Sunday, March 18, 2012
The Cabin on Cedar Lake
Sipping her tea on an unseasonably warm January day, Nettie Crowley was deep in thought. What an eventful year it had been. Oscar's two sons were married in a double ceremony to Nettie's dear friends, Emma Patterson and Lily Kramer. Her darling Polly was married just last week to Randy Burke. Nettie knew it was time Polly married and started her own life with her daughter, Faith and Randy but it was so quiet in the house now. Oscar was with his cronies making final plans for their trip to Cedar Lake.
Last September Nettie and Oscar purchased a large cabin. Cedar Lake was a beautiful spot and they thought it would be a wonderful place to have the whole family gather on weekends during the warm summer months. They planned to begin renovations in the spring. There was a large kitchen and sitting room downstairs with two bedrooms on the second floor. The bedrooms were large enough to separate into smaller rooms where there would be plenty of room for each family to have their own area.
Jonas Fulbright, Lou Rossi, Melvin Tanner, Chris Pringle and Oscar had made plans back in December to stay in the cabin overnight and do some ice fishing. They didn't plan on a change in the weather in January and Oscar was concerned it might just be too warm to safely fish on top of the ice.
Nettie scolded herself for her melancholy. She was grateful for the wonderful life she had in Camden Corners. It was time she got up and baked some cookies. That would shake her out of this self pitying mood. She was just about to add raisins and nut meats to the batter when Oscar dashed through the door.
“Nettie, pack your bags, we're all going to the cabin.”
“What on earth are you talking about Oscar? This is a men only trip. I can't be there alone with all of you men. What would I do when you were out on the ice. I'm certainly not going to sit on a cold stool in the middle of the frozen lake for heaven sake.”
“You aren't the only female who will be there. We have decided to bring the wives along in case the water isn't frozen enough for fishing.”
Nettie thought it was a foolish idea but if her friends wanted to go with the men she would join in too.
After some persuasion the men convinced the ladies that they would enjoy themselves. They all packed plenty of blankets and ingredients for their favorite dishes and gathered together in the Fulbright's Covered wagon and were off for the hills and Cedar Lake.
Jonas drove the horses while Oscar sat next to him to give directions. Anna Rossi was happy to be doing something spontaneous with Lou. They never were able to venture too far from home when he was caring for his vineyard. Priscilla Pringle had been feeling blue since the holidays were over. They were already planning for next Christmas but it seemed so far away that this diversion was just what the doctor ordered. Ethel was happy to be with her friends and Alma Schrum was delighted to be spending time with Melvin Tanner. He had asked her to marry him and she accepted. Melvin lived in the Wharton Boarding house with his ward, Cody Hill. Cody was staying in the dorm at college but came home often to be with April Hawthorne. It was decided after the wedding Melvin and Cody would move into the home Alma had shared with her husband for over 30 years. The house had been a lonely place for Alma until Melvin came into her life. They both had a second chance at happiness.
Chris Pringle began singing I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy. It was a catchy tune and everyone joined in. They laughed and sang all the way to the cabin and felt 20 years younger than they did when they all climbed aboard the wagon that morning.
The cabin was fairly warm inside thanks to the sunlight streaming in through the window. The Crowley's first guests were impressed with the purchase. The women went directly to the kitchen to find everything they would need to prepare a big dinner for the hungry travelers. The men began building a fire in the massive fireplace. They were happy to find a generous supply of cut logs in the storage shed just outside the back door. Oscar bought the cabin from a gentleman who decided he was getting too old for winters in the north and moved with his wife to North Carolina where his daughter and her family lived. It was obvious the cabin had been meticulously taken care of through the years.
After a fine midday meal, the tired group sat on the large sofas around the blazing fire. After the long trip and experiencing full bellies, they were happy to relax in front of the fire.
Anna spoke up “I know Melvin came to Camden Corners to be with Cody and met Alma but what brought you to Camden Corners, Nettie, Ethel and Jonas? I'm sure Greensboro wasn't happy to see any of you leave.
Ethel explained that their daughter and her family live in Camden Corners. They decided to sell their farm and move closer to her.
Nettie spoke up “I found that I missed my dear friend Ethel and when she suggested I pack my bags and move here I was on the very next train.” looking at Oscar she said in a low voice “and I'm awfully glad I did.”
Noticing the fond expressions that were exchanged between Oscar and Nettie, Anna couldn't help but say “Was it love at first sight?”
“Now Anna” it was Lou who spoke up. “I know you enjoy a love story but it really isn't any of your business.”
“I'm not shy about talking about it” said Oscar who was still smiling at his wife. “In one day my life was transformed from a lonely old widower to the happiest man in the world. Miss Nettie Dawson walked into my office with her friends. One look and I was a goner. She was the loveliest, feistiest woman I had ever seen. She was like a mother bear protecting her cubs, Emma and Lily against the meanest man in Greensboro. I was smitten and I still am.”
