Link back to Chapter 25
This is a work of fiction; I haven’t yet finished it, and it will probably get revised after it’s finished. It tells the story of Tom and Kelly’s marriage; readers of A Time to Mend will know that it will have a sad ending, but hopefully it will be a good story.
We stayed pretty close to Northwood and Oxford for the first two weeks of our holiday. Owen and Lorraine came out one night and met Kelly and me at the Kingfisher, and we had a long and relaxed meal together, after which they came back to the house for an hour so that Owen and I could play guitar in the big music room while Kelly and Becca gave Emma a bath and got her settled for the night. Later on, just before they left, Owen said to me, “Bill still has the Friday night open stage at the ‘Plough’, you know”.
“Yeah? Do you go?”
“When I can”.
“You don’t play in that worship band at your church any more, right?”
“No, it actually fizzled out a couple of years ago, but the bass player and I have been thinking of starting a Celtic band”.
“That wouldn’t be for church, then?”
He laughed; “No, although I don’t think Celtic and Christian are necessarily a contradiction”.
“Are you going to the Plough this week?”
“Probably; want to come along?”
I looked at Kelly; “What do you think?”
“Go for it. I’m guessing I can’t really take Emma, though”.
“I guess not; it’ll probably be at least three hours”.
My mother had been sitting quietly in the circle with us; now she spoke up and said, “Why don’t you leave Emma with me?”
Kelly smiled; “Would you mind, Irene?”
“Of course not! How often do I get to see my granddaughter? I know she hasn’t stayed with me yet, but we get along alright with each other, and if worse comes to worse, I can always ring the ‘Plough’ and ask them to send you home!” She glanced at Becca and said, “That way you could go along too, if you want”.
Becca grinned mischievously; “I don’t know – three hours of Tommy’s miserable folk songs?”
“Actually, that’s not the way an open stage works”, I said with a smile; “Everyone gets their fifteen minutes of glory, so you probably won’t have to put up with more than three of our songs. And there always used to be some pretty high quality folk music at that open stage”.
“There still is”, said Owen.
Through the rest of that week I could see that my mother was being intentional about spending more time with Emma, talking with her, reading to her, playing games and going for walks outside. One afternoon we left Emma with her for a couple of hours while we went for a walk along the river with Becca, stopping for a pint at the Kingfisher before coming home to find the two of them contentedly making cookies together in the kitchen. “Apparently Emma likes cooking”, my mother said with a smile.
“Yeah, she does”, Kelly replied, “and she likes washing dishes too”.
“The more water, the better”, I added.
The ‘Plough and Lantern’ was a traditional pub in the Jericho area of Oxford, with a low-beamed ceiling, hardwood floor, polished black round tables, and wooden chairs, with a small stage set up in one corner of the room. Bill Prentiss, the big, bearded landlord, was a huge supporter of folk music in Oxford and had been hosting the Friday night open stage and Saturday night concerts for many years, along with other events during the week. He was as genial as ever when he saw the five of us coming in at around seven o’clock on Friday evening, and I was not surprised that he recognized me immediately. “Good grief, look what the wind blew in!” he exclaimed as he shook my hand vigorously; “Talk about a blast from the past!”
“How are you, Bill?”
“I’m very well, Tom – I always am. And who’s this absolutely stunning young lady on your arm?”
“Bill, can I introduce my wife Kelly? Kelly, meet Bill Prentiss; he runs this seedy-looking joint!”
Bill took Kelly’s hand and said, “You married a folk singer, did you? What a miserable existence!”
“It has its moments!” she replied with a grin.
He noticed her accent immediately, and he gave me another smile and said, “Right, I’d forgotten that you moved to Canada. Are you still there?”
“I am – married into the place, and we have a four-year old daughter too”.
“Excellent!” He greeted Owen and Lorraine, and I introduced him to Becca; “It’s her first time here”, I explained.
“Welcome to the Plough”, he said to her: “Are you a folk music fan?”
“Well, I like it when Tommy plays it!”
“ ‘Tommy’? I’ve never heard anyone call him that before!”
I waved my finger at him; “Don’t you get any ideas, Bill! Little sisters get some leeway, but no-one else!”
He laughed again, and then shook his head slowly and said, “Well, it’s a treat to see you after all these years, Tom. Are you and this old rascal going to play a few songs later on?”
