July 12, 1958

Katie Frayne leaned over the open oven door and pulled out one tray of oatmeal cookies as she slid in another cookie sheet dotted with mounds of cookie dough.  She inhaled the delightful aroma of hot, fresh-baked cookies studded with raisins and chunks of walnut, her mouth watering.  Then her stomach lurched unexpectedly and she nearly dropped the cookie sheet.

“Win!  I need you!” she called, turning her head the other way as she set the pan on top of the stovetop with a clatter.   Her redheaded husband appeared in the kitchen doorway, a line of worry between his eyebrows.

“What is it, darling?” he asked.  “Did you burn yourself?”  His glance darted from her to their four-year-old son, kneeling on a chair at the table, the dough-coated spoon he held suspended in front of his face. 

Katie tried to take a couple of slow, deep breaths to fend of her sudden bout of nausea.  “No,” she replied.  “But would you watch these cookies for a few minutes?  I need to...”  She couldn’t finish, but clapped a hand over her mouth.  As he approached her she ran past him and made her way to the bathroom, where she promptly lost her breakfast.  Afterward, she sat on the edge of the tub, bathing her face and neck with a cold washcloth.  Win opened the door and he and Jimmy crowded into the small space.  Jimmy’s face held the same expression of worry that Win’s had shown.

Her son ran over and threw his arms around her.  “Are you okay, Mama?” he asked.  She hugged him back and kissed the top of his red head. 

“I’m fine now,” she reassured him.  “I think I just got too hot.”  She looked up at Win and smiled at him, too.  “I’m fine, really I am.  I know everything’s going to be all right this time.”

“It’s really too hot to use the oven,” Win commented with his usual good sense.  The July heat was oppressive, and even with all of their windows open and a fan in one window, she was sweating.

“I know,” Katie agreed.  “But since we can’t take a cake to Sleepyside in this heat, I wanted to bake some cookies for your aunt and uncle.”  She kissed Jimmy again and gently pushed him away.  His warm little body was sweaty and making her even warmer.  She stood up and hung the washcloth over the edge of the tub.     

“You never give up.”  Win shook his head, although he was smiling.

“Those cookies will be burning!” she exclaimed.  “I need to check on them right now!”  She pushed past her husband, Jimmy at her heels.  He pulled at her skirt to get her attention.

“Daddy took the cookies out, Mama,” he said.  “They didn’t burn.”   

She stopped short and glanced back at Win with a radiant smile.  “Thank you, sweetheart!  I might have known you two wouldn’t let them burn!”  She reached down to envelop Jimmy in a hug before embracing her husband. 

“Let’s get back to the kitchen, where there’s a bit more air circulation,” suggested Win.  The three headed back to the kitchen, where Katie admired the latest batch of oatmeal cookies.

“Can I have one now?” asked Jimmy, with his most winning smile. 

“It’s almost lunchtime,” Katie reminded him.  “After lunch you can have two cookies before your nap.  Then I’ll pack some to take to Sleepyside tomorrow, but we’ll still have plenty left.”  She reached onto the top of the refrigerator and took down the ornamental Christmas cookie tin in which she stored cookies.  Checking to see that her first batch had cooled, she started placing them into the tin. 

“Sleepyside’s a funny name for a place,” Jimmy remarked.  “Why is it sleepy?  How long does it take to get there?  Have I ever been there before?”

“You’re full of questions, son.”  Win settled himself in a kitchen chair and stretched out his long legs.  “Sleepyside got its name from the story about Rip van Winkle, who fell into an enchanted sleep for twenty years in a story by Washington Irving.  Mr. Irving wrote a lot of tales that are set in that area of New York State, where the Dutch settlers lived.”

“Your daddy’s uncle and aunt live in Sleepyside, and we’re going to visit them tomorrow,” Katie added.  “We’ve been there once, but you probably don’t remember it; you were barely walking.  It takes about two and a half hours to get there from here.”   She replaced the tin on the refrigerator and opened it to retrieve sliced ham and cheese, lettuce and condiments for sandwiches.

“We’ll be leaving right after church in the morning,” Win told his son.  “And it’ll be bedtime by the time we get home again.”  He stood and gazed outside at Katie’s garden.  “I think I see a ripe tomato, Jimmy.”  He pointed to the tomato plant where one ripe fruit hung.  “Want to come with me to check for more?”

“Sure!”  Jimmy galloped to the door and he and his dad went outside together, Win stopping to collect a half-bushel basket to carry any tomatoes they found.  Katie watched them go with a fond smile; two identical red heads with similar strides.  Quickly, she set the table and poured glasses of milk for the three of them.  Her nausea had evaporated.  When Win and Jimmy re-entered the kitchen with the produce they’d found, the sandwiches were waiting for juicy slices of tomato; and she had shaken a few potato chips onto each plate to add crunch to the simple meal.

“Hurry and wash your hands, and the sandwiches will be ready,” she told them, accepting the two tomatoes and three cucumbers.  

“Okey-dokey,” Jimmy said.  “I’m hungry!”  He ran to the bathroom, his dad following more sedately.

After lunch, Katie took Jimmy back to his own room and read his favorite story, The Three Billy Goats Gruff.  As usual, the little boy had protested he wasn’t a bit sleepy, but he always rose with the sun and had expended a lot of energy early in the morning playing outside on his swing set and riding his tricycle before helping Katie bake the cookies.  She dozed along with him for a quarter of an hour, although even with a fan blowing the room was warm.

Awakening from her catnap, she rubbed her eyes and stretched.  Outside, she could hear the lawnmower’s hum as Win mowed the quarter-acre of yard around the Fraynes’ small home.  Since it was Saturday, he was attending to all of his weekend chores today.  He’s so responsible, she thought with a proud smile.  Except for the yard, Win leased their remaining acreage to a farmer from Albany, who was currently growing hay on the land.  It was a little extra income for them, helping to pay off the mortgage on the property and save a bit of money every month.  By this time next year, they should have accumulated enough to buy a car.  Not quite ready to get back to her own chores, Katie watched her son sleep for a few minutes, placing her hand over her lower abdomen.  By this time next year, there would be a new baby to join Jimmy.  She hoped. 

