Saturday, January 24, 2015


By Beatrice M. Hanson

A short story

As I drove along the dirt road, glancing from time to time over the surrounding countryside, my mind turned once again to the scenes of my childhood.
Then the meadows were of lush green, with black-eyed-susans  tilting their heads to the soft summer breezes, Tall green grasses swayed to make a path for the brown bare legs of children who waded through them to go to the higher slopes where bluetts and sand violets grew in clusters. A tinkling brook played “hide and seek” through thick impenetrable brush on its hurried way to join the river. A real “Fairy Land” for children’s play.

Today the land sheared far too often, left only yellow stubs of witch-grass in evidence. The narrow brook, long since dried up, or taken new course to its destination. A row of ugly structures in the background destroyed the country beauty once so peaceful and full of charm.
I continued on my way, following the road a quarter of a mile up the rocky incline to its top. Now, one could see the farmhouse built close to the ground. A sprawling row of house, sheds, garage and lastly the big red barn. A sagging sign read "Hilltop Farm".
It wasn’t a pleasant task I had undertaken on this day. Since Father died two years before, the rest of our family, now grown and married, left the farm to make their homes elsewhere.
We had decided it was time to sell the estate, and divide the profit evenly, according to Dad’s will.
Since his death the farm was rented by a "would be" farmer who, in time, found it wasn’t an easy task to make it pay, and gave up the attempt.

The place remained empty and in need of new paint and repairs I noticed, as I took the gravel road that led to the side entrance. Parking the car, I fished in my hand-bag for the house keys. I was elected to make a last survey of the buildings before tie new owner took over. The back door opened easily to the turning of the key in the lock. Inside the rooms were stark bare, with a slight odor of dampness prevailing through-out the first floor. Touring the rooms I checked for broken windows, storm damages, or signs of intruders.
As I climbed the stairs to the second floor, memories of us, as children. sliding down the banisters when mother called us to get to the kitchen fast for our regular breakfast of rolled-oats porridge and our own creamed butter and homemade bread.
The sun was shining through the western windows as I toured the bedrooms. In the master bedroom closet, I ran my hand far back to the walls. My fingers touched some object. I pulled it forward with two fingers. It proved to be a long shoe-box grey with time and covered with dust. Taking it closer to the curtain less window, I knelt down on the floor to remove the cover. Inside lay a much faded and worn carpet-bag. The once colorful tapestry grey now with the time in its dark and damp concealment. Tenderly I held it up, and the years rolled back as I recalled who the owner was, and why it was hidden so secretly these many years.

Chapter 2

Following Mother’s funeral services, the family arrived in their cars, to park in the wide driveway which took up all one side of the homestead. Car doors opened and shut as the bereaved family turned toward the back entrance to the kitchen, for a last cup of coffee or tea together, before each took their separate ways homeward.
Their first out-pouring of tears and grief now left them with a dull ache in their chests and with a numbness devoid of emotion.
The kitchen was warm from the in pouring sun and a spotless cleanliness, just as mother always kept it. A large round braided rug she made of old pieces of calico and sewn together so patiently years before, lay on the scrubbed wooden floor, worn in spots, but still colorful in its faded colors.
The old chime clock, its gold pendulum losing none of its regularity standing on its own special shelf, continued to tick away the time.
Coffee cups clinked as the women started the tea and coffee making. Kind neighbors had stolen in while the family were away at the church to leave casseroles of food and platters of fresh pastries. The hot drinks tasted good to the elders, but they had no appetite at the moment for food.
My younger sister and I wandered into the familiar sitting room for a quiet conversation. It was then we noticed Mother's carpet bag hanging by its strap to the back of the family Boston Rocker.
It looked crushed and forlorn its edges frayed from constant handling through the years.
Acute nostalgia consumed us at its pitiful sight. It seemed to make Mother's death so final, so far above mortal things.
How many times in our growing up years had we watched Mother reach for this bag, for it contained every kind of emergency measures. Cough drops, “Smith Brothers” for those who complained of a ticklish throat. Tissues to wipe away childish tears or wipe sticky fingers? Needles, pins, thread, buttons. Mother, like a magician, could draw out almost anything one needed. Always there as the “change” purse, dedicated to the “do gooders”. Mother, hurry, the ice cream man is coming! “Hand me my bag then, child” she'd respond, reaching inside For the coins she kept handy# They were always there for special occasions. Small, shell like teeth were forever coming out and the "Good Fairy" never forgot to leave something under the tooth-loser’s pillow! In time, we outgrew our need for penny’s and nickel’s and earned our own spending money.

Many expensive gifts, along with new leather bags were given to Mother as the years passed. She admired each one and promptly stored them away in their boxes and tissue papers, her view being, the older a Possession was, the more priceless it became. New things had made no memories, and memories were true gold that never tarnished.
Lovingly we removed the bag and finding a suitable box, packed it carefully away. I remember we pinned a note to the tapestry - "Mother's bag, keep it safe always".


Getting up from my knees, I carried the bag with its scanty contents downstairs and out the kitchen door. I must find a spot not likely to be disturbed in the coming years. I chose a place close behind the red barn, now overgrown with weeds and crab-grass . Finding a broken handled spade in the tool house, I dug a hole large enough to accompany the box and deep enough not likely to be uncovered. Stooping down I laid the box at the bottom, covering it well with dirt, stamping it down for good measure.
Putin away the spade I re-locked the house door, and getting into my car drove down the highway for the last time, keeping my eves straight ahead. I chose not to be tempted to look back, it would be too painful.
Perhaps the new owners would love it as we did. Perhaps small children would again play in the fields beyond. Perhaps they too, would make good memories as we did, and perhaps, they might, if lucky, know the wonders and magic of a loving Mother's carpet-bag!