“That was the plan”.
“Great!” He turned back to Kelly and said, “All joking aside, I get lots of musicians here, but I never forget the good ones, and that includes Owen and your husband”. He gave a sudden frown, looked at Owen and said, “What about Wendy? Do you ever hear from her?”
“No, we lost touch with her, Bill; I know she moved to London, but after that, I never heard from her again”.
“That’s a shame; the three of you together were outstanding”. He grinned at us again; “ ‘Lincoln Green’ – a real trio of outlaws, you were! Well, find yourselves a table, folks; if you’ll excuse me, I need to talk to a few other people before things get going, but I’ve got you on the list; you’ll be on about eight-thirty, if that’s okay?”
“That will be fine”, Owen replied.
We found a table in the corner of the pub, and Owen and I got drinks for everyone from the bar. The supper crowd was starting to thin out by now, although there was still a vague smell of fish and chips in the air; a couple of cigarettes were burning, and we saw a few other people sitting at tables with instrument cases on the floor beside them. Becca looked around with a grin and said, “So this is where you used to hang out when we all thought you were studying!”
“I can’t deny it”, I replied, taking a sip of bitter; “We spent a lot of hours at this place, didn’t we, Owen?”
“Here, and at the Queen’s Lane Coffee House”.
“When did you first come here?” Kelly asked quietly.
“Not long after we started university, actually”, Owen answered. “Tom was still a bit shy about performing in those days, but I was keen, and I was looking for places that had live music. I asked around a bit, and someone told me about this place. So I dragged him out to the open stage”.
“Dragged him out?” Becca said, with a bemused expression on her face.
“Well, in those days he wasn’t exactly the most outgoing fellow, you know!”
Kelly laughed; “I remember that boy; he’s the one I fell in love with!”
“Well, I did warn you about him, if you remember?”
She smiled and put her hand on mine; “It worked out pretty well”, she said.
“I think we kind of met in the middle”, I replied.
“So did you have to drag him up onto the stage, too?” Becca asked Owen.
“I did; it took me a couple of weeks, but finally I got him up there, and after that, we never looked back”.
“I remember the date of the first night we played at the open stage”, I said; “Do you?”
“I don’t think I do”.
“November 18th 1977, the week after Remembrance Day”.
“That’s right !” he exclaimed; “I’d forgotten about that! We were going to play the week before, but then Bill decided not to run it that week because of Remembrance Day!” He sipped at his beer, frowned thoughtfully, and said, “I do remember the date of the first Saturday night gig we played here, though – March 4th 1978”.
“It didn’t take Bill long to give you a gig to yourselves, then?” Lorraine observed.
“Well, actually the first one wasn’t by ourselves”, I replied; “We shared it with another act”. I frowned; “What was her name? Do you remember?”
“No – I don’t think she ever played here again”.
“Not very good?” Lorraine asked.
“Good, but rather swamped with work, as I recall”. He shook his head; “I can’t remember her name”.
“It’ll come to you in the middle of the night”.
The music that night was as good as it had ever been. Bill was unusual in that he ran his own open stage instead of asking a host to do it for him; he was very knowledgable about music, and everyone who played at the Plough knew that, although the average set length was three songs, Bill would use his discretion to shorten or lengthen your set, depending on how well you were doing at keeping his patrons entertained. He called the open stage a folk night; he didn’t restrict it to traditional folk music, but the pub did tend to attract traditional performers. Becca grinned at me at one point, after a particularly good a cappella singer had finished her set; “You think you’ve died and gone to heaven, don’t you?” she said.
“Well, I don’t get to hear this sort of stuff very often!” I replied.
Owen and I took the stage just after eight-thirty; by then the pub was full, and as we plugged our guitars in, Owen looked around at the crowd and said, “I brought an old friend with me tonight. When Tom and I were at Lincoln together we used to play here regularly; we called ourselves ‘Lincoln Green’. This is Tom Masefield, everyone, and I’m Owen Foster”.
We knew that Bill’s list was full, but nonetheless he let us play four songs; we started out with one of the more boisterous songs in our old repertoire, ‘The Golden Vanity’, following up with ‘Seven Yellow Gypsies’ and ‘Clyde Water’. That was when Bill nodded at us and raised his finger, indicating that he wanted us to play one more song. Owen and I were ready for this, and he smiled at the people and said, “Tom’s here tonight with his Canadian wife, Kelly; she’s sitting over in the corner there with Lorraine, and Tom’s sister Becca. Give the nice people a wave, Kelly!”