“That's all it takes is one look” piped in the Professor. “I was a blubbering idiot when I first laid eyes on Alma.”
“Are you sure it wasn't my oatmeal cookies that attracted you Melvin”
“Well, that probably had something to do with it.” he chuckled.
Nettie's curiosity was piqued “Anna, how did you and Lou meet back in Italy? Was it love at first sight for you too?”
Lou laughed “Hardly. She couldn't stand me and I didn't like her too much either.”
“It's true” said Anna “Our marriage had been arranged when we were less than two years old. My Papa and Lou's Papa were the best of friends. They owned adjoining property and both grew grapes and had their own wineries. They were thinking of future generations of grape growers and decided it would double their value if their children were married to each other. I was the youngest of six girls and Mamma became more frail after the birth of each one of us. The doctor told Papa not to expect any more children after I was born. He wanted a son and heir but he loved Mamma enough to follow the doctor's orders. Papa's biggest fear was that all of his daughters would marry feckless characters and the land would go to seed. My sisters all married very nice men but none of them wanted anything to do with the vineyard or land so my Papa's fears weren't totally unjustified. Lou's Papa knew how important a wife could be in a vintner's success and he didn't want some femme fatale getting her hooks into his son and distracting him from his work. Lou and I played together as children. I was told I had been promised to Lou and it seemed very normal to both of us. Then one day when I was walking down the road to school, a new boy in town walked by me. He was older than Lou and so handsome. It was the first taste of romantic feelings I'd ever experienced and I suddenly realized that I didn't have those feelings for my friend and intended Lou Rossi.
Lou joined in. “I was more interested in playing ball and getting into mischief with my pals than I was in Anna. The whole town knew of our Papa's agreement and I was teased by my friends until I avoided Anna whenever possible. Eventually I discovered girls were a rather pleasant diversion but I never looked at Anna in that way. It finally occurred to our Papas that Anna and I couldn't stand each other. They were disappointed but they did back down on the idea of uniting the families.”
Anna spoke up. “I think our Mammas influenced that decision. It was obvious to them that Lou and I could barely be in the same room together. The first time I ever heard Mamma raise her voice was when she told Papa “No child of mine will ever be traded for land and that is final.” It didn't take long before Lou was prancing around town with a different female on his arm every night of the week.”
“Anna, I never pranced around town and as much as I would like to think it's true, I can't remember being with a female every night of the week although I'm glad to see that little spark of jealousy after all these years. What about you and your beaus. Once the fellows learned of our broken engagement they were lined up at your door.”
“It wasn't much of a line. As I recall it was a very small town. I'll admit, I did have a few gentlemen callers. After the years of being promised, I was finally free to make my own choices. The trouble was, nobody measured up to Lou. After a couple of years of maturing, he had become a very handsome fellow. I would see him walking in the vineyard and my heart would skip a beat. This was the boy I played with as a child. I told him my deepest, darkest secrets and he told me his. He was my best friend and now he refused to look in my direction.”
Lou smiled and said “I was trying my best not to look at Anna. She had grown into a beauty. After a rather heavy rain, I was checking the vines for damage when I glanced over in the direction of her Papa's land. Anna was on her knees inspecting the underside of the vines for damage. I noticed her scooping a handful of dirt and examining it like any other girl would examine fine jewelry. At that moment I realized I had been in love with Anna all along. Papa told me when I married I should look for a wife who would love the earth as much as I did and it was obvious Anna was that girl. Something came over me and I walked over to her, lifted her up and clumsily kissed her right there in the middle of the vineyard.”
Anna was giggling. “I still remember that kiss. I didn't know it was clumsy because it was the first time I'd ever been kissed in that way before. My knees grew weak and I thought I was going to swoon when suddenly I heard applause. Our Mammas, Papas, and all of my sisters were looking on as well as the farmhands. I could feel my face turning red and looked at Lou and he was as red as the grapes we were surrounded by.”
“My skills at kissing must have improved because Anna agreed to marry me a week later.”
“That is so romantic” said Nettie. “It's obvious the marriage has been a success. Look how happy you two are after all these years. Lou, I'm glad you came to your senses.”
Even the men had listened intently to Anna and Lou tell their story and no one thought to look outside. It seemed the mild weather had taken a turn. Snow was piled up against the door and the wind had started to howl.
Oscar said “I'm glad you ladies brought an assortment of blankets, I think we may have to settle in for the night.”
“Lucky we have two large bedrooms.” added Nettie. “One for the ladies and one for the gentlemen.”
After a light supper and a few hands of whist, the group was ready to settle down in the comfortable beds for the night.
It didn't take long for the men to begin snoring in one bedroom while the ladies were giggling and gossiping until they all dropped off to sleep as the snow continued to pile up outdoors.