Monday, January 28, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me

On my birthday my daughter surprised me with these beautiful roses. They were so nice that they lasted from my birthday on the 17th until just yesterday.

I also had another unexpected birthday present. The day before my birthday I was doing laundry and the dryer made and awful noise and then stopped working. Diagnosis: the motor siezed up. We were told that it is more cost effective to buy a new dryer.
So the next day Doug sent me out to buy a new dryer. He said that I could decide what to get just don't spend too much money. Matthew and Mary-Kate were both excited about the prospect but as anyone who has gone shopping for a big ticket item knows I was not excited. But I managed to find this dryed on sale at Lowes. They delivered it and installed it the next day. It is large enough to dry my king size comforter with plenty of room to spare.
So, Happy Birthday to me!!!!!!!

More Sewing

More sewing happening in this house. Last fall a friend had a baby girl. I pinned and cut out this coat and bonnet and this jumpsuit. Then I hurt my back and so Mary-Kate cleaned up around my sewing machine and it all got put away. I'm glad I cut size large.

After finishing the quilts I took them out and decided to finish them. All that's left is to put on the fasteners and tack the lining to the hem of the coat.

This jumpsuit was so easy to do and it even has snaps in the crotch so it is easy when you change the babys diaper.
I have another friend with a four year-old. I never made anything when Claire was born. I saw this snowflake fabric last fall when I was out shopping and it made me think of making a little girls dress.
This dress is so simple and was so easy to make. It even has a bag that goes with it. I even got buttons shaped like snowflakes and snowmen to embellish the dress and bag.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Time to Kill the Fatted Chicken Again?

There's an ugly rumor going around that my son is in country and on his way home for middeployment leave. I got an email last night that his flight would arrive this evening.
Now, it's not that I don't trust the Army. It's just that I don't trust the Army. They don't exactly keep the same timetable that the rest of us do. They tend to march to their own drummer. I will, however, be at the airport to meet his plane.
There has been a big hole in this family with this son gone. All of them are precious and all have their place. The place of this one is to keep the laughing juices flowing. You can bet that morning, noon, and night we will be hearing that "devilish" laugh.
We will also be subjected to his little bits of sagacity and wisdom. Enough, I hope, to last until he comes home from Afghanistan for good. (I doubt it.)
Look forward to that big bear hug and that wicked laugh that will great me when he comes off the plane. It will be good to have you home Ryan.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Finally, A Call From The Doctor!!!!!!

The doctor finally called with the report on Doug's CT scan. We are very pleased to report that it is not cancer!!!! He has kidney stones in his left kidney and several cysts. The doctor wants an ultrasound to confirm the density of the stones and the content of the cysts and then he will sit with us and lay out the plan of treatment.
Thanks to everyone and their prayers. I know that God listens and that He is busy taking care of all of us. I will have a mass said for the intentions of all of our wonderful benefactors.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Attacking the UFO Box

Next project done. Mary-Kate left this quilt that she had made on my sewing machine this morning when she left for school. It was still in need of binding. I think that she was so impressed with my finishing the other two that she hoped that I was still in the mood for more.

So I surprised her when she came home from school with a completed project. This of course brings with it certain problems. Now she has gotten out what we call the UFO box.
UFO stands for unfinished objects. It is mostly quilt tops and blocks that we have made over the years when I was teaching my own kids and others how to sew or things that I made to challenge myself. Now I feel challenged to finish as many of them as I can.
Thank you Mary-Kate for this little bit of a nudge and inspiration.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Keeping Busy

I have always been the kind of person who deals with the hardships of life by being busy and through hard work. My kids have always been able to guage my mood by what I am doing. They know if mom is worried or concerned about something or thinking hard about something by whether I am cleaning the house from top to bottom all of a sudden.