Kelly grinned and waved her hand, and Owen said, “This last song is a particular favourite of Kelly’s, and many of you know it; Tom and I learned it from a recording by the great Nic Jones. This is ‘Master Kilby’”.
As we played the opening chords I saw Kelly smile and mouth the words ‘thank you’ to Owen; as he had said, the song was well-known to many people in the pub, and I heard a few voices singing along with us. At the end we got a good round of applause and a few whistles and cheers, and when we got back to our table Owen grinned at Kelly and said, “Did you enjoy that?”
“You’re just like my husband, Owen – you’re an incurable romantic!”
Lorraine laughed; “It’s true, but sometimes you have to dig for a long time before you get to it!” she said.
Before we left the pub that night, Bill came over to our table, smiled at me and said, “When are you going back to Canada?”
“Not until August 20th”, I replied.
“Well, that’s good then. I’ve had a cancellation on Saturday August 11th; would you boys be interested?”
“A ‘Lincoln Green’ gig at the Plough?” Owen said with a grin; “What do you think, partner?”
“What do you think?” I asked Kelly.
“Let’s maybe see how your mom did with our girl tonight”.
“Good thought”. I turned back to Bill; “Can I get back to you tomorrow?”
“Absolutely. But I hope you say ‘yes’; I’ve got a lot of patrons who remember when you two used to play here”.
I found it fascinating to watch Emma as she gradually got used to her new environment at Northwood and Oxford. Of all of her Reimer cousins, she was probably the most shy and reserved (“doomed from the start by the Masefield genes!” as Kelly put it with a laugh), and so I had expected that it would take her a long time to get used to the new people she would meet on this trip. However, it didn’t turn out entirely as I had thought.
Becca, of course, was not a stranger to her, and although I didn’t think she would remember much from her earlier visits to us, I knew she had strong memories from the previous summer. She always recognized Becca’s photograph on the wall and pointed it out to us by name, so it was no surprise to Kelly and me that she was entirely comfortable with her aunt and was quite happy to go off alone with her.
It took her a little longer to get used to my mother, and this surprised me because my mother was naturally reserved, just like Emma herself. For the first week or so, although she was happy when my mother wanted to read to her and play games with her, she always looked around anxiously to see if Kelly or I were close at hand, or even Becca. Gradually, however, she came to trust her grandmother, and by the time we went out to the open stage at the Plough we had very few worries about leaving her. And sure enough, when we got home at about eleven that night, my mother smiled and said, “She was fine. She asked me once where you were, and I said you’d gone out to listen to some music and you’d be home after she went to bed. I thought she was going to get upset, but we just went out to play in the garden for a while, and she forgot about it”.
My father was an entirely different story; she never really warmed up to him, but that made sense to me because he made very little effort to get to know her. I had thought at first that he would, but it turned out to be a false hope. I mentioned this to Kelly once, and she said, “He doesn’t feel confident around small children, you know; you can see it in his body language. Remember how you were so worried about not being a good father? Where do you think you got that from?”
“I’ve always known I got it from him”.
“Yes, but it’s more than just a lack of interest, Tom. Have you noticed that he doesn’t like being put in a situation where he’s asked to do something he doesn’t feel competent about – especially not with family members watching?”
I thought for a moment, and then said, “You may be right”.
When it came to Owen and Lorraine, Emma surprised me, because it was the louder and more boisterous Owen that she took to at first, while with Lorraine, who was a quiet introvert, she was much more hesitant. She especially liked the fact that Owen played the guitar; she would stand right in front of him when he was playing, no more than two feet away, and watch every movement of his hands on the strings.
“That’s why she trusts him more than me, you know”, Lorraine said to us one day; “She trusts guitar players, because her dad’s a guitar player”.
“Uh oh!” I replied; “We need to cure her of that one right away!”
With her Masefield cousins, Emma surprised me again; it was Eric, the more sociable and outgoing of the two, that she quickly made friends with, while it took her much longer to warm up to Sarah. “But that’s an age thing”, Kelly said; “Eric’s only a few months younger than her, but Sarah’s only two”.
