A Birthday Surprise
ISABEL LOOKED AT the date on the newspaper, and her
eyes filled with tears: August 24, 1925. “It’s my birthday,” she
whispered to little Ralph, who lay quietly in her arms as he
teetered between sleep and wakefulness. He jumped slightly as
he edged closer to slumber, fighting to stay awake. Isabel smiled
as she looked down at her eight-month-old brother and thought
back in time to last year, when she had been so excited to enter
the grownup world of “double digits.”
“I wish Mama were here,” she whispered. A tear slid down
“I wish she were here too, Pumpkin,” said a deep voice from
the shadows, startling Isabel and the baby.
“Papa, I didn’t know you were awake. The rooster hasn’t
even crowed yet,” Isabel said with a hint of teasing in her voice.
She rose gently from the rocker.
“No, don’t worry about getting breakfast yet; it’s too early,”
Papa said. He took the slumbering baby and laid him in his crib.
“Besides, Lena is fixing a breakfast fit for a queen this morning,
and she said to be sure to have you and the children at her house
there in time to enjoy it while it’s hot. Did you get any sleep
last night? I think I heard the little ones exercising their lungs
a couple of times, but they had stopped before I could get up
to see to them.”
“They just needed a diaper change and their regular
4:00 A.M. feeding,” Isabel said. She stretched and yawned and
then walked to the sink to start a pot of coffee.”
“Now what did I just tell you?” Papa said with mock consternation
in his voice as he watched his eleven-year-old daughter
make a strong pot of coffee just the way he liked it—with nutmeg
and egg shells to make even the cheapest coffee taste full and
rich, just as her Mama had taught her. Isabel looked up just as
he was wiping away a tear with his handkerchief.
“Something wrong, Papa?”
“Not today, child. Just had something in my eye, that’s all.”
He wiped at his eye again and then blew his nose before folding
his white cotton fabric and putting it back into his pocket.
“Well,” Isabel said, “since Lena is fixing our breakfast, I’ll
just make some muffins to tide us over and may be the boys
will want to eat an apple with their glass of milk since they have
to milk the cow and take care of the outside chores before we
go. They will really be hungry, and it will take almost an hour
to get to Jim and Lena’s house.”
“That sounds reasonable to me. Just don’t tell Lena,” Papa
said. “She’ll skin me alive if she knows I let ya’ll eat before we
got to her house.”
No sooner was she ready to step out the door than one twin
needed changing and then the next. When everyone was finally
squeezed into the seats of the Tin Lizzie and on the road to
Roanoke, Isabel breathed a sigh of relief and enjoyed the view.
She hoped it would push back the beautiful memories of her
last birthday with Mama.