It’s time for the annual Growing4Life Christmas story! This year’s story is from a simpler place in a little valley far, far away from where you are. I hope it is a welcome and pleasant respite from the strange and chaotic happenings of this present world.
It was getting dark and Henry still wasn’t in from chores. Grace grabbed a wooden spoon and leaned over the big pot of stew that hung over the fire. A delicious fragrance wafted up from the pot as she stirred. Smiling, she reflected on the many meals she had made for her family at this hearth.
Henry and Grace had come to this valley forty years ago now. She recalled that first view as they had come through the forest and looked down into this little valley. There, before them, was a meadow covered with shades of deep purple, lavender, and purply-pink. Wild lupines were blooming in all of their glory.
Henry had declared it the perfect place to build their new home, with the creek just a ways yonder and the large oak and maple trees that were scattered throughout the valley. Agreeing, Grace’s eyes had sparkled as she told Henry that they would call their new home “Lupine Valley”.
Lupine Valley had seen many changes over the years. Five children had been birthed there but only three lived to adulthood. Henry, jr. had been stillborn and her precious Sarah had died from Scarlet Fever when she was five years old. Even now, memories of this happy little girl brought tears to Grace’s eyes. She brushed them away with her arm as she continued to stir.
The three remaining children were all grown now, living their own lives. Martha was married to the village’s blacksmith and they were the parents to a large, lively brood. Jack had taken his young family and moved further west. They received only an occasional letter from him. Jane had gone east to live with her wealthy great aunt Ida for a time. They heard from her more often than they heard from Jack but it wasn’t as often as Grace would have liked. Oh, how she missed her children and those busy days of motherhood. It was always worse around Christmastime.
“Enough of this!” she scolded herself and stood up and stretched. Reminding herself that Martha’s family would be here for Christmas dinner, she smiled as she put her freshly made biscuits in a little basket on the table and then peered out into the darkness through the pane of glass at the front of the house. Henry’s lantern swayed back and forth as he came in from the barn.
Suddenly, something else caught her eye way down towards the wood’s edge. It looked to be beside the crick. It was a light of some sort. It disappeared. And then there it was again. What was that?
By this time, Henry had reached the small cabin and was stomping the dirt and debris from his boots. He opened the door and started talking about an infection on the leg of Star, their new mare.
“…should probably have Doc Hayfield take a look at it. Or do you know of some other remedy to try first? Not quite sure what to do.”
Grace was still staring out the window and only heard the end of his sentence. With one final glance towards the woods, she sat down and put her mind to answering her husband’s question about the horse and to serving him a well-deserved supper.
A half hour later, Henry leaned back and patted his stomach, “Oh, Grace, you sure do know how to cook. That was very, very good,” he said the words heartily.
He pulled back from the table and went into the bedroom for his Bible so that they could have their evening readaloud of the scriptures together. Grace took this opportunity to look out the window and see if the light was still there. She stood there for a few moments, her eyes searching the darkness. Yes. There. There it was.
By this time he was seated with the open Bible, “What do you see so fascinating out that window, my dear?” he teased.
“Come look at this,” she beckoned him to the window, “I see a light down by the crick. Am I imagining it?”
Henry pulled his spectacles off and put them on the table and then joined his wife at the window.
“There,” she pointed towards the creek, “do you see it?”
“Hmmm, how strange,” he said in his typical deliberate manner, “Maybe I’ll go outside and see if I can figure out what it is,” Henry was already pulling on his old brown coat.
Grace hurried after him, wrapped in a thin shawl that wasn’t very helpful in such cold weather. She stood there with her teeth chattering while Henry stared into the distance.
He face was sober as he said, “Go on inside, Grace. I am going to take a quick walk to the crick just to make sure all is well.”
Grace looked at him. He looked worried and that made her worried. She had heard of bandits out this way but she never thought they’d come to Lupine Valley. They had always felt so safe and secure here.
They both went inside and Henry loaded his gun and then grabbed the lantern. He kissed Grace good-bye and gave her a squeeze, “Don’t worry, sweetheart, I’ll be okay,” and, with that, he headed out the door.
Grace went to the window and watched him move quickly and stealthily towards the creek. When he was out of sight she sat down in the rocking chair by the hearth and prayed.
(You can find Part 2 here)