“I don’t know about that”, I replied; “Rachel’s only two, and she gets on fine with her”.
“But she’s known Rachel a lot longer, Tom”.
“I suppose”. I shook my head; “I think she just enjoys being mysterious, you know!”
Kelly grinned; “Well, I know who she gets that from!”
Old buildings did not have the same visceral appeal to Kelly as beautiful countryside. It wasn’t that she was uninterested; she liked history as much as I did, and she was always happy to go along and see anything I wanted to show her. But I knew by watching her face that, much as she enjoyed these expeditions, they didn’t touch her as deeply as the vastness of the mountains or the prairies at home, or the green of the fields and trees on our country walks around Northwood.
However, she was always quite interested in Oxford, because of my personal connection with it; she had enjoyed our visits there on our first trip to England, and this time she was the one who asked about going back there again. During our second week at Northwood Owen and I arranged to be admitted to our old college, Lincoln; we had seen it from the outside on our last trip, but Kelly had never been inside it before, and she thoroughly enjoyed the two hours we spent showing her around the place. But even there, although she loved the chapel and the hall, the little quadrangles and common rooms, the thing she loved the most was the opportunity to actually look into my old room on the second floor of the chapel quad; it happened to be unoccupied over the summer, and Owen had sweet-talked the porter into letting us in (it helped that it was the same porter who had been there in our day, and he remembered us).
“Of course, it’s been redecorated and refurnished since I was here”, I said as she stood at the latticed window looking down on the quad. “Still, this is where I spent my first three years at Oxford”.
“Where were you, Owen?” she asked, turning to face us.
“I was on the front quad, but of course, it’s not a big college”.
“You were probably in and out of each other’s rooms all the time!” she said with a smile.
“We were”, I said, “although, you know, we were kind of busy”.
“What about Wendy?”
“She wasn’t here”, I said; “she was at Merton”.
“Right, you told me that. Can we go and have a look?”
“Of course”, Owen replied, “although I didn’t think to make arrangements to be let in, so we might not be as lucky over there”.
Toward the end of July Becca drove us north for ten days.
A couple of nights before we left, Kelly and I had a discussion in the privacy of our room about whether or not we should try to find the house where Joanna Robinson had been born. Becca was planning to take us to York first, and it would not have been hard to change the route slightly to go through the Stamford area and look for the village of Bramthorpe. “If it’s an old stately home, wouldn’t it still be there?” Kelly asked. “Aren’t these places preserved?”
“A lot of them came down after the Second World War, actually”, I replied; “Some of them were too badly damaged by bombing, and some of them were just too expensive for the families to keep up”.
“Still, I don’t imagine it would be hard to find out whether this house is still there. You know the name of the village, and you know the name of the house, too, right?”
“Yes – Holton House”.
I was sitting in the wing chair in the corner of the room, and Kelly was sitting up in bed; I knew that she was sensing my hesitancy about the idea, and she said, “You don’t want to do it, do you?”
“It’s not that I’m not curious…”
“What is it, then?”
“It’s the things she said to me before she died. She made it clear that she didn’t want people coming over here digging up the past; she didn’t know how her family might be received if they came over, so she wanted them to let things lie”.
“But you wouldn’t really be digging up the past if you just went to have a look for the house she was born in, would you?”
“But it wouldn’t end there, Kelly. Let’s suppose we did find this Holton House; what then? Would we go and look through it – take a stately home tour? Might we run into family members on that tour? And when we got home to Meadowvale, would we be able to keep it to ourselves? We were already afraid of tension in our relationship with Don and Ruth and their families because of the fact that we know things about their grandparents’ past that they don’t know; this would make that even worse”.
She frowned thoughtfully; “I didn’t think of that”, she said. “Yeah, you’re probably right”.
“I can’t deny that I’d be interested”, I said.
“But not interested enough to go against her wishes?”
“Alright then”, she said with a nod; “We’ll leave well alone”.
We drove north to York first, and then we travelled up to Edinburgh, where we spent three days wandering the city, visiting the tourist attractions and enjoying the parks and the scenery. Most days we visited the sights until Emma got bored and cranky, and then we found parks or children’s playgrounds, or places she could watch ducks and feed them. One afternoon we went to the zoo, and we knew we had hit the jackpot, because she loved every minute of it and didn’t want to leave at the end of the day.
