Tuesday, July 3, 2012
The Warren children piled into Harvey's carriage along with Margaret Slater. The children won the hearts of the formerly gruff man who was making changes in his life daily. He didn't think it was possible to fall in love again, especially at his age, but he hadn't met Margaret. She was a breath of fresh air. The youngsters had taken to her immediately. She loved children and it showed.
Margaret's only son had moved with his wife and children to New York City shortly before she packed her bags for a visit with her friend, Helene. The visit had been life changing. She met Harvey Wilson on the train coming into town and nothing would ever be the same for her.
“I'll have to look into getting a bigger carriage, won't I? I don't think there will be enough room for all nine of us if these youngsters keep growing.”
“Our pa had a buckboard and we all fit on that real good,” Teddy said from the back seat. “It wasn't fancy like your carriage though. The seats were pretty hard.”
“This carriage feels good. I don't mind being squeezed. Do you Willa?” Callie piped in.
“Let's be grateful for what we have,” Willa told her brother and sister.
“I want you children to always say what's on your mind. We are a family now and everyone has a voice. I think it would be a wonderful idea to have a buckboard with padded seats.”
Lulu, the youngest spoke up, “I have something on my mind.”
“What is it Lulu?”
“I'm happy you will be our Grandpa when the judge says you can but I really wish you would marry Miss Margaret so she could be our Grandma.”
“What do you say children? Would you like Miss Margaret to be your Grandma?”
“Boy would we!” they all shouted at once.
“How could you turn down a proposal like that? Miss Margaret would you do me the honor of marrying me and becoming a grandma to these children?”
“Mr. Wilson, I would love being a grandma to these beautiful children and a wife to you.” She squeezed Harvey's hand.
He smiled broadly as the children climbed over one another to give Margaret a hug.
“Here is the new home of the Wilson family,” Harvey announced as they pulled up to the house being constructed.
“Well, what have we here?” said Reggie when he saw them all. “Harvey, I couldn't figure out why you wanted such a big house for just yourself but now I see the reason or should I say reasons.”
“Reggie, I'd like you to meet the soon to be Mrs. Wilson and the seven Wilson children. Margaret say hello to the finest builder in the county.” He introduced the children.
“Fellas take a break. We have some young people who want to see the inside of their new home. Go ahead take a look, there is still work to be done but we will be finished soon.”
“Harvey, it's going to be beautiful. I can just picture us sitting on the porch overlooking the water. What a wonderful idea you had to build a house on the lake.”
“Come look inside, I want you to make any changes you would like. I'm sure Jamison Bentley will be able to come up with some ideas if you are dissatisfied with anything.”
“Dissatisfied, it is a dream home. Look at the size of this kitchen. I hope you will let me use it occasionally, I know you will be hiring a cook but I have missed cooking. Not that I have done much of it since Ronnie left home.”
“My dear, you may do anything you wish.”
They could hear the children's laughter as they ran from room to room. Lulu appeared before them with a sheepish look on her face.
“Do you think Mama and Papa feel bad because we are having fun even though they aren't here with us?”
“I think your mama and papa looked down from heaven and saw Mr. Wilson and because he was all alone, they made sure you came into his life. They loved you very much and they always will. They are happy when their children are happy. Now go ahead and have fun Lulu, I know that is what your mama and papa want you to do.”
Lulu walked off to join the others with a happy smile on her face.
“You know just what to say to children, Margaret. I'm grateful you will be by my side to raise them. I hope my ego didn't get the best of me when I thought I could be a good father to these children. I only know I felt a need to protect and care for them. I love them and I love you. Do you think you will be happy here with us?”
“I know I will be. I had such a void when Ronnie and his family moved away. Now my heart is full again. That reminds me, I must send a telegram to him with our news.”
“How soon do you think you will be my wife? I know young ladies like to have time to plan their weddings.”
“Harvey, where do you see a young lady around here? I don't need any planning time. Just a minister and a groom are the only requirements.”
Harvey held her in his arms. He couldn't wait to make her his bride. He hoped her son would approve of the marriage.
The children had chosen their bedrooms and had already had a turn sliding down the banister. They let the workman get back to their jobs and were on their way back to Millie's for lunch. They made one stop to the post office to wire Ronnie about his mother's upcoming marriage.
It was a surprise to Margaret when later that afternoon, a telegram was delivered saying Ronald would be arriving on the 5:15 from New York City.
Margaret and Harvey met Ronnie's train. Margaret saw him step off the train and ran to him.
“Oh Ronnie, it's so good to see you. Come say hello to Harvey. I can't wait for you to meet the children. They are waiting impatiently for their big brother.”
“Mother, have you completely lost your mind?” Ronnie said. “You know nothing about this man. He is a scoundrel who has hurt people all his life. Seven orphans too? I won't stand for it?”
“Ronnie, what in the name of heaven has gotten into you? Yes, Harvey had some unfortunate dealings in the past but he has changed. As far as the seven orphans, as you call them, they are seven of the most wonderful children you would ever want to meet. I love Harvey and I love those children. You owe all of us an apology.”
This was not the reunion Margaret anticipated. She was shocked by her son's behavior. Ronnie stomped toward the train to pick up his bag.
