I remember asking your daughter about the ’27 flood when I was just a kid. Too young to understand the devastation, yet I caught the tension in her clipped words. Water rose to the second floor. Took the family cow. Swept away all of the musical instruments we’d just bought for Christmas.
That’s it. That’s all I could get out of her. So, let me fill in the picture, starting a few days before the flood, with my wicked imagination. It’s a good thing I’m married to a well-grounded man or I’d simply float away…
The Peddlar was to come that day and wasn’t Mary excited. Rosa smiled as she continued sweeping her kitchen. And why shouldn’t she be? Henry, Mary’s husband had taken a job at the mill. She’d scrimped and saved every penny. She’d sacrificed by raising those babies nearly by herself…
Rosa’s brow drew together. At high cost, too. Mary takes after me, with her tiny frame and boundless energy. She’s to watch herself and take better care…
The worrisome thought was interrupted by the front door flying open. A loud, wet brood of children rushed inside.
“Earle, get back here and take those wet shoes off-”
The brow softened, the grin widened. My brood, if only for today.
“Are you sure this is okay, Mum? I know you’ve other things to do…”
“Go now and see to your business. He only comes once a month and with this infernal rain, you’re lucky he made it at all.”
A quick peck and Mary hurried out the door.
Trumpets and guitars, violins and recorders. Rosa knew the treasures that would be hidden beneath the Christmas tree that year. This would be a lavish holiday, one unlike any other now that Henry was working at the woolen mill.
Rosa never entertained children. A hard-working, pragmatic Vermonter would allow them to find and create their own activities. So she didn’t mind when it started with a game of hide and seek. Lord knows there were enough nooks and crannies in that old house – enough to hide far more than the four that were scattered about. She picked up little Clarence and set him to rocking in her lap. The boy did so love to move. She sang for him a melody without words knowing it would soothe and help him to sleep.
Mary returned a few hours later with flushed cheeks and a sparkle in her eyes Rosa hadn’t seen for a very long time.
“Are you all set?’ She asked as Mary reached for Clarence.
“A-yup – Dad’s storing them in the shed for now. Gonna be a surprise.”
Rosa helped gather the other young ones, helped them put on their rain slickers and galoshes. She took a hug from each one with a smile.
As Mary stepped out into the rain, Rosa lost her joy, just for a moment. November 1st and we’ve still more rain. I suppose I should be thankful it’s not snow…