After that we drove further north; we spent a day in St. Andrew’s and then pushed on up the coast to Aberdeen. For the last few miles of the journey, Becca left the main road and took a side road that gave us a superb view of the North Sea. We were lucky with the weather that day; although it was cool and windy, the skies were clear and the sun was shining, and we could see for miles over the blue-grey water.
Kelly had rarely in her life been close to the sea, and I quickly realized that she was captivated by it. Of all the things we did over the next few days, she loved nothing better than just being close to the sea, whether on a beach or a footpath, or even walking along the top of a cliff; she loved the salt smell on the wind and the cry of the gulls as they soared and dived, and sometimes she would just stop and stand still, gazing out toward the watery horizon. The weather stayed quite cool, but it didn’t seem to bother her; she wore a sweater and a windbreaker, and sometimes I would shake my head at the faraway expression in her eyes and say, “Where are you?”
“Out there somewhere”, she would reply, nodding toward the sea while the wind whipped her hair around her face.
One day when the weather was a little warmer, we were walking along hand in hand, with Becca and Emma a few steps ahead of us, and Kelly stopped for a moment, gazed out over the sea, and said, “It’s so beautiful”.
“You’d like to go out there, wouldn’t you?”
“I really would”.
“Well, let’s see what we can do”.
I made a few inquiries and discovered that, sure enough, there were a number of boat operators who took tourists out for brief trips to look for marine wildlife. Kelly was delighted, and so the following afternoon we spent a couple of hours out on the sea with a small party of tourists. We were fortunate to see dolphins and puffins and many different kinds of birds, but I knew that for Kelly, the best thing of all was just being out there, smelling the sea air and feeling the wind on her face and the rise and fall of the boat on the waves under her feet.
Toward the end of the trip, when we were coming back into the harbour, I put my arm around her as we stood by the gunwale and said, “You’re obviously enjoying this”.
“I can’t find words to describe it”, she replied softly; “It’s one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve ever had in my life”.
Back at our hotel that night, Becca came to our room after we had put Emma to bed, and the three of us talked quietly over a pot of tea around the tiny corner table.
“Well, I can see why you love it up here”, Kelly said softly.
“I don’t actually get a lot of time for this sort of thing during the academic year”, Becca replied. “I can’t believe how busy I am; the weeks just seem to fly by, and I don’t do much other than ride the bus, go to classes and do my shopping. Sometimes on weekends I get out a bit, and I’ve got a friend in my classes from St. Andrew’s, so she’s shown me around. She’s the one who first brought me up here to Aberdeen”.
“Well, for a prairie girl like me, it’s amazing. I haven’t felt like this since the first time Mom and Dad took us camping in Jasper when we were about seven or eight”.
Becca smiled at her; “I’m glad you like it, Kelly”, she said quietly.
“I really do. Thank you so much for bringing us”.
We got back to Northwood late in the afternoon of the first Friday in August; my mother greeted us warmly, and we unpacked our bags and then joined her for tea in the living room. We had just begun to tell her about our trip when the phone rang out in the hallway; Becca got up to answer it, and a moment later she came back into the room and said, “It’s Owen for you, Tommy”.
I went out to the hallway, picked up the phone, and said, “Hi there”.
“You’re back, then”.
“Just got in half an hour ago”.
“Was it a good trip?”
“Really good. How are things with you?”
“Well, we thought we might slip out for an hour later on this evening, if that would be okay with your mum. We’ve got some news, and we’d rather tell you in person”.
“I’m sure it would be fine”.
They arrived at about eight o’clock; my mother made a pot of coffee, which she served in the living room, and after she had poured for everyone I grinned at Owen and said, “Okay, what’s the news?”
He was sitting on the sofa with his hand in Lorraine’s; he glanced at her with a smile, and she gave us a look full of radiant happiness and said, “I’m pregnant”.
Kelly let out a squeal of delight, and the next moment we were all standing, and Kelly and Lorraine were hugging each other, and I was shaking Owen’s hand. “Congratulations”, I said with a smile; “This is fantastic news. When did you find out?”
“Actually”, he said apologetically, “we’ve known for a month, but we decided to keep it to ourselves until she passed the three-month mark. We were afraid, you know, of anything going wrong”.
“I can understand that. Your mum and dad must be over the moon”.
“Yes, they’re very pleased”.
“So when’s the due date?” Kelly asked.
