Dear Diary, meet Theo Fournier. You may recall hearing his name a while back – well, his first name, anyway. He used to be the local bully but after the children saw their father apologize to Dax, they decided to have an intervention of sorts with Theo.
Laurent decided and the others followed because it was Laurent who thought perhaps Theo acted the way he did because he was sad. Upon further investigation, the kids found out that Theo’s father had died when he was quite young. Not long after, his mother became ill and followed her husband to the grave. A neighbor family took him in but had very little time for comforting a lonely child. And so, the bullying of other children began.
I heard through the grapevine that Charles, Laurent and the rest of my brood had taken it upon themselves to befriend Theo, but it wasn’t until I was serving dinner one day that I realized there were seven children instead of six.
“Momma, he’s been here for two days!” Marty exclaimed.
How had I not noticed? I guess when you have so many children, others can just sneak in if they have a mind to. Theo is unofficially a member of the family and Marty’s best friend. I’m waiting to see if their friendship lasts since they will both be teens soon.
It delights me to no end to sit on the front porch, snap beans and listen to the children play. They do quite a bit around the farm, however, other parents might make their children do even more chores to help out. I can’t help it, though, since I’d much rather hear their squeals and giggles then have them somberly marching about like little soldiers.
Charles often corrals them, keeping them in line after he’s done the milking and cleaning stables. Laurent works in the garden after turning out the horses, then he can be found reading or gathering herbs.
Marty is responsible for working in the garden with Laurent while Carrie and Lissie feed the animals and gather the eggs. Susan helps clean up the breakfast dishes and is keen to sweep the floors and porches.
They also help with basic cleaning and hanging laundry and there are days when I need help with baking, canning or sewing. There’s always plenty to do, including helping Matthieu when he needs extra hands.
Some of them don’t mind while others do.
This morning, I could hear Laurent sighing loudly and saying, “How can I read with all this racket?”
“Why don’t you do something fun for once?” Marty called to him.
“Reading is fun,” Susan said in her brother’s defense.
As they continued their debate, I smiled softly to myself, breaking ends off beans and snapping them in half so they could be cooked later.
Carrie and Lissie’s voices rose higher above the other children as they played their clapping game:
“My mother your mother live across the street
1819 Blueberry street
Every night they have a fight
and this is what they say
Boy’s are rotten
made out of cotton
Girls are handy
made out of candy
Boys go to Jupiter
to get more stupider
Girls go to Mars
to get more candy bars
Boys drink whiskey
to get more frisky
Girls drink Pepsi
to get more sexy
Icky Icky soda pop
Icky Icky you
Icky Icky soda pop
a boy loves you
“That is so dumb!” Laurent proclaimed. “More stupider? More sexy? Why don’t you just say sexier – and, hey, do you even know what that means?”
“Yeah, that’s inappropriate,” Charles agreed from the seesaw. “Where did you learn that, anyway?”
Carrie tilted her chin forward defiantly. “Of course we know what that means. We’re not babies, you know!”
“I don’t know what that means,” Lissie realized aloud as she raised her eyebrows.
“Leave us alone now,” said Carrie. “We’re going to do a different one anyway.”
“Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack
All dressed in black, black, black
With silver buttons, buttons, buttons
All down her back, back, back.
She asked her mother, mother, mother
for fifty cents, cents, cents
To see the elephants, elephants, elephants
Jump over the fence, fence, fence.
They jumped so high, high, high
they reached the sky, sky, sky
And didn’t come back, back, back
Till the 4th of July, ‘ly, ‘ly!
She asked her mother, mother, mother
For 5 cents more, more, more
To see the elephants, elephants, elephants
Jump over the door, door, door.
They jumped so low, low, low
They stubbed their toe, toe, toe
And that was the end, end, end
Of the elephant show, show, show!”*
Just then, Marty made a flying leap over Theo’s back for their Leap Frog game leaving Laurent to gape at his siblings as if they were all from another planet. Shaking his head, he wandered off, probably to find some useful plants.
Later that evening, we enjoyed a supper of zucchini-potato casserole and green beans cooked with shallots and garlic. As a family, we enjoyed eating from farm-to-table. None of us ate meat, but there was plenty of food from the garden to satisfy us.
After the dishes were done, Matt and I played dominoes with the kids, then it was bedtime. I think I had just drifted off to a dreamless sleep when the closing of our front door downstairs startled me awake. I sat straight up in bed and shook Matthieu’s shoulders. Instead of waking up, he mumbled something unintelligible and turned over, away from me.
Pushing on him harder, I said as loudly as I dared, “Matt! There’s someone in the house!”
“Oh for heaven’s sake,” I grumbled, getting up. In the dark, I couldn’t find my robe. It had probably slipped off the bed and onto the floor.
Then we heard a bump and an “Ouch!” from downstairs. That got Matt awake real fast.
“Someone’s in the house!”
“So it would seem,” I sighed, following him downstairs and lighting lanterns on the way.
In the front room, just inside the door, stood my brother Leo.
“I’m sorry,” he said, his face flushing crimson. “I think I broke a vase or something.”
I was about to remark that he wouldn’t have broken anything had he knocked on the door like a normal person but the look in his eyes made me bite my tongue. Something was wrong.
“Um… I was wondering if Wilda was here.”
Matthieu and I glanced at each other. “No. Why would she be?”
Running a hand through his hair, his shoulders slumping forward, his eyes reddened as if he might cry. “She – well, we had an argument. She doesn’t realize how much I love her and how this doesn’t even matter to me. I just don’t get it.”
“I’m going to get dressed,” Matthieu said.
“I’ll make some coffee.” This was going to be a long night.
As Matthieu went upstairs to get dressed, I ushered Leo Jr. into the dining room where he refused a piece of pie, but accepted a cup of coffee once I had it made.
