It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
The late Arleta Richardson grew up an only child in Chicago, living in a hotel on the shores of Lake Michigan. Under the care of her maternal grandmother, she listened for hours to stories from her grandmother’s childhood. With unusual recall, Arleta began to write these stories for an audience that now numbers over two million. “My grandmother would be amazed to know her stories have gone around the world,” Arleta said.
Grandma did what? You might be surprised. Back in the 1880’s, when she was a young girl named Mabel, trouble seemed to follow her everywhere. She and her best friend, Sarah Jane, had the best intentions at home and at school, but somehow clumsiness and mischief always seemed to intrude. Whether getting into a sticky mess with face cream, traveling to the big city, sneaking out to a birthday party or studying for the spelling bee, Mabel’s brilliant ideas only seemed to show how much she had to learn. And each of her mishaps turned into lessons in honesty, patience and responsibility.
Arleta Richardson’s beloved series, Grandma’s Attic, returns with Still More Stories from Grandma’s Attic and Treasures from Grandma’s Attic, the third and fourth books in the refreshed classic collection for girls ages 8 to 12. These compilations of tales recount humorous and poignant memories from Grandma Mabel’s childhood on a Michigan farm in the late 1800’s. Combining the warmth and spirit of Little House on the Prairie with a Christian focus, these books transport readers back to a simpler time to learn lessons surprisingly relevant in today’s world.
Even though these stories took place over a hundred years ago, there are some things about being a girl that never change. Just like Mabel, girls still want to be prettier or more independent. It’s all part of growing up. But the amazing thing is—Grandma felt the same way! Sometimes your brother teases you or someone you thought was a friend turns out to be insincere. Sometimes you’re certain you know better than your parents, only to discover to your horror that they might have been right. It’s all part of growing up.
Richardson’s wholesome stories have reached more than two million readers worldwide. Parents appreciate the godly values and character they promote while children love the captivating storytelling that recounts childhood memories of mischief and joy. These books are ideal for homes, schools, libraries or gifts and are certain to be treasured. So return to Grandma’s attic, where true tales of yesteryear bring timeless lessons for today, combining the appeal of historical fiction for girls with the truth of God’s Word. Each captivating story promotes godly character and values with humor, understanding and warmth.
Still More Stories from Grandma’s Attic:
List Price: $6.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; Reprint edition (August 1, 2011)
Treasures from Grandma’s Attic:
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook; Reprint edition (August 1, 2011)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTERS:
When Grandma Was a Little Girl
One hundred years! What a long, long time ago that is! Not very many people are still alive who can remember that far back. But through the magic of stories, we can be right there again.
When I was a little girl, I thought no one could tell a story like my grandma.
“Tell me about when you were a little girl,” I would say. Soon I would be back on the farm in northern Michigan with young Mabel—who became my grandmother—her mother and father, and her brothers, Reuben and Roy.
The old kitchen where I sat to hear many of Grandma’s stories didn’t look the same as when she was a little girl. Then there was no electricity nor running water. But my grandma still lived in the house she grew up in. I had no trouble imagining all the funny jams that Grandma and her best friend, Sarah Jane, got into. Or how it felt to wear long flannel stockings and high-buttoned shoes.
From the dusty old attic to the front parlor with its slippery furniture, Grandma’s old house was a storybook just waiting to be opened. I was fortunate to have a grandma who knew just how to open it. She loved to tell a story just as much as I loved to hear one.
Come with me now, back to the old kitchen in that Michigan farmhouse, and enjoy the laughter and tears of many years ago....
Face Cream from Godey’s Lady’s Book
Receiving mail always excited me. I never had to be told to get the mail for Grandma on my way home from school. But sometimes the mail became even more important. Like the time I was watching for something I had ordered from Woman’s Home Companion.
When the small package finally arrived, my face revealed how excited I was.
“What did you get a sample of this time?” Grandma asked as I came in proudly carrying the precious box.
“You’ll see. Just wait till I show you,” I said, promising Grandma the box held something special.
