Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Elizabeth's Family

Elizabeth had  grown up in a well to do family.  Her father had built a lumber mill and his family had lived without ever having to want for anything. She had one sister and two brothers. Her mother had been a  woman of few words and always seemed to find fault with her children. Elizabeth thought her mother was spoiled for she spent her days doing what seemed like nothing of value.  Agnes, the family cook had brought up the children and after she died of a heart attack one morning making them  breakfast, the children were left without the presence of laughter in the house.

At seventeen Elizabeth met Jack on her way home from the lumber mill. She had went to visit her father, hoping to convince him to let her go off to college in the fall.  On her way out the door, she  heard someone singing as he walked along  carrying what seemed like a heavy toolbox. To catch his attention, she decided to sing along with him and it turned into a love at first sight affair.

Twenty years later, she found herself living in a small mountain home with Jack and their six children. They had run away when her mother refused to let them see each other. She got pregnant and Jack took  her back home to his family. They stayed with his mother for the first two years until Jack was able to cut enough trees to build  them  a small place up behind the old house.  His brothers helped him and he promised her that he would make her happy.

The day this picture was taken, Elizabeth was pregnant again. In all the years of struggling to look after her family, she never was able to go back home. It seemed her family had forgotten about her, although she had written to them several times a year.   In desperation she used up some of their small savings to pay a travelling photographer to  take a picture that she could send home to her aging parents. She wanted them to know that they had grandchildren.  They had put on their best clothes that day  to look nice because she knew her mother would find fault with them as she always had with her.  Her four beautiful girls and two handsome young men knew that  this was important to her and so they looked into the camera, hoping that it would help their mother find her family again.

Elizabeth had married the man that she loved and in doing so, she never knew  what it was to have money nor any of the fine  clothes and beautiful things that  she had been brought up with  as a child. She had chosen to live a hard life with babies crying and a house to run. Sometimes it hurt to see her hands bleed from the harsh soap she used to keep them all clean. It reminded her of all that she had given up to live this life with Jack.  She had learned to sew and knit  because it was necessary to keep them clothed. She planted a big garden which provided them with enough preserves to eat year round.  If her mother had seen her she would have been shocked to see a daughter of hers living in such poor conditions.

Two months after the picture was sent,  a visitor knocked on her door one day.  Looking into the man's eyes, she recognized him as her brother Peter.  He hugged her and  began to tell her a story that had them both crying.  After she had left home as a young woman, they had never known where she had went. Her father had hired lawyers to search through public records to find her but nothing showed up. He grew old with a broken heart. His mother refused to talk about her and so it was as if she had disappeared  from their lives.

Six months earlier, her mother had taken ill and  gradually got worst. She was bedridden when the picture arrived and it was her father who had opened the mail that day. When he found her picture, he cried like a child.  He showed it to his wife hoping that it would  make her happy. Instead she seemed to turn cold and angry. That evening as her father sat beside his dying wife, she began to talk about  her shameful daughter and that she had made sure that no one would ever know anything about the letters in the box.  She died that night and after the funeral, her father, sister and brothers looked throughout the house for the box that she had  talked about in her feverish state.

Her sister found the letters, hidden in a locked trunk in her sitting room. She had never opened them and had kept them hidden from the rest of the family to make sure that she never had the chance to come home again.

Peter told her that their father was waiting for her at home because her wanted to see her and meet his grandchildren. He was an old man now and felt that  enough time had been wasted because  his wife never knew how to love any of them.

Elizabeth, Jack and the children went home and the met the rest of the large family of cousins and in-laws. Her father handed her a bank statement with  her share of the family's fortune. Jack was asked to work for the family business but instead, he opened a small furniture shop in town, right next to their new home. Elizabeth opened a  hat shop, where she made beautiful hats for ladies.  She had found her way home again.

The only things you take with you when you leave this world are the things you packed in your heart. Susan Gale

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