Holton Park, Chapter 5

When I wrote the ‘Meadowvale’ books and ‘A Time to Mend’, I intentionally left some loose ends to develop into plot lines for future novels.

One of those ‘loose ends’ was the story of Beth Robinson (who is mentioned a few times in passing in ‘A Time to Mend’, but makes many appearances in the ‘Meadowvale’ books.

Beth’s story, and the story of her great-grandmother, Joanna Robinson, might appear somewhat tangential to the main plot of the ‘Meadowvale’ books and ‘ATTM’, but I always knew I would develop them and take them further.

I have now begun to work on that project, and I am going to post a few chapters here as a teaser. Not the whole book, you understand (it probably won’t be done for a year or so); just a teaser to get you interested.

Chapter 5

Oxford and London, England.

On the Thursday night before Emma’s wedding, Tom and Wendy Masefield had supper by themselves. Emma had been staying with them for a few days, but she had gone over to her grandmother’s house for supper, and afterwards was planning on spending some time with her cousin Sarah. It had been a dull and rainy sort of day, cool enough for Tom and Wendy to be wearing sweaters when they took their coffee through to the living room after cleaning up the dishes together.

“What time is Beth’s first flight?” asked Wendy as they took their seats across from each other.

“They’re probably just about to take off from Saskatoon. I think they’ve got a couple of hours on the ground in Toronto before they take the overnight flight.” Tom grinned at Wendy. “I think this will be Claire’s first plane flight.”

“I hope Beth has an easy time with her. You never know, with young children.” Wendy frowned thoughtfully. “Tom, do you think Beth’s alright?”

“Generally, you mean, or specifically with Rachel’s death?”

Wendy shrugged. “I suppose I meant with Rachel’s death, but now that you ask, I wouldn’t mind hearing your thoughts on ‘generally,’ as well.”

“Hard to say. She doesn’t talk to me about personal stuff as often as she used to.”

“I’ve noticed that.”

He took a sip of his coffee, and then wrapped his hands around the mug. “Mind you, I was always the second fiddle; Kelly was the one she was really close to.”

Wendy frowned again and shook her head. “It didn’t seem that way to me the year we went over there just before we got engaged. I remember you and Beth having a couple of long talks, and it didn’t sound to me as if they were just about news and gossip.”

“Well, that’s true.”

Wendy stretched her legs out a little so that their feet were touching. “So, what do you think?”

“I do have some ideas, but I’m really not sure about them.”

“Share them with me, if you want.”

He smiled at her. “Did I ever tell you that Beth was born in the Arctic?”

“I think so; remind me how that came about?”

“Don and Lynda were teaching in Coppermine, on the Arctic coast. They spent five years there after they first got married, and Amy and Beth were both born during that time.”

“How old was Beth when they moved back south?”

“Just over a year, I think. Don and Lynda both got jobs in Meadowvale. They bought a house just round the corner from Mike and Rachel’s, and somehow, Mike and Rachel both hit it off with little Bethie. Rachel wasn’t working outside the home, and she loved looking after her grandkids. Amy would have been four, so Rachel babysat her for a year before she went to kindergarten. But Beth had just turned one, so Rachel had her all day long for four years, and they got to be really close.

“That’s how it started. Rachel taught Beth to cook and sew, and play piano, and when she got a bit older, she liked hanging around in Mike’s workshop and watching him build things. And then when she was four, Rachel started taking her to church. Rachel was one of the main pianists at Meadowvale Mennonite Church, you know.”

“I remember her playing the piano when we were visiting.”

 “That’s right, she did. Anyway, Beth never had any sort of a dramatic conversion experience; she just inhaled Christian faith by being around Rachel and the folks at church. And she was lucky in having Rob Neufeld as her pastor when she was growing up. We all were, of course. Well, you know—you’ve met him.”

“Yes.”

“I’ve heard Beth say more than once that her grandma was her best friend.”

Wendy raised an eyebrow. “Do you think that’s really true? I know lots of kids are close to their grandparents, but I don’t know about being best friends.”

 “I don’t know how literally to take it. There were a couple of girls Beth was always hanging around with when she was a kid, and one of them, Jenny Ratzlaff—Jenny Sawatzky as she is now—is still her close friend. And she’s close to Amy, too. I guess I’d describe Rachel more as her mentor than her friend; to me, friendship implies equality, and I don’t think Rachel and Beth had an equal relationship.”

“Rachel was always the senior partner?”