I recently got the news that my beloved husband had a bad check-up with his urologist. His family has a history of prostate cancer so he has been going to be checked for that for a few years now. But the dr says it's not his prostate but the suspicious cells are coming from somewhere else. At first I had no reaction but to make the needed appointments for the tests and to make the calls to the insurance company. I am really go at functioning. But when all that is done then the possibilities start to go through my brain. We watched one of his uncles die unnecessarily too soon from untreated prostate and kidney disease. All of that started going through my head.

I couldn't clean the house because of my back problems so what to do? How to keep myself busy while I think and pray myself through this dilemma? I good friend gave me the solution. She has two neices that have new babies and she needed gifts for the babies. So she gave me a call and asked me if it would bother my back too much to make a couple of quilts.

What you see here is my answer to her problem and mine. Many tears and prayers for both the babies and my husband went into the creation of these quilts.

I delivered them this morning. My friend loved them and thinks the moms will like them too. I think that when there are so many prayers and tears in the design and execution of something like this that it spills over into the baby's life. I hope and pray that these babies have happy and holy lives.

As for myself, the work has helped me sort this all out. My prayers have been that whatever God has in store for Doug and I, we have the strength to face it all together. That we always rely on His grace and guidance in all decisions, and that the doctors are guided by His hand as well.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Plea For Prayer

If there is anyone in blog land who reads this, I need pray on behalf of my wonderful husband. A recent visit to his dr found unusual and suspicious cells in his urine. After many test below the bladder they are scheduling tests of his kidneys. The dr has even said the dreaded C-word.
I am trying valiently to pray that the Lords will be done and to give me strength to face whatever is ahead. My family I fear will care little since they seem to not read this blog and family wide emails seem to go unnoticed. He has not family to speak of especially since his father's death and the scism that caused.
So I ask for prayers from anyone out there who cares enough to pray. Thank you.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Post-Christmas Christmas Present

The day after Christmas I received a very nice present. My three bred sows started to have their piglets.One of them only had three but the other two had 11 each. The one that I am holding here is the smallest piglet that we have ever had on this farm. It was only about eight inches long and weighed about 10 ounces. Too bad that it didn't live.
They really needed a rest after being born and then fighting to feed for the first time.
The boar was a brown and pink banded mixed pig so we got quite a lot of color this time. What a lovely batch of piglets.
They are so funny when they climb all over each other and fight to each when it is time to nurse. The squeek and fuss and the mother pig fusses right back at them. They really make quite a racket.

This little piggy got born and headed right for it's first meal. What a sight to behold. Thank you God for this much welcome Christmas present.

