The next morning was challenging. We both overslept and Uncle Mark tried to get into a bad mood because he had to wait five minutes for Sawyer to be ready to go. Just because of his attitude I didn’t offer to fill his thermos and he must have noticed.
“Showing your backside this morning Baffa girl? You know I’m empty and yet there sets a big coffee pot full.”
Not in the mood for it I told him, “You must be looking in a mirror. Besides all you had to do was ask. I would have offered but you did seem to be a little busy chewing on people that didn’t deserve it. Sawyer has had to wait longer on you and Davis plenty of times when you needed to feed your bologna addiction at the Bait n’ Tackle.”
“Oh ho … you’re full of **** and vinegar this morning.” I had started bringing the coffee pot over but stopped and just looked at him. He sighed and said, “You know it is a poor day when a man can’t even have a little fun at his kids’ expense.”
I snorted. “You’re not Sawyer’s dad and I don’t have one. If you want to pick on someone pick on Davis there. He looks like he needs to be woken up by something.”
Davis looked at me and said, “Twins. Twin girls. What am I going to do?”
I shook my head as Sawyer hustled into the room loaded for bear. “Honestly Davis, get over it. You get what you get and don’t throw a fit. Some people would look at twin girls as a blessing instead of the horror that’s showing in your voice.”
“But … but I don’t know nothing about girls!”
I told him, “You knew enough to catch Cindy’s attention.”
Davis yelped, “Dang Kay-Lee … that’s not what I’m talking about! Did you need to bring that up?!”
I laughed and amazingly so did Uncle Mark though he tried to hide it with a cough behind his hand. As Sawyer ran out the door to join them and the others milling about in the yard he gave me a kiss and said, “Gramps, Uncle James, and Uncle Junior are going to be here to supervise all this mess with the divvying up the wood. There shouldn’t be trouble but if there is we’ll be back sometime before lunch if we can. I’ll bring you a good sized buck.”
“Like I told Davis, you get what you get and don’t throw a fit. I’m more concerned that you stay safe than come back with a boat load of meat.”
He kissed me again and said, “Stay in the house til the family shows up. News has made it sound like the cold weather put the kibosh on most of the fighting but to be on the safe side …” And then he was off.
It was quiet after the men drove away. I even missed the dogs. Sawyer had thought to leave them here but they were experienced hunters and could track prey as well as the men and with as many of the men as were going they would need the advantage.
I cleaned up from a smaller than expected breakfast mess and started the loads of “butter” that hadn’t finished before I’d gone to bed last night. I also kept an eye on the ghee that I was preparing on the electric burner beside the coffee pot. There was a lot of butter in the freezer that I would just cry buckets over if it spoiled so I was going to try making the ghee using this pictorial set of directions I had found last time at the library and I was also going to try canning plain butter from the other set of instructions I had found.
The sun had only been up for a few minutes when the first cars started pulling in. I watched two trucks go straight to the back where the wood splitters were and then saw Tommy run to the house to let me know what was going on and to ask if we had any coffee to spare because …
“Yeah, Uncle Mark was cranky this morning too. Is that Uncle Carl I see?”
Tommy smiled then started laughing. “Sawyer is right, you’ve got the number of the Hartford men totally.”
I picked up the coffee maker and simply moved it to the back porch, set some mugs beside it, and got back in just in time to answer the door at the front. I moved out of the way quickly as everyone seemed to have a laundry basket of stuff they wanted to do first and they were all jabbering about what order to do things in. That’s when Aunt Pearl took charge and basically declared what was going to be done and in what order, prioritizing bulk canning for the inside woodstove and telling everyone that if they had individual items they could do them on the yard stoves outside. I was glad that I’d gotten started on my own batches of items first and limped back in to see that my timers were just about to start going off.
From there it wasn’t quite a madhouse but there was definitely a chaotic purpose underlying all that we did. Then my phone rang in my pocket causing me to jump and almost drop it as I tried to see the caller ID and then answer it. “Delly?”
“Kay-Lee is the whole family over there? Just say yes or no.”
Carefully, since I thought it weird that she would phrase it that way, I said, “Yeah.”
“OK. Do me a favor and call me when the last of them have left but don’t let on that I’m asking you to do it. This is important. If Sawyer is there then that would be better but not absolutely necessary.”
“Sure. I’ll let you know.”
She hung up and so did I and before I could think about what she’d said very much Linda asked in front of God and everyone, “Who was that?”
I had to do a fast two step and say, “It was Delly. She wants me to let her know when Sawyer gets in and if we run into trouble.” I disliked lying, especially to Linda, but Delly had made it sound mysterious and important and I didn’t’ want to get in the middle of something I didn’t understand until I had to.
People bought it however because Cindy’s mother said, “Girl is nesting a little early but then so did I. All this trouble is making her count her chicks and make sure they are safe.”
“Well … uh …”
Someone else said, “And that thing with Rissa yesterday probably didn’t help.”
Some of the aunts and wives started gossiping about it and all I could do was wonder how they knew because I certainly hadn’t said anything. Jeannie, who looked exhausted, was just walking back into the kitchen and asked, “Someone mind spelling me with Benny Robert? I just gotta get away from this crying or I’m gonna go nuts.”
Everyone with a free hand suddenly found something to do so I hesitantly said, “I won’t drop him Jeannie. I promise. I’ve held lots of babies. Let me try something.”
Jeannie was so tired she was stupid and could only mutter, “Huh?”