“Exactly.” Tom frowned again. “There was trouble when Beth and Greg got married. They met in Saskatoon, and they fell for each other in a big way, but it was obvious from the start that they were very different. His family was made of money, and that was important to them. He wasn’t a Christian—he was never disrespectful of Beth’s faith, he just didn’t share it—and we’d all been formed with the idea that it wasn’t a good idea for Christians to marry non-Christians.”

“Is that an Anabaptist thing?”

“I think a lot of traditional Christian groups had that view; some still do. The idea was that if you couldn’t share the deepest factor in your life with your marriage partner, it could be a pretty lonely experience. I certainly believed that. I know I was really thankful that Kelly and I had faith in common, and I’ve been grateful for it with you, too.”

Wendy smiled and nodded. “Likewise.”

“And Beth and Greg’s wedding was weird. We found out later—because she told Kelly about it—that they’d been sleeping together for a while. Beth felt guilty about it, but Greg wanted it, and she loved him, and so she went along with it.”

“They wouldn’t exactly have been the first couple to sleep together before they were married.”

“Agreed, but, you know, traditional Mennonite upbringing…”

“…would have frowned on that—of course. I think we’ve had that conversation before.”

“We have. Anyway, they went down to Las Vegas on a holiday, and on a whim, while they were down there, they got married in one of the wedding chapels. Beth just wanted to make their relationship right as quickly as she could, so she wouldn’t have to feel guilty about sleeping with him any more, and so when he suggested it, she was really happy. But the shit hit the fan when her family found out about it.”

“They were angry? Really?”

“Lynda was hurt rather than angry. She was always the sort of mum who looks forward to planning her daughter’s wedding with her, down to the last detail. She had a grand time when Amy and Luke were married, I can tell you! So she felt cheated of that, and as for Don, he was just plain angry at Greg—and, by extension, Beth too. And Rachel didn’t talk to Beth for months, she was so upset.”

“I noticed you said ‘upset,’ not ‘angry.’”

Tom took another sip of his coffee, sitting back in his chair and stretching his legs out a little further. “Your feet are nice and warm,” he said.

“Are you cold?”

“I am a little, for some reason.”

“It’s not exactly been a warm summery day.”

“No.” He frowned again. “Here’s my theory, and I’ve never asked Rachel about it, though I did run it by Beth once and it made sense to her. Beth wasn’t the first one in her family to marry someone who wasn’t a Christian; years ago, Rachel had done it too. She’s always been very devout, but Mike wasn’t. His mum and dad, Will and Joanna, were strong Anglicans, but they weren’t successful in passing their faith on to their kids. After he left home, I don’t think Mike ever went to church again other than Christmas and Easter. He was a great guy, and I know he and Rachel loved each other their whole lives long. But I suspect that Rachel found it lonely not to have a husband who shared her faith. And I think she was disappointed for Beth, knowing she was going to feel the same loneliness.”

“You talked to Beth about this?”

“I did. She and Greg kept their marriage a secret at first, but they came to my fortieth birthday party, and that was the day Beth told Kelly about it, and Kelly told me. And then a year went by, and we didn’t see much of Beth—she was living in Saskatoon, and she and Greg were newlyweds, and Meadowvale had become a little uncomfortable for her, which was tearing her apart because she loved the people so much.

“The next summer came, and out of the blue she called me from the city; she was coming up for a visit and wanted to know if we could go for coffee together at the Beanery. So we did, and that was when she had it out with me. She was amazing. She told me she wanted to do what was necessary to get things back on track between us, and she asked me to be honest with her about what I was thinking. So, I spoke my piece about it not being a good idea for Christians to marry non-Christians. I did it gently, and she listened carefully, and then, without raising her voice at all, she tore me off a strip. She accused me of being arrogant—of believing that anyone who approached the subject thoughtfully and prayerfully would just naturally come to the same conclusion as me. She told me she’d prayed about her marriage, and she and Greg loved each other, and she had an easy conscience about it, and she wanted me to respect that.”

“Wow. How old was she?”

“Let’s see—it was the summer of ninety-nine, so she would have been about twenty-one. Mind you, keep in mind that for years she’d been part of the Sunday night group Kelly and I hosted, and we’d always encouraged the kids to speak their minds, so she knew she could do that with me. And the truth is, she knew Kelly and I loved her as if she was our own daughter.”

“But that might have brought some baggage with it, too—she might have felt she had more to lose.”