“Margaret dear, I don't blame Ronnie for being skeptical. I'm sure I would have objected if my mother had accepted a marriage proposal from someone with a reputation like mine. I don't want to cause a rift between you and your son,” Harvey said quietly.
“Are you saying we shouldn't be married? Harvey, we can't disappoint the children. I love my son but he will not interfere in our plans. I have every intention of being Mrs. Harvey Wilson before the week ends.”
“You wrote that Aunt Helene is being married herself. How does James feel about that?” Ronnie asked.
“James is supportive of his mother and is very happy with her choice of a mate. Neville Merryweather is James' father after all.”
“Another fine, upstanding gentleman, I see.”
“Ronald Herbert Slater, if you keep up this insulting chatter you are perfectly welcome to turn around and get back on that train. You are a grown man but you are acting like an insolent child. I will not have it.”
Ronnie knew his behavior was abominable, he couldn't seem to help himself. Elaine told him to calm down before he boarded the train. He should have listened to her. In reality, this Harvey Wilson fellow wasn't at all like he'd imagined. He was very loving toward his mother. Maybe he had him pegged wrong. It still irked him that his mother had found a life without him. He was counting on her to move to New York City. Now it looked like that would never happen.
They arrived at Millie's and Ronnie was greeted with open arms by the brood of children waiting there. He was polite but distant. He also liked his mother's new friends in spite of himself. It was good to see Aunt Helene. She wasn't really his aunt but he had called her that for years and it had become a habit.
Helene could see he wasn't as happy about his mother's future as everyone else was. She sat down with him on front porch.
“I know you are worried about your mother. I hope you will believe me when I tell you Harvey Wilson is a very kind man. He is very much in love with your mother. His behavior in the past has not always been honorable, but he is making up for it now.”
“Aunt Helene, I don't know why she is jumping into marriage with this man. She has only known him a matter of weeks. She is not a young woman and to take on seven children is too much of a burden for her. Elaine and I bought a house with an extra bedroom so she could live with us one day. I can see that will never happen now.”
“Ronnie, could it be that you are jealous of your mother's new family? You know you will always be her son. Her heart is big enough for your family and her new one too.”
“Aunt Helene, you know me so well. I was shocked to hear mother was planning to marry again. I think I felt guilty for leaving her all alone in Albany. I have really made of mess of everything, haven't I?”
“No my dear, you haven't. I think you will find there is something about this town that brings out the forgiving nature of people.”
“Ralphie says you don't want to be our big brother. Don't you like us Ronnie?” Lulu looked up at him with eyes like saucers.
“Lulu, I would like nothing better than to be your big brother. Now shall we go over there and play ball with the others? I want you on my team.” Lulu smiled and held Ronnie's hand as they ran together.
“I have a little girl just about your age and a boy who is even older. Do you know you will be their aunt?”
“Will Ralphie be their uncle?” Lulu giggled so hard she fell down.
Margaret stood at the door. “I don't know what you said to him Helene but I think my Ronnie is back.”
“He would have come around by himself eventually, I just pointed out a few things.”
Harvey stood at the doorway too. “He's a fine looking young man my dear. Look how nicely he is playing with the children. I think he has won them over. He seems to be enjoying them too.”
Ronnie looked up and saw his mother standing with Harvey Wilson. He broke away from the children.
He held out his hand. “Harvey, I owe you an apology. I believe you care for my mother and I can see she cares deeply for you. I acted like a buffoon earlier and I'm very sorry about that.”
“Don't give it another thought son, I've been a buffoon most of my life.”
“I was thinking, Mother, after you are married, why don't you and Harvey plan a trip to New York City. Lulu is anxious to meet her niece and nephew. She is excited to know she is an aunt. Elaine would love to meet everyone too.” He hugged his mother.
“I'm afraid I can only stay for a couple of days. I hope you are planning the wedding soon. I'd like to be the one to give my mother in marriage. That is if it's alright with you, Mother.”
“I'll call the vicar right now before anyone changes his mind,” Harvey laughed.
“I would like to have the ceremony take place on the porch of our new home overlooking the lake. Would that be alright with you Harvey?”
“I'd marry you on a mountain top if I thought I could climb that far.”
They were married the very next day. Addie and Helene stayed up until the wee hours of the morning preparing the wedding cake. The ceremony was beautiful. Ronnie was sorry he had been so stubborn. Elaine would loved to have been there for the wedding. He boarded the train the next day with kisses and hugs for his new family.
“Don't worry about your mother, Ronnie. I will take good care of her.”
“I know you will Harvey. I should have learned long ago that my mother has good instincts about people and she was definitely right in your case.”
Harvey's guardianship went through quickly and the adoption proceedings had begun.
Bobby was still on the job at the winery. Lou Rossi found a new protege. Bobby was a promising student.
Teddy could usually be found at the new house. Reggie was impressed with his interest in building. It was the same as Reggie's had been when he was Teddy's age.
The newlyweds were enjoying their new family. Millie was happy to have her many bedrooms almost filled. It was nearing September and she and Neville were counting the days until Neville and Helene were married.
There was a knock on the door, Millie opened it and looked into the eyes of Prudence Merryweather. Leland held her upright as she swooned into his arms.