The Bradford Legacy - Chapter 17Presentation Transcript
Welcome back! I hope that you‟ve enjoyed the journey of the first five generations of Bradfords inSimerica. With this chapter, you‟ll get to meet generation six – we‟re more than halfway there!Last time, Lizzie got married to Jason Seiff, and moved into her own home in Simsfield. Victor and Janemade their commitment to each other more formal. And Jefferson…well, Jefferson asked Melanie Miller tomarry him and then left her at the alter after he realized that Marsha did care for him after all, and Marshaand Jefferson eloped. Obviously, Jan was not impressed, and she made life difficult for her new daughter-in-law until Matthew told her to back off when he discovered that Marsha was pregnant.Now, please enjoy Chapter 17 of The Bradford Legacy.
Jan Danaher Bradford stood in the music room of the farmhouse that had been in her husband‟s familysince his grandfather‟s father. She wondered if John Bradford, the first Bradford in Simerica, wouldrecognize it. So much had changed since his passing. Yes, the shell of the house was the same, but theinterior décor was drastically different from the relatively simple Colonial design that John would haveknown.Jan was admiring one of the most prized pieces in the family art collection. It had been commissioned andcompleted several years before, but she hadn‟t given it much thought until recently.
As she gazed at the family portrait that was done just before Jefferson and Elizabeth had gone to college,she thought about how much easier things had been back then. Her children had listened to her then. Hadtheir time at college changed them that much? Now, Elizabeth was married, and beyond Jan‟s reach, andJefferson had ignored her guidance, left poor Melanie Miller at the alter, and eloped with Marsha Bruenig.Marsha. Jan sneered as she thought the name. Sweet Melanie was exactly what she wanted in adaughter-in-law. Marsha was…well, Marsha wasn‟t nearly as malleable as Melanie would have been.That very afternoon was a prime example.
Marsha had been reading many books to pass the time over the long winter, and one had upset herparticularly. Jan had ignored her prattling over dinner one night, and as a result, Jan had not heard ofMarsha‟s intention to start tending the family garden and orchard again. That was where she was at thatvery moment, fertilizing the long-neglected plots. The gardener had trimmed back the trees earlier thatday, and assured Marsha that with a bit of attention they would produce fruit before the end of the summer.
As Jan was thinking, she wandered to the kitchen. There, she watched Marsha as the younger womanmuddied the hem of her dress while mixing the compost into the dirt. She had been more than happy to letthe garden go to the wayside when Carolina had passed. Really, it wasn‟t a ladylike occupation. Still, shehad been able to break her daughter of the offendible behavior; she would just have to do the same for herdaughter-in-law.“If I tell Jefferson that she shouldn‟t exert herself until after the baby is born, it will seem as if I‟m concernedfor her well-being,” Jan said aloud to the empty room. “Then, once the child has arrived, her time will be sowell occupied that she won‟t have time for such nonsense.”
That evening, Jan invited her son to join her for a game of chess. Jefferson would have liked to refuse, butrealized that keeping his mother occupied would also keep her out of Marsha‟s hair.“How have things been going with work, Jefferson? You hardly talk about it.”“Things are going fine, Mother. We‟re in the process of creating a new game, and I‟ve been asked to leadthe development team.”“That is wonderful, Jefferson. Quite the honor for someone as young as you are.”“I know. It will mean longer hours for a time, but Marsha understands that it will be necessary.”“Speaking of your wife,” began Jan, still refusing to call her daughter-in-law by her name, “I was hoping tospeak with you about her.”
“Mother, I thought that Father and I asked you to leave her be until the baby is born.”“I have, Jefferson, I have. But I can‟t help but notice that she‟s been exerting herself in the garden, liftingthose heavy bags of fertilizer. That can‟t be good for her. I wouldn‟t want anything to bring the baby alongearly.”“I hadn‟t thought of that,” admitted Jefferson. “I‟ll speak to the gardener tomorrow and ask him to dump thefertilizer in the plots for her – she can still till the soil.”“Whatever made her decide to take up gardening? I didn‟t take her for much of an outdoor person.”“Mother, weren‟t you listening at dinner? One of the books that she read over the winter was The Jungleby Upton Simclair. It was all about the meat-packing industries, and how horribly the food that comes fromthe city is handled. She decided that we‟ll only purchase from the local butcher, as he only stocks productfrom the area farms, and that she would take up gardening so that she would know where the food ourchildren eat comes from.”