“True enough. Still, that’s what she said, and I realized she was right, and we made up. After that, we talked a lot. We were really close when Kelly was going through her cancer—I know that was excruciatingly hard for her, but she wanted so much to do whatever she could to help Kelly, which was a beautiful thing to see. And after Kelly died, she kept an eye on Emma and me, like a lot of other people were doing, and we appreciated that. Whenever she came to town she brought her guitar with her, and you know, she always liked traditional folk songs, so we played together at singarounds from time to time, with Don and Lynda looking after Claire.”

“But since she and Greg broke up…”

He gave a little nod. “Yes. She still calls, and we still talk, but something’s in the way again.”

“Do you think she’s afraid you might have been right, and she doesn’t want you to say, ‘I told you so’?”

“I would never have said that, even before I had a change of heart about her and Greg. Lots of marriages between Christians and non-Christians survive and thrive—I know that now—and I certainly wasn’t predicting that Greg would cheat on her and run off with another woman like he did. Mike would never have done that to Rachel—although I do know Christians who’ve done it to Christians, which is a little awkward for traditionalists to explain.”

“Right.”

“I have a hunch, though.”

“And what would that be?”

“That she’s struggling with the breakup of her marriage on a deeper level than she’s letting on. I’ve never had any indication from her that she’s losing her faith, but I think she’s disappointed with God, and I’m not sure she wants to talk about it with me, or at least, not yet.”

Wendy tilted her head a little to one side. “Do you think she’s talking to anyone about it?”

“I honestly don’t know. As I said, she and Jenny Ratzlaff are still good friends, but I’ve no idea how deeply they talk these days. I know she talks to her Aunt Ruth…”

“Ruth is Don’s sister, right?”

“Yes, so Ruth and Kelly were cousins, because Sally Reimer and Rachel Weins are sisters.”

“Right—got it.”

“Ruth married John Jantzen; they’re great people—Kelly and I were really close to them—and Ruth’s the only one of Rachel’s kids who kept up with Christianity after she became an adult, although she ended up following the Mennonite side of the family tree, not the Anglican, because she married a Mennonite. Their family used to sit in the pew across the aisle from us in church—John and Ruth and their three kids, and Rachel and Beth.”

“That’s lovely.”

“Yeah. But I don’t know if Beth has talked to Ruth about any of this. I just don’t know.”

“She’s going to be with us four weeks. Are you hoping…?”

He gave a heavy sigh. “I don’t know, Wendy—maybe I am. I know I’m not in control, and I know the last thing I need to do is push her about it.”

“Does she talk to Emma?”

“I know they talk a lot, but I’ve never asked Em what they discuss. Nor would I.”

Wendy nodded. “I get that. That was one of the things I loved about you and Emma when I first got to know her.”

“Thanks.”

At that moment Tom’s mobile phone began to ring. He took it out of his pocket, glanced at the name on the screen, and smiled. “It’s our other daughter.” He put the phone to his ear. “Lisa Howard. How’s the Reimer tour of London going?”

“Well, I think I can truthfully say everyone’s suitably impressed!”

“You’ve been showing them all the sights?”

 “I met them at Heathrow at lunch time yesterday, and we haven’t stopped since. We’ve seen Buckingham Palace, and we’ve been in Westminster Abbey, and the Tower of London, and the National Gallery, and we’ve done the river tour to Greenwich. But, you know, the weather hasn’t been the best, and Sally’s arthritis is acting up, so now we’re all curled up by a fireplace in a pub after a nice meal, and I thought I’d just give you a bell about tomorrow.”

“Are you coming home with them?”

“That’s the thing. Joe’s hired a van, but there are ten of them, so they take up all the seats. I can easily take the train, and I’m happy to do that, but if you’re picking Beth and Claire up at Heathrow…”

Tom laughed. “You want to hitch a ride?”

“Would you mind? Could I meet you at Terminal Three?”

“Sure. Let’s check with Beth, though, before we decide what happens next. She might be looking forward to some one-on-one time with me on the drive home. Well, as much one on one time as you can get with a chatty not-quite-four-year-old in the back seat.”

“That makes sense. Remind me what time the flight gets in?”

“It’s Air Canada from Toronto; I think about eleven-thirty, but there’ll be passport and customs time, too.”

“So it’s basically the same flight the Reimers were on yesterday?”

“Correct. Shall we meet a bit earlier? How about eleven o’clock at the arrivals lounge? If I remember correctly, there’s a coffee shop in the corner where you can get a really good Americano. Let’s meet there.”

“Sounds lovely. I feel like I’ve been running around for ages without a real chance for a good visit with you.”