Katie had lost a baby by miscarriage before Jimmy was born.  She’d so wanted to give Win a family, and the loss had hit her like a knockout blow.  She shivered, remembering the months when life had been a dark, fog-shrouded tunnel she couldn’t escape.  Even when she became pregnant with Jimmy, she hadn’t wanted to plan ahead... just in case.  Since her son’s birth she’d had another miscarriage, but that time, she’d been able to make her way through the pain because of him.  Nothing must happen this time.  Please, please don’t let anything happen, she prayed.  Except for the intermittent morning sickness—which had just started—she felt good, very happy and full of energy.  Surely that was a good sign.

July 13, 1958

As soon as the Fraynes were finished eating breakfast and cleaning up in the kitchen, the three of them climbed into Win’s work-issued truck to drive into town.  Win carried the tin of cookies and laid it on the floorboard of the passenger seat, between Katie’s feet.   “I’m glad Joe is able to loan us his car today,” he said as he settled into the driver’s seat.  “We’ll head over there right after church and then we’ll be on our way.”

The work truck was fine for his job and the park management didn’t mind if he used it during off-hours for normal errands, shopping, and such.  But for the long drive to Sleepyside, he wanted a more comfortable vehicle for Katie and Jimmy.  He had arranged with one of the other park rangers to borrow the man’s car and leave his truck for the day.  He whistled as the truck covered the four miles to town.

Jimmy bounced in the center of the seat, between his parents.  “Do the bird calls, Daddy,” he said.  “I like the bob-white call the bestest.”  He puckered up his lips and blew.  “Bob-bob-white!  Bob-bob-white!”

“Very good, Jimmy!” Win complimented him.  “Whit, whit, whit whew!” he whistled.  “There’s a cardinal.”

“Peep, peep, peep—whooo!” Jimmy responded.  “What’s that one, Daddy?” 

“That’s a song sparrow, son.  Very good, you are a good listener.”

“I like to pretend I’m a bird,” Jimmy told him.  “If I sit real still and whistle, sometimes birds will come almost to me.”

“So that’s what you’re doing in your sandbox instead of playing with your trucks,” his mother said with a fond smile.

“Trucks are okay, but I like animals better.  Hey, can we have a puppy?”  Jimmy fastened his big green eyes on his mother, who could rarely deny him anything.

“Well...” Katie began.  She glanced over at Win for help, unsure what he might want.  The idea of having a cute little puppy was appealing, but the reality of caring for a puppy while she was dealing with pregnancy and later, a newborn, might be... not fun.

“I think we might be able to get a puppy soon, son.”   Win barely hesitated before answering.  “I always wanted a dog, but I couldn’t have one at boarding school and Uncle James and Aunt Nell lived in the city until I was a teenager.”  He reached over to pat Katie’s knee.  “Don’t worry, Mama, Jimmy and I will train the puppy.  You won’t have to clean up after it.”

Jimmy bounced harder than ever, grinning from ear to ear as he looked from one parent to the other.  Katie smiled, first at him and then at her husband.  “A puppy would be sweet,” she agreed.  “And it would be a good playmate for Jimmy when I’m busy with... you know.”

“Yes, they would be good playmates,” Win said.  “Every boy should have a dog.  Say, do you want to say anything to Uncle James and Aunt Nell about that?”

“No, not just yet.”  Katie sighed.  “I guess I’d rather wait until after I go to the doctor and he tells me everything is fine.  I couldn’t bear to face them if... if anything happened.”  She shivered suddenly.  But they had arrived at church, and she vowed to be attentive and concentrate on the service today, rather than studying her neighbors’ clothing, hats, and hairstyles.  If she did all the things she was supposed to do, surely God would grant her desire for a healthy baby.

Jimmy was so good, quietly looking at his picture book, Baby Farm Animals, during the service.   Katie thought the minister would never stop preaching today’s sermon, but each time her thoughts strayed, she firmly directed her attention back to him.  Beside her, Win squeezed her hand and crinkled his eyes at her as he cuddled his now-sleepy son.  Finally, church was over and they made their way back to the truck. Win carried Jimmy, who had gone to sleep. 

In minutes they reached the home of Win’s coworker and traded vehicles for the day.  Soon, they were headed toward Sleepyside with Jimmy curled up on the backseat, still sleeping.  It was just ten-thirty.

“Wonder how long he’ll sleep?”  Win asked.  “It’s going to be a long drive for him today.” 

“I hope he does sleep for awhile, because I’d like for him to be awake and in a good mood for your aunt and uncle,” she replied, holding up a hand to show him her fingers were crossed for good luck.

Win shook his head and smiled at her.  “You call me a stubborn redhead, but I think you’re the stubborn one.  After the things Uncle James said when we got married, I wouldn’t have blamed you if you’d never wanted to see him again.  I still get mad every time I think about that.”

“Win!  Yes, I was mad at him, and if it wasn’t for Jimmy, I probably would never have tried to restore the relationship.”  Katie sighed.  “But Jimmy literally has no family besides us and them.  If anything happened to us, I’d want him to know his family.  That’s why I swallowed my pride.  Besides, I never thought Aunt Nell felt the same way.  She’s too kindhearted.”

“Well, nothing’s going to happen to us.  We’re young and healthy and there’s no reason to be worried about that.”  Win squeezed her hand again.  “But I’m glad Uncle James has unbent a little.  He and Aunt Nell were so good to me, and I can never forget that.”   

“I know.  I worry too much.”  Katie sighed.  “But I want Jimmy always to be safe, and to have everything he needs.  Sometimes I want that so bad that I think I would do anything, anything, to make that happen.  It’s not so hard to kowtow to Uncle James when I realize it’s all for my little boy’s sake.”  She glanced back to her still-sleeping son in the back seat, a fond smile curving her lips.