Jan made a face. “Hmph. We‟ve been getting our food from Portsimouth for years, and no one‟s evergotten ill from it. It seems like a lot of fuss over nothing to me. Really, the newspapers have gonedownhill. There‟s nothing but sensationalism in them these days – you can hardly find the real news inthem anymore. It sounds like the author of that book has followed suit. Really, Jefferson, it‟s a bunch ofsilliness if you ask me.”“If it makes Marsha happy and doesn‟t cause anyone harm, it‟s fine with me. I hope that you won‟t give herany trouble about it, Mother.”“As I said, I wouldn‟t have spoken if it wasn‟t out of concern. The baby will be born soon, and she‟s goingto need her rest.”“And I‟ll make sure that she gets it. Now, this has been lovely but I‟m going to go check on Marsha. Ihaven‟t seen her all day.”
Later that night, a few streets away, Lizzie Bradford Seiff went into labor with her first child. Jason hadrung for the doctor, and then paced in his study downstairs as he listened to Lizzie‟s cries of pain.
Before long, Jason was called upstairs to meet his son. Thaddeus Seiff, who was promptly nicknamedTaddy, had his mother‟s fair skin and brown locks and his father‟s light blue eyes.
Thaddeus Seiff wasn‟t the only baby that made an appearance in Simsfield that night. Melanie MillerAlcott, wife of George Alcott, also gave birth to a son who they named Sterling. He had his mother‟s lightblue eyes, and his father‟s brown hair and medium complexion.
The next day, in Portsimouth, Jane Thayer was preparing to head off to SimRadcliffe. Victor Huthins, herfiancée, had brought her bags downstairs for her.“Are you certain you have everything, Jane?”“Yes, Victor. Meadow and Phily and your mother have all asked me at least six times each. And if I haveforgotten something, it‟s not as if I‟m far away. I can „phone you up, and someone can bring it by theboarding house. What?” she asked, noticing the wistful way that Victor was looking at her.“Just thinking that your going off to school brings us once step closer to getting married.”“I know,” she smiled. “I can hardly wait until then.”Just then they heard the carriage wheels on the cobblestone streets outside. “I‟ll get your luggage out tothe carriage. Mama! Aunt Phily! Miss Meadow! Jane‟s carriage is here.”
Goodbyes in the form of hugs and kisses were shared by Jane and all the members of the household. Shecould scarcely believe that the day had finally come for her to leave for college.
Jane wasn‟t the only one in the house who was having a hard time believe that it was time for her to leavefor college. Meadow watched her daughter with mixed emotions. She had been preparing for this day forsome time, but that wasn‟t making this moment any easier.“My little girl,” she muttered, too soft for anyone to hear her. “She‟s all grown up now.”
Phily, on the other hand, seemed unaffected by her daughter‟s steps into adulthood, but she snuck out ofthe house to watch Jane climb into the coach.
There she goes, she thought. All grown up. I remember the day Meadow told me that she’d found a littlegirl that she wanted to adopt after looking for months. The next time she calls this place home, she’ll bebecome Victor’s wife, and not really my little girl any more.
One morning not long after Jane had gotten settled in at SimRadcliffe, Marsha started to feel very strange.Jefferson was gone to work for the day, so she was forced to do something that she really didn‟t want todo.“Mrs. Bradford?” she called. “Could you come here, please?”
Jan came in from the dining room. “What is it?”
“I think it‟s time for the baby to arrive,” she gasped. “Can you send for the doctor?”
“What‟s all the fuss about?” demanded Matthew as he came into the room. “Oh. OH! My grandson isabout to make his appearance. I‟ll go „phone the doctor. Jan, help Marsha up to her room.”
“I don‟t think there‟s time for that,” said Marsha. “The baby‟s coming now!”“Heavens, no!” exclaimed Jan. “Can‟t you make it up the stairs? The new carpets…”
“I don‟t give a damn about your new carpets, you stupid cow!” screamed Marsha. “Help me!”
Moments later, Marsha was admiring the strong, healthy baby she held in her arms, a pleased smile on herface.
The shocked new grandparents waited, holding their breaths for Marsha to speak.“Well?” said Jan after an uncomfortable silence.
“Your papa‟s eyes, my skin tone, and both our brown hair,” she reported.“Yes, but is the child a boy or a girl?” Jan demanded.
A slightly triumphant smile appeared on Marsha‟s face. “This is your grandson, James Bradford,” sheannounced, pride and relief evident in her voice.
