I can’t let the school down,” was her repeated thought as she staggered home to obey the command of her mother. “What will I do?” she thought. “I’ve asked Jane, Dana and Corrie. I’m running out of ideas. Lois can’t do it. If I can’t get anyone to cover for me, the school might replace me with – ” Her thoughts were interrupted by her mother’s voice calling her to set the table for the evening meal.
The next day at school Leona was anxious as she attended her classes, hardly able to focus on her school work. She was torn with thoughts of trying to find someone to watch the McKenzie daughters and fulfilling the greatest desire she had ever had. To be chosen for the school Festival Theatre was one thing, but to be chosen for the lead part! The thought consumed her. She had been in school plays before during the summer, but she always got little parts while “one other” always got the lead. Now it was her turn and she would do anything to keep it that way. Her rival wouldn’t get the lead this time even if it meant that she herself didn’t get it.
Before serving dinner Rose kept her time of solitude, and felt an intense desire to pray. She leaned forward in her wing chair in a posture of prayer, folded her hands and closed her eyes to pray to her Father who knew all things. “Thank you, Father, for this time. I come to you and commit this evening to you and ask for your wisdom and discernment. You’re so good, Lord. Thank you for my husband, and Lois and Leona,
Thank you, Lord, for what you’re teaching us each individually. I pray for the wisdom that only You can give. Prepare Patrick and me to handle anything that might come our way with the girls. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
After this needed prayer Rose felt the presence of the Lord in such a powerful way. He poured His love for her family into her heart as she served the evening meal. This was a task that could seem hum-drum, but now she did it with great anticipation and the joy of the Lord.
Rose knew that dinner was the time when her gathered family would share the happenings of the day. So significant was this time that she protected it from outside distractions so that each family member could come and lay burdens down and they would all listen. She wanted it to be a time of refuge, no matter what had taken place that day. The room was invitingly arranged with its round table covered with a bright spring colored tablecloth and soft yellow napkins to match. The Irish limestone vase held a variety of fresh wildflowers. Rose gazed at Patrick on her left and the girls, Lois and Leona, completing the circle around the table.
Lois was of the mind to be just like her mother. She, as the elder of the two girls, wanted to be done with school, marry, and care for her little ones as he mother always had. Lois watched her mother and learned from her so she could take on those “keeper of the home” responsibilities her mother had instilled in her.
Leona ate quietly, her mind filled with the unaccomplished task of finding a replacement for her commitment to Mrs. McKenzie. Her insatiable ambition to achieve and be better than the next “Susie on the block” was driving her to a plan that would bring great satisfaction and, she thought, would resolve the situation. “It has to work. It just has to,” she thought. She ate the amount of Irish stew and sod bread served her, and answered when spoke to. When there was a lull in the conversation and her bowl was clean she respectfully asked to be excused. Her father, noticing some restlessness in her, released her from any more binding conversation, noting to himself that he must speak to her before she shut her eyes for the night.
As Patrick and Rose got up from dinner, expecting Lois to clean the table, they ventured into the parlor to talk over what they thought might be a future problem with Leona. Rose shared about her prayer time earlier, and how she thought the Lord might be preparing them for a daughter who might need her reins pulled in a little tighter in order to be trained in the right way to go.
Upstairs Leona sat on the rocker her papa had made. She rocked for a few minutes when she suddenly thought of a group of girls she had met last summer at the swimming hole, and how they had become so close that they shared their deepest secrets. Their first meeting would be coming up soon, and that’s where she would find a replacement to help Mrs. McKenzie! Some of them were responsible. Yes, that was a strong quality and important to her. There were a few of the girls who showed a lack of character, but she knew if she found someone responsible it would go over well with Mrs. McKenzie and papa and mother. And then she’d be free!
Her first step was to call Fran and ask if they could begin their summer swim hole times earlier so they could have an extended time together. Fran was of the same mind as Leona, so they agreed to call their acquaintances and meet the next day at the swim hole. “It’s set!” thought Leona, “This plan has to work! Surely one of those girls will want a summer job.”
Later that evening as she was climbing into bed, Leona heard heavy footsteps climbing the stairs. She knew it was her papa and nervousness swelled up in her. She wondered what they might talk about before he kissed her good night.
“Well, my sweet cookie, are we already tucked in and ready to call this a day? You were so quiet at supper. I wondered if you want to share what’s going on in your world these days? Mother said you’ve been chosen to play the lead part in this summer’s Festival Theatre. I’m so pleased. She also said you are hard at work to find someone to replace your commitment to Mrs. McKenzie. Any luck, my sweet?
“Oh papa, you know how I long to be Ophelia, and if I don’t get someone to cover for me, well then, well…” Oh she couldn’t tell papa the real truth – that she didn’t want Cammie to get the lead. She knew that Papa would lovingly reprove her for being self-centered and spiteful. “After tomorrow I should know if I have someone, Papa. Remember my friends who met last summer down at the swim hole? Well tomorrow we’ll start our summer gatherings and I’ll find someone there. I know I will!”
“Okay, Leona, but it’s still a little early for swimming. I want to remind you that the swift currents of the river are much stronger now than they will be later in the summer due to the snow melting up above us. I’d like you to ask Lois to go with you and help watch any younger children. Please stay on the shore this time and plan your swim times for later. I love you, Cookie, and I want to protect you.”
“Thank you, Papa. I’ll ask Lois to come along and we’ll stay on the bank.”
Friday passed quickly and school was over in no time. Leona had asked Lois to meet her by the oak tree in front of the school so they could walk to the swim hole together. The walk seemed long and the warm breeze reminded them that spring would soon draw into summer. Approaching an almond orchard, they knew the swim hole was close. They crossed the road to avoid a swarm of bees busy about their work. Turning down a dirt lane that separated the almond and peach orchards, they could hear the rushing water of the river and smell the sweetness of the orchards.
They saw the group of girls up ahead, and as they drew near Leona could hardly believe her eyes. Was that Cammie in the middle of the crowd of girls? She saw Agnes and Fran and Catherine and others. But Cammie? Who had invited Cammie?
She continued walking mechanically toward the group of girls, and as she drew near she stumbled on some rocks that lay hidden under the soft river dirt. As she stumbled, Lois tried to grab her arm, but she fell to the ground, landing first on her knees, then her chest. “Leona! Are you alright?!”
Leona began to get up, dusting the soft dirt off her front and spitting the grit out of her mouth. The crowd of girls, being about ten, circled around her in concern. “I’m okay. I’m okay.” She repeated as she dusted off her shaded, embarrassed face, and lifted her head with dignity. “Pride comes before a fall…” the voice whispered in her mind. She turned the thought aside and ventured toward her plan.
If you’re new to “Paladini Potpie” or haven’t visited in awhile you might want to read about Jane Jardscg and how this Novel Adventure came to be.