“Just be yourself,” Win advised.  “Aunt Nell loves you and Uncle James will, too, as he gets to know you.”  He pulled a pack of cigarettes from the breast pocket of his shirt, opening the vent window of the borrowed car, although both his and Katie’s windows were already partially rolled down.  Katie wrinkled her nose as he lit the cigarette and took a few draws to set the tip glowing.

“I wish you’d give up that nasty habit, darling,” she said, fanning herself with the church bulletin. 

He released smoke from his nostrils and flicked the ash from the cigarette out the vent window.  “Oh, come on!  You know doctors say Camels are so mild, they can help throat irritation!  And I’ve been smoking these filtered cigarettes.  They filter out most of the tar and nicotine.  But anyway, I only smoke about a half pack a day.  That’s not much.”

“I still wish you’d stop,” Katie persisted.  “It’s expensive and I can’t believe it’s not bad for you.  Look at the way the filter is stained when you finish the cigarette.  That brown stuff is bound to be in your throat and even in your lungs.”  She frowned at him and kept her fan going.

“Oh, I’m going to quit soon,” he conceded.  “Once the new baby comes, we’ll need my cigarette money for baby things.”  He finished off the cigarette and stubbed it out in the car’s ashtray before flicking the butt out the window.  Reaching across to her side of the seat, he patted her knee.

“I’m not trying to be a nag, Win,” Katie told him, clasping his hand with her smaller one.  “I love you and I just want you to be healthy.  Why do people call cigarettes coffin nails if there’s nothing unhealthy about them?”  Suddenly and unexpectedly, tears welled in her eyes.

“I know and you’re right, darling.  But there’s nothing like an occasional smoke.  It’s just relaxing.”  He smiled at her and squeezed her hand.  “Did I tell you how pretty you look today? You’re not crying, are you?”

“No!  I mean, it’s this darned pregnancy, I just get all emotional for no reason sometimes!”  She dropped the bulletin onto the car seat and dug into her purse for a tissue, dashing away the unwanted moisture.

“Try to sleep awhile,” Win advised.  “We’ve still got a long drive ahead of us, and I don’t think you’re sleeping well at night.”

“I’ll try,” she agreed.  Toeing off her high heels, she curled up and tucked her feet underneath herself, lifting and smoothing the full skirt of her pink dress.  Carefully, she removed her white pillbox hat, accented with a cluster of pink silk roses and a scrap of pink veiling, and laid it on the seat.  Then she rested her head against the car seat and closed her eyes.

But despite the smooth ride of the Bel Air sedan, Katie found it wasn’t easy to ride with her eyes closed.

She took a couple of slow, deep breaths, but her stomach was rolling and she felt the perspiration rolling down her chest and back.   “Please pull over,” she managed to say before clapping a hand over her mouth.  Win glanced over at her and quickly pulled the car off onto the shoulder.  Katie just had time to open the car door, but not to jump out, before she retched violently and vomited onto the ground.  Afterward, she felt better, but as she wiped her face on Win’s handkerchief, she discovered a few spots on the skirt of her dress.  

“Oh, no!  Right on the front,” she mourned.  “What will your aunt and uncle think of me?”

“Don’t worry about it,” her husband assured her, a reassuring arm around her waist.  “We’ll stop at a service station and you can clean up some more in the restroom.  It’ll be dry by the time we get to Ten Acres.”

“I guess so.”  She pulled a mirrored compact from her purse and peered into it.  Her short curls were damp with sweat from the bout of nausea, and she fluffed them gently.  “If I just don’t look like an absolute rag by the time we get there.”  She nibbled at her lip.  “I’m being silly, aren’t I?”

“Yes.”  Win softened the word with a sunny smile and a gentle kiss.  “You’re beautiful, I love you, and everything will be fine.  Are you feeling better?”

Katie took a few more deep breaths and looked into the back seat, where her son still slept.  “I’m fine now,” she said, surprised to realize it was true. 

“When we stop at the service station, maybe we can get a bottle of ginger ale.  That should help,” Win offered.  He started the car again and after checking all of his mirrors, pulled back out onto the road, whistling again.  This time Katie didn’t try to sleep, but the peaceful Sunday morning and rolling countryside soon contributed to a drowsy reverie that she didn’t try to fight.

“Daddy, look at the cows!  And horses!”  Jimmy’s excited voice broke into her sleepy daze.  She sat up with a start and turned around to smile at her son.  “You like cows and horses, don’t you, son?” she asked him.

“Yes!”  Jimmy bounced on the back seat and then scrambled around to kneel on it, facing the rear window as the Bel Air moved past the field where the animals grazed.  “Mama, can we have a horse?” he asked, still facing away from her.

“I thought you wanted a puppy,” she reminded him.  A dog might be one thing, but a horse?  Katie had never been around horses and their property, while large enough to graze a horse, was being used for income, rather than livestock.  Sensing her hesitation, Jimmy turned his attention to his father and plopped back down into the back seat.

“Daddy, can we have a horse?”  he asked.

Win stopped whistling and appeared to be seriously considering the question.  “Son, right now we can’t, because Mr. Jones is renting most of our land to grow crops.  We can’t take land he’s paying to use, to make room for a horse and a stable for it.  That wouldn’t be right, because I gave my word to Mr. Jones that he could use the land.  If I broke my word to him, it would be dishonest.”

Jimmy’s face grew serious as he listened to his father.  Katie loved him even more—if that could be possible—because he was so intent on taking in everything Win said to him.  For an almost-four-year-old, he was amazingly grown-up, she thought.

“Okay, Daddy.  You can’t break a promise.  But can we change the promise after Mr. Jones finishes growing his crops?  Before he plants something else?”

