Anya just drank up Emma’s house as Emma showed her through. A bright oilcloth covered the kitchen table. Gingham curtains fluttered in the window. A cast-iron cook stove filled one corner of the kitchen and a few dish-lined shelves covered the walls over the cook table. A dishpan hung on one side of the stove and a few pots on the other. A can of flour and a bread board set on the cook table. Doors opened off either side of the kitchen and rough stairs climbed to the attic opposite the stove. An apron hung on a nail, next to an embroidered drying towel. A water bucket and dipper stood on a shelf next to the back door. A cracked mirror in a frame hung there also, along with a comb on a string, concession to vanity.
“We got bedrooms opening off both sides of the kitchen. When Melvin got old enough, he slept in the attic. He moved downstairs after Marthy married. He’s courtin’ Jenny Parker, now, so I reckon they could be a weddin’ before too long. I always hoped we’d have to build more rooms fer a passel of younguns, but I guess the Good Lord thought two was a’plenty. We ain’t always had it so nice. Twenty-four years ago we started digging out a sod house when I was first a’carrying Martha. We ain’t been married long an’ didn’t have nothin’ but a start of seed, Rufus’s old gun, the clothes we stood up in, a few quilts, some old pots and crockery my ma spared me, an ax, shovel, plow and a mule and wagon Joe’s pa set him up with. Our folks was mighty good to help us like that. They ain’t had much neither. We slept in the wagon fer a few weeks while we planted and Joe dug sod. By July, it had dried out enough so we could frame up with poles Joe cut down by the creek. By the time Rufus had a good-sized hole dug, the sod had dried enough to stack. We set corner poles and got to stacking them soddy bricks. After we got high as I could reach on the north side, Rufus stacked the rest of the way up and I started the next wall. We took the wagon apart to frame up the door and build a tight door. Joe sodded up a lean-to for the mule off the back wall of our soddy. I sure hated to see that old wagon go, but there weren’t no timber. We sodded the roof, and it was good enough to get us through a winter or two.
After our second crop come in, Joe come up with enough lumber to build a two-room cabin. I was sure proud. That soddy kept us out of the cold, but when it rained mud was always fallin’ in on us….and the bugs! We couldn’t keep them bugs out! A cabin is sure a comfort! He built the other bedroom I was carrying the still-born baby, but we didn’t need more room till Melvin come along.
That old soddy comes in handy as a root cellar now. Long as we keep plenty of dry straw on the floor and don’t let the taters, sweet taters, turnips, and apples from touchin’ they’ll keep till spring. I hang my onions and herbs on the rafters so they keep good. I make leather britches out of my green beans so we can have a taste of fresh all winter. A few years ago, Rufus brung me in some a’them canning jars an’ I been able to put up conserves when the fruit comes in. I was so proud, I ‘bout cried when I seen ‘em. Here, I want you to have this wild plum conserve I put up. It will go so good with your fine biscuits.” Emma was justly proud of her home and housekeeping.
Tears came to Anya’s eyes. “Oh Emma, this is the finest thing I’ve ever been given. I’ll make sure to git your jar safe back to you.”
“Oh no you won’t. It’s a weddin’ present. Every woman should have something fine from a friend. I am proud to be your first one here.” Emma hugged Anya to her with the warmth of a mother. “I’m sure praying you’ll carry this little one and be spared the sorrow I felt.”
“Emma, I am so worried about this baby.” Anya whispered.