“February 2nd”, Lorraine replied.
“Wow”. Kelly wagged her finger at Owen; “Now you look after this girl, Owen Foster, or you’ll be in deep you-know-what with me!”
He grinned; “I love it when you get all ferocious on me!” he said.
My father shook Owen’s hand, and Becca gave him a hug. “I hope she’ll have the best medical attention”, she said with a grin.
He laughed; “Yes, and not from me!” he replied.
Kelly gave Lorraine another hug; “I’m so happy for you”, she said softly.
“Are you?” Lorraine looked down at her, and Kelly smiled and said, “I am, Lorraine – really. Don’t worry about me; I’m okay”.
“I’ll never forget the things you said to me when we were in Meadowvale”.
Kelly nodded; “That was a pretty special time for me, too”.
“Would anyone like something a little stronger than coffee?” my father asked. “I think we might be able to rise to champagne; I’m pretty sure I’ve got a bottle somewhere in the house”.
Lorraine smiled; “I’ll stick to the coffee”, she replied, “but don’t let me stop anyone else”.
“You know, Mr. Masefield”, Owen said, “I think I like that idea”.
“Well then”, my father said with a smile, “I’ll go and find that bottle”.
We went to Owen and Lorraine’s place on Monday, and stayed with them until the following Sunday. Two years after their marriage Owen had bought a semi-detached house on the east side of Headington; it was the sort of place where cupboards are always falling apart, wallpaper is always peeling, and door hinges are always coming away from the doors. “It’s not that Owen’s not good at fixing things”, Lorraine once said to me apologetically; “He’s just got so many other things he likes doing better!”
Owen had taken a week’s holiday for our visit, but when Kelly and I told him we’d enjoy helping him get a few jobs done around the house he was skeptical; “I thought you were here for a holiday?” he said.
“We are”, Kelly replied, “but we like doing this sort of thing”.
“Honestly”, I said, “you should have seen our place when we first bought it. But John Janzen came over and fixed it up for us, and we were his unskilled labour pool. He taught us a lot, and since he finished, we’ve carried on fixing things up around the place. We enjoy it”.
“So”, Kelly said, “we can work a little bit, and play a little bit. How about it?”
“You two are amazing”, Owen said with a grin.
“They certainly are!” Lorraine agreed; “Can I be the babysitter while the work’s going on?”
So we spent a couple of hours each morning on various projects around the house, and in the afternoons we went walking in the Oxfordshire countryside, or took Emma swimming at Hincksey outdoor pool or riding the miniature railway and feeding the ducks at Cutteslowe Country Park. The weather stayed fine all week long, and in the evenings, after we cleared up from supper, Owen and I would play music together out in the back yard while Lorraine and Kelly played with Emma and talked quietly together.
One night after we went to bed, Kelly was lying in the darkened room with her head resting on my shoulder, and I tightened my arm around her and said, “Are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine; why are you asking?”
“Because you haven’t said a word to me about Lorraine’s pregnancy”.
“We’ve talked about it with them”.
“With them, yes, but not between the two of us”.
“I’m really happy for them; you know that, Tom. They’ve waited a long, long time; how could I be anything other than happy for them?”
“Kelly, you don’t have to pretend with me, you know”.
“I’m not pretending”.
“I believe you; I know you’re happy for them, but I just don’t think you’re telling me the whole story. Come on, Kelly; this is me you’re talking to. I know you’re struggling a little; I’ve seen that look in your eyes, and I know what it means”.
She was quiet for a long time, but eventually she raised her head slightly, kissed me on the cheek, and said, “Okay, you’re right. I guess I haven’t done as good a job of being positive as I thought”.
“You’ve done a marvellous job, and I’m sure Owen and Lorraine haven’t noticed a thing, but you don’t have to hide things from me”.
I felt her shift a little against me, and after a moment she spoke softly; “Thanks”, she said.
“Is there anything I can do, other than just hold you?”
She shook her head; “I don’t think so”, she replied, “but I’m grateful for the holding”.
I kissed her and said, “Any time you need it, you come for it”.
We were both quiet for a minute, and then she said, “I really am happy for them, you know”.
“I know you are”.
“And I really do feel lucky, in so many ways. I have a wonderful husband, and a beautiful little girl, and a loving, caring family. I have such a good life”.