Win laughed, a low, warm chuckle.  “We’ll see, buddy.  I’d like to have a horse, too.  But I need to put some thought into it, and if we decide we can have a horse I’ll have to build a stable and put up some fencing.  In about a year and a half, we’ll probably be able to swing it.  Will that be okay with you?”

“Yes, that will be okay.”  Jimmy gave a vigorous nod of his head.  “I can help take care of the horse, too,” he bragged.

“I see a service station just ahead,” Win commented.  “We could all use a break, I think.”

After the brief break, Katie walked around to the back of the station with Jimmy, while Win visited the vending machine for a bottle of ginger ale.  Behind the station was a wooden picnic table, shaded by a large maple tree and overlooking a small lake that could be reached by a set of rustic steps.  Jimmy wanted to go down and explore, but when his dad appeared with the ginger ale, he agreed to sit down at the table and share the drink.   Katie smoothed her skirt over her legs, hoping the rather large damp spot she had made at the restroom sink would be dry and not too wrinkled by the time they reached Sleepyside.  In spite of her anxiety over the admittedly trivial problem, she enjoyed the cold drink and the peaceful scene.

“Time to get back on the road,” Win announced as Jimmy swallowed the last sip of ginger ale and gave a mighty belch.

“Jimmy!” Katie was shocked at the volume of the burp.

“Sorry, Mama!  It just came out,” her son apologized as her husband covered a laugh with his hand and pretended to cough.

She shook her head.  “I guess you couldn’t help it.”  She smiled at him.  “Let’s get going.”

The rest of the trip was uneventful, and Win, Katie and Jimmy played a game of “I spy” almost all the way to Sleepyside.  After one more restroom break, Katie finally saw the sign welcoming them to Sleepyside.  Ten minutes later they were pulling into the drive of Ten Acres.  She hadn’t seen it since their last visit, when Jimmy was barely over a year old.  That visit took place during early autumn, and the trees were turning, creating bright splashes of red, gold, and orange around the gracious old house.  Today, lush greenness was everywhere, accentuated by beds of bright yellow and white daisies.  Shading her eyes with her hand, Katie tried to see if Uncle James and Aunt Nell were outside waiting for them, but didn’t glimpse the older couple.   However, by the time Win parked the car and walked around to let Jimmy out and open her door, she saw a petite, white-haired woman and a tall, but slightly stooped older man step out onto the large front porch.  As Win picked the cookie tin up off the car’s floor, the woman hurried down the porch steps.

“Win!  Dear boy, it’s so wonderful to see you!”  She took his arm and looked adoringly into his face, and Katie recognized the same look she herself sometimes directed at her beloved son.  Win bent down to kiss his aunt and give her a one-armed hug.

“Auntie!  You’re as beautiful as ever!” he vowed.

“Don’t be silly!” his aunt demurred, but her blue eyes sparkled behind her glasses as she took both of his hands and sized him up from head to foot.  “Your wife must be treating you well, my dear.  You’re looking very fit.”  She turned her attention to Katie, smiling and touching her arm.  “Katie, my dear, you look lovely.  That pink is a beautiful color for you.”  She touched the graceful wide, rolled collar of the dress.  “Did you make it, dear?” 

“Thank you, I wish I was so talented,” Katie replied.  “No, it came from the store, but I did have to do some alterations.  The curse of being so short!”    She smiled and leaned in to Aunt Nell with a light kiss on the cheek and a quick hug.  By this time, Uncle James had reached the little group.

“How are you doing, son?” he asked Win, shaking his nephew’s hand in greeting.   “It’s good to see you.  Is this your car?”

“No, I borrowed it from a coworker,” Win told him.  “I wanted something more comfortable for Katie and Jimmy to ride in for this long trip.  But I hope to buy one of my own when the new models are released.”   He changed the subject smoothly, lifting the lid of the cookie tin to show his aunt the treat they had brought, as Uncle James turned to greet Katie.

“Hello, Uncle James,” Katie offered shyly.  She hoped this would be a good visit.  Win’s uncle was rather intimidating.    

“Hello, Katie.”  Uncle James shook her hand, too, before looking past her where Jimmy hung back, standing shyly behind his mother.  Her son wasn’t usually shy, but maybe he’d picked up on her discomfort.  “Is this my little namesake?” the older man continued, bending down to get closer to the little boy.

Katie saw Win and his aunt watching the exchange.  “Yes, this is Jimmy,” she said, tugging at her son’s hand to try to get him to come forward.  “Can you say hello to your Uncle James?” she asked encouragingly.  Jimmy glanced from her face to his dad’s, and extended his hand. 

“Hello, Uncle James,” he said solemnly as the older man shook the proffered hand.  “Is this your house?”  He pointed to the dignified Victorian edifice, with its porte-cochere and wide porch.

“Yes, it is.  And someday, it may be yours,” Uncle James replied.

“It’s so big!”  Jimmy’s eyes were wide.  “Do you have a swing set?  I have one at my house.”

“Not a swing set, but we have a porch swing in the summerhouse.  Would you like to see it?”  Uncle James straightened up, rubbing his lower back, although he kept smiling at the little boy.

Jimmy raised his eyes to meet Katie’s.  “Can I go see the porch swing?” he asked.  She, in turn, looked to Win.  Aunt Nell had specifically invited them to have lunch at one o’clock, and Jimmy would need to wash up first.  The time was tight, but she didn’t want to offend Uncle James by refusing, either.  Aunt Nell beamed at the pair.  Win smiled at her and at his uncle, and replied for her. 

“Yes, for a few minutes.  I think Aunt Nell expects us to sit down for lunch soon.”

“Yippee!  Let’s go!”  Jimmy was excited and grabbed Uncle James’ hand.  “Where is it?”  The old man and the little boy set off toward the summerhouse, which Katie knew was located behind the house, overlooking the river.  She watched them go with a happy glow in her heart.