“A grandson!” exclaimed Matthew, his voice more joyous than Marsha had ever heard before. “The nextheir of the Bradford family. Congratulations, my dear child. I‟m sure that Jefferson will be most pleased.”Jan looked at the child, and her daughter-in-law. She certainly didn‟t want Marsha to know that she wasproud of her for producing an heir on the first try, but excitement got the best of her for the moment. “Welldone,” she said.
“Thank you both,” replied Marsha, as she pulled James close to her. “Please excuse me. I‟m going to getJames settled in the nursery.”
After giving her son a bottle, Marsha decided to play with him in one of the many toys that Jefferson hadbrought home from his work. The afternoon turned into evening, and she didn‟t even notice when the maidcame in to light the lamps. She had eyes only for her son.
It was there that Jefferson found the two of them when he arrived home from work a little after eight.“Jefferson!” cried Marsha, when she saw who had entered the nursery. “I didn‟t hear you come home.Come here. You need to meet your son.”
Jefferson crossed the room and took his wife in his arms.“How are you?” he asked. “Shouldn‟t you be resting?”“I‟ve been laying on the floor playing with James all afternoon – I‟ve hardly moved. And I‟ll go to bedshortly. But first, go meet your son. He‟s perfect.”
With much hesitation, Jefferson leaned over and gingerly picked up the small baby.
“Why do you look so nervous, Jefferson? You‟re doing just fine.”“I‟ve never held a baby this small before. What if I hurt him?”“You won‟t. Just remember to support his head and you‟ll be fine.”“So, I‟m imagining that Mother and Father were very pleased that we have a son.”Marsha nodded. “Your mother even paid me a complement.”“Don‟t share such news with me when I‟m holding James, dear. I‟m likely to drop him from the shock.”“Not funny, Jefferson. I‟m going to get ready for bed. Why don‟t you put James in his crib and come joinme?”“Don‟t you want something to eat first? Mother held dinner for me.”“Maybe just a quick bite,” she agreed. “But I‟m not going to stay and be sociable. As soon as I‟m doneeating, I‟m heading for bed.”
Marsha did eat her dinner quickly, and used exhaustion from James‟ birth as her excuse for retiring early.Jefferson was not so fortunate. Matthew and Jan were intent on discussing the events of the day.“A son and heir straight away. Jefferson, I‟m most impressed. And with how you‟re advancing so quicklyat work, you‟ll be president of your company in no time. Things are going quite well for you.”“Yes, they are Father,” he replied automatically, wishing that he were upstairs with his wife instead.“Have you and your wife discussed more children yet?”“No, Mother.”“Well, you should consider it. A heir and a spare are both good things to have.”“I‟m sure we‟ll discuss it when Marsha‟s fully recovered from having James. Now, please excuse me. Ineed to get some sleep as I have to go in to work early tomorrow. Goodnight.”
Once safely inside their bedroom, Jefferson was surprised to see that Marsha was still awake. When shesaw her husband, she patted the bed in an invitation to join her.“What took you so long?” she asked.“Mother and Father kept wanting to talk, and it took me forever to find a way out.”“What were they talking about?”“They wanted to know our plans for more children. Something about „an heir and a spare.‟”“Well, it would be nice if James had a little brother or sister that was close enough in age for him to be ableto have a true playmate.”“Are you sure, sweetheart? You just had James…”“I‟m sure. Just because we decide to start trying again doesn‟t mean that it will happen right away.”Jefferson didn‟t need to be told twice.
At the Thayer and Hutchins household, talk had turned to planning Victor and Jane‟s wedding.“Is she still insisting on having the wedding right after she graduates from SimRadcliffe?” sighed Phily.Victor nodded. “Yes. She‟s also decided that she wants to do it here, in the rose garden.”
“That will be divine,” sighed Meadow. “Everything will be in full bloom by early summer.”“That it will,” agreed Henri. “Victor, what about you? What do you want for your wedding?”
“I want whatever Jane wants, Mama. As long as we‟re married by the end of the day, I‟ll be a happy man.”Phily smiled at her nephew. She was still amazed at what a good man he was, given his horrific father andchildhood. “Don‟t get too carried away, Meadow. This is Jane‟s wedding. Make sure you consult herbefore you make too many major decisions.”
“Of course I will,” replied Meadow. “But how many times is our little girl going to get married? Just once. Iwant everything to be perfect for her big day.”“Have you started looking for her dress yet?”“This Saturday. Jane and I are going to visit the dressmakers to see what they can do.”