The Final Installment of Ryan's Christmas Story

Monday December 24
Christmas Story Continued
Margaret's Christmas Present
That night, before she went to bed, the little girl asked the old man, "Grandfather, I need to ask a favor of you." "Of course, my dear, anything," the old man said. "I've been knitting you a scarf for Christmas, but I also wanted to give Perry one, and I don't have time to make him another one. He says he is going away soon after Christmas, and you are staying here with me forever, so I was wondering, could I give him your scarf, and make you another one after Christmas. I promise to make it as soon as I can." The old man, touched by yet another proof of his grand-daughter's angelic qualities, readily agreed of course. I don't think he could ever have refused her anything she asked. Christmas day dawned bright over the white hills of upstate New York. Perry woke to find one of his socks at the foot of his bed stuffed with gifts. Martha relaxed the rules a little bit that morning, enough to allow the two children to meet in the kitchen as soon as they were dressed to compare their stockings' content without doing any chores. She had even baked some of her special holiday nut roll which she allowed them to eat for breakfast. Perry was especially entranced by the pocket knife he found in the toe of his stocking. Martha pursed her lips a little at that. She had told James the manservant, who liked the boy immensely, that every boy needed a knife, but she had also told him that one blade was plenty enough. Now Perry was sitting at the table opening and closing three different blades and a corkscrew with the reverent fascination that all males feel for their first weapon. Neither Perry nor Margaret, nor any other child in the church for that matter, could sit still during that service. A thick snowfall that promised to continue all afternoon only added to the excitement. Coming back home Perry's amazement only grew for under the tree were still more gifts for him. A scarf from Margaret, a pair of socks from Martha, a suit of clothes from James, and even a baseball bat from Dick. Not the most practical of presents, but it sealed the truce between them. The old man gave him a shiny silver dollar, which Martha did not approve of, but for once the old man did what he chose without being guided by her. Perry sat in the midst of his new found wealth, speechless, blinking back his tears amid the chatter around him, until Martha sent both the children out of doors to play until dinner. Perry covered himself in glory during the snowball fight that occurred between the children from Brown lane and the children from the farms. He had the novel idea of using the sleds as barricades or shields while advancing on the well entrenched farm children, who were hiding behind the hedgerows. In this way the Brown Lane army advanced under a hail of snowballs, not entirely free of ice, before dropping the shields and throwing snowballs at point blank range, chasing them from the field. Martha even allowed them to stay up late, and Perry beat Margaret at several games of checkers, which put him in a boasting mood until the old man severely trounced him three times in a road. The housekeeper wisely sent both of the children to bed before frayed tempers and a long day resulted in a quarrel.Perry stayed a few more days, helping to take down the Christmas decorations. Then, on New Years Eve, the family woke up to find that he was gone. He had taken his posessions with him, and nothing else, and he had left this note: "Thanks to all yue. I was reel glad to spen Krissmis with yue. Hope yur do well. Margaret, I will keep my promiss." Two weeks later a young boy appeared in the lobby of Patrick, St. James and Still. He was tall for his age, muddy, but with clothes that were not out of repair, and a bag over his shoulder with a baseball bat sticking out of the top of it. He boldly walked to the desk where the porter sat and said, "I'm looking for Mr. St. James." "Do you have an appointment?" the porter asked sarcastically. "Nah, just tell him it's important, chap." "Indeed," the porter blinked in surprise. "Perhaps you would like to sit while you are waiting?" "Thanks," the boy winked. "Don't mind if I do." He sat in one of the chairs in the lobby and pulled a newspaper out of his bag and began to read. The porter, of course, did not call Mr. St. James. The boy still sat there all day, reading the newspaper, and occasionally asking questions like "What does o-c-c-i-d-e-n-t-a-l spell?" and "What does "conservative" mean?" Evening came, and people began to leave, lawyers, clerks, secretaries, assistants. Most of them wished the porter a good night, and the boy looked all of them over closely, but didn't speak to any of them. The porter began to be curious about what this boy wanted so badly that he was willing to sit all day to wait for it. About nine-thirty an office door opened and shut and a tall, well dressed man, clean shaven with blond hair, looking somewhat preoccuppied walked into the lobby. He didn't notice the boy, but he bid the porter goodnight. "Goodnight, Mr. St. James," the porter said, somewhat more loudly than was necessary. Perry, for it was he, of course, leapt up, stowed his newspaper, and followed the gentleman out with a wink and a cheery "Thanks, chum," for the porter. "Eh, St. James," Perry yelled as soon as he stepped outside. It was quite dark, and some snow was falling. Mr. St. James stopped near a streetlight and turned in surprise. Seeing Perry, he fumbled in his pocket, pulled out a coin and tossed it to the boy. He was turning to walk away when the coin hit him in the back of the head, as hard as the boy could throw it. "I beg your pardon," the man said indignantly. "Did I ask you for any money, St. James? I've got words to have out with you." "Do I know you?" Mr. St. James asked. "No, but I know you. I know you're a blithering idiot." "I will not be talked to in this fashion by a boy," the solicitor said haughtily. "Oh, well excuse me. It's about your daughter, Margaret." When the man started and stared at him the boy laughed and went on. "Oh, I see that got your attention. When was the last time she got your attention I wonder? The night her ma died givin' birth?" "How do you know all this?" "Never you mind, I just know. I know she prays every night to God that He'll send you home to her. Don't know why she wants to see a sucker like you, but since God wasn't listening to her, I thought I would." "So you think you're the hand of God?" the man asked with a bitter half smile. "Where was He, then, when I prayed for my wife?" "Oh, I dunno about the hand of God thing," the boys eyes narrowed as he thought about that. "Maybe, you never know. I know this though, you an' me, we're selfish bastards, is what we are. Margaret is something different. If I were God, I don't think I'd much want to listen to the likes of you an' me, but Margaret, now she's the type He ought to listen to. Well now I've told you, and you do what you like. Maybe she's better off without you anyway, sucker." Perry shouldered his sack and turned and walked away. Neither Margaret, nor any of her family ever saw him again. A week later, Margaret was playing with her friends in the front yard. Unbeknownst to her, a tall man in a great coat had walked up to the wrought iron fence from the street and was watching her. His eyes were wistful, blue beneath his blond hair. He knew the brown curls and brown eyes he saw bouncing and laughing beneath her red hood. He knew them, and he loved them. He had always loved them. Perhaps, he should just go, he thought. He was an arrogant, selfish fool, and he knew it. Perhaps the boy had been right and she was better off without him. His eyes were getting blurry, and he blinked, and in the time it took him to blink, she had turned and seen him. He could not read her face, for he didn't know it. He didn't know her. He wouldn't blame her if she hated him. He would just go, back to London, back to his hole, and never bother her again. He never got the chance. She screamed, "Daddy" and ran to him. Never minding the wrought iron fence between them, never minding the spikes on top of it, she ran and jumped to him, never doubting that he would catch her. In the next instant they were holding each other like they would never let go, and I'm not sure who was crying most. Brought out of her kitchen at the sound of Margaret's scream, Martha stopped and caught her throat in surprise. Composing herself, she looked up to heaven, partly thinking, "It's about time," partly thinking, "Are you sure about this?" but mostly thankful. Then she shrugged, shook herself all over and smiled as if she couldn't help herself. Walking out to the gate, she curtsied in the old style. "Welcome home, sir, and may I say it, it has been too long. Come in, and wouldn't you know it, as providence would have it, I've got the kettle on."