“Would you and Win like to freshen up while they’re trying out the swing?” Aunt Nell suggested.  “I’ll let Cook know we should be ready to sit down right on time.”  She led the way up the steps into the house, which was dim and if not exactly cool, it had nice cross-ventilation and the low hum of an attic fan was audible.  After freshening up, Katie and Win accepted tall glasses of iced lemonade in the parlor.

Strategically placed pedestal fans moved the air in each room, so Katie felt comfortable in spite of the day’s heat.  And a careful inspection of her dress in the powder room reassured her that no stains were noticeable on the skirt.  Sudden silence alerted her to the realization that Aunt Nell had asked her a question and was awaiting an answer.

“I’m sorry, my mind was a million miles away,” she apologized.  “It’s so pleasant in here, compared to outside.”

“Win was just telling me about your garden at home,” the older woman said.  “I asked how your tomatoes were doing.”

Katie blushed.  “Actually, they’ve just started turning red.  Win picked two ripe tomatoes yesterday.  I’d read about a new variety of early-bearing tomatoes that bear two weeks earlier than the Bonny Best that we’ve grown before.  We babied the young plants in a cold frame until danger of frost was past, and transplanted them into the garden last month.  The gardening column in the paper advised planting them in between the Bonny Best, and so far it seems to be working out.  Of course, in a few weeks when I’m buried under bushels of Bonny Best and canning in the middle of August, I might be sorry!”  She laughed.    

Nell Frayne smiled and chuckled in response.  “We have a nice kitchen garden, but our cook and gardener do most of the work out there.  Today we are serving chicken salad in tomato cups with ripe tomatoes from the garden, and I hope our tomatoes will have as much flavor as yours.  For myself, I enjoy flower gardening and have been experimenting with some swamp milkweed to attract monarch butterflies.” 

“I love Monarch butterflies!” Katie exclaimed.  “They’re so pretty and striking.  But did you say swamp milkweed?  Surely you don’t have any swampy land here.”

“Swamp milkweed just needs an area that stays wet most of the time,” Win explained.  “I can think of a spot or two that have a hard time drying out after a good rain.”

The front door opened and closed, and James and Jimmy appeared at the entrance to the parlor.  “This young man and I are going to wash up, James said.  “Will it be time to eat when we’re finished?”

“Yes, dear.”  Nell smiled indulgently at her husband and he and Jimmy disappeared in the direction of the powder room.

Once they were seated at the Fraynes’ dark, polished dining table covered with a snowy white linen cloth, Katie felt her insecurities creeping back.  Thankfully the lunch today didn’t call for multiple courses and different forks between which she would have to choose for each course.  Concern about Jimmy’s behavior occupied her attention enough to distract her from her usual self-consciousness with the wealthy Fraynes.   Jimmy had nice table manners for a child his age, but still needed help cutting up his food and remembering to keep his glass away from the edge of the table.  She was glad to note that Nell had chosen a chunky tumbler for his milk, rather than the stemmed water glasses the adults used.  Her attention directed toward her child, she could not participate in the conversation between Win and his elders, but in general it seemed to be restricted to the recent hot weather.

A platter of snack crackers and some bite-size appetizers were passed.  “Everything is delicious, Aunt Nell,” Katie complimented her hostess.  “It’s a wonderful summer meal.”

When everyone had finished, the Fraynes’ cook brought out dishes of ice cream and some of the cookies Katie had brought.  “These oatmeal cookies have always been some of my favorites,” Nell said.  “Thank you for bringing them today.”

“I wanted to bake a cake, since Jimmy’s birthday is Tuesday,” Katie felt she must apologize.  “But I was afraid the frosting wouldn’t hold up for the long trip.”

“Cookies and ice cream are much better,” Nell assured her.  “I would have hated to think of you slaving away on a cake and then arrive with runny, melted frosting.”

“These are delicious,” Win said.  “Don’t you agree, Uncle James?”

“They’re very good, although nuts disagree with me sometimes.”  James wiped his lips with a napkin and took a drink of water.  Jimmy, seated between Katie on one side and James on the end, pulled on his great-uncle’s sleeve. 

“Hey!  Mama and I made the cookies, Uncle James.  Did you know that?”

James raised his fierce, bushy eyebrows.  “Is that so?  Well, I’d say you did a good job, my boy.”  As he smiled at the child, Katie saw his face soften.  She realized that the love James had for Win spilled over to include Win’s son.  There was someone else in this world who could watch out for her son.  Her own heart softened toward the old man who had made his disappointment with Win’s marriage so clear.  Maybe there was something there to build on.

“Shall we move out to the summerhouse?”

Nell Frayne stood and beckoned the group to follow her outdoors.  “I’ll show you my butterfly garden, and we’ll see if there are any monarchs fluttering around.”

The little group followed their hostess, leaving the table for the Fraynes’ cook and housemaid to clear.  Katie felt very odd about that; she had never been able to employ household help and felt that she should clear up.  But she followed silently, since even Win seemed to take the action for granted.  Behind the house in a large sunny patch of grass, a kidney-shaped bed of riotous color surrounded a shallow birdbath with a fountain.  Steppingstones created meandering pathways from the edge of the bed to the birdbath, situated in the center.  Immediately, Katie’s attention was caught by a tall butterfly bush with its purplish flower-cones nodding at the ends of long stalks.  This striking plant rose six to eight feet into the air behind the birdbath.  Mounds of yellow and white daisy-like flowers clustered at the front of the bed.  Various other flowers she didn’t recognize created masses of fragrant color and texture, accented by the splashing of water in the fountain.

“I don’t want to bore you with my flowers,” Nell said.  “I like the colors and the variety of shapes with the different plantings.”

“Not at all!  They’re beautiful! Please do tell me about all of them,” Katie told her.  “I’m afraid I don’t know much about flowers.”

