As the three of us went outside, Les and Marie were excitedly talking about how we could all be home within a very short time, and what would we get for Christmas.
"Zeb, what do you want?" Marie asked me, as I picked up the egg basket from the table on the back porch. "Do you think Santa Claus can find us, if we are still here in Kentucky?"
I smiled down at Marie, in her innocent belief, and felt so very much older than she, knowing as I did, that Christmas wasn't any longer about Santa for me, but about the birth of Jesus.
"I'm sure we'll have Christmas, Marie. Don't worry." I patted her on the back and gave her a hug. "I think maybe a fishing pole, so Grandda could take me and teach me to fish."
Les had been listening to our conversation, and suddenly spoke up, "Do you think we'll be here long enough to learn to fish? I thought we were all going home before Christmas!"
Uh-oh! Seems like Les had not been made aware of the plans, so I had to do some explaining.
"Les, Marie, we are not all going back home yet. Rosie and I have agreed to stay and help Grandda take care of Grandma while she is sick. You two will be going back with Ma."
"No, no, Zebbie! You can't stay! I won't let you! I won't let you!" Marie began to scream and cry. Oh, no! When Marie started one of her crying fits, there was no consoling her until she wore herself out.
Ma heard her screaming from inside, and came running out; Grandda heard her, too, and came hurrying out of the barn, whittling knife in one hand and whittling stick in the other.
"What in tarnation is goin' on out here? Who's getting killed? Is she hurt? What's wrong?"
"Marie! Stop that, at once! Do you hear me? Stop it!" Ma picked her up, taking her toward the barn. "Zebulon, you come with me," she shouted back to me, as she went inside the barn. I ran over obediently. Grandda wisely stayed outside with Les.
Marie was sobbing by now. Ma was holding her close to her chest, making soothing noises. Something had happened to Marie in her second year of life, I don't know what, but she couldn't take stressful situations.
People thought she was spoiled and threw tantrums, but I knew that wasn't it. It was only when something happened to upset the balance of her life. Certainly being kidnapped and scared near to death by Grandma had upset the balance of Marie's life; and this crying fit was the natural outcome that I figured would eventually come.
Les and Marie looked to me as their protector, and goodness knows it was sometimes a difficult position for me, but I had been so for as long as they had been in my life. I took my job seriously.
"Zeb, what happened? Why the upset? I thought they were happy to see me."
"She just found out that I was planning on staying here and helping Grandda and Rosie take care of Grandma."
"Oh? And just when did you decide that, young man? I think it's very brave and wonderful of you to do so, but don't you think you should have discussed it with me before making such a huge decision? After all, you may think you're old to enough to decide such things? I think not! Besides, I've been giving all this some thought myself, and we'll talk about it later! Now you go inside, and help Rosie. She needs your help more than you may know."
With that, she ran me out of the barn and sat on the old bench in there with Marie on her lap.
Another conversation that I was not going to be privy to. Oh, well. Maybe later.
(To be continued)