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Inspiration from Heather

1. Do NOT take one moment for granted.
2. Live life like there is no tomorrow.
3. Just be nice. Really.
4. Tell your family you love them every day.
5. Say thank you when someone does something nice.
6. Forgive others mistakes, life is too short to hold on to bitterness.
7. Smile. No matter your circumstances. Smile.
8. Hug your children and your husband an extra 5 seconds.
9. When people stare, smile back at them. Trust me.
10.Live Happily . No matter what life throws at you. Just Live Happily.

Here’s to 2008!

Heather, I read your story and I have you in my prayers. May God continue to bless you and yours.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Happy Birthday to Mary-Kate

Happy birthday to my dear lovely daughter who turns 18 today. I can't believe that this day is here.
Watching you grow up every day has been an adventure and a pleasure.
You have so much to give to the world it is amazing that you are my daughter. Where did all of your talent come from? You play the piano and organ. You sing and are teaching yourself to play the violin.
You love horses and dogs and they regard you in return. You just seem to speak their language.
Watching you grow and mature each day has been a joy and a pleasure. What a wonder to behold.
When you were little you were a little imp and I often wondered if we would get through. You surely tried my patience many a time.
But then there were glimpses of the woman you would become. Such as your frequent decisions to have your hair cut and donated to Locks of Love. Such selflessness and love for others is a virtue that a parent wishes to see their child develop.
May you never lose your playfulness and you sweetness. May you continue in your generous nature and your thoughtfulness of others. Continue to grow closer to Our Lord and Our Lady and you will be always on the right path. Your father and I are proud of you and the woman that you are becoming. Our prayer for you is to follow God's will and to attain eternal happiness in heaven.
God bless you. I love you dear daughter.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Christmas Story

Here is the second installment of Ryan's Christmas Story.

Sunday, December 23, 2007
Christmas Story, continued.My mouth tastes like explosives. We had to crush up TNT to put in holes for a blast we did today, and the dust is all in my mouth and nose and sinuses. It has a bitter taste. It doesn't go well with nutri-grain bars either. Also, for my family, I've been trying to call home, but the phones around here won't cooperate for some reason, so I may not be able to call before Christmas. Tell Adam I said "Yo," and also "Merry Christmas."