Once we were all assembled again, Matt said, “How about you tell us from the top what happened?”
Leo nodded and took a deep breath before beginning his saga. “It began a while back…. but the gist of it is that everything culminated today while we were on the mainland. We were at the hospital to get results of some tests the midwife recommended.”
“Is Wilda having trouble with a pregnancy?” Matthieu asked.
Leo shook his head and briefly bit his bottom lip before answering. “No, the trouble is, we found out today she can’t have a baby. Ever.”
“Oh.” The word slipped out of my mouth and it was my turn to take a deep breath.
“She’s pretty upset – I mean, I’ve never seen her so sad before. I tried to reassure her that I was fine with it but she got angry and took off. I – I don’t know what I did.”
“This is definitely beyond my scope of knowledge, but maybe she went home to her parents?” I suggested.
“Maybe. I was hoping she was here since it was right across the road.”
“Why don’t you stay here the rest of the night and as soon as morning breaks, you can go to the Delattre place and find out?” Matthieu said.
As soon as the words had been spoken, I saw Leo Jr.’s shoulders slump forward even more.
“Do you want Matthieu to go with you?”
“To be honest, Blue, I was hoping you could go get her and bring her home.”
Go get her? What madness was this? “You know, she’s not some little flower that I can put in my pocket and bring home. How do you expect me to accomplish this exactly?”
“You’re a woman… I thought you could talk to her.”
“Oh, brother. Do you realize I know nothing about her situation? I’m the mother of six! Just because I’m a woman doesn’t mean I have a clue as to what I should say!”
“She won’t listen to me, though.”
Rolling my eyes toward the ceiling, I threw up my hands in defeat. “Fine, but if you were anyone else, it would be a big fat ‘no.’ Plus, I can’t promise I’ll be able to do any good.”
Leo Jr. jumped up from his chair and threw his arms around me, kissing me on the cheek. “Thank you, Sis.”
He could thank me, but I was already filled with regret that I’d agreed to this.
After I got dressed, I paused in the hallway, just outside the girls’ bedroom. Not only had I seen light under their door, I could hear them chattering away.
“Do you think you’ll start dating boys?” Carrie asked.
Marty’s voice, stubborn as always said back to her, “No, I don’t! Just because you’re a teen doesn’t mean the first thing you do is start dating!”
“What is the first thing you do?” Susan asked.
“I’m not sure,” Marty answered, her voice full of a wisdom she didn’t really possess. “But it isn’t that.”
“I think Theo likes you,” Lissie said.
“Oh, he does not! He’s my best friend, he’s not allowed to be a boyfriend, too.”
The door squeaked on its hinges as I pushed it open and stepped inside. “What do we have here? Four little girls that should be fast asleep, I see.”
“Marty’s not a little girl,” Carrie said. “She’s almost grown up!”
Looking around the room at all my lovely girls…
… I realized that none of them would be little girls for much longer. My heart ached and I found myself longing for the days when they were babies and I could hold them in my arms and rock them for as long as I wanted. The only thing I didn’t miss from back then were all the diapers I had to wash and fold!
“She’s not too grown up yet for me to tell her to lie down and go back to sleep. Now, let’s get these lights put out and off to dreamland you go.”
I blew out lanterns as I tucked in each sweet child, kissing them on their cheeks as I did and telling them I loved them. Then I stood by the door for a moment to make sure they were truly drifting off.
and Carrie… they were all out.
Reaching for the handle, I heard some stirring.
“What is it, Marty?” I whispered.
“Is it true you have to start dating when you have your teen birthday?”
Just as the sun was rising and painting the sky with beautiful yellows, pinks and golds, I arrived at the Delattre farm. It was a bit unseemly to call at such an hour, but I figured if I wasn’t able to sleep because of this, neither were they. Actually, though, if Wilda was here, I highly doubted she’d had a peaceful night.
As I approached, Wilda came out of the barn. When she saw me, she put down the pails of milk she was carrying.
Her eyes were ringed with redness and teary, not to mention how exhausted she looked. “Hey, Blue. I suppose you’re here because Leo came to you.”
“He thought you might be at our house since we live just across the way.”
“Did he tell you what happened? What we found out?”
I nodded. “Yes and I’m so sorry. Is there anything I can do?”
Fresh tears sprung to her eyes and rolled down her face. She dabbed at them with her apron but more came to take their place. “No. I’m so sad. I can’t believe this.”
Waiting a moment, I finally said in the most soothing voice I could muster, “I’m sure you must be very shocked. Were you and Leo planning on a large family?”
“Not especially. But I would’ve at least liked to have one or two. In fact, I thought we’d have one by now.”
“And there’s nothing can be done?”
“No,” she said, crying all over again.
I patted her shoulder lightly, trying anything to comfort her. My own heart felt like it was breaking as I thought about her situation. “Leo is really worried about you. He’s distraught.”
“I can’t face him right now. I just can’t!”
“Do you know what he told me last night? He said how much he loves you and how complete his life is because you’re in it. It’s terrible what you’ve learned, but don’t let it tear the two of you apart. He’s loved you since forever and the day you two got married was the happiest day of his life.”
She peered at me around her apron which she was using to wipe her face again. “You don’t think he’ll wish he had a wife who could have children?”
Firmly, I shook my head. “The only wife he wishes for, or will ever want is you. I’m certain of it.” After giving her a hug, I gently added, “Let’s go home.”
Author’s Note: The poses in this chapter were made by Bee and can be found here: Play Poses.
*”My Mother, Your Mother” and “Miss Mary Mack” are both jump roping/clapping game rhymes I learned as a child. After much searching on the internet, I’m still not sure of their origins.