As it should be ©bobbiedeleon
The wind was blowing hard through hollow pine. Rachael was not sure how they were going to survive this harsh a winter. Joshua, Rachael’s ten-year-old son, brought in a good stack of firewood. They wanted no chance of a fire going out; the wind was already bitterly cold, and it was snowing hard outside. Rachael and Joshua were gathering everything they thought they might need into the house. It was best to not go out unless they had to.
Michael, Rachael’s husband, had taken the horse and wagon into town early for additional supplies. They knew from winters before, to be prepared for up to three months without being able to reach the town. Michael built a small barn and root cellar attached to the side of the house. After their first winter here, they learned to keep it stocked with hay, warm blankets, food, and anything else they thought they could use through a harsh winter.
Joshua secured a sturdy rope from the larger barn to the house. The hope was the small barn would suffice, but “you can never be too careful,” Michael would always say. If one of them had to go to the bigger barn in deep snow, the rope would ensure they could find their way back.
The darker it grew outside; the more concerned Rachael became for Michael. He had in the past had to make an emergency run to town in harsh conditions, but that was years ago when Joshua was a baby. It was before they understood the harsh conditions of the Mountain territory. It was a full day’s ride into town and a full day’s ride back on good weather days. Michael left four days ago before the worst of the storm hit.
Rachael and Joshua’s views from their cabin were only blinding snow now and darkness beyond that. Michael had boarded up all the downstairs windows before leaving, in case the snow became too deep and broke any of the windows out. That had worked for them in previous years. The loft windows had boardable handmade shutters that could be shut tight if ever needed. That way, they didn’t have to be sealed all the time and they could still see out until it grew too cold.
Rachel tried to wait to decorate the Christmas tree, Michael had cut a small one down and brought it in before he left. But she knew he had done that in case he didn’t make it back in time for Christmas. He would never want Joshua to lose the magic of Christmas. Rachael decided enough time had passed. So, Joshua started a warm fire, and they went to work on making ornaments. They made ornaments from wood, cloth, buttons, strings, pinecones, and old toys. They had learned to use anything.
It seemed as if by magic, no matter how worn or old the items they used were, the second they were placed on or under the tree, they were the most beautiful items in the world. Items that would be cherished forever. Once they had covered their special tree in dried fruit, popcorn garland, and all the new ornaments they had made from old things, Joshua fell asleep with a smile.
Rachael watched her son sleep peacefully and wished for his level of faith that everything would be okay. She sat in her mother’s rocking chair and swayed slowly back and forth, trying to calm her racing mind. Her mother had given her the chair as a wedding gift, at least that is what she told herself, and it had rocked sweet Joshua to sleep many a night. She thought back to the first time she had ever laid eyes on Michael. Long before she ever considered him a possible future husband or father for her children. She laughed slightly. Joshua opened his groggy eyes and asked if everything was okay.
“Yes, I was just thinking about the first time I saw your daddy.” Rachael replied.
“Tell me.” He said.
“Your daddy was a dirty, sweaty, curly-headed farm boy on his way to catch some fish for his family for dinner. He was one of the smartest, hardest working, and most fun boys I had ever met. Being around him was always my happiest place to be, It still is. We would go fishing down by the creek after school. His momma always let me come by and clean up after since I wasn’t supposed to be fishing. It wasn’t proper for a girl of my family background.”
“You mean because your family had a lot of money?” Joshua asked
“Yes,” she laughed. “They expected me to speak and act a certain way. Like a lady, I suppose, though I’m not sure any of them ever actually ever met one.” Rachael laughed again.
“Why does having or not having money have anything to do with how a person has to act? Shouldn’t we all just be ourselves and be good and kind and forgiving, no matter what?” Joshua asked.
Rachael smiled thankfully at the bright and sweet light of a son in front of her.
“Yes, that is how it should be, but not everything in the world is how it should be. Most things, my sweet son, are not how they should be. They are not fair, not right. The world can be a hard place. Remember that as you grow up Joshua, you can help change that for yourself and those you come across in your life. But also remember that the world can be beautiful, and full of so many blessings to be thankful for. Warmth, water, people we love who love us back, and just the beauty of waking up each morning with a chance at creating a better tomorrow. And even more, the opportunity to share with those who have had an even harder time than we have.”
“Did your family like Daddy momma?” Joshua asked intently.
“I wish I could tell you they did. But because he didn’t come from a family with the money, they wanted nothing to do with him, or me, if I choose to marry him. That is why you have never met your grandparents on my side.”
“But your momma gave you the rocking chair as a wedding present. Why would she give you a special gift if she didn’t like daddy and didn’t want you to marry him?”
“Yes, she did, as I was leaving. Then she walked away and never looked back. This was the rocker she used to rock me in. So, I’m sad to say that it was much more about having no reminder she had a daughter than giving me a special gift. I have not seen or heard from my parents since then. That was eighteen years ago.”