Quickly I tore the wrapping paper off the small box. Inside was a jar of skin cream for wrinkles.
Grandma laughed when she saw it. “You certainly don’t need that,” she said. “Now it might do me some good if those things ever really worked.”
“You aren’t wrinkled, Grandma,” I protested. “Your face is nice and smooth.”
“Perhaps so. But not because of what I’ve rubbed on it. More than likely I’ve inherited a smooth skin.”
She took the jar of cream and looked at the ingredients “This doesn’t look quite as dangerous as some stuff Sarah Jane and I mixed up one day. Did I ever tell you about that?”
“No, I’m sure you didn’t,” I replied. “Tell me now.”
Grandma picked up her crocheting, and I settled back to listen to a story about Grandma and her friend, Sarah Jane, when they were my age.
Sarah Jane had a cousin who lived in the city. This cousin often came to stay at Sarah Jane’s for a few days. She brought things with her that we were not accustomed to seeing.
One morning as Sarah Jane and I were walking to school together, Sarah Jane told me some very exciting news. “My cousin Laura will be here tomorrow. She’s going to stay all next week. Won’t that be fun?”
“Yes,” I agreed. “I’m glad she’s coming. What do you think she’ll bring this time?”
“Probably some pretty new dresses and hats,” Sarah Jane guessed. “She might even let us try them on.”
“Oh, I’m sure she wouldn’t want us to try on her dresses. But maybe she wouldn’t mind if we peeked at ourselves in the mirror to see how the hats looked.”
Laura arrived the next day with several new hats. She amiably agreed that we might try them on.
They were too big, and had a tendency to slide down over our noses. But to us, they were the latest fashion.
As we laid the hats back on the bed, Sarah Jane spied something else that interested her. It was a magazine for ladies. We had not seen more than half a dozen magazines in our lives, so this was exciting.
“Oh, Laura,” Sarah Jane cried, “may we look at your magazine? We’ll be very careful.”
“Why, yes. I’m not going to be reading it right away. Go ahead.”
Eagerly we snatched the magazine and ran out to the porch. The cover pictured a lady with a very fashionable dress and hat, carrying a frilly parasol. The name of the magazine was Godey’s Lady’s Book.
“Ooh! Look at the ruffles on her dress!” Sarah Jane exclaimed. “Wouldn’t you just love to have one dress with all those ribbons and things?”
“Yes, but there’s little chance I’ll ever have it,” I replied. “Ma wouldn’t iron that many ruffles for anything. Besides, we’re not grown up enough to have dresses like that. It looks like it might be organdy, doesn’t it?”
“Mmm-hum,” Sarah Jane agreed. “It looks like something soft, all right. And look at her hair. It must be long to make that big a roll around her head.”
We spread the magazine across our laps and studied each page carefully. Nothing escaped our notice. “I sure wish we were grown up,” Sarah Jane sighed. “Think how much prettier we’d be.”
“Yes, and how much more fun we could have. These ladies don’t spend all their time going to school and doing chores. They just get all dressed up and sit around looking pretty.”
We looked for a moment in silence; then Sarah Jane noticed something interesting. “Look here, Mabel. Here’s something you can make to get rid of wrinkles on your face.”
I looked where she was reading.
Guaranteed to remove wrinkles. Melt together a quantity of white wax and honey. When it becomes liquid, add the juice of several lemons. Spread the mixture liberally on your face and allow it to dry. In addition to smoothing out your wrinkles, this formula will leave your skin soft, smooth, and freckle free.
“But we don’t have any wrinkles,” I pointed out.
“That doesn’t matter,” Sarah Jane replied. “If it takes wrinkles away, it should keep us from getting them too. Besides,” she added critically, “it says it takes away freckles. And you have plenty of those.”
I rubbed my nose reflectively. “I sure do. Do you suppose that stuff really would take them off?”
“We can try it and see. I’ll put some on if you will. Where shall we mix it up?”