“These are called bee balm.”  Nell indicated a tall, leafy plant with delicate purple flowers growing to the right of the butterfly bush.  “These are Shasta daisies, cosmos, annual dianthus, and marigolds.”  She pointed to each variety of flower as she named them off.  Katie was charmed to notice a dozen or more butterflies flitting about the colorful plantings and perching on the edge of the birdbath.  Several were the showy monarchs.  Win stood behind her, and she turned her head to smile at him.  Even Jimmy stood spellbound at the edge of the flowerbed.  She could see that he was studying the insects that buzzed and fluttered among the flowers, as well as the birds that swooped down to the edge of the birdbath for a drink of water, or to splash themselves with the cool water.

“Aren’t they beautiful!” she exclaimed.  “How did you know what to plant?”

“I belong to the Garden Club,” the older woman said.  “We did a unit on butterfly gardening last year, and I planned out my bed then.  This is really my first year for it.  Already, I can see a few changes I’d like to make, so it’s a work in progress.  Our gardener, Gallagher, did the heavy digging, and he set the fountain and stepping stones.  But I did all of the planning and planting, and I’m doing the watering and weeding as needed.  Gallagher has enough work to do, keeping up this big yard in the summertime.”

“Nell’s too modest to tell you she won top prize with the Garden Club last year,” James asserted with a proud glance at his wife.  “Her daylilies won Best in Show.”

“Pshaw!”  Nell’s face flushed becomingly.  “Anyone can grow daylilies.  But they were beautiful.  Now, it’s too hot to stand here.  Let’s go out to the summerhouse, where we’ll be in the shade.”

The little group headed down a meandering flagged path toward the rectangular building with a roof and large screened openings on all four sides.  Katie could see that although there was still a nice sweep of lawn before the edge of the bluff, the summerhouse commanded a breathtaking view of the river far below.  On the near side, Nell had cultivated another grouping of daisies and yellow asters interspersed with clumps of hosta.  Gazing beyond the structure, she could see that the spot where the bank dropped away was well-fenced, and Jimmy was a cautious child for his age.  She knew he wouldn’t wander away, so she felt comfortable being out there.  Just as they reached the door of the summerhouse, Jimmy stopped and pointed to the rocky border that edged the flowerbed. 

“Look, Mama, Daddy!”  Although he was so excited he was almost vibrating, Jimmy’s voice stayed soft.  “Look, it’s a turtle!”  Sure enough, a box turtle was emerging from under the leaves of a hosta.  “Can I pick it up?”

“Watch out, it might be a snapping turtle,” Katie warned anxiously.  Behind her, she could hear Uncle James snort in what felt like derision, and she flushed.

“I don’t think it is,” Win replied.  He crouched down to look at the reptile more closely.  Without picking up the turtle, he pointed to its back.  “See how its shell is rounded, and he has this fancy pattern on it?” he asked.  “That’s typical of a box turtle.  Snappers have a flatter shell and it has a rougher, ridged texture without a real design.  Box turtles can pull their legs and head all the way inside their shells, and this fellow will probably do that if you pick him up.”

“I want to see him pull his head and feet inside,” Jimmy begged.  “Please!”

“Let me pick him up first,” Win said.  “Just in case he’s a grumpy one.”  Gently, he lifted the turtle, keeping it well back from his son’s face.  Sure enough, the turtle pulled in his head and feet, and lifted its hinged bottom shell to seal its head inside.

“Look, look!  He’s hiding!” Jimmy was even more excited.  “How does he do that?”

“That’s a way he protects himself from raccoons, skunks, foxes and other animals that would eat him.”  Win turned the turtle over.  “See this spot where the shell is hinged?  The turtle can pull that up right to the edge of the top shell and hide when he’s in danger.”  

“Win!  That’s horrible!”  Katie had no desire to touch the reptile, but she hated to think of an animal eating it.  

“The law of the jungle,” Win said with a smile.  “Survival of the fittest.”  He set the turtle back down on the ground, near the spot where it had emerged from the flowerbed.  He brushed his hands off on his trousers and straightened up.  “Give the turtle a little time and you might be able to feed it a leaf later.”  Jimmy watched as the turtle scuttled back under the hosta.

“I’m sure he gets plenty to eat in my flowerbed,” Aunt Nell commented with a sniff.  “As far as I’m concerned, they’re varmints!”

“Well, they eat rodents and even dead birds after a storm,” Win explained in a totally reasonable tone.

“Ugh!  Now that is sickening,” Katie protested.  “I don’t think I want Jimmy touching anything that eats nasty dead birds.”

“All boys want to touch nasty things.”  Uncle James sounded dismissive again.  “You can’t wrap him in cotton wool or he’ll grow up to be a sissy.”

“Still, I think this conversation has gone far enough,” Aunt Nell said with a stern look at her husband.

“I agree,” Win commented in a deceptively mild tone of voice.  Katie saw that Jimmy was busy watching the turtle as it scuttled back under the hosta, and was paying no attention to his great-uncle’s comments.  She was glad he was preoccupied with the disgusting creature.

“You’re right, my dear.”  Uncle James ignored his nephew but placed an arm about his wife’s waist and turned his attention to his niece by marriage.  “I’m sorry, Katie.  I spoke out of turn.”

“It’s o-k-kay,” she managed to stammer.  “I’m not an outdoors person and I probably try to p-p-protect him too much.  He’s not a baby any longer.”  She felt ridiculous tears threatening.  After working so hard to promote a reconciliation with Win’s uncle, she felt as if there was as big a gulf between herself and the senior Fraynes as there had ever been.  How could she ever hope to gain James’ respect, let alone affection?

“Let’s move into the summerhouse,” Win suggested.  “We’ll be in the shade and we can test out this wonderful new porch swing you’ve installed.”  Suiting his action to his words, he took Katie’s arm and opened the summerhouse door for her.  As she stepped inside she noticed it was immediately about fifteen degrees cooler in the slightly dim, covered space.  A glider, two wicker armchairs and a wicker porch swing suspended from a beam created a comfortable seating area, and a couple of wicker tables against the side walls made a perfect surface to serve snacks and drinks.  The other time she and Win had visited Ten Acres, the weather had been rainy and they had stayed inside, so she was seeing the Fraynes’ favorite spot for the first time.