“I know what you mean. And before long I’m going to have to make an appointment to see you in Brussels!”

“Don’t jinx it, Dad—we don’t know for certain whether that’s going to work out yet.”

“Right. Really looking forward to seeing you. Do you want to say hello to your mum before you go?”

“Yes, for sure.”

“I love you, my girl.”

“Love you too, Dad.”

“Here’s your mum.”

***

It was Lisa who first caught sight of Beth and Claire coming through the double doors into the arrivals lounge. She was standing with Tom behind the rope barrier, surrounded by others waiting to meet people from the Toronto flight. A good number of passengers had already come through, and Tom reminded Lisa that the cabin crew might have asked parents with young children to wait until the rush subsided before moving into the aisle. At that moment Lisa caught a glimpse of a familiar face pushing a baggage cart through the doors. “There they are!” she said. “Wow—Claire really grew!”

“Well, you haven’t seen her since she was one!”

“True.”

Beth and Claire were both dressed simply in tee-shirts and jeans; Beth was carrying a backpack on her shoulder, and the baggage cart held a full-sized suitcase, a smaller backpack, and a hard-shell guitar case. They came to a stop, and Beth scanned the crowd anxiously; Lisa gave them a cheery wave, and almost immediately Beth saw them. Her face broke into a grin, and she pushed the cart over toward them, with Claire following behind. Tom held out his arms to them. “Ready for a hug?” he asked.

Beth dropped her backpack onto the floor and moved into his embrace. “From you? Always.”

They held each other tight for a moment, until Claire tugged on Beth’s arm. “Me too!”

They all laughed, and Tom released Beth and looked down at the little girl. “Do you remember me?”

“I think so.”

“I saw you last summer when Wendy and I came to Meadowvale. But you were a lot shorter then. Do you want to come up?”

Claire hesitated for a moment, and then nodded decisively. “Okay!”

Tom reached down, lifted her up and gave her a warm hug. “I want to introduce you to someone, okay? This is my daughter Lisa; she’s heard a lot about you.”

Claire looked over at Lisa. “You know about me?”

“Well, I actually met you when you were very little.”

Claire’s eyes grew wide. “I don’t remember.”

“No, because you were only one. But you and I don’t really know each other well, so perhaps if it’s alright with you, I’ll just give you a kiss on the cheek right now. After we get to know each other better, we can try out hugs. What do you think?”

“Okay!”

Lisa leaned forward and kissed the little girl gently. Tom turned to Beth. “You remember Lisa?”

Beth smiled at the other girl. “I do. Are you living in London now?”

“Actually, I spent the last year in France, but now I’m back in Oxford.”

“What were you doing in France?”

“Taking courses to upgrade my French. I want to work at the European Parliament in Brussels, but you need two official EU languages to do that. My Russian and German are both really good, but Russian isn’t an EU language, so I needed to do some work on my French.”

“Right—you’re a translator, aren’t you?”

“Yes. So now I’m just waiting to hear back about my application, and meanwhile I’m dossing down at my brother Colin’s flat in Oxford while Mum and Dad’s house is full of wedding guests. But I’ve been in London for the past two days, showing the Reimers around.”

“Will and Sally?”

“Yes—and Joe and Ellie and Jake and Jenna, and Steve and Krista and Mike and Rachel!”

Beth laughed. “Did you hire a limo?”

“We’ve been using public transport to get around in London, but Joe hired a van to drive everyone to Oxford this morning.”

Tom put his hand on Beth’s shoulder. “We don’t need to stand here talking,” he said. “Let’s go find the car and get on the road. Unless you need a bite to eat or something?”

“We were well fed on the flight, thanks.”

“Excellent. Let’s get going, then, shall we?”

Lisa caught Beth’s eye. “Listen—do you mind me catching a ride back to Oxford with you and Dad? I came up to town on the train, and I’m happy to go back that way if you’d prefer to have some private time to visit in the car.”

“No, don’t worry about it,” Beth replied. “It’s good to see you.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.”

“Alright then—thank you.”

***

The skies were overcast as they took the M40 northwest from Heathrow towards Oxford, and by the time they passed High Wycombe the drizzle had turned to a steady rain. Beth was in the back seat with Claire, while Tom and Lisa were in the front.

“Sorry about the weather,” said Tom. “It’s not looking too promising for Emma’s big day tomorrow, either. What was it like in Meadowvale when you left?”

“Hot and thundery,” Beth replied. “We were in shorts and tee-shirts.”