This would be a problem, since Sarah Jane’s mother was baking in her kitchen. It would be better to work where we wouldn’t have to answer questions about what we were doing.
“Let’s go to your house and see what your mother is doing,” Sarah Jane suggested.
We hurriedly returned the magazine to Laura’s bedroom and dashed back outdoors.
“Do you have all the things we need to put in it?” Sarah Jane asked.
“I know we have wax left over from Ma’s jelly glasses. And I’m sure we have lemons. But I don’t know how much honey is left.
“I know where we can get some, though.” I continued. “Remember that hollow tree in the woods? We found honey there last week.”
Soon we were on our way to collect it in a small pail.
“This is sure going to be messy and sticky to put on our faces,” I commented as we filled the pail.
“Probably the wax takes the sticky out,” Sarah Jane replied. “Anyway, if it takes away your freckles and makes our skin smooth, it won’t matter if it is a little gooey. I wonder how long we leave it on.”
“The directions said to let it dry,” I reminded her. “I suppose the longer you leave it there, the more good it does. We’ll have to take it off before we go in to supper, I guess.”
“I guess so,” Sarah Jane exclaimed. “I don’t know what your brothers would say. But I’m not going to give Caleb a chance to make fun of me.”
I knew what Reuben and Roy would say, too, and I was pretty sure I could predict what Ma would say. There seemed to be no reason to let them know about it.
Fortune was with us, for the kitchen was empty when we cautiously opened the back door. Ma heard us come in and called down from upstairs, “Do you need something, Mabel?”
“No, Ma’am,” I answered. “But we might like a cookie.”
“Help yourself,” Ma replied. “I’m too busy tearing rags to come down right now. You can pour yourselves some milk too.”
I assured her that we could. With a sigh of relief, we went to the pantry for a kettle in which to melt the wax and honey.
“This looks big enough,” Sarah Jane said. “You start that getting hot, and I’ll squeeze the lemons. Do you think two will be enough?”
“I guess two is ‘several.’ Maybe we can tell by the way it looks whether we need more or not.”
“I don’t see how,” Sarah Jane argued. “We never saw any of this stuff before. But we’ll start with two, anyway.”
I placed the pan containing the wax and honey on the hottest part of the stove and pulled up a chair to sit on. “Do you suppose I ought to stir it?” I inquired. “It doesn’t look as though it’s mixing very fast.”
“Give it time,” Sarah Jane advised. “Once the wax melts down, it will mix.”
After a short time, the mixture began to bubble.
“There, see?” she said, stirring it with a spoon. “You can’t tell which is wax and which is honey. I think it’s time to put in the lemon juice.” She picked up the juice, but I stopped her.
“You have to take the seeds out, first, silly. You don’t want knobs all over your face, do you?”
“I guess you’re right. That wouldn’t look too good, would it?”
She dug the seeds out, and we carefully stirred the lemon juice into the pan.
“Umm, it smells good,” I observed.
Sarah Jane agreed. “In fact, it smells a little like Ma’s cough syrup. Do you want to taste it?”
“Sure, I’ll take a little taste.” I licked some off the spoon and smacked my lips. “It’s fine,” I reported. “If it tastes that good, it will certainly be safe to use. Let’s take it to my room and try it.”
We carefully lifted the kettle from the stove. Together we carried the kettle upstairs and set it on my dresser.
“It will have to cool a little before we put it on,” I said.
“What if the wax gets hard again? We’ll have to take it downstairs and heat it all over.”
“It won’t,” I assured her. “The honey will keep it from getting too hard.” By the time the mixture was cool enough to use, it was thick and gooey—but still spreadable.
“Well, here goes,” Sarah Jane said. She dipped a big blob out and spread it on her face. I did the same. Soon our faces were covered with the sticky mess.
“Don’t get it in your hair,” I warned. “It looks like it would be awfully hard to get out. I wonder how long it will take to dry?”
“The magazine didn’t say that. It would probably dry faster outside in the sun. But someone is sure to see us out there. We’d better stay here.... I wish we had brought the magazine to look at.”
