Saturday, March 17, 2012

It Was a Very Good Year

Polly Cooper was giddy with excitement, tomorrow she would be Mrs. Randolph Burke. She picked up Faith and held her tight. She tried not to think about what could have happened if her father had sent Faith to an orphanage as he planned. Polly gave birth to Faith and escaped her Aunt's house coming directly to Camden Corners where her life had been transformed thanks to Nettie Crowley and Randy Burke.
Faith was a happy toddler who gave kisses and hugs to everyone she knew. They would miss living with Nettie and Oscar. Polly was studying to be a teacher. Randy thought she would make an excellent teacher and encouraged her to continue her studies after they were married. She planned to do that but her first priority was going to be wife and mother. She knew she would never be like her mama who was browbeaten by her husband. Nettie told her not to be too judgmental towards her mother. She didn't know the background of her relationship with Polly's father but Nettie knew first hand what a nasty man Marlin Cooper could be. She didn't know Alice well but she suspected she may have been intimidated into marrying the man.
Polly chased away those unhappy thoughts and danced around the room with the giggling little girl. “We're getting married tomorrow Faith.”
Nettie knocked on the door. “Sounds like there are two happy ladies in here” she said.
Oh Nettie, I am so happy I have to pinch myself but we are going to miss you so.”
Nettie's eyes filled up. “You will be living close by and I'm grateful for that but it won't be the same. This is the way it should be though and I couldn't be happier for my two girls. Randy Burke was made to order for you and you for him.”
Polly hugged Nettie who was like a mother to her. “Guess we'd better get going Faith. We have to get to the church to decorate for our wedding reception.” she turned to Nettie “I think half the town will be there this morning. The Burkes have a big family and wherever there's a Burke there is always a Mackenzie close by.”
Nettie offered to watch over Faith while Polly went to the church to arrange the decorations. She was surprised when she arrived there and most of the work was done. It looked beautiful with all the shimmering lights and silver and gold decorations.
Polly dear, I hope you don't mind that we did all this” said her soon to be mother-in-law, Nadine. We didn't mean to take over but we started and there are so many of us before we knew it we were done.”
Mind? I love it.” Polly hugged her and went around the room embracing everyone in the room. She was going to like her new family very much. Being the oldest in her family it was Polly who had to do all the planning for any occasion. Her mother was always too busy or too tired to even hang a streamer on the door when it was one of the children's birthdays. Polly had to chase those feelings away. As much as she would like to have her brothers and sisters at the wedding it wasn't going to happen and she had to stop thinking about it.
Randy Burke was becoming an expert with the printing press. He and Josie were able to put out the Chronicle three times a week now. Josie was a natural journalist. She was able to make the ordinary seem unusual and the unusual seem extraordinary. She was up on all the the current events and made sure her readers were well informed. She was able to voice her opinion in her editorials without infuriating anyone. The size of the paper was expanding into two pages thanks to all the advertisement. The businesses around town were anxious to have their ads in the paper and business in Camden Corners was booming.
Arthur Preston of the Greensboro News would drop by occasionally to see if Randy needed any help. Randy had been a quick study and was almost as adept at running the machine as Arthur was. Arthur enjoyed visiting the Chronicle office. Today he was listening to Randy talk about his upcoming wedding. Arthur remembered Polly from Greensboro. She was a lovely young woman which was hard to believe considering the family who raised her. The last he heard Marlin Cooper was in jail for assaulting the bartender at a sleazy tavern just outside of town. Mrs. Cooper spent her days waiting to see her husband and leaving her children to fend for themselves. The children all went to school and were always clean although their clothes were ill fitting and tattered. Arthur's wife suspected the other children at school teased them and it was the older children that made sure the younger ones were clean. There wasn't much they could do about their torn clothing but it was always clean too. Arthur innocently asked if the Coopers would be at the wedding. Kenny told him of the estrangement.
Arthur returned to Greensboro. He and his wife Gladys thought they should do something to rectify the situation. They knew Polly well enough to know she would want to have some of her family at her wedding. Arthur knew the two oldest boys as they delivered papers for the News. Gladys knew all the children as she volunteered in the school cafeteria three days a week. They had a plan. With Mrs. Cooper gone most of the day she wouldn't have to know about their plans until after they had everything in motion.
That very afternoon, Arthur and Gladys rode to the house in the country that the Cooper family called home. The oldest girl, Gretchen opened the door.
Hello Gretchen, Mr. Preston and I have come to let you know that your sister Polly is getting married tomorrow. Would you and your brothers and sisters like to go to the wedding with us. I'm sure it would make Polly very happy if you were there for her.”
Gretchen's eyes were like saucers. “Polly is getting married? Papa said she was soiled and nobody would ever marry her.”
Your Papa was mistaken” Gladys said with a shudder “Polly is marrying a wonderful young man named Randy Burke. He loves your sister and little Faith very much and they love him too. Would you like to go to the wedding?”
Papa says we can never see Polly again.” By then the other children were also standing at the doorway.
Ginny, the youngest girl called out. “I want to see Polly get married. Can we Gretchen, please.”
The other children joined in.
Papa isn't here, he doesn't have to know.”
Yes, let's go Gretchen. We haven't seen Polly in ever so long.”
I want to see Polly's baby.”
Gretchen knew she was making a mistake but she missed her sister too and was about to say they could go but then looked down at her torn dress.
