Saturday, May 7, 2016

Chapter Eleven

Spring began to blush.  The Sevier women were busy preparing Ruthe for her marriage.  Nest found out what a trousseau was as Ruthe was fond of unpacking her trunk to show her the new things she had made each time she came over to Josephs' parents.  She had a blanket Bonny Kate had woven as well as a quilt.  Her new dresses and nightgowns were beautifully sewn.  Besides a fancy gown, the rest were Lindsey-Woolsey.  There was an elegance of essentials, the beauty of simplicity that made up the frontier life.  They homespun items were mostly browns, grays, and yellows from plant dyes, the colors of most of the birds in the forest.  A flash of indigo or red were like the blue jay or cardinal.
The wedding was the most touching ceremony Nest had ever seen.  She repeated the vows, her lips moving yet without sound as she turned them over and over in her heart to memorize them, "for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, until death us do part."  Nest wished she and Joseph had been able to say those words to each other.  Had he said them to Charity?  She forced herself to pay attention to the rest of the ceremony.  Col. Sparks was kissing his bride.  Ruthe was radiant even though the groom could pass as her father.  The tenderness for his wife convinced Nest to be happy for her friend.
People were invited to the Sevier's for cake.  Even though it was the governor's house, it was still a simple affair.  Nest had not tasted cake before.  It was made with fine white flour and was not coarse like cornmeal.  The sugar icing was irresistible.  She did not leave a crumb on her plate.  Nest helped to gather up other's dishes to wash so that more people could be served.  The house was crowded.  The bride and groom were well liked, and people were anxious to socialize after being cooped up all winter.
There had been a soiree at one of the forts after Christmas where the soldiers had hosted a big barbeque served outside on the river which was iced over so thinkly that even the huge bonfire built on it did not threaten to melt it.  Now the Nashville and Tennessee citizens were gathered again. 
Nest found it difficult with her pregnant belly to squeeze between guests.  These were not people he knew.  Joseph did not seem to want to introduce her around and was always across the room.  Was he ashamed of her?  She saw them glancing at her and whispering.  So, she decided to stay in the kitchen with the slaves helping with the dishes until her back ached so badly, she had to sit down.
She sat thinking on the back stoop wrapped in her shawl.  The white way had many advantages.  The ladies clothing was like nothing she had ever seen before and was shamed by her plain dress.  She like the cakes and pies, the soft bed, but life was much more complicated. 
The baby kicked.  Sometimes Nest felt like kicking too.  This was her choice to be in this white world.  She did it for her brother, but he had not come to visit.  As soon as the baby came and was big enough, Nest was determined to go home for a visit, with or without a cradleboard.
"What did you think of the ceremony?" Joseph asked her on the way home.  "Do you wish you would have had a one like it?"
"The words the preacher had them exchange were good.  I liked those."  Then she added with spite, "But I am just an Indian, so the other ceremony was all that was needed."
Joseph just grunted in surprise.  Perhaps she was grumpy from being so pregnant after being in a crowd of white people," he thought.  No more was said on the ride home.
Like now whenever she rode, the muscles in her belly would become hard.  Nest wished her mother was here.  No one had told her what to expect when the time came.  Nest looked away to the mist that hid the mountains trying to settle the churning emotions.  Joseph helped her down when they got home.  She was weary.
The Spring had come after a surprise April snow.  The seeds went into the warming earth.  As the plants grew, so did Nest's belly.  The gardening was more difficult, yet it was still Nest's favorite chore.  She like to be outside.  Sweat dripped down into her eyes as she took the hoe to the weeds.  She picked off the buts and threw them to the chickens which greedily gobbled them up.  Nest loved the chickens, a gift from Bonny Kate.  Hawks had only gotten one of them.  The eggs were a welcome addition to their limited menu.  When she stood up, there was a sharp tug in her lower belly.  Nest clung to the hoe handle.  The pain subsided and no more followed.  Nest went inside to sit down.  She wondered what she would do if she was alone when the baby came.  Joseph would not be able to hear her calling.
That night she asked him, "When the time comes, will I be alone to deliver the baby?" 

"When Chari...I mean...mothers usually come.  I will ask my mother to be here for you.  Would you be more comfortable going to stay with her when it is close to your time of deliver?"

"I wish to be home, but don't want to be alone.  My mother has been gone a long time.  I do not have her to tell me what will happen.  I can go to your parents if that is what you wish."

"How about if I work closer to home when you think the time is near?  Then I can ride to get my mother when you need her."  He took a deep breath, "What I was starting to say was that a few weeks before my firs wife was due to deliver our second child, she went to her mother's.  She just never came back.  I would like for you to deliver here if you are comfortable."

Nest smiled.  At last he had spoken to her about his previous wife.  Yes, she would stay home even if no one was there to help her. 

"Until then, I can leave the rifle with you.  If you need me, you can shoot it.  I'll come as fast as I can."

"But what if some bad Indians come?  You won't be able to have protection."

"What if some bad Indians come here?  Now you will have protection."

They laughed together.  She felt after in his arms than she had in a long time.

We have some time.  The leaves are still green on the trees.  When they start to turn color.  I will think about it.  I just had a pang when I was working in the garden today that made me wonder, what if..."

"Don't worry, little one.  This is something every woman has gone through since Eve.  My mother went through it ten times.  Bonny Kate has given birth eight times.  They didn't lose any babies."

"But your mother died after giving birth," Nest protested.

"That was because she had to be moved too soon.  If we hadn't been under Indian attack, she probably would not have died."

His words gave Nest a lot to think over.  To Joseph, Indians cost his mother's life.  To her, childbirth caused his mother's death.  Nest rubbed her belly as it knotted up into a hard ball.  The baby would come when it was good and ready.  Her life was in the Creator's hands.  She pushed thoughts away of when her mother lost a baby.  She did not want to sing that sad song again.

On Sunday, Bonny Kate rode over for a visit. Nest was not comfortable enough to ride to church anymore.  but was glad for the company.  After midday dinner, Joseph went outside so the two could have women talk.

"Do you know about having babies, Nest?"

"Not much.  I was too young to pay much attention when my mother had my brother."

"I will come as soon as Joseph rides over for me.  But I will tell you what to expect..."

With that, her mother-in-law took much of the mystery away from the upcoming event.  She talked while nursing her youngest unconsciously stroking his curls.  "Some things will just come naturally, you'll see.  Just remember, it is hard work, real laboring, but there is a reward when you hold your little one.  If you get scared, it will only take longer.  Work with it."

"Thank you, Kate.  I'm not so afraid now.  I am excited to hold my baby.  I don't expect the babe to come before the leaves turn red and gold.   Would you like to see what I have made?"

Bonny Kate admired her handwork, complimenting her stitches, and making a few little suggestions as to what she still needed.

When the woman rode off, Nest felt a deep craving in her heart for her own mothers, as thankful as she was for a good Christian mother-in-law.  Joseph too would love the child, she was sure.

He seemed to be excited as the time drew nearer.  His eyes again followed her, and he liked to feel the baby more when she lay beside him in bed.

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