Margaret's Christmas Present, cont.... Margaret was not the sort to let anything go. She always thought deeply about things that happened around her. Just then, her head was full of admonitions to be kind and generous and to give to the poor, and pre-Christmas stories about the little baby Jesus not finding room in the inn. To her it seemed that Dick had acted in a very un-Christian way. Her mind was still busily turning the event over and over at dinner that night, causing her to be unusually quiet. Her Grandfather noticed and asked her what was on her mind. "I saw a boy today, Grandpa." "One of your little friends from school?" "No, he was a poor boy who came up to the gate in the back. He said he was an orphan, and Dick chased him away." "Why did he do that?" Grandpa asked. "He said he was a bad boy, but I don't see how he could know that. He didn't even talk to him, he only just saw him standing there." "I'm sure he thought he was doing what was best for you." "But how could he know that. What if he was just a poor boy who wanted some food?" Her Grandfather sighed. "My dear, Dick may have been a little hasty, but be assured he was only trying to look out for what was best for you and your friends. He is right, there are some people who will do bad things, who will steal from others if they are given the chance. Dick may have been right about that boy." "But he may have been wrong, Grandpa." "I'm afraid, my dear, that grownups can not always afford to be as generous. He had you to think about. What if he had not told him to go away and he had tried to steal from us?" "I would give him some money gladly, if I had any. He needs it more." The old man sighed. He didn't know how to explain to his granddaughter how important it was to keep her safe. Her world was so black and white, and sometimes he wondered if she might not be right in some ways. She continued to eat her meal in silence, and he didn't know what to say to her. Perhaps she might have forgotten about it in time, but that was not to be. Thursday was washday at the house, and one of the little girl's chores was to help Martha take the clothes off the line and fold them in the basket. Accordingly, after school she was in the back yard helping the old housekeeper. They were almost finished when she happened to look up, and she saw Perry, once again leaning on the gate and looking in at them through the back yard. Martha, turning to see what she was looking at, saw him too. "Who is that?" she asked. "That is the boy that Dick chased away yesterday," Margaret explained, and briefly told the story. "Did he really, now?" Martha asked with her lips tight. She looked the boy over sharply, and he stared back at them, as they finished folding the last of the towels. When they were finished, Martha picked up the basket and set it on her bony hip, but instead of going back into the house she went to the back gate. Margaret stared after her in suprise for a few seconds before running after her. Perry had been looking away, watching the roosters in the chicken yard fighting, but when he turned and saw her he jumped like a startled fox and leapt away from the fence. He was running away when Martha's sharp voice caught him and stopped him in his tracks. "You there, boy, come back here. I want to talk to you." He froze and turned, slightly crouched and tense, as if he was ready to spring away at the slightest threat. His eyes glanced furtively from the old woman to the little girl. "You eat yet today, lad?" Martha asked, eyeing him sternly. "Yes," he answered. There was a pause of several seconds and he added as an afterthought, "Ma'am." "Where did you get the meal from, then?" she asked. The boy swallowed and didn't say anything, but his expression changed to one of sullen defiance. Martha clicked her tongue and pressed her lips together. "Well, you come inside here, and there'll be no cause for you to be stealing food this night." The boy stared, as if he was trying to make up his mind whether this old lady was telling the truth or not. "Well, are you coming or aren't you, then?" the housekeeper asked. "It's all right, we won't hurt you," the little girl reassured him. Perry started walking towards them, slowly and cautiously. Margaret opened the gate for him, and he hesitated. "Boy, come in here now, and get you something to eat," Martha ordered, in a tone that brooked no arguments. Perry did as he was told. Margaret got him a glass of cold milk from the dairy, while Martha cut him generous slices of cold ham, cheese and bread. When they were set before him on an earthenware plate his eyes grew wide as saucers in his skinny face and he began eating as quickly as he could. Margaret laughed as he crammed