

            Dad hangs back after everyone is out of the house earlier packing up for the day or doing chores.

            “your visit go well?” He’s looking at the floor or the stove anywhere but at me.

I reply in a monotone voice “ I think so I gave her one of my best quilts. That might help soften her emotion towards my looks.”

            “good.”

            “your going to get 4 more cases of jars from the trading post today. Nick has all the information and payments for the fabric I need for the girls dresses. I would like to make Macy an apron as well.”

            “ Ok ill have someone drop all that off before we go to the job site.”

            ‘that would be helpful, I can get a lot of caning done for winter.”

With that he turns and leaves in an abrupt way. I have long since stopped being offended by my fathers actions, I know its not him I know he loves me, its just hard for everyone some days and most days its hardest for my father. Most of the time I feel guilt when ending conversations with dad, I look like my mother and I am the eldest girl. My father will have to live with me for the rest of his life, I will be the one to care for him and I will have a family with him in the house. What are the odds that one of my daughters will have my looks?

            I start my day at the sink working on the dishes wile watching the kids run around the farm. I see Macy work on keeping them in order, herding them like a sheep dog, I realize just how hard she is trying to show me she is capable and ready. She doesn’t want to be rude or disrespectful so she wont say anything. When Macy comes back inside I hand her a note to give to her teacher.

“What’s this?” Macy looks at me with confusion and a hopeful I give her the answer so she doesn’t have to choose between being respectful and knowing what it is.

            “This will tell your teacher you will be gone next week from Monday to Friday to help me and start your home training.”

            Her eyes grow looking as if she needs me to repeat that I will in fact be training her in next week.

            “Thank you.”

            “I will see you tonight we can start planning what you will learn and what you want to focus on.”

            With that she gathers the children up and leaves towards the building where classes are held.

            The classes are in a building that is about a half mile from our homestead, this wired out nice so everyone can walk to and from classes. The building is broken up into three rooms by age. Kids under thirteen are in the first room, thirteen to sixteen second and the last room is for kids that are  seventeen and eighteen. Reading, writing, math, gardening, basics of living and education are taught in all three rooms. When kids get to the third room it is more focused on future almost a career training, girls learn how the courting and approval process will go and everything that goes along with being the head of house, babies, cooking, and cleaning. Men will  learn the courtship process as well but a bit more summarized as they don’t make any final decisions. The men mainly work outside of the classroom for the last year doing the manual labor they will be doing for the rest of their life.  When you turn 18 you complete your classes and go into your designated spot and become an unmarried adult in our community.

            Once everyone has left the house I decide today is the best day to do a deep clean of the houses, no one is home to bug me or get in the way and It is warmer today and who knows how many nice days I’m going to get. I pull everything I need out to scrub floors, cloths, and wood stoves. I start in the boys house and walk directly to dads room this is always the cleanest room so its easy to get in and out. I pick up the few dirty cloths and sweep and scrub the floors, I strip the bed planning to do all they bed linens in both houses today and hoping I’m not bighting off more than I can chew. I start a basket of all the dirty cloths near the door and move onto Sammy’s room. He is not the worst offender but he is not as clean as dad, when I finally get through Sammy’s room I decided to just grab all the cloths and bed linen’s first and get them all washed and on the cloths line or they will never dry. Once the cloths are all in the pile I scrub the stove and floors before moving all the laundry to the creek. Once everything is scrubbed in the creek and pinned up on the line to dry I move to the main house. I grab all the girls dresses and cloths and what little scented soap I have left and quickly wash them and get them on the line next to the boy’s things. When I’m done scrubbing the main house from top to bottom I find myself staring at the cellar in the area we have dug into the ground to keep some of the more perishable things cool. Im trying to think what I can cobble together to make lunch for the boys. I decide on a hot dish with what is left of the little beef we have in storage, when everything is prepared and packed up for the boys and I have eaten my self I pull out all my sewing things and lay them out on the table. I pull out my purple dress and apron and get to work patching it together as best as I can hoping to get one more year out of both.

            Nick walks through the door startling me out of my thoughts.

            “sorry I saw you working through the window and didn’t want to disturb you, I have two of the cases of jars.” Nick drops them on the table and turns to get the rest, after 3 more trips everything is on the table and the amount of fabric I see for dresses and aprons makes me want to cry.

                        ‘how did you get so much fabric?”

            “Trish was at the shop with Mirum and some lady from another community on one of the costs, the lady had metal post and pans and traded 6 sets for the purple quilt.”

            “Wow, I might need to make more like that.”

            “Well here is all of the order Victoria, anything else before I leave?” His words are clipped and I’m worried why he’s being short with me.

            “there is lunch packed up there for all of you.” I start sorting the fabric keeping my hands and busy and eyes down. Nick leaves the house without a word, I know he’s upset about last night but its not like I invited him to show up I haven’t see nor talked to him in 5 years and Nick knows that.

            After taking a quick inventory of fabric I decide that there is enough to make 2 aprons, one for Macy and a second for Laura I can store and give to her when she is ready. The fabric for the dresses is beautiful there is a bolt of blue, purple, and yellow, I figure out I can make a dress for all 6 girls and an extra for Macy when she is old enough to run a household and start doing visits for a courtship.

            I start with the aprons so Macy will be ready when she gets home and then she has one for next week. When I resurface I have finished both aprons and a dress for Sandra. I pack everything up and move it all to my room then gather two baskets for cloths and go out to the line. After the boys house is put back together I walk back to the line to get the things for the main house leaving my second dress on the line to dry just a bit more. 

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