Anyone who has lived in Kansas for a long time will know that its beauty is not comparable. It is a different beauty than any where else and this is mostly attributed to it’s weather and sky.
Invariably the phrase, ‘this is Kansas,’ is used to describe everything. There is no other way to explain why it will be hot and windy one day and cold and still the next. The sun and wind rule Kansas. And you can almost always be sure that both will make an appearance throughout every day.
Such was true of that gorgeous November day. The snow mirrored the sun, dazzling the world in brilliant light. The breeze ruffled our hats and coats as we headed out of church. Snow crunched excitingly under our boots and the blue sky glittered down on us like a giant, regal gem!
Ann and her third cousin, Faith, trotted down the old, church steps hand in hand with each other. Meanwhile our mothers held their other hands. Up ahead their older sisters, Addy and I, were walking together and chattering constantly.
Mom’s sister, Jenny, and her husband had four kids and were expecting another in a few short months. Addy and Aron, their non-identical twins, were the oldest. Aron was wild and energetic while Addy was calm and quiet. Their younger sister Faith, on the other hand, was an energetic, active three year old and she was just as content covered in mud as she was content to be dressed as a princess! She kept Addy and two year old Tide from being too picky while keeping Aron from being to wildly crazy. She was a good little peace maker for a three year old and she helped her siblings get a long when push came to smack.
“You know,” Mom noted to her sister as they descended the church stairs.“it was interesting. Last night Ann woke up because her kitten, Princess, died yesterday!”
“Oh dear!” Jenny exclaimed. “Did it get sick?”
“Yes. And I don’t know why!”
“I know. I wish I knew why. Our kittens have done that before. They just up and get sick! Poor Ann!”
“Yes, she was so sad! I hate to see her sad like that. It’s just not like her!”
“I know. Since she’s such a perfect child it’s surprising when she’s upset!” Jenny teased.
“She’s not completely perfect!” Mom laughed.
“Ok, 98% perfect!” Jenny giggled.
“She gets that from me you know!” Mom grinned.
“Well of course! But anyways what were you saying?”
“Oh yes. Ann woke up last night and came down crying cause she missed Princess. I told her that kittens might go to Heaven and if they don’t God still takes care of them! She wondered all about Heaven and was so pleased God loved her kitten. The funny thing was, this morning that was all she would talk about!”
“Huh!” Jenny stated. “I guess she was glad her kitten was safe.” She shifted her position of holding Tide, who was sleeping, and led Faith carefully across the frozen parking lot.
“I suppose but it did surprise me. No other little kids think of Heaven much.”
“Well, no other kids plan to be a stuffed animal vet!” Jenny laughed. “Ann is herself and that’s true!’
“Yes.” Mom mused. “She is herself!”
Just then their discussion was interrupted as a spry, little widow approached them. Jenny greeted her.
“Hello, Mrs. Waring, how are you?’
“Why hello girls.” Mrs. Waring stated. “How’s the families?” She took in the six year olds busy discussion, the three year olds chattering, and the toddler sleeping. She was always quite concerned in the children raising.
“Pretty well I guess.” Mom smiled.
“And what about you young lady?” She directed her question at Jenny, wondering how her and the expected baby were doing. “How are you comin’?”
“I’m hanging in there!” Jenny laughed. “We’re doing just fine.”
“Well, if you need anything you just call your old Granny Waring. And don’t be eating any grapes, I hear they hurt babies. Oh and be sure to wear socks at night and keep your feet warm.” She smiled wildly and the sisters grinned.
Mila Waring was at it again. She always knew the ‘right’ way to raise children and no one told her otherwise. She had not been a midwife for nothing!
“Keep this one warm too!” Mrs. Waring announced loudly, patting Tide’s head. “She’s a sweety.”
Jenny laughed good naturedly and rocked the sleeping Tide. “I’ll try.”
“Oh, you must do more than try!” Mrs. Waring continued. “One must do their best!”
“Mam?” Ann and Faith had stopped talking and were now observing their elder,
“What is it darlin’?” Mrs. Waring bent down to be nose to nose with the little girl. Ann starred up at the ancient face into the round, black spectacles where busy, intelligent eyes starred back.
“Do oo wemember Heaven?” Ann inquired.
“Remember Heaven!? Good Heavens!?” Mrs. Waring had not meant to exclaim like that but she did anyway. She never knew it but Addy and I exchanged giggles. “Why would I remember Heaven?”
“Cause peopwe who die go to Heaven.”
“Are you saying I’m dead?!”
“Dat’s wat I thought?”
“So I suppose your Mother has been teaching you that people come back to earth after dying?” Mrs. Waring peered suspiciously up at Mom, who did not wilt like others often did.
“No.” She hasn’t. Dat’s why I’m asking. Why awe oo here?”
“Child, I’m obviously here because the good Lord knew I was needed.”
“So oo awe from Heaven then!?”
“No, I am not.”
“Oh. I t’ought maybe God sent oo to tell me dat princess is ok.”
“My kitten. She died and Mommy said God’s taking cawe of hew. I wondewed what Heaven was wike and Mommy said it’s beawtiful and I t’ought maybe God would send me an angel to explain whewe Pwincess is and if it’s beawtiful too. I bet it is.”
“Oh.” Mrs. Waring straightened up trying to imagine how she would look as an angel. “So your Mama told you animals go to Heaven? Was she for sure?”
“No, she just said dat God takes cawe of dem. So dey must go somewhere safe!”
“Hmm.” Mrs. Waring turned to peer at Mom out of her glasses. “So you are telling her that the animals shall be in Heaven?”