his cheeks as full as they could go, like a squirrel hoarding nuts, but Martha glared sternly. "Boy," she said, "Swallow that mouthful and say grace before you continue, and then take decent Christian sized bites. Chew each one ten times." Perry gulped, "Yes, Ma'am. What's grace?" "You don't know what grace is," Margaret asked in amazement. She realized that the boy in front of her was a heathen, a real live heathen, just like the brown children in Africa. She half expected Martha to send him away immediately. "Grace is when you pray before you eat," Martha explained. "What should I pray for?" The old housekeeper sighed and looked up to heaven for patience. "Boy, someone needs to take you in hand and Christianize you. Fold your hands and pray to the Lord, thanking Him for the food He has seen fit to put before you." "But God didn't give me the food, you did," Perry objected, his mouth finally empty.Martha eyed him sternly. "Sure and what were you expectin' boy, the miracle o' loaves an' fishes?" Her natural brogue began coming out, a sure sign that she was getting worked up for a lecture, as Margaret well knew. "The miracle of what?" The housekeeper sat silent for a few minutes watching the boy eat, her eyes twitching, and Margaret was braced for the tirade she knew was imminent. Martha's tongue was never unleashed in vain. However, to her surprise, the old lady's eyes grew soft and she only said, "Boy, maybe the Lord didn't work any signs and wonders before you to feed your skinny belly. But ye make sure, the food would not be here if it weren't for Him." Perry nodded, not entirely comprehending, but duly impressed nonetheless. Margaret plied him with questions while he ate, which tried him sorely because Martha would not let him talk with his mouth full and he did not want to pause eating. However the little girl learned that the boy's father was in prison for robbing a bank, that the prison was near Albany somewhere, and the boy had been working his way as on the river boats for a while, but that work was scarce in the winter and he was heading back to the city to look for work. "My father works in New York City," the little girl said. "Where at?" Perry asked with interest. "He's a solicitor at Patrick, St. James and Still," she answered, somewhat wistfully. "Oh, he's a swell," the boy said dismissively. "I worked at a meat packing plant for a while." "How would you like to work here, boy," Martha asked unexpectedly. "Doin' what, for how much," the boy called out promptly. "Whatever I tell you for bed and board," the old lady returned just as sharply. "Place to stay?" Perry asked. "Yes." "All the food I can eat?" "You can stuff yourself 'til ye burst," the housekeeper assured him. "Ye'll not get rich, but I'll put some meat on your bones at the least." "For how long." "That depends on whether you work out," the housekeeper answered. "Shoot, I'm a good worker. I may not be big but I'm damn strong," he flexed his skinny arm and nodded. "If you never use that language again, you may work here." "Oh, sorry. So it's a deal?" "It is," she answered. The boy spit on his palm and held it out to her. To say that her eyes were cold is to say that Antarctica is pleasantly chilly. Perry gulped and cringed, about to wipe his hand furtively on the seat of his pants. "Boy, go to the pump outside and wash your hand, and do not ever spit again. It is a filthy habit." True to his word, the boy turned out to be an excellent worker, and surprisingly strong for his size. He seemed bound and determined to prove that, and lifted, heaved and strained all afternoon. Martha always cleaned the house every year before Christmas, but she had not intended to start for another few days. However the boy's unexpected appearance and her soft heart, as Christian a heart as ever beat, under the prickles, combined to convince her to start right away. Accordingly the three of them, the housekeeper, Margaret and Perry, went up to the attic and started tearing it apart. Margaret was perplexed by this because usually they only cleaned the attic quickly and cursorily. Now they removed everything from it, including several large old pieces of furniture that the two girls would not have been able to move on their own. As it was, they both took one end, and Perry, veins popping out on his skinny neck but lifting it nonetheless, took the other. The old room saw such a dusting and sweeping and scrubbing and even mopping as it hadn't seen since the last of the boys, Margaret's uncles, had moved from there. It received several moppings, in fact, until the old hardwood planks that made up the floor actually looked close to the same shade of brown as the ones downstairs. The windows were