“We can look at the Sears catalog,” I suggested. “Let’s play like we’re ordering things for our own house.”
We sat down on the floor and spread the catalog out in front of us. After several minutes, Sarah Jane felt her face.
“I think it’s dry, Mabel,” she announced, hardly moving her lips. “It doesn’t bend or anything.”
I touched mine and discovered the same thing. The mask was solid and hard. It was impossible to move my mouth to speak, so my voice had a funny sound when I answered her.
“So’s mine. Maybe we’d better start taking it off now.”
We ran to the mirror and looked at ourselves.
“We sure look funny.” Sarah Jane laughed the best she could without moving her face. “How did the magazine say to get it off?”
Suddenly we looked at each other in dismay. The magazine hadn’t said anything about removing the mixture, only how to fix and spread it on.
“Well, we’ve done it again,” I said. “How come everything we try works until we’re ready to undo it? We’ll just have to figure some way to get rid of it.”
We certainly did try. We pushed the heavy masks that covered our faces. We pulled them, knocked on them, and tried to soak them off. They would not budge.
“I think we used too much wax and not enough honey,” Sarah Jane puffed as she flopped back down on the bed.
“That’s certainly a great thing to think of now,” I answered crossly. “The only way to move wax is to melt it. And we certainly can’t stick our faces in the fire!”
“Mine feels like it’s already on fire. I don’t think this stuff is good for your skin.”
“You’re going to have to think about more than that,” I told her. “Or this stuff will be your skin. There has to be some way to get it off.”
“We’ve tried everything we can think of. We’ll just have to go down and let your rna help us.”
That was the last thing in the world I wanted to do. But I could see no other alternative. Slowly we trudged down to the kitchen.
Ma was working at the stove, and she said cheerfully, “Are you girls hungry again? It won’t be long until suppertime, so you’d better not eat ....”
She turned around as she spoke. When she spotted us standing in the doorway, her eyes widened in disbelief.
“What on earth? ... What have you done to yourselves?”
I burst into tears. The sight of drops of tears running down that ridiculous mask must have been more than Ma could stand. Suddenly she began to laugh. She laughed until she had to sit down.
“It’s not funny, Ma. We can’t get it off! We’ll have to wear it the rest of our lives!”
Ma controlled herself long enough to come over and feel my face. “What did you put in it?” she asked. “That will help me know how to take it off.”
We told her.
“If you two ever live to grow up, it will only be the Lord’s good mercy. The only thing we can do is apply something hot enough to melt the wax,” Ma told us quickly.
“But we boiled the wax, Ma,” I cried. “You can’t boil our faces!”
“No, 1won’t try anything as drastic as that. I’ll just use hot towels until it gets soft enough to pull away.”
After several applications, we were finally able to start peeling the mixture off. As it came loose, our skin came with it.
“Ouch! That hurts,” I cried.
But Ma could not stop. By the time the last bits of wax and honey were removed, our faces were fiery red and raw.
“What did we do wrong?” Sarah Jane wailed. “We made it just like the magazine said.”
“You may have used the wrong quantities, or left it on too long,” Ma said. “At any rate, I don’t think you’ll try it again.”
“I know I won’t,” Sarah Jane moaned. “I’m going to tell Laura she should ignore that page in her magazine.” She looked at me. “The stuff did one thing they said it would, Mabel. I don’t see any freckles.”
“There’s no skin left, either,” I retorted. “I’d rather have freckles than a face like this.”
“Never mind.” Ma tried to soothe us. “Your faces will be all right in a couple of days.”
“A couple of days!” I howled. “We can’t go to school looking like this!”
“We did, though.” Grandma laughed as she finished the story. “After a while we were able to laugh with the others over our foolishness.”
I looked at the little jar of cream that had come in the mail.
“I don’t think I’ll use this, Grandma. I guess I’ll just let my face get wrinkled if it wants to!”
My best friend, Sarah Jane, and I were walking home from school on a cold November afternoon.