I took Benny Robert who was really starting to scream and popped him over my shoulder and walked out of the kitchen and into the front room. I carefully made my way over to a rocker in front of the window, sat down and put Benny across my lap, face down. I rocked slowly while patting him on the back and suddenly on one end he let out a burp bigger than he was and then on the other a big ol’ poot that sounded like he was trying to play the same tune his daddy’s car horn did.
Linda who had followed me to watch slapped her hand over her mouth and ran back into the kitchen giggling up a storm. Jeannie just stood there and stared as Benny Robert slowly settled down and started smacking his lips around his fist and then slowly fell asleep.
I looked at her and said, “Why don’t you lay down on the sofa and I’ll put the General Lee here down in that cradle thing you brought.”
Jeannie just stared and then nodded before making a beeline for the sofa and falling on it like a felled tree. Both she and Benny Robert were hard asleep in no time. I put blankets over both of them to keep the chill off before walking back into the kitchen. As soon as Linda saw me she started giggling again.
Beth asked, “What did you do? Drug him?”
Linda giggled some more when I shook my head and went to wash my hands so I could get back to the canning I needed to do.
Beth asked, “Well?”
“Silence. Blessed silence. Benny Robert has barely shut up since they brought him home from the hospital. You just took him and walked him away and suddenly the noise stopped. What did you do?”
I shrugged. “He’s got gas.”
“No kidding. Jeannie says they’ve tried everything … breast milk, regular formula, goat’s milk formula; they even bought a really expensive brand of formula the hospital said to try that you can only get with a prescription. Nothing works. The doctor thinks he has an immature digestive system or something like that and were talking about taking a sonogram of his intestines to make sure they weren’t twisted.”
“I just turned him so he could get rid of the gas.”
Linda snickered, “He sure did.”
I started preparing vegetables to make soup with and said, “I don’t think he is colicky. I think he is just a pig and eats too fast. Sawyer is the same way and sometimes has to stretch this way and that until he can get comfortable.”
Aunt Pearl snorted. “Now that you bring it up when some of the boys were babies their burps rattled windows.”
I said, “Sawyer can just about break glass with his. And it’s because he eats too fast. I sometimes wonder how the food has long enough to sit on his tongue to be tasted.”
She nodded. “His mother was constantly getting onto him for it.”
“Didn’t help apparently. I’ll tell Jeannie to try a nipple with a smaller hole; that might help. And if that doesn’t work to try a nipple with a bigger hole and see if getting more in one suck will keeping him from slurping in air. Maybe if he doesn’t have to fight so hard for it he’ll calm down and suck slower.”
Aunt Suzanne said, “I didn’t know you had much to do with babies. I thought Linda said that … well …”
“It wasn’t at school,” I told her ignoring her embarrassment at alluding to the teachers in the child care track not wanting SLD kids in their classes. “Between all my hospital stays and being assigned to foster homes that could handle kids with special needs I got used to hearing crying babies and learning how to try and deal with it and help out. After a while the only kind of baby cries that bothered me are from the ones that are hooked on some kind of drug when they are born. The sound they make as they go through DTs … if you’ve never heard it you just can’t understand. It’s more than crying, more than pain … it’s a combination of the two with a lot of misery and probably some hallucinations thrown in with it. It just killed me to hear it.”
A lot of the women in the room tsk, tsk, tsk’d like they understood but I know most if not all of them really didn’t. I didn’t say anything else but Linda came over and gave me a one armed hug. And whispered, “It’s over with Kay-Lee. You don’t ever have to go back to places like that.”
“For us it is over with,” I whispered back sadly. “But no matter how much I don’t want to think about it I know it is still happening for other people. And who knows what all this craziness is going to do. About the only thing we know for sure is that it isn’t going to make any of that any better and likely to make it worse.”
I had been whispering but I guess the others had been listening in and heard me. It turned the mood in the room somber and several gave me a resentful look for it, like things were getting too real and they didn’t like what they were learning. It was shortly after that that Aunt Pearl banished the radio from the kitchen and porch because she said it was a distraction. I think she would have banished it from the yard but the men were out there splitting wood and would have strenuously objected. There were four splitters going and any number of chainsaws and axes. There was so much noise I’m not sure the men could hear what was on the radio anyway.
The cutting and chopping going on in the kitchen wasn’t any less strenuous and noisy. I had prepped as much as I could for my personal canning but hadn’t been left anything to prep for the bulk canning we were doing. I was pointed to a chair and told that since I was faster at paring things and the aunts didn’t have to worry about me cutting off a finger it would be appreciated if I would just do whatever they put in my lap. It kept me plenty busy and my mind occupied on other things than worry about what I wasn’t hearing on the radio or wondering where Sawyer was.
However, not worrying didn’t last long. Right as I was beginning to get concerned my phone buzzed again and it was Sawyer texting in to let us know the hunters were on their way home and that each hunter had taken at least one deer and some other animal. Sawyer said he’d gotten two deer – one was a six point buck – and several brace of ducks. “I wish you or Burt Jr. had been there.”
“Why?” I texted back.
I could imagine the grin in Sawyer’s voice when he answered, “You could have shown Uncle Ned some wrist rocket action. We flushed enough bunnies to make it look like Easter.”
I rolled my eyes and texted them to keep being careful and that I’d have coffee and chili waiting for them if they were hungry. He rang off by saying that all the stomachs growling at that news was bringing down the few leaves left on the trees.