“I hear Rachel’s funeral was well-attended.”

“Yeah, there were a lot of people there. Joel came from Dubai.”

“I would have liked to have come, but we were so busy with wedding stuff around here.”

“Everyone knew that, Tom. All kinds of people told me to say hi to you for them; I’d hate to even start naming them for fear I’d forget some.”

Lisa turned in her seat so she could see Beth’s face. “Is this your first trip to England?” she asked.

“Yeah, it is.”

“We could have taken you to Oxford by the slow and scenic route, but we thought you might like to get there as fast as possible today. We’re actually passing through some beautiful countryside right now, but you can’t see it because of the embankments.”

“What I can see looks pretty good; we don’t get trees this green in Saskatchewan unless we’ve had a really wet summer, which doesn’t happen very often. But we don’t get this much traffic on our roads, either.”

“It’s a small country, with a lot of people in it.”

“Right. So, who’s going to be here for the wedding?”

“My mum’s brother and his family are coming up from Essex,” Lisa replied, “and all Dad’s immediate family are going to be there. Then there are some of Emma’s friends from work and church, and of course Owen Foster and his family. You know Owen, right—Dad’s oldest friend from his school days?”

“Yeah—he and Lorraine used to come to Meadowvale every couple of years to visit Tom and Kelly. The first time I ever heard traditional folk music was at a house concert they put on while Owen was visiting.”

“Sweet!”

“Getting back to the wedding guests…”

“Well, of course, there are lots of people from Matthew’s side of the family, but I don’t really know who they all are, only that there are a lot of them.”

Beth frowned. “I thought Matthew just had the one sister.”

Tom gave a chuckle from the front seat. “He does, but his parents both come from big families, and all their siblings have children, so there are rather a lot of cousins.”

“Right.”

“And then, as you know, we’ve got some Canadians too!”

“And we’re delighted to be here!”

“And we’re delighted to have you. I wish we could have everyone to stay at our place, but it’s not very big. Will and Sally insisted on getting their own hotel room, but Mike and Krista and their kids are staying at Merton, Wendy’s college—like a lot of Oxford colleges, they rent out their student rooms for tourists in the summer. And Joe and Ellie and their two are staying at my mum’s house, which is about a ten-minute walk from our place in New Marston.”

“I thought your mom lived out of town?”

“She sold the old place in Northwood a couple of years ago—it was getting too big for her to keep up. But she made a nice profit on it, so she was able to get a reasonably sized three-bedroom place in town.”

“Is Emma staying with you?”

“Yes—she’s been in Oxford since last weekend. She’s camping in the spare bedroom, and you and Claire are in what’s normally our office—we did a little furniture shuffling to make room.”

“I hope I’m not putting you out.”

“Not at all. Wendy’s university term ended in mid-June, and I finished yesterday, so neither of us needs an office for the next few days. You will, however, have to put up with the crowded bookshelves, but knowing you, that won’t be a problem!”

Beth laughed; “Some things never change, Tom!”

“That’s what I thought.” He glanced at Lisa. “When Beth was Emma’s babysitter, she was always raiding my bookshelves.”

“And his record collection,” Beth added. “That was a huge part of my cultural education.”

***

After the wedding rehearsal that evening, Matthew MacFarlane’s parents hosted a light supper in the church hall beside Banbury Road Baptist Church, where Matthew’s father Jim was the pastor; Tom and Emma had started attending there a couple of months after they had moved to Oxford in 2003.

Matthew and Emma were not planning a big wedding. Emma’s cousin Jenna Reimer was her maid of honour, and Matthew’s oldest friend Adam Byrne was his best man. There were no other people in the wedding party because, as Emma had said to Matthew, “we both have so many cousins that once we start asking people, we won’t be able to stop without upsetting someone!”

This meant that, in theory, the wedding rehearsal did not need to be a big affair. However, in practice, a lot of people came to it because they had been invited to the supper afterwards. Beth knew all the Canadian visitors well, and she had also met Tom’s sister Becca, his niece Sarah, his mother Irene, and his friend Owen. But there were other Masefield relatives she was meeting for the first time, including Tom’s brother Rick (Sarah’s father) his Scottish wife Alyson, and their other children Eric and Anna. “And the whole family’s not even here yet,” Rick said to her after they had been introduced. “We’ve got quite a few aunts and uncles and cousins coming tomorrow, including some I barely know!”

At that moment a tall man with close-cropped grey hair wandered over and grinned at Beth. “Well, here’s a familiar face,” he said in a broad Oxfordshire accent.

