By the end of the week, Grandpa and the kids had all got used to each other, even Chrissie knowing that Grandpa only looked grumpy and was really an old softy. She loved watching him milk the cows and often rested her head against his shoulder as he worked. When the milking was done he would dip a clean cup into the fresh milk and give it to her, before setting the milk aside in the cool room so the cream would rise to the top.
The older girls loved spending time in the kitchen with Grandma Marie, she would tell them stories about the goings on in the town, just like any small town there was plenty of gossip to go around. They were learning to cook and knit while the chatter was going on; the best times were when Grandma would come home and start with, “you wouldn’t believe the fiasco in Topper’s Grocery this morning,” and the story would continue with much hand waving and apron flapping as Grandma acted out how, “that Joanie Wells made such a fuss over an earwig on her front porch,” or maybe it had been Shannon’s dog “going berserk over a lizard seen in the garden”. The girls had been to town a few times themselves with Grandma and knew who she was talking about.
The two middle boys had the run of the farm, the only rules being no playing with matches, don’t touch anything sharp and keep the chicken run closed. Also don’t slide down the haystack. They could climb it and sit on top, but sliding down would spread the hay which would then have to be restacked, a very tedious job.
News had come via telephone that Missy was recuperating well and was expected to leave the hospital soon as long as she had somewhere to go where she would be cared for until properly well. She’d had a broken collarbone, but the head injury from slamming into the steering wheel was more serious, bruising and a concussion. Grandma and Grandpa had both talked to her, “mending fences” as Grandma would say and Missy would come to the farm for a while. “You never heard such pandemonium in the church group when I told them all Missy had run off with Duncan,” Grandma said, “but they’ll all be pleased to see her again.”
“When is Mum arriving?” asked Joanna. “On Tuesday,” said Grandma. “Joe and Douglas will take the car and pick her up. Would you like to go too?” Both girls nodded vigorously and rushed off to tell Chrissie and the boys. They found them in the gazebo down near the creek, finishing off a basket of cherries they picked from the big old tree near there. “Mum’s coming!” they shouted. “Huzzah!” shouted Simon, who had learned the word from some TV show he’d watched. “You nitwit,” said Marie, “speak proper English.” So of course Simon stuck out his tongue at her and a lively game of chasey began, with all of them except Douglas who was helping Grandpa with the car.
The working parts of the engine had fascinated him from the first moment Grandpa lifted the hood and asked for his help. “Hand me that thingamajig,” Grandpa would say and Doug would follow the pointing finger and most of the time would pick up the right spanner or sparkplug. “You’d make a fine mechanic,” Grandpa would say and Doug would feel proud.
When the children all collapsed out of breath from running around, Stevie said “I wish Dad could come too, when is he ever coming home?” “We don’t know,” said Marie. “He did say this buying trip was going to be a long one, he has to restock the van with top quality goods.”
She looked at Simon and they nodded at each other. Soon the little kids would have to be told. Duncan had driven the van while drunk and ran over an old lady because he couldn’t see straight; he was in jail and not coming home for another year. They’d overheard Mum telling Douglas the day before another drunk man had crashed into her car.