wiped until the cold December sunlight sparkled through them as if it meant to. The rats were sure the end of the world had come. Margaret was terribly afraid of rats, but Perry found a nest of them in an old chair and showed her how fat ugly rats start out as naked pink little midgets, blind and about the size of peanuts. After that she didn't mind the grownup rats so much. All in all it was a productive afternoon. Martha was exacting, demanding that everything be done right, and in the end it was dark before they got the furniture back. The attic was not yet wired for the electric lights, so Martha told them they would finish it tomorrow. Margaret wanted Perry to eat with her and her grandfather, but Martha would hear none of it, so after a brief but cordial introduction to the old man, he was whisked away to eat in the kitchen. For the next week and a half, Perry worked for Martha cleaning the house from top to bottom. Margaret also helped, running home from school to be a part of the effort. The work was slow and thorough, thorough as it had not been for many a year that the old housekeeper had had to do it alone, or with only a little girl for help. As the young boy proved himself and earned the housekeeper's trust, he was also allowed to spend part of his evenings with the little girl and her grandfather in the study, although Martha was invariably there to keep an eye on him. The first sunday morning he spent with the family was very nearly the last. Martha had purchased a suit of clothes, cheap and plain but of good material and solid workmanship, a few sizes too big so that he would have room to grow. She even bought him a pair of stout boots that pleased him no end for his own were too small. He was very thankful for the gifts until he found that the housekeeper expected him to wear them to go to church with the family. A clash of wills ensued, and Margaret, have been banned from the kitchen for the duration of it, never learned how it went. Neither Martha nor Perry ever spoke of it again, but somehow or other a very subdued Perry in a fresh suit of clothes and highly washed face went to service with them, and sat almost perfectly still for the entire thing. Later that afternoon, it being Sunday, Margaret was reading in the library when the boy poked his head in. "Watcha doin'?" he asked. "Reading," she answered. "What about?" For answer she held up the book so he could read the title. "Shoot, I can't read that," he scoffed. "Why not?" she asked, looking up over the cover. "I can't read," he answered defiantly, hands thrust in his pockets. "You can't read?" Margaret asked in horrified shock. "Nope," he replied. "Never went to school." "But that is terrible. Every American child has to know how to read," she insisted. "Well, I don't." "Then I'll teach you," she told him in a determined voice. "It's easy, all you have to do is know your alphabet, which is..." "Yeah, I know my letters," he assured her, as if only a fool wouldn't know his letters. He rattled off the alphabet rapidly and correctly." He had a quick ear and mind, and he learned rapidly. Before the afternoon was over he knew his short vowel sounds and his consonant sounds and was reading short words like "fat" "cat" and "rat". "See," he boasted. "Nothing to it. Always knew I could read if I wanted to, just never tried before." And so the evenings in front of the fire became reading lessons. Martha watched her little charge, with barely disguised pride, as the little girl taught the boy to read. He was sharp, and soon became so excited about his new ability that he forgot to boast. During the workday he was always stopping to read something, whether it was a newspaper used to pack the good china, or even a label on a medicine bottle, he had to read it. As much as she approved of his new fascination with literacy, Martha was forced to be stern with him. No reading until his work was done, and later, when he set his bed clothes on fire, she forbade him taking books to bed with him and trying to read by candle light. They finished cleaning the house four days before Christmas. With the extra hands and a strong young back to help her, Martha had made the project far more ambitious than usual, cleaning from the top to the bottom, room by room, floor by floor, never permitting the children to move on until each room was spotless. Perry took the brunt of the work. The housekeeper expected him to lift the heaviest objects, do all the climbing, dust all the hard to reach places, and do most of the running, and she frequently scolded Margaret for attempting to do what she had marked out as Perry's work. The boy didn't mind a bit, and even got angry himself whenever the little girl tried to