“Hello, Owen!” Beth replied as they gave each other a warm hug. “It’s so good to see you again!”

“You too. And this is Claire, isn’t it? It doesn’t seem that long ago that we heard she’d been born, and what is she now—four?”

“Four next month.” Beth smiled down at her daughter. “This is Mr. Foster,” she said; “He’s Uncle Tom’s oldest friend.”

Owen crouched down so that he was at eye level with Claire and spoke to her in a quiet voice. “Are you meeting lots of new people, Claire?” he asked.

She nodded solemnly. “Lots and lots.”

“And you must be tired after your long flight.”

She shook her head decisively. “I’m not tired!”

“Right—that was silly of me, wasn’t it? Do you like to sing?”

“I like singing songs in church. And my mommy sings and plays guitar, and sometimes I sing along with her.”

“I’ve heard your mummy sing lots of times; she has a lovely voice, doesn’t she?”

“Yeah.”

Owen got to his feet again, glancing around the room at the tables and the people waiting for the meal to start. “Has anyone claimed you?” he asked Beth, “because if not, why don’t you come and sit with Lorraine and me?”

“I’d love that. Where are your kids tonight?”

“Oh, they’re out with friends, doing the teenage thing, you know? Just wait ‘til Claire hits that age; that’s when the fun starts!”

“That’s what I hear.” Beth stifled a yawn. “Excuse me!” she said with an embarrassed grin. “I only slept on the plane for about four hours, and my body clock has no idea what time it is. To be honest, I’m so tired I barely know where I am!”

Owen put his hand on her arm. “Go and sit down with Lorraine over there, and I’ll get you a cup of tea. And if you get so tired that you just have to get out of here, let me know and I’ll run you back to Tom and Wendy’s—okay?”

“That would be great, Owen; thank you!”

***

The supper consisted of cold cuts and assorted salads, washed down with coffee and tea, and juice and cold water. Owen got food for them all, and when he had brought it back to their table and passed it around, he took his seat across from Beth and Claire. “Enjoy!” he said.

“Thanks, Owen,” Beth replied.

“So—I hear you’re making a trip over to Bramthorpe to check out Joanna Robinson’s family tree?”

“Did you ever meet her on your trips to Meadowvale?”

Owen and Lorraine glanced at each other. “We’ve been trying to remember if we met her more than once,” Lorraine said. “We do know that she came to that concert Tom and Owen did at Pastor Rob’s house back in the late nineteen-eighties. Do you remember that? I think you were there.”

Beth nodded. “Of course,” she said to Owen, “that was the first time I heard you and Tom play music together. But I’d forgotten that Great-Grandma was there.”

“I’m inclined to think that was the only time we met her,” Owen replied. “But of course, Tom’s told us lots more about her since the story of the journals came out. It’s an amazing story, isn’t it?”

“Really amazing. I’ve been slowly reading through them, and I still can’t quite take it all in.”

“Did she live in Bramthorpe her whole life ‘til she moved to Canada?”

“Until she married Will. After that they had a rather unsettled couple of years, living in farm cottages while Will got casual work. But yeah—for her first twenty-one years she lived at Holton Park, which is quite near Bramthorpe.”

Owen nodded. “I’ve got a friend in the area, actually.”

“Oh yeah? In Bramthorpe?”

“No, in Stamford, which is quite close by.”

“Yeah, I know about Stamford.”

“Her name’s Helen Francis, and we were in medical school together, so she’s about my age. She’s a general practitioner, like me, and she’s part of a local medical practice. She’s been there for years, so she’s well established in the town.”

“Have you been there, Owen?”

“Stamford? Not much. A couple of times over the years we’ve stopped to visit with Helen and her family on the way through, but it’s been a long time. Lovely area, though. Stamford’s very historic.”

“Have you seen Holton Park?”

“No, I’m afraid not. There’s another very historic stately home near Stamford—Burghley House. It goes back to Tudor times, too; it was built by Queen Elizabeth’s chancellor, if I remember correctly. Helen took us there once.”

“I’m really looking forward to seeing the whole area. I’d love to get a clearer picture of how my great-grandmother grew up.”

“I’ll bet. Quite the adventure!”

“No kidding!”

“So—how are all the Wiens’ and Reimers and Robinsons and Millers and Janzens and all the other Meadowvalers?”

Beth grinned. “How long have you got?”

“You’ll probably fall asleep before I lose interest, Beth.”

“Alright then—let’s see how long I can stay awake!”

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