Monday, April 9, 2012
The Parker Family
Annie Spencer was just a little nervous as the train pulled into the station at Camden Corners . She still clung to the newspaper carrying the ad she had answered two weeks ago.
Wanted: A wife and a mother. Hope you can cook. Andy Parker P.O. Box 72, Camden Corners .
Annie was still recovering from a broken heart after Peter Stanford ran off with Eileen Becker last month. She couldn't believe she had actually gotten on that train yesterday morning and was here in Camden Corners today. What had she done? She had no money to get back home if Mr. Parker turned out to be an old reprobate and his children were monsters.
Annie had worked in the Stanford Emporium for two years before Peter left her at the alter and she needed to get away from the town where everyone knew of her humiliation.
Annie re-read the letter she had received back from Mr. Parker.
Please be here by Thanksgiving so you can cook our turkey dinner.
She knew she had lost her mind because nobody in their right one would have been on the next train to Camden Corners after reading that letter. What was she going to do now?
Andy Parker, who had just turned 9 and was much too clever for his own good, had just left the post office after closing the box he had opened two weeks before.
He had watched his Dad do many things as the Postmaster for Camden Corners and knew just how to fill out the paperwork so that he would be able to receive answers to his ad.
It didn't take much to place an ad in the classified section. Mrs. Willard was too busy at the newspaper office to notice what each ad said and he had broken into his piggy bank to pay for everything fair and square.
Andy ran toward the train station just as the passengers were leaving the train. Miss Annie Spencer was on that train and he would see her in just a few minutes. He was filled with excitement. She wrote that she would be wearing a yellow flower on the lapel of her navy blue winter coat. He waited what seemed to be an eternity and then he saw her. She was very pretty with dark brown hair tied back with a yellow ribbon. Her smile made him feel good all over. He was finding it harder and harder to remember his mama and what she looked like but he thought she looked a little like the lady who was standing by the door of the train looking right at him.
Jackson Parker and his beloved wife, Adele had been married for 10 years and had 3 children when she was stricken with influenza and died in his arms in the spring of the previous year. Jackson was beside himself with grief but he put up a brave front for his children. They were well cared for with the help of their housekeeper, Mrs. Bridges. The kind folks of Camden Corners were always on hand to offer their support.
Mrs. Bridges was a wonderful housekeeper and loved the children but she couldn't cook worth a darn. Jackson hadn't noticed during the first year she was there because he wasn't paying attention to much of anything then. Even though she couldn't cook, she was a big help to him and he was sorry when she told him she would be moving to Bloomfield to be with her daughter and her new baby. He would have to find someone to take her place but he didn't want to think about that right now.
He was worried about Andy. He knew something was going on with him, he had become very secretive the last couple of weeks. He was going to sit him down this evening and find out exactly what it was. Jackson worried about all of his children but Andy had been affected the most by his mother's death because he was 7 years old at the time and remembered her more than the other children. Carrie was only 3 and Allison was just a few months old.
Andy ran up to the kind lady and asked if she was Miss Annie Spencer.
“Yes, I am young man. I was to meet Mr. Parker here today. Do you know where I might find him?”
Andy smiled and introduced himself as Mr. Parker's son. He retrieved Annie's bag and started walking toward his home with his new mother. Annie thought it was odd that the elder Mr. Parker would send his young son to meet a stranger who would soon be his wife. They arrived at the Parker house just as Jackson was wending his way home from the Post Office.
Mary Nell Blanchard was looking after the children for him this afternoon. He would have to find a permanent arrangement for them. Mary Nell said Andrew never arrived after school today. She didn't know where he was but she knew the boys often played ball after school. Jackson had specifically told Andrew to meet him at the Post Office. It was definitely the night for a talk.
As Andrew turned at the corner, Jackson saw him walking with a lovely looking young woman. He knew he hadn't seen her around town before. If he had, he would have remembered her.
Andrew excitedly said “Dad, this is Miss Annie Spencer, your new wife and our new mother.”
Jackson was flabbergasted and apologized profusely to Miss Spencer for his son's rude outburst. He didn't know what had gotten into that boy lately. Annie was embarrassed. It was obvious Mr. Parker was not aware of the arrangement she thought had been made between them.