“Do you realize, Mabel, that 1886 is almost over? Another year of nothing important ever happening is nearly gone.”
“Well, we still have a good bit of life ahead of us,” I replied.
“You don’t know that,” Sarah Jane said darkly, “We’re thirteen and a half. We may already have lived nearly a third of our allotted time.”
“The O’Dells live to be awfully old,” I told her. “So, unless I get run down by a horse and buggy, I’ll probably be around awhile.”
We walked along in silence. Then suddenly Sarah Jane pulled me to the side of the road.
“Here’s the horse and buggy that could keep you from becoming an old lady,” she kidded. We turned to see my pa coming down the road.
“Want to ride the rest of the way, girls?” he called. We clambered into the buggy, and Pa clucked to Nellie.
“What did you get in town?” I asked.
“Some things for the farm and a letter for your ma.” Around the next bend, Pa slowed Nellie to a halt. “Your stop, Sarah Jane.”
“Thanks, Mr. O’Dell.” Sarah Jane jumped down. “I’ll be over to study later, Mabel. ‘Bye.”
“Who’s the letter from?” I asked Pa.
“Can’t tell from the handwriting. We’ll have to wait for Ma to tell us.”
When Ma opened the letter, she looked puzzled. “This is from your cousin Agatha,” she said to Pa. “Why didn’t she address it to you, too?”
“If I know Aggie, she wants something,” Pa declared. “And she figured you’d be more likely to listen to her sad story.”
Ma read the letter and shook her head at Pa. “She just wants to come for Thanksgiving. Now aren’t you ashamed of talking that way?”
“No, I’m not. That’s what Aggie says she wants. You can be sure there’s more there than meets the eye. Are you going to tell her to come ahead?”
“Why, of course!” Ma exclaimed. “If I were a widowed lady up in years, I’d want to be with family on Thanksgiving. Why shouldn’t I tell her to come?”
Pa took his hat from the peg by the door and started for the barn, where my older brothers were already at work. “Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” he remarked as he left.
“What did Pa warn you about?” I asked as soon as the door closed behind him. “What does Cousin Agatha want?”
“I don’t believe Pa was talking to you,” Ma replied. “You heard me say that she wants to come for Thanksgiving.”
“Yes, but Pa said—”
“That’s enough, Mabel. We won’t discuss it further.”
I watched silently as Ma sat down at the kitchen table and answered Cousin Agatha’s letter.
Snow began to fall two days before the holiday, and Pa had to hitch up the sleigh to go into town and meet the train.
“It will be just our misfortune to have a real blizzard and be snowed in with that woman for a week,” he grumbled.
“Having Aggie here a few days won’t hurt you,” Ma said. “The way you carry on, you’d think she was coming to stay forever!”
Pa’s look said he considered that a distinct possibility. As I helped Ma with the pies, I questioned her about Cousin Agatha.
“Has she been here before? I can’t remember seeing her.”
“I guess you were pretty small last time Agatha visited,” Ma replied. “I expect she gets lonely in that big house in the city.”
“What do you suppose she wants besides dinner?” I ventured.
“Friendly company,” Ma snapped. “And we’re going to give it to her.”
When the pies were in the oven, I hung around the window, watching for the sleigh. It was nearly dark when I heard the bells on Nellie’s harness ring out across the snow.
“They’re coming, Ma,” I called, and Ma hurried to the door with the lamp held high over her head. The boys and I crowded behind her. Pa jumped down from the sleigh and turned to help Cousin Agatha.
“I don’t need any assistance from you, James,” a firm voice spoke. “I’m perfectly capable of leaving any conveyance under my own power.”
“She talks like a book!” Roy whispered, and Reuben poked him. I watched in awe as a tall, unbending figure sailed into the kitchen.
“Well, Maryanne,” she said, “it’s good to see you.” She removed her big hat, jabbed a long hat pin into it, and handed the hat to me. “You must be Mabel.”
I nodded wordlessly.
“What’s the matter? Can’t you speak?” she boomed.
