Friday, April 6, 2012
Joe and Diana Taylor had been married almost 5 years. They had not been blessed with children and were beginning to wonder if they would ever have the big family they both wanted. Joe was a fireman and Diana owned Warm Hearth Bakery in the village of Camden Corners They had known each other since they started kindergarten together at Camden Grammar School. Doc McMillan told them there was no need to worry that they would most definitely have their family one day. In the meantime, they had full and busy lives. Diana loved when the school children walked home each afternoon and set out a plate of cookies for them. Each child looked forward to passing by the bakery and choosing a delicious treat from the plate.
In the hills far above Camden Corners lived Earl Short and his daughter Iris. Iris had just turned 5 years old but nobody remembered the date of her birth.
Her mother Mavis was a bright young girl who found a package filled with books. They had accidentally dropped from a traveling salesman's wagon as he was making his way across the bumpy road near the shack she called home. Mavis hid the books and every chance she got she would pour over them until she taught herself to read. She lived in the world of Little Women and Jane Eyre and read them over and over again.
When Mavis turned 14, Maw told her it was time to marry and Earl Short had chosen her to be his wife and bear his children. Mavis knew she didn't have a choice and accepted her fate.
Mavis was calm during a very difficult labor and finally delivered a beautiful little girl she named Iris. Maw placed the baby in her arms and Mavis whispered a prayer that her daughter would be safe and grow up surrounded by love.
Earl arrived from tending his still just in time to see his wife close her eyes for the last time. He was furious that she hadn't given him a son and walked out of the shack without a backward glance at his daughter.
Maw did the best she could with the girl. Iris' name was never spoken. She was only referred to as “Girl”. Paw rarely spoke to her at all and when he did he was issuing an order. Girl had taken after her mother in so many ways. She looked just like her and always was able to see the good in everyone and everything.
One day Maw started feeling poorly. She had always known about the books that Mavis kept hidden and showed Girl the hiding place. She wanted so much more for her granddaughter than she or her daughter had in life. Maw prayed Girl would find her way out of this place and discover whatever world there is beyond the hills. Maw passed away in her sleep several days later.
Earl was smoking his stogie next to his still one late autumn afternoon when a spark hit the still and it exploded and burned to the ground. He decided this was a sign to pack up his few belongings and leave the hills for the first time in his life. He'd heard talk of gold in the west and decided that was what he would do.
He would have to take Girl with him but she was getting old enough that she could start earning her keep. Early in the morning the pair started down the long road headed west. Girl was uncomfortable sitting in the back of the buckboard but she didn't complain.
After several hours they came upon the village of Camden Corners. Girl was enchanted. She had never seen anything like this before. Everything was so bright and clean unlike the drab and dusty cabin. The people were all talking and smiling at one another and looked so fancy. She looked down at her grimy little hands and hid them in her pockets. Paw got out of the buckboard and walked into a building called a P-U-B. Iris didn't know what a pub was but she knew better than to follow Paw. She looked across the street and saw a big white dog with black spots laying in the sun. She waited for Paw to return to the buckboard but he was gone an awfully long time. She couldn't help herself she just had to get out and pet the spotted dog. Iris sat down beside the puppy, she felt so warm to Iris's cold little body she cuddled up to her and fell asleep.
Paw didn't notice that Girl wasn't in the buckboard when he drove off down the street and out of town.
Two hours later, Sheriff Mendenhall came upon Paw's buckboard which had flipped over on a curve throwing Paw out and killing him on impact.
Girl woke up and saw that Paw and the buckboard were gone. She gave the loveable puppy a hug and started walking down the street.
She walked by Warm Hearth Bakery and there was a plate of the most wonderful looking treats on a plate. She knew she shouldn't steal but she was so hungry and those round things looked so good and smelled so wonderful. She took one off the plate and gingerly walked away.
She walked a little further down the street and came upon Nichol's General Store. Outside of the market she saw apples. There was an apple tree behind her home but they didn't smell as good as these. She helped herself to an apple.
She didn't feel so hungry anymore and wanted to visit with her new spotted friend again so she walked back to the big red building. The dalmatian saw her coming and came up to her licking her hand. Iris followed the dog into the building and saw she had her own pallet and was offering to share with her.
They sat together for a little while when someone called “Come here Girl”.
Both the dog and Girl went running.
“Well, who have we here?” said Joe.
“My name is Girl, my Paw is taking us to find gold”
Joe asked where her Paw was and Girl told him she came over to say hello to the dog and Paw wasn't there anymore. Joe was just getting off duty at the fire station and was meeting Diana at the bakery.
He took hold of Girl's hand and walked the short distance to the bakery. Diana was just coming out of the store to pick up the empty plate the children had their snacks on. Girl's eyes were wide as she saw the empty plate.
“I didn't take all of them” she said. “I only took one and I'm sorry I stole it.” Her little chin was quivering and Diana and Joe fell in love with this angel who called herself Girl.
Diana closed the shop and insisted they take the child home, clean her up and feed her a good meal before they visited the sheriff.
Under all the grime and dirt was a beautiful little face with curly auburn hair. She was way too thin but Diana knew she would be able change that in no time. Diana had some clothes she kept for the times her nieces visited and was able to find a pretty dress that fit the little girl perfectly.
Girl looked in the mirror and smiled. She thought she looked fancy like the people she saw on the streets of Camden Corners.
Girl had never had a meal as wonderful as the one Diana prepared that evening. Her tummy felt happy and so did her heart. She didn't want to think about riding in the buckboard again so she just didn't think about it.
Joe suggested it might be best if he went to talk to the sheriff alone while Diana stayed at home with Girl
“Diana,” Joe whispered on his way out the door, “We can't just call her Girl, the child must have a name.”
An hour later, Joe came home with Sheriff Mendenhall who was carrying a package of books he had found on the buckboard. Girl was excited to see her books and looked around gingerly for Paw since he didn't know she had them. They told Girl what had happened to her Paw.
She didn't cry, she didn't feel sad like she did when her grandmother didn't wake up. She climb up on Diana's lap and asked her if she could look at her books.
Sheriff Mendenhall was usually a pretty tough fellow but he could feel his eyes begin to sting. He thought it would be a great thing if the child could stay with the Taylor's for the night.
Tomorrow they would investigate to see if there were any next of kin. He hoped there weren't. Diana opened the first book. A well worn piece of paper slipped out of the book.
In a very weak handwriting it said “I love you my Iris.” From that moment on, Iris had a name and she knew that her mother's spirit lived on in her. The next morning Diana felt a little queasy but she thought it was the excitement of the day before. It didn't take long before the courts determined Iris was without blood relatives and the adoption of Iris Taylor took place.
By the time the family of three was official, they were well on their way to becoming a family of four and Iris was about to become a big sister.