Andrew looked sheepishly at both of them. “Dad, you need a wife and we need a mother and Miss Annie is going to cook our Thanksgiving dinner.”
Jackson didn't know what to do. He invited Miss Spencer to step into their parlor and out of the frigid air. Andrew confessed to his father what he had done. Jackson told him to go to his room and take his sisters with him, he and Miss Spencer were going to have a talk. Jackson was having a difficult time controlling his temper. Miss Spencer was obviously up to no good because who in their right mind would answer an ad like that?
Annie admitted she had acted impulsively, she couldn't explain herself it just seemed it was a solution to an uncomfortable position she found herself in back home in Bakersville.
Jackson stood up and started pacing the room. He couldn't throw the poor girl out in the snow but she couldn't stay here either, it just wouldn't be appropriate. He looked at Annie with pity in his eyes and hit a nerve.
“Mr. Parker, I will not trouble you any longer. I'm sure I will be able to find a room for let. I'll see myself out.”
With that she was out the door and halfway to the next block. She was trying desperately to hold back the tears. What a fool she was. No wonder Peter didn't want her. She didn't have a brain in her head or a nickel in her pocket to pay for a room. She would walk back to the train station and find a seat in the corner. Maybe she wouldn't be noticed and she would come up with a solution to her dilemma in the morning.
Jackson was still furious. He rarely raised his voice to any of his children so Andrew was very afraid when he heard his Dad shout his name. Jackson could see the fear in his son's eyes and realized Andrew had done what he thought would make the family happy. If it wasn't such a mess, he would think it was funny. Jackson gave his son a hug and then realized Miss Spencer had left the house.
He told Andrew to keep an eye on the girls while he left the house in search of his mail order bride. Annie didn't want Mr. Parker to know how upset she was. She tried to hide her face from him but he could see the glistening around her eyes. He had the feeling she was all alone in the world and he felt guilty for treating her like a criminal and an insane criminal at that. He begged her to come back to the house with him.
Mrs. Wharton had prepared a delicious lamb stew for their dinner and it would be ruined if they didn't get it off the warming stove very soon. Talk of the lamb stew was all Annie needed. She swallowed what little pride she had left and agreed to go with Mr. Parker. Just for supper and then she would be on her way again.
As Annie and Jackson checked the stew, she wondered if he would like her to make some biscuits to go with the stew. While she was making the biscuits, she notice there were the makings for a sponge cake. Before she knew it, she had cooked a meal fit for a king or at least a little prince and two pretty little princesses.
Jackson had been reading his evening paper and the children were playing by his feet. He didn't think he had felt this relaxed since before Adele got sick. The meal was wonderful and all the extras Annie had made were especially good.
After supper, she sat down on the floor and played games with the children. Jackson joined them and they played until it was time for the children to go to bed. Annie read them each a story and tucked them into their beds. She was finding herself regretting that Mr. Jackson Parker was not the author of that ad.
While Annie was reading to his children, Jackson was knocking on the Wharton Boarding House door to see if Mrs. Wharton had a spare room. Jackson walked Annie to Mrs. Wharton's and thanked her for a fine evening.
Annie told Mrs. Wharton she would be on her way but thanked her for her offer. Annie didn't know that Jackson tried to pay Mrs. Wharton for the room but she wouldn't accept the money. Anyone that could brighten Jackson Parker's eyes like that was welcome in her home at any time. Mrs. Wharton insisted Annie stay. She could help her prepare breakfast and tidy up the rooms in the morning and they would call it even.
Annie was so tired she gratefully accepted the offer and slept dreaming of a handsome young prince and two beautiful little princesses. Maybe the King was in that dream somewhere too.
Mrs. Wharton encouraged Annie to stay in Camden Corners for a little while longer. Before long and much to the delight of Andy, Carrie and Allison, Jackson and Annie were married the Saturday before Thanksgiving and Annie prepared the most wonderful Thanksgiving dinner any of them ever remembered eating. Annie and Jackson were mostly thankful that Thanksgiving Day for a little boy who had placed an ad for a new wife and mother. Annie was just what the Parker Family needed.