“Yes, ma’am,” I gulped nervously.
“Then don’t stand there bobbing your head like a monkey on a stick. People will think you have no sense. You can put that hat in my room.”
I stared openmouthed at this unusual person until a gentle push from Ma sent me in the direction of the guest room.
After dinner and prayers, Pa rose with the intention of going to the barn.
“James!” Cousin Agatha’s voice stopped him. “Surely you aren’t going to do the chores with these two great hulking fellows sitting here, are you?”
The two great hulking fellows leaped for the door with a speed I didn’t know they had.
“I should guess so,” Cousin Agatha exclaimed with satisfaction. “If there’s anything I can’t abide, it’s a lazy child.”
As she spoke, Cousin Agatha pulled Ma’s rocker to the stove and lowered herself into it. “This chair would be more comfortable if there were something to put my feet on,” she said, “but I suppose one can’t expect the amenities in a place like this.”
I looked at Ma for some clue as to what “amenities” might be. This was not a word we had encountered in our speller.
“Run into the parlor and get the footstool, Mabel,” Ma directed.
When Cousin Agatha was settled with her hands in her lap and her feet off the cold floor, I started the dishes.
“Maryanne, don’t you think Mabel’s dress is a mite too short?”
Startled, I looked down at my dress.
“No,” Ma’s calm voice replied. “She’s only thirteen, you know. I don’t want her to be grown up too soon.”
“There is such a thing as modesty, you know.” Cousin Agatha sniffed.
Pa and the boys returned just then, so Ma didn’t answer. I steered an uneasy path around Cousin Agatha all evening. For the first time I could remember, I was glad when bedtime came.
The next day was Thanksgiving, and the house was filled with the aroma of good things to eat. From her rocker, Cousin Agatha offered suggestions as Ma scurried about the kitchen.
“Isn’t it time to baste the turkey, Maryanne? I don’t care for dry fowl.”
“I see the boys running around out there with that mangy dog as though they had nothing to do. Shouldn’t they be chopping wood or something?”
“I should think Mabel could be helping you instead of reading a book. If there’s one thing I can’t abide . . . “
“Mabel will set the table when it’s time,” Ma put in. “Maybe you’d like to peel some potatoes?”
The horrified look on Cousin Agatha’s face said she wouldn’t consider it, so Ma withdrew her offer.
A bump on the door indicated that the “mangy dog” was tired of the cold. I laid down my book and let Pep in. He made straight for the stove and his rug.
“Mercy!” Cousin Agatha cried. “Do you let that—that animal in the kitchen?”
“Yes,” Ma replied. “He’s not a young dog any longer. He isn’t any bother, and he does enjoy the heat.”
“Humph.” Agatha pulled her skirts around her. “I wouldn’t allow any livestock in my kitchen. Can’t think what earthly good a dog can be.” She glared at Pep, who responded with a thump of his tail and a sigh of contentment.
“Dumb creature,” Cousin Agatha muttered.
“Pep isn’t dumb, Cousin Agatha,” I said. “He’s really the smartest dog I know.”
“I was not referring to his intellect or lack of it,” she told me, “‘Dumb’ indicates an inability to speak. You will have to concede that he is unable to carry on a conversation.”
I was ready to dispute that, too, but Ma shook her head. Cousin Agatha continued to give Pep disparaging glances.
“Didn’t you ever have any pets at your house, Cousin Agatha?” I asked.
“Pets? I should say not! Where in the Bible does it say that God made animals for man’s playthings? They’re meant to earn their keep, not sprawl out around the house absorbing heat.”
“Oh, Pep works,” I assured her. “He’s been taking the cows out and bringing them back for years now.”
Cousin Agatha was not impressed. She sat back in the rocker and eyed Pep with disfavor. “The one thing I can’t abide, next to a lazy child, is a useless animal—and in the house!”
I began to look nervously at Ma, thinking she might send Pep to the barn to keep the peace. But she went on about her work, serenely ignoring Cousin Agatha’s hints. I was glad when it was time to set the table.