We can't go in these clothes. It would embarrass Polly if we showed up in these old torn dresses and shirts. Ginny doesn't even have a pair of shoes that don't have holes in the bottom from being worn by each of us girls. Thanks Mrs. Preston but we won't be able to go”
Nonsense. If it's only clothes and shoes we can fix that this afternoon. What time does your Mama come home today.” Gladys was having to think fast because she knew Mrs. Cooper would never let the children go to the wedding.
Mama won't be home until Papa gets out of jail on Tuesday. She said he wanted her to stay at the jailhouse with him.”
Why” Gladys found herself asking.
Because he loves her so much he wants her to be near him even though he can't see her.”
Gladys couldn't understand where the woman's head was but now was not the time to figure it out. These children looked hungry and cold. She knew it would be a little crowded at their house tonight but she insisted they come home with her. She had a big pot of soup on the stove that should fill them up and then they were all going to go shopping. She knew Arthur would be in agreement without even asking.
The big day was finally here. New Year's Eve. Polly and Randy would start the new year as husband and wife. Polly wasn't nervous as she slipped into the beautiful pale yellow dress she would wear as she repeated her vows with the only man she had ever truly loved. Randy couldn't understand why she couldn't wear white like other brides but he liked the color yellow better anyway. Faith's little dress was made of the same pale yellow material as her mother's. Nettie, Emma, Lily and Ethel were all there to help her. For something old Nettie gave her a pendant to wear around her neck. Nettie's mother had worn the pendant on her own wedding day and Nettie also wore it the day she married Oscar. Emma gave her a blue hankie to carry. Lily let her borrow her small bible and Ethel placed a new hair clip in her hair.
All of Polly's friends had made her feel like a member of a family again. She was so grateful to them for making her almost forget her real family in Greensboro.
Randy was peeking into the crowd of people from the side of the altar when he saw Arthur and Gladys Preston being escorted down the aisle followed by several well dressed children. Randy knew right away who the children were. The tallest girl looked exactly like his soon to be wife. The children were all decked out in lovely new clothes and shoes. The littlest with a big bow in her hair. Everyone was sitting quietly when the organ music started and the procession of lovely bridesmaids started down the aisle.
Randy couldn't take his eyes off his beautiful bride. She was walking with Oscar Crowley and was smiling at him as she walked toward him. Just before she reached the altar she heard a little voice say
Hello Polly”
She turned around and saw her brothers and sisters sitting in the front pew and looking so beautiful and handsome. She went over to them and hugged each and every one.
It's so good to see you but I think I'd better not keep these folks waiting any longer. They came here to see a wedding.
Vicar Will pronounced the couple husband and wife and introduced Mr. & Mrs. Randy Burke to the guests.
The new Mrs. Burke spent the next 30 minutes introducing her Greensboro family to her Camden Corners family. She was grateful to Gladys and Arthur Preston for what they had done for the children. She knew her father had not provided them with the clothes they were wearing.
Arthur and Gladys spoke briefly with Oscar about the circumstances they found the youngsters in. They wondered if there was a legal way they could take custody of the children. Oscar thought it was quite possible that Mrs. Cooper's mental state might be in question. He promised he would look into the matter.
The Cooper children had the most wonderful time at the reception. They were able to play with the other children there. Something they were never allowed to do at home. They all loved their little niece and their new brother-in-law. Ginny thought he was very handsome. Gretchen caught the eye of Danny Mackenzie. He asked if he could take her to a movie next week. She reluctantly turned him down. She knew her father would never let her go out with a boy. He told all his daughters that only evil comes from boys. “Just look at your sister.” He would say. Gretchen supposed he was talking about Faith but how could that dear little girl be evil. She was beginning to wonder if maybe her father might be the evil one.
The party was in full swing. Even the youngest were still awake waiting to see the new year in. All the older men synchronized their pocket watches and everyone started counting down
There was much optimism in the crowd that evening. Polly and Randy's lives together were just beginning. It wouldn't surprise anyone if by this time next year Faith had a little sister or brother.
Life was never going to be the same in the Cooper house outside of Greensboro. Gretchen changed her mind and accepted Danny Mackenzie's invitation to the movies and she didn't care whether her Paw liked it or not.
Arthur Preston was already planning to give up his study to make it into a bedroom for the Cooper boys.
Oscar Crowley was discussing the custody of the Cooper children with his sons.
Several of ladies who were expecting babies were gathered in one little corner of the room discussing layettes and nursery colors. Julie Campbell joined them with a smile on her face. Her sister Josie was thrilled at the prospect of having a little niece or nephew.
Reggie and his father were giving their opinion of the wine that was being served at the reception until Lucinda and Anna interrupted them for a dance.
Nettie was holding a sleeping Faith as she looked around the room and wondered what lay ahead for the folks of Camden Corners in the new year. It would be a year filled with anticipation. The winery should be open for business soon and the first grapes will be ready for harvesting in the fall. The hospital will be up and running bringing many newcomers to Camden Corners. The Weston Camera Company is schedule to begin operation soon. What new surprises lay in store for her adopted little town. She hoped the good would outweigh the bad, the smiles would be plentiful and the frowns infrequent. She loved watching the happy expressions on the Cooper children's faces and knew their future was going to be brighter because they had won the hearts of the good folks of Camden Corners. Nettie looked up and saw Oscar smiling at her.
Yes my dear, it's going to be another very good year.”

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