“It’s just lovely!” she cried, clapping her hands.  Jimmy made a beeline for the porch swing and was about to climb up on it, but Uncle James stopped him. 

“Wait a minute, sonny,” he said.  “No sitting down until I check for snakes.  I don’t know where their den is, but every now and then a copperhead will get in and they like to crawl under the seats when it’s hot like this.  None of us wants to get bitten.”

“Right, you wait here with Mama and Aunt Nell while I help Uncle James to check everything,” Win told his son, ruffling his hair.  Katie didn’t have to be asked twice.  She backed a bit closer to the door, pulling Jimmy close to her side.  James and Win used a couple of long sticks she hadn’t noticed before, to poke under the chairs and to lift the cushions of the glider and swing.  Only when both of them were satisfied and replaced the sticks in their spot leaning against a wall did she make a move toward the glider.     

When all of the adults had seated themselves and Win launched into a tale about his work at Partridge Run, Jimmy sat cross-legged on the floor and pulled some tiny plastic horses from his pockets.  Soon he had them galloping across the wooden floorboards and stopping to drink from a pretend creek.  Aunt Nell seemed to hang on her nephew’s every word, Katie noted with pleased affection, so she didn’t need to try to make conversation.  She had heard Win’s story before and she still felt a bit apprehensive about the idea of snakes in the summerhouse, so she was watching her son rather than following the adult talk until Uncle James raised his voice to make a request of Win.  

“Win, I wish you’d reconsider what we talked about.  I’m ready to step away from the day-to-day work with Frayne Enterprises.  I’ll reinstate you as my heir after Nell, but you’d have real financial security if you came to work at Frayne.  You’re a bright young man and you’ve got an education.  You could lead Frayne into the future.”

“Uncle James, I appreciate the offer.”  Win spoke quietly, but forcefully.  “But I enjoy my work, it gives me the opportunity to make a difference in conserving our great natural resources, the wild lands and animals, so that my son and generations to come, can enjoy the natural wonders of our country.  If you want to leave some money for Jimmy, it could certainly help ensure he has a fine education.  But I’m young and healthy.  I don’t need the money and I won’t be under an obligation to you for it.”

“You’re as stubborn as they come, boy.”  James drew his fierce white eyebrows together.  Katie was frightened for a moment, and held her breath as she glanced at Aunt Nell, but upon seeing the old lady’s face, she realized her husband’s uncle was doing his best to suppress visible admiration for his stubborn nephew. 

“Let’s enjoy each other’s company and not speak of this again,” Win said in a tone of finality.

“Have it your way,” his uncle responded gruffly.  There was an awkward silence—at least to Katie it was awkward—and she considered and discarded a half-dozen potential topics of conversation as Win pushed the glider back and forth while the older couple did the same with the swing.

“Jimmy, I thought you wanted to ride on the swing.”  Uncle James was the first to speak, and he raised his voice to get Jimmy’s attention.  The little boy had made his way to a cluster of potted palms that basked against the wall opposite the door, and he had arranged his horses in the soil as if they were racing.  He looked up when he heard his name, and a grin spread across his face.

“Yes!” he almost shouted in excitement and ran over to the swing.  Uncle James lifted him onto the seat between himself and Nell, and gave the swing a push.  Jimmy bounced on the seat, his green eyes wide and joy beaming from his face.

“Look, Mama!  Look, Daddy!  This is fun.  Can we get a swing like this?”

Katie smiled back at him.  “I’m glad you’re having fun, sweetheart,” she said.  “But you have a swing set and I don’t think we have a place to put a swing like this.”

“You heard your mom,” Win told him.  “We can’t get a swing like this right now.  But maybe some day we’ll have a place for a porch swing.”

As she watched the swing go back and forth, Katie started to feel nauseated again.  “Stop the glider, please,” she requested.  “I need to go inside for a minute.”

“Sure.”  Win stopped the movement and she staggered to her feet.  “Do you need me to walk with you?”

“No, no, I’m fine.  It’s just that swinging is making me a little dizzy.”  She tried to be subtle about taking some deep, slow breaths as she made her way to the door.  “I’ll be right back,” she assured them.

“Bye, Mama!”  Jimmy waved at her as she left the summerhouse.   

She managed to make it to the house without throwing up, but her stomach was still churning in the muggy afternoon heat.  In the powder room, she bathed her face with cold water.  Wetting a washcloth, she then wandered into the front parlor and sat down for several minutes with the cold cloth on her face and neck until the nausea eased.  The main house wasn’t much cooler than the summerhouse, but it was shaded by trees and whatever air moved was helped along by cross-ventilation from the open windows and strategically placed electric fans.  She enjoyed the dimness and the moving air until she started to feel guilty about being inside, away from the rest of her family.  After hanging the washcloth up in the powder room, she made her way back out the French doors in the dining room to the back yard. 

The sun was almost blinding at first and she shielded her eyes as she searched the yard.  Win stood outside the summerhouse again with his aunt and uncle; Jimmy was on his hands and knees in front of the row of hostas, no doubt looking for the turtle again.  She walked briskly toward them.

“I wondered if you got sleepy and laid down for a nap,” Win put his arm around her waist and whispered to her as she drew alongside him.

“No, I was just sitting in front of the fan for a few minutes.”  She smiled at him and squeezed his hand.  “Jimmy, are you looking for the turtle again?”

“Yes, but I can’t find him.”  The little boy stood up and brushed a few grass clippings from his knees.  “Where do you think he went, Daddy?”

“He probably has all kinds of hiding places, son.  And he might just be taking a nap now.” Win placed a hand on his son’s shoulder.  “Why don’t we see how many different kinds of butterflies are in Aunt Nell’s butterfly garden now?”

“Yes, I imagine there are probably a dozen or so different ones,” Aunt Nell said with a smile.  “We might even see a hummingbird or two.”

