By Sandra Lumley
Inside that pail was a treat for each one of us. A sliver of apple or small portion of a sandwich. We didn’t really care what it was going to be. It was pa saying you were all in my thoughts today and here’s the proof. Often we ran to meet him unable to wait until he got to where we were knotted together waiting eagerly. We’d run to meet him making him divide the lunch box treats right there in the middle of the road. We gobbled them down quickly then hung onto and all over him as we accompanied him to the house.
Our house was then lined up like boxcars accept for the kitchen which pa had enlarged by knocking down a wall. He’d added longer sides then put the wall back up.
Our well was right outside the house and had an unending supply of sweet icy water even on the hottest days. There were supposed to be five of us children but one died. It was a little baby boy that never had a chance. He was the last of us children and mommy had told us a new baby was coming after her bellie had rounded noticeably. Pa started adding on more snippit of food to his lunch pail getting ready. He ate the little extra bit of food himself quietly and slowly like he did everything else. We children watched him do it with solemn approval. It was proper and right because after all he was doing it for one of us. Finally the baby came in the middle of one night. None of us had even thought about going to bed. Pa sat leaning forward in the living room rocking chair for hours intently watching his and mommy’s bedroom door. The four of us children huddled on the sofa sleepy but half delighted and half scared. About three o’clock in the morning the doctor opened the bedroom door shaking his head.. "I’m sorry ‘Andrew the baby didn’t make it. But your wife is fine. She’ll be up and about in no time," he said. Pa jumped up out of the rocker glanced over at us children then rushed into the bedroom. The doctor came to the sofa and patted my sister Ella’s shoulder sympathetically. "You children are not to worry now," he told us. "Your mother is doing very well. I’ll be back in a day or so to see about her. But if she needs me sooner one of you young-uns come and get me." He didn’t say anything about the baby that was one of us. Then he left. No one spoke or cried we must have been in shock. One of us didn’t exist. The long joyous worried hours of waiting had left all of us drained and exhausted. We just sat there knowing that crying would come later. We felt no relief or gratitude because our mother was safe we’d never thought she was in danger. The next day Pa wrapped the little baby boy in a soft blue blanket that mommy had made for him and put him in a small pine box. Then he carried the box to the Maple trees with mommy stumbling and weeping behind him. We children followed her still stunned and unable to believe there was no baby. Pa buried the small pine box with our brother inside right in the middle of the small stand of Maple trees.
Pa never stopped the coming home treats even after we were grown. He brought them anyway just in case at sometime they might be wanted. Once in a while one of us as adults would peek inside his lunch pail smiling fondly and often there would be bits of food withering away inside.
When the County officials first offered to buy this property they were friendly and kind but we angrily refused. None of us wanted to sell. It would almost be like selling yourself. But there is a law called Eminent Domain and it says that the county or state can condemn your property and flat take it away from you. At first we were so angry and frustrated we choked. But eventually realized that in the face of the power of law in the end we would lose. We decided to try and acquire the grace to concede. If we hadn’t the injustice of it all and our own fury would drive us mad. I don’t even look at the Maples and neither do my sisters and brother. They come here as often as they can now because they realize the place wont be here much longer and they’re saying their goodbyes.
They just wander around touching this or that looking bewildered and sad.