After we had eaten, Pa took the Bible down from the cupboard and read our Thanksgiving chapter, Psalm 100. Then he prayed, thanking the Lord for Cousin Agatha and asking the Lord’s blessing on her just as he did on the rest of us. When he had finished, Cousin Agatha spoke up.
“I believe that I will stay here until Christmas, James. Then, if I find it to my liking, I could sell the house in the city and continue on with you. Maryanne could use some help in teaching these children how to be useful.”
In the stunned silence that followed, I looked at Pa and Ma to see how this news had affected them. Ma looked pale. Before Pa could open his mouth to answer, Cousin Agatha rose from the table. “I’ll just go to my room for a bit of rest,” she said. “We’ll discuss this later.”
When she had left, we gazed at each other helplessly.
“Is there anything in the Bible that tells you what to do now?” I asked Pa.
“Well, it says if we don’t love our brother whom we can see, how can we love God whom we can’t see? I think that probably applies to cousins as well.”
“I’d love her better if I couldn’t see her.” Reuben declared. “We don’t have to let her stay, do we, Pa?”
“No, we don’t have to,” Pa replied. “We could ask her to leave tomorrow as planned. But I’m not sure that would be right. What do you think, Ma?”
“I wouldn’t want to live alone in the city,” Ma said slowly. “I can see that she would prefer the company of a family. I suppose we should ask her to stay until Christmas.”
“I think she already asked herself,” Roy ventured. “But she did say if she found things to her liking. . . .”
We all looked at Roy. Pa said, “You’re not planning something that wouldn’t be to her liking, are you?”
“Oh, no, sir!” Roy quickly answered. “Not me.”
Pa signed. “I’m not sure I’d blame you. She’s not an easy person to live with. We’ll all have to be especially patient with her.”
There wasn’t much Thanksgiving atmosphere in the kitchen as we did the dishes.
“How can we possibly stand it for another whole month?” I moaned.
“The Lord only sends us one day at a time,” Ma informed me. “Don’t worry about more than that. When the other days arrive, you’ll probably find out you worried about all the wrong things.”
As soon as the work was finished, I put on my coat and walked over to Sarah Jane’s.
“What will you do if she stays on after Christmas?” she asked.
“I’ll just die.”
“I thought you were going to be a long-living O’Dell.”
“I changed my mind,” I retorted. “What would you do if you were in my place?”
“I’d probably make her life miserable so she’d want to leave.”
“You know I couldn’t get away with that. Pa believes that Christian love is the best solution.”
“All right, then,” Sarah Jane said with a shrug. “Love her to death.”
As though to fulfill Pa’s prediction, snow began to fall heavily that night. By morning we were snowed in.
“Snowed in?” Cousin Agatha repeated. “You mean unable to leave the house at all?”
“That’s right,” Pa replied. “This one is coming straight down from Canada.”
Cousin Agatha looked troubled. “I don’t like this. I don’t like it at all.”
“We’ll be all right,” Ma reassured her. “We have plenty of wood and all the food we need.”
But Cousin Agatha was not to be reassured. I watched her stare into the fire and twist her handkerchief around her fingers. Why, she’s frightened! I thought. This old lady had been directing things all her life, and here was something she couldn’t control. Suddenly I felt sorry for her.
“Cousin Agatha,” I said, “we have fun when we’re snowed in. We play games and pop corn and tell stories. You’ll enjoy it. I know you will!”
I ran over and put my arms around her shoulders and kissed her on the cheek. She looked at me in surprise.
“That’s the first time anyone has hugged me since I can remember,” she said. “Do you really like me, Mabel?”
Right then I knew that I did like Cousin Agatha a whole lot. Behind her stern front was another person who needed to be loved and wanted.
“Oh, yes, Cousin Agatha,” I replied. “I really do. You’ll see what a good time we’ll have together.”
The smile that lighted her face was bright enough to chase away any gloom that had settled over the kitchen. And deep down inside, I felt real good.