“Okey-dokey.”  Jimmy skipped ahead of the adults, then came back to his parents.  “Can I catch a butterfly?”

“It’s better to let them fly freely,” Win told him.  

“You’ll be able to see them up close, sonny,” Uncle James assured him.  “And I think your aunt might have a trick or two to get them to come to you.”

“I just might.”  Aunt Nell’s eyes twinkled.

“Hurrah!”  Jimmy turned one cartwheel and then another.  Katie smiled fondly.  Jimmy was a natural athlete, supple and with good reflexes for his age.  Several of his plastic horses fell from his pockets onto the ground, and she stopped to pick them up.

“The first thing you must do, Jimmy, is to be very quiet and move slowly,” Aunt Nell said with a laugh.  Immediately, he stood up and walked with exaggerated slowness. 

“I’m like an Indian, tracking a deer,” he said in a stage whisper.  Katie noticed that Win coughed to conceal a chuckle.

In a few strides they did reach the butterfly garden, and Win had Jimmy counting the brightly colored butterflies flitting around the flowers.

“Seven, eight, nine, ten...wait, I think I already counted that one.  Why do they keep moving?”  Jimmy turned a puzzled face to his father.

“Well, that’s what they do.  Insects are never really still unless they’re asleep,” his father said.

“Which butterfly do you want to come to you?” Aunt Nell asked.

Jimmy took a few seconds to inspect all of the different butterflies in the garden.  Then he looked up at his aunt and said, “I like the orange and black ones best.  What did you say they are?”

“Those are monarchs,” Uncle James said without waiting for his wife to speak.  “They’re my favorites, too.”

Aunt Nell plucked a cluster of pinkish-purple blossoms from the tip of a plant covered with narrow, lance-shaped leaves.  “Let me see your hands, Jimmy,” she requested.  Obediently, Jimmy put his hands out to her and she rubbed the cluster of tiny flowers against the outside of his fingers on both hands.  “Monarch butterflies like the nectar of these flowers,” she explained.  “So they will be more likely to come and perch on your hands if they smell like food.”

“Just like I come to the kitchen if my mom is cooking something I like!”  Jimmy shot Katie a conspiratorial grin.

“That’s exactly right, son.”  Win smiled at his son.  “Now, move closer to the flowers, but keep your hands in front of the butterflies and underneath them.”

“Why is that?”  Katie was curious.  She had never thought about trying to coax a butterfly to come to her.

“If you’re coming down on them from above and behind, that’s the way predators capture them,” Win said.  “Although monarchs have some protection from predators; the milkweed nectar gives them a bitter taste, so birds usually leave them alone.”

“What’s a predator, Daddy?” Jimmy asked in a stage whisper, with a puzzled frown.

“A predator is a bird, animal or insect that hunts down and eats another creature.  Can you think of any other predators, son?”

“The cat that lives in our barn?  She catches mice and eats them.”  Jimmy nodded his understanding.

“That’s exactly right, Jimmy.”  Uncle James patted the little boy’s shoulder.

“Now, you men hush for a few minutes,” Aunt Nell chided.  “How can Jimmy be still enough to let a butterfly perch on his hand if you keep asking him questions?”

The adults took her advice and everything was still and quiet except the faint buzzing and whirring of the insects hovering over the butterfly garden.  Katie watched her serious son from off to the side.  Jimmy stood motionless, his hands extended one over the other, in front of the colorful patch of flowering plants.  He was determined to do exactly as Aunt Nell had told him, and before long there were two monarch butterflies fluttering above his hands.  She heard his quick intake of breath when one landed on his outstretched fingers, but after that, he must have been holding his breath as the bright insect moved a few steps and extended its ...what was it called?  Whatever butterflies used for a tongue; she could see as it unrolled the long, curled appendage right onto Jimmy’s finger.  His eyes were wide with wonder, and for a split second he turned his head to see if his mom could see the wonderful thing, too.  The smile on his little face was radiant and his eyes shone like stars.

Katie returned his smile, and as he looked back at the butterfly, she beamed at her husband and his aunt and uncle.  Everything was as perfect as it could be.   The afternoon seemed bathed in a golden radiance and she decided she would remember this day always, as one of the most joyful days of her life.

back   next


Author’s Notes

9009 words

Heartfelt thanks to my wonderful editors, Ronda, Ryl, and Trish.  This story is so much better as a result of their comments and suggestions (not to mention all of the extra letters, periods, etc., that are now—hopefully!—gone. Any remaining mistakes are mine, not theirs.

Thank you to Vivian, my fabulous html guru and website partner.  You’ve helped me so many times!!

Thank you to my faithful readers!  It means more than I can say that you continue to be interested in my stories that often are not even about the Bob-Whites.  Many people have wondered about the relationship between Katie and Win Frayne and his uncle.  I’ve thought about their story and tried to interpret it in a way that feels real to me.  There is more to come.

Since I am neither a naturalist nor a gardener, I had to research some of the material for this story.  Some of the sites I used are listed below:

Bird calls:  https://academy.allaboutbirds.org/features/bird-song-hero/bird-song-hero-tutorial

1958 tomatoes:  http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1958/04/20/page/239/article/early-bearing-tomatoes-fill-garden-needs#text

Turtle facts: http://answerthis.co/733/what-the-difference-between-box-turtle-and-snapping-turtle and http://carolinaboxturtles.com/hazards/predators/

Conservation: https://www.nps.gov/thro/learn/historyculture/theodore-roosevelt-and-conservation.htm

Gardening to attract butterflies: http://www.friendsofthewildflowergarden.org/pages/gentian/newarticles/butterflyinhand.html

Disclaimer: Characters from the Trixie Belden series are the property of Random House. They are used without permission, although with a great deal of affection and respect. All other material on these pages copyright 2017 by MaryN/Dianafan. Images from Pixabay.com; manipulated by Mary N in Photoshop. Graphics copyright by Mary N 2017.

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional