By Karen Brode
It was one of those rare December days when the weather teased you a bit. It looked almost like spring was on it’s way. The sun shone down warm on Winnie’s shoulders even though she had her sweater wrapped around her. She sat on the front steps of her mother’s house–well, her house now that her mother was dead, she guessed.
It was the last week of December, 1951 and next Monday, she would don her school clothes and go back to teaching. It would be better to have somewhere to go, something to do. She felt a bit untethered from her life because no longer would she have to rush home to take care of her mother. She had at times resented that she had no life outside of her workplace and her home–and of course, church. She had always been plenty busy, but now she just felt empty.
Her father, John Hawk, had gone to Bells to play dominoes in the back of the barber shop. Effie had never wanted John to play dominoes because playing dominoes was close to playing cards, and she thought of playing cards as a sin. In fact, she would not allow cards or dominoes in her house. Winnie had always wondered about this. She knew how much her daddy loved dominoes, and she would never suggest that he could not indulge himself in something that was so much fun for him. John had tried to please Effie, but now he felt that he could play dominoes without feeling guilty.
Winnie looked out at the front yard. There was a cedar bush on each side of the walkway. She looked up at the sky and noticed the clouds that promised snow for the next day. She didn’t want to think about tomorrow. Travis and Jane had said they absolutely must start home in the morning, and Winnie tried not to think of how empty the house would be without them and all of the noise and commotion of a baby.
Winnie had persuaded Travis and Jane to go into Denison and have supper while she gladly kept the baby. She had held the baby and walked through the house holding her up above her head and saying, “Who’s the prettiest little girl in the world?” The baby’s head lolled to one side and she spit up part of her last bottle on Winnie.
Winnie had laid the baby down for a nap and left the front door cracked so she would hear the slightest cry from the tiny little girl who brought so much life to the house that now seemed so dead.
She knew so little about babies really. She had not spent great amounts of time with them. She laid the baby down and said, “Here comes the bumblebee!” as she spun her index finger over the babies head. The baby watched as the finger came down on her tummy and then Winnie rubbed her head against the baby’s tummy. The baby screamed and Winnie picked her up and walked through the house with her trying to calm her. It would be just her luck if Travis and Jane came back and the baby was crying and miserable.
Winnie walked through the house with the baby on her shoulder, and just for a little while she let herself think that this was her baby and Gene would be home from work soon and they would sit down together as a family and eat supper. Winnie tried not to think of him, tried not to think how it might have been. It could never be, and it was a waste of her time to wonder about him. Still, he wandered into her thoughts often.
Winnie fumbled through the bags Travis and Jane had left, and found a pacifier. The baby took the pacifier and sucked loudly and Winnie watched her as she calmed herself with the pacifier. She remembered when Travis had been a baby, and her Mother had squares of white cotton cloth in a drawer. Her Mother had put a tablespoon of sugar into the square of cloth and then twisted it and wet it. Travis would grab the sugar tit and suck contentedly as he sat in the buggy. It made Winnie feel old to think that she had taken care of him when he was a baby and now she was caring for his child.
Karen Brode grew up in Denison, TX and graduated from Denison High School in 1972. She took courses at Southeastern Oklahoma State University and worked in a church office for 25 years. She and her husband, Gary, have been married 39 years and they have one son, Brandon. Karen’s hobbies are writing, sewing, and gardening.