“It’s just that every now and again, you wish you had one or two more little people to share it with”.
I felt her nodding against my shoulder; “Yeah”, she whispered.
“It’s okay, Kelly”.
“Yes, it is. I know you don’t want to let yourself get into that downward spiral again, and you’ve done a wonderful job of focussing on other people and learning to be strong. But doesn’t Paul say somewhere ‘When I am weak, then I am strong?’”
“Yeah, he does; Second Corinthians, Chapter Twelve”.
“I remember it. I don’t think it means that you get to be strong by ignoring your own weakness or pretending it’s not there. I think you get to be strong by telling God the truth about your weakness and asking for his help”.
“I’ve been doing rather a lot of that”, she whispered.
“I don’t doubt it. But I’m your prayer partner, so do you think maybe you could let me join you in that prayer?”
Again she was quiet for a moment, and then she said, “I’d be really grateful if you would. Especially while we’re here at Owen and Lorraine’s”.
“Okay then; I will”. I turned my head and kissed her; “I love you”, I said.
“I love you too”.
Owen and I played our gig at the Plough on the evening of August 11th; we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, of course, and the audience seemed to appreciate it as well. Afterwards Bill thanked us profusely and said to me, “Whenever you come to visit, you be sure to let me know you’re coming, and I’ll always give you boys a spot here, okay?”
“Thanks, Bill”, I replied.
Owen drove us back out to Northwood after church the next day, and we settled in to our last week in England. Monday was Becca’s twentieth birthday, and in the evening we had a special birthday supper for her. Rick and Alyson made a rare evening visit with their children, and Becca’s close friends Stevie Fredericks and Corinna Baxter came over as well; Stevie lived in Northwood and Becca had known her since she was a little girl, while she and Corinna had become friends when they attended high school in Wallingford together. I had known Stevie when she and Becca were little girls, but of course I had not seen her since the last time we had been in England six years ago; we talked for a little while after supper and I discovered that she was studying in London to become a pharmacist, and was still involved in swimming and competitive gymnastics. “Becca doesn’t do that any more, though”, she said to me; “We still swim together regularly, but she doesn’t compete, and she’s dropped out of gymnastics altogether”.
“She’s got a lot going on in her life, I guess”, I replied.
“She’s got the Masefield genes”, Stevie said; “She’s driven. You don’t seem to be like that, though”.
“No, I made a point of not being like that, and then I met Kelly, after which I guess there wasn’t much hope for me!”
Stevie smiled; “Becca talks a lot about Kelly”, she said.
And so our last week went by. Becca was spending as much time as she could with Emma, and I knew my sister well enough to know that she was dreading the parting that was coming. A couple of nights she and Kelly sat up late again, talking into the wee hours of the morning, and one afternoon she and I went canoeing on the river just as we had done when she was a little girl.
My brother and his family came out to visit us on our final Saturday in England; Kelly and Alyson walked in the garden and talked easily together while the kids ran around and played and Rick and I attempted to make conversation, both of us knowing that there really wasn’t much common ground between us. My mother had asked a photographer friend to drop by that afternoon, and before supper she insisted that we get some family photographs taken; “I never know when I’ll have you all together under one roof again!” she said.
And so our last day came, and after we had said our goodbyes to the rest of the family Becca drove us to Heathrow airport for our flight home. As we were standing by the security check-in, she lifted Emma up in her arms and held her tight, and I could see the tears in her eyes. “I love you, sweetheart”, she said softly.
“I love you too”, Emma replied.
“How old are you now?” Becca asked her.
“I’m four years old!”
“Well – I’ll see you next summer, when you’re five years old, okay?”
Becca passed Emma to Kelly, and Emma looked at her and said, “Are you sad, Auntie Becca?”
Becca nodded, smiling through her tears; “Just a little bit, but I’m okay. You have fun with Jake and Jenna and Mike and Rachel when you get home”.
Kelly and I hugged her in turn, and when I let her go I said, “You’ve given us a great summer, Becs; thank you for doing so much to make it a good one for us”.
She shook her head. “Thank you for coming, Tommy; hopefully it won’t be another six years before you’re back”.
“We’ll do our best, and we’ll see you next year, one way or the other”.
“Okay. Ring me tomorrow to let me know you’re home alright”.
We each gave her one last hug, and then we turned and made our way through security.