“Jane,” Meadow said to her daughter late that Saturday afternoon, “I know that you have a right tobe…particular…about your wedding gown, but I can‟t believe that you didn‟t see a single thing you liked inany of the dressmaker‟s shops we visited today.”“Oh, I know, Meadow. I feel horrible about dragging you all over the city with nothing to show for it.”“Do you even know what you are looking for?”Jane nodded earnestly. “It needs to be elegant, and dramatic, and…unique and original. Everything wesaw today could be worn by anyone. My dress needs to be one of a kind.”
Meadow regarded her daughter for a moment, thinking. “Must it be of the latest fashion?”Jane shook her head. “I actually think that most of the fashions of today are to simple for a suitablewedding gown.”“I have an idea.”
Meadow crossed the room and opened the wardrobe. She began moving her old gowns around until shefound what she was looking for.“Meadow? What are you doing?”“Come over here and see.”
Jane joined her mother at the wardrobe. Meadow had pulled a tissue-wrapped bundle from its depths, andplaced it at the top of the pile. She slowly removed the paper to reveal white satin and elaborate handbeading.Jane gasped. “It‟s beautiful! What is it?”“This,” replied Meadow, pulling the dress out and gently shaking it, “is the dress my mother had made forme in anticipation of my wedding. I never wore it, obviously.”“I‟ve never seen anything like it. It‟s stunning.”“Would you like to try it on? You‟re about the size I was when it was made.”Jane nodded, unable to speak.“Let‟s put your hair up, and give it a try.”
Jane gazed at her reflection for a long time. The dress, while not the latest cut, was exactly what she waslooking for.“By the smile on your face, I‟m guessing that you like the gown.”
“I do, Meadow. It‟s exactly what I was hoping for, but couldn‟t put into words. You really don‟t mind if Iwear it?”“Not at all. Goodness knows that my mother would be thrilled to see it worn by someone. It cost quite a bitof money, as you can imagine.”“I think I‟ll do without your necklace and earrings though. They do make it look a bit old fashioned.”“Whatever you want, Jane.”Jane turned back to the mirror, and resumed admiring herself from every angle. Meadow watched theyoung woman, tears building in her eyes.“Meadow, whatever are you crying for?”“Oh, it‟s just silliness. I was just remembering when you arrived here all those years ago, as a quiet, shylittle orphan who scarcely knew what to do. Now, you‟re all grown up and about to get married. It‟s just alot for me to take in.”
Jane wrapped her arms around the woman who had raised he as her own. “Meadow…Mother, my lifewouldn‟t be what it is today if you and Phily hadn‟t decided to take me out of that horrible orphanage. If youhadn‟t picked me, I never would have met Victor, and I wouldn‟t be about to become his wife. But nomatter how old I get, I‟ll always be your little girl.”Meadow was too choked up to speak, but she tightened her hold on her daughter.
“I still can‟t believe that she called you „Mother‟ after all these years,” mused Phily as she and Meadowenjoyed a quiet moment in the privacy of their back garden.“I know. But that was exactly what I needed at that moment. Really, Phily, we lucked out with Jane. Icouldn‟t have asked for a better daughter. She‟s sweet, caring, kind, and a good woman.”“That she is. Are you going to need two handkerchiefs at the wedding?” Phily asked, trying to lighten themood.“At least three,” retorted her partner. “Really, Phily. You‟re going to cry too. I know it.”“We‟re all going to be blubbering messes: you, me, Henri. What do you expect? Theirs is the happyending that all three of us wish we could have had for ourselves.”Meadow nodded. “In the end, though, things turned out just fine for you and I, and Henri. Still, I hope thatJane and Victor get their happily ever after.”“They will, Meadow. They will.”
In the Seiff house, in Simsfield, Lizzie was learning firsthand that motherhood wasn‟t all it was cracked upto be.
Taddy was one of the fussiest babies around. He would frequently cry and scream for no reason, andnothing would soothe him. Lizzie tried everything. She walked about with her baby in her arms. Thatdidn‟t work; in fact, he frequently squirmed so much with his cries that she was afraid of dropping him.
She would rub and gently pat his back, thinking he might have gas. That didn‟t work either; it only broughtthe source of the noise closer to her ear.
She tried rocking him in the chair that Jason had brought home for that purpose. That didn‟t work; therocking motion only succeeded in making Lizzie sleepier than she already was.Lizzie just didn‟t understand. Taddy was well-fed, showered with attention and playtime, and rarely had tosuffer a dirty diaper for more than a few moments. His constant screaming didn‟t make sense.