do his work for him. Margaret was inclined to resent this but the housekeeper explained knowingly, "Let him work. Men are never happy unless they are doing something they think we can't do. He needs the self-respect of working for a living, and it won't hurt him to be a gentleman, willy nilly." Margaret didn't understand, but she obeyed. After the cleaning inside, Perry was sent outside with Dick to collect greens. The two did not trust each other, but they operated under a sort of truce, even competing to see who could bring in the most greenery for the decorating. Dick won, of course, and rather lorded it over the younger boy, who would have been inclined to play some sort of trick on the groundskeeper to get even, except that he was on his best behavior. The house was decked with great glee. Perry professed not to have much use for Christmas, and Margaret was shocked by this but Martha paid him no mind, and try as he might, he could not help getting sucked into the festivity in spite of himself. The last sunday before Christmas, Perry found Margaret once again in the library, this time writing a letter. "Next you'll have to teach me to write all fancy like that," he commented, refering to her rather balloon shaped cursive. When she didn't answer he asked, "Watcha writin'?" "It's rude to look over people's shoulders," she said primly. "Well la-de-da," he scoffed, balancing on the back of a chair. "Watcha writin'?" She sighed and laid down the pen. "Why can't you go away?" "So why can't we work on sunday?" he asked. "If I had work to do I wouldn't be bothering you." "We can't, it's the Lord's day." "Well, the Lord ain't never done nothin' for me, why should I do anything for Him?" "Perry!" Margaret cried. "Take that back." "Shan't either," the boy grinned. "Take that back, or you'll go to hell when you die." "Poo, so will most of the people I know." "I won't. Grandfather and Martha won't." "Well, send me a letter and tell me how heaven is." "Perry, you mustn't joke about such things," the girl cried earnestly, almost in tears. "God hears you." "No He don't either." The boy was suddenly almost angry. "If God listened, then why'd me old Dad end up in jail?" "I thought you said he robbed a bank?" the girl said. "Yeah, but he was hungry and he needed to feed me somehow." "God had a reason, Perry, but I will pray for your father. Maybe God will let him out." "I bet God always answers your prayers. He always answers good people's prayers. You never had to steal to eat so He does whatever you ask. It ain't fair, I tell you..." suddenly he stopped short in the middle of his rant. Margaret was sitting with her head bowed, her curls over her face, and something about the way she sat told him that he was crying. As much as he could care for anyone in his selfish, boyish heart, he cared for her, and his conscience smote him at the thought that he had made her cry. He heard her whisper something, but he couldn't make it out. "Look," he said, uncomfortably. "Don't cry, I didn't mean it like that. It's not your fault you always got everything, and I know you'd give it all away if you could. You're not like most Christian folks, and neither is Martha. Don't cry, Margaret." He had to bend his head very close to hers to catch what she was saying. "God didn't give me everything I wanted. He took my parents away too." Perry awkwardly shifted from one foot to the other. "I didn't mean it like that," was all he could think of to say. "Every Christmas I pray extra hard, and I promise to be extra good, if only Daddy will come home, but he never does. I always forget and I do something naughty, and that ruins it." "No you don't," Perry yelled fiercely. "You never do anything even close to bad, I bet. It isn't your fault your old man is an ass." Margaret looked up at the boy, not crying, but with tears in her eyes. "He went away when Mama died. She died when I was born." "Yeah," the boy said. "Dick told me. But that isn't your fault." Margaret shook her head. "I'm not worried about me. I'm worried aobut you because you're almost a heathen." "Well it isn't my fault I never had no upbringing," he said sullenly. "Perry, I want you to promise me something." "Sure," the boy said, nonchalantly. "I want you to promise me that you will say the Lord's Prayer every day. I know you know it, because Martha taught it to you, and I heard you saying it along with us at service." "Aw, Margie, don't worry about me. I was only joking." "Promise me," she commanded inexorably. Her dark brown eyes, still filled with tears beseeched as much as her voice commanded. As much a boy as he was, there was already something of a man in him. Perry could not say no, and he promised. He meant it, too.