“They are missing out because Daddy is the best,” Joshua said with pride.
“I couldn’t agree more" Rachael smiled.
Her son was such a gentle boy, and she prayed every day that the harshness of the world wouldn’t steal that gentleness away.
Joshua laid back down, sleepy, but eager to hear more of the story. But he was fast asleep before she got another word out. She kissed him on the head and covered him with a blanket as her thoughts went back to Michael. He had been gone a while now and the storm was growing more intense.
They had raised such a smart and kind ten-year-old. She felt far richer now than she ever did at her family’s place, even with all the hardships they had endured. Their love hadn’t diminished at all. It had grown into something far more than she ever hoped. It was a deep love, and it was a deep friendship, two in one. It was hard work to make and keep the life they had. But they considered it the most worthwhile work either of them had ever done.
Tears filled Rachael’s eyes as she was waiting for Michael. Remembering all the years made her realize she was far more in love with him now. Rachael paused rocking, to wipe the tears off her cheeks. She was scared. How would she ever survive the winter without Michael? How would she survive anything without him? He was her heart and soul. Precious Joshua was his daddy’s twin, and they adored each other. He was their sweet, precious miracle boy. They were sure they would never have a child, but then he came and changed everything for the better.
They were sure they would never have another child since it had been so many years since Joshua was born and they were content with that. But Rachael had been saving a surprise for Michael. She was going to have another baby. She had been too afraid to tell him before he left. She didn’t want him worried about her. But now, she wondered why she hadn’t just told him before he left. Why would she leave anything unsaid? What if Michael never comes back? Her mind was racing again. The wind was now howling outside the windows.
Rachael began rocking again, trying desperately to calm her mind, but it wasn’t working. She gripped the sides of the chair for strength. “Please God, bring him back to us.” It seemed like an eternity had passed and she had to find new things to occupy her attention. She wrote stories in her handmade journal. She made ties for her hair from old sheets. Having fought off sleep as long as she could, she closed her eyes and drifted off.
She had no way of knowing how much time had passed when she was awakened by the sound of Daisy barking at the door. A familiar voice called through. “Rachael, it’s me, love, open the door” Rachael opened the door and there stood Michael, half frozen and covered in snow. She stood there, staring at him.
“Do you plan to let me in my love?” he said with a smile
Rachael threw her arms around his neck, hugged him, possibly the tightest she ever had, and kissed him, forgetting their need to breathe for a moment.
“I love you too,” Michael said when his lips were free.
“I was so scared something had happened to you,” Rachel responded, with waves of relief pouring over her. She was crying.
Michael smiled sweetly and wiped the tears from her face. “I’ve always come back my love.”
“There is something I need to tell you. I never should have kept it from you. I was waiting to surprise you, but now I see it’s best to never leave things unsaid.”
“Is everything ok?” Michael replied, now concerned.
“We are going to have another baby. I’ve known for a while but wanted to be certain and I wanted to make sure a safe amount of time had passed. I wanted it to be a surprise.”
Michael stood there wide-eyed, and then a huge grin covered his face.
“Joshua!!!” he yelled and poor Joshua jumped to his feet, confused and delirious, thinking something was wrong. “You, my precious son, are going to be a big brother! How do you feel about that news?”
Once he was good and awake, Joshua was so excited he couldn’t contain himself.
“This is the happiest news I’ve heard in my whole life,” Joshua replied.
“I hope he still feels that way after the baby comes,” Michael said with a laugh.
They all hugged and celebrated with warm apple cider. Rachael had been saving that for Michael’s safe return.
After Joshua was asleep again and everything was settled, Rachael and Michael cuddled up by the fire. Michael brushed her hair out of her face and gently kissed the side of her eye, which was puffy from crying.
“You are beautiful, even with tear-stained cheeks. I’m sorry I made you worry. I made it back as fast and as safely as I could.”
“Thank you for being safe. I would rather have you late than not have you at all. How blessed we are Michael. It hurts my heart to think that some people will never know this kind of peace, happiness, or love. That some people will endure so much pain and hardship it will be difficult for them to see the good in anything. And then the other side, I’ve seen people of great wealth who aren’t half as rich as we are.” She said.
“If I could, I would give this gift to the entire world, but we can at least try to share as much of the love and kindness we’ve found in each other with everyone we meet. It will be for them to decide how they receive it,” Michael replied.
They held each other quietly by the fire for a while. Rachael laid her head on Michael’s chest and they both drifted peacefully to sleep. They did not know what lay ahead of them in these rugged Mountain lands or the people whose paths they had yet to cross, and they didn’t need to. They had right now and at this moment, everything they could ever want in a lifetime.
The rest of the moments would take care of themselves, and that is as it should be.