“No.” Mom answered. “I am telling her God keeps His animals safe.”
“Yes, I believe that as well but I think you are going a little too far.”
“Too far, Mrs. Waring?”
“Yes! Suppose animals do not have a place to go after they die. Suppose she shall believe a lie all her life!”
Ann was listening intently,
“We have no proof Mrs. Karrington to tell us that animals abide some place after death! I would advise you to do the best you can and be very aware of spreading false information.”
“Miss angel! Miss angel?” Ann spoke loudly. Mrs. Waring turned a shaking figure to the little girl,
“I dink oo awe wrong.”
“You believe I am wrong?!”
“Yes, I dink oo awe wrong.” Ann nodded her head firmly.
“Why my dear girl!?”
“Jesus woves wittwe things, and big things like beaws. And He will want dem all to be safe. Every night I pile all my stuffys on my bed so dey can sweep with me case I wove dem and dey wove me. Jesus is dat way! He woves us all and wants de best for us.”
“Why Mary! I do believe you have quiet the little girl here! Telling adults they’re wrong! Why she was rather disrespectful!”
“I think Ann was only telling you what she believed.” Mom explained.
“Well, if you want your girl spouting of to elders then go ahead and let her but don’t tell me I didn’t try to give you wise advice! I . . . why I hope you’ll listen to me!” Mrs. Waring’s last exclamation was aimed at Jenny. Then she headed off indignantly shaking her head and muttering about child respect. Ann looked after her forlornly,
“I’m sowy Mommy. I didn’t mean to be bad!” Ann whispered.
“Ann.” Mom stated. “I don’t want a disrespectful girl but I do want a girl who kindly tells others what she believes. That’s what you did. You weren’t bad.”
“Oh, wheee!” Ann was greatly relieved.
“Is Mrs. Wawing a gwandma?” Faith asked Ann as they headed on.
“No.” Ann decided. “She just wikes to tell peopwe what to do.”
“Weally? I think she just Wikes kids.”
“Yah, she does! I think she’s nice, when she wants to be!”
Meanwhile Addy and I were chattering away.
“Mrs. Waring is so funny!” I giggled.
“Yes.” Addy agreed. “She can be funny but she can be a boss. She tells all of us what to do and she told me once to never eat pickles ’cause they taste like frogs!”
“What did you say?” I wondered, considering how she knew they tasted like frogs!
“Nothing. But I decided that frogs must not taste too bad after all!”
“She’s weird.” I stated and Addy nodded.
As we neared our cars three boys our age approached us. One was Addy’s brother, Aron, but we didn’t know they other two.
“Was that crazy grandma lady just talking to you?” One of the strangers questioned.
“Yah.” The other noted. “She’s weird.”
“I think not!” I exclaimed. “She cares for all the kids and does her best to help the Moms!”
“Yah! By forcing them around! I think she’s cranky.” He noted.
“Maybe a little, but you would be too if you were her! She lost her husband and never had any children! You should feel sorry for her!”
“Really?” The boys were unconvinced. “Whatever.”
“You get to know her and you see.” I announced.
“Yes.” Addy added. “She can be nice. Just get to know her!”
”Actually,” Aron began. “she does hand out candy sometimes!”
“Oh.” The boys were impressed.
“It’s not poisoned?” One asked.
“Nope.” Addy answered proudly. “We’ve all eaten lots of it!”
“Cool. Will she give you some if you ask?”
“Oh no.” Addy noted. “It is impolite to beg.” Somehow we all thought this a valid reason and agreed.
“Hey, by the way, this is Joe and Max.” Aron noted. “Guys, this is Addy, my sister, and Kate, my cousin.”
“Hello.” Joe noted.
“Hi.” Max told us.
“Ok, so that’s who you are.” I pronounced. “Where are you from?”
“Ohio.” Max stated. “We just moved here.”
“Cool! Where’d you move to!” Addy wondered.
“Here!” Joe explained scornfully.
“No. What house did you move to?” She questioned.
“Oh! If you go down this road and then turn left we live across the road from the white farm house.”
“Ah!” Aron exclaimed. “You’re our neighbors! We live in the white farm house!”
“And I live across the woods.” I added animatedly.
“Awesome! I’d hoped the people that moved in would have kids!” Addy cried!
“Kate! Time to go!” Just then I heard Mom.
“Oh, well bye guys.” I hollered. “Nice to meet you!”
“Bye.” They all called after me as I ran off.
“When is Aunt Jenny’s baby coming?” Ann wondered, as I ran up to her and Mom.
Mom smiled. “Pretty soon, Ann!”
Ann stared up at her Mom. “Dat’s what oo said last week!”
“Mom, the new neighbors across from the Springs have kids!” I exclaimed. “We just met them! Joe and Max! Won’t that be fun!”
“Yes!” Mom laughed. “We ought to have them over sometime and get to know them. Did you met their parents?”
“No, just two boys who said that they were moving to that house.”
Meanwhile Ann was sighing sadly. She had been waiting so long for Aunt Jenny’s baby! Mom was smiling at the difference in her girls. Ann’s thought processing was so unlike any other child she’d seen and Ann and I were especially opposites!
“Mom.” I commented, off on another subject. “Addy said they were having potatoes for dinner. Can we have potatoes too? And if not can we just have cheese? That’s all I want.”
Mom smiled. “Kate, if you want to have cheese you can, but you’ll have to eat more than that!”
All Ann had to say on the subject was,
“Mommy, do oo t’ink t’ere will be cheese in Heaven?”