Her arms were frequently tired and sore from her efforts to soothe Taddy. One afternoon, they couldsupport holding him no more. She put him down in his crib and rubbed his belly for a few moments. Thisseemed to work, and the infant drifted to sleep.Thank goodness, she thought, not wanting to make any noise that might wake Taddy. She move silentlyas she could to the rocking chair, intent on catching a little sleep of her own. She would have gone to laydown on her bed, but she was afraid that the sound of the nursery door opening and closing would disturbthis rare moment of Taddy‟s silence.
She reclined in the chair and shut her eyes for a moment. Just then, someone must have walked by thehouse, because Jacques began barking. The noise woke up Taddy, who began to scream again.Completely frustrated, Lizzie fought back the urge to scream herself.What kind of a mother am I, if I can’t figure out what my son needs?
Somewhat reluctantly, she went and picked up her son. She hoped that his recent drowsiness would makeit easier for her to lull him back to sleep, but he was not at all cooperative. His fussing continuedthroughout the afternoon, and well past sunset.
The nursery was where Jason found the two of them when he returned home. Taddy‟s cries had softenedby that point, but he refused to be put down.“Has he been like this all afternoon?” asked Jason.Lizzie nodded. “He fell asleep for a few minutes, but then Jacques barked and it started all over again.”“Let me take him for a moment – you must be exhausted.”
Lizzie gratefully handed Taddy to Jason.
Jason began to rub his son‟s back, and the baby‟s cries ceased. Soon, the only sound that could be heardin the room were Taddy‟s slow and steady breaths, indicating that he had finally fallen asleep.
Jason put Taddy down in his crib, and the baby didn‟t stir. Saying a silent prayer of thanks, he kissed hisson on the head and tucked him in.
Jason turned around to see Lizzie sobbing silently. He quickly moved to her side, and put his arms aroundhis wife.
“Sweetheart, what‟s wrong?”“I‟m a terrible mother,” Lizzie whispered between sobs.“No, you are not. You are an amazing mother. Taddy is the most well-taken care of baby that I‟ve everseen. Why would you think you think otherwise?”“I‟ve been trying to get him to go to sleep all day, and I couldn‟t do it. You walk in and manage to do it inless than ten minutes. I‟m a failure.”
“Elizabeth Bradford Seiff, you are many things, but a failure is not one of them. It is not your fault thatTaddy has a difficult temperament. When he is hungry, you feed him. When he is lonely, you play withhim. When he has a dirty nappy, you change it. And you never complain about getting up in the middle ofthe night to care for him. You are not a failure, Lizzie. You never could be.”
“Thank you, Jason. These past few months haven‟t been easy for me.”“I know – I hadn‟t noticed how dark the circles under your eyes had gotten. What you need is a goodnight‟s sleep.”“That does sound heavenly.”“And I‟ll get up for Taddy if he needs someone. I want you to get a full night‟s rest.”
Fortunately for Lizzie and Jason, Taddy slept through the night for the first time. Lizzie awoke, feelingmore refreshed and like herself than she had in a long time.“Those dark circles are gone,” commented Jason.“I feel a thousand times better,” she replied.
“I‟m glad. Please don‟t let yourself get to that point again. If you need help with Taddy, ask.”“I will. Now, how does a pancake breakfast sound?”
Luckily for Lizzie, Taddy soon became a toddler and much easier to take care of. He grew into a shy,active, playful little boy who could barely sit still for more than a few moments.“No wonder you used to be so fussy,” Lizzie said. “You couldn‟t wait to grow a little bigger so you could runaround and play.”
And play the little boy did. Lizzie and Jason could barely keep up with their son‟s energy. But Taddy‟sfavorite way to pass time was playing with Jacques, the little Scottish Terrier that Carolina had given Lizzieyears ago. Jacques was getting on in years, but he enjoyed his romps with Taddy as much as the little boydid.
As spring progressed, Marsha began to feel a familiar queasiness in the mornings as she tended thegarden in the mornings.
She was hopeful that this meant a little brother or sister for James would soon be arriving, but it was still toearly to be certain.
Matthew had mellowed dramatically from his younger years, and he developed a special soft spot for hisgrandson. Frequently, he would offer to feed or play with James, though he left the messiness of diaperduty to the womenfolk. Marsha was consistently shocked whenever Matthew offered to take the baby fromher, so she could have a few moments to herself, but Jefferson remembered how Matthew had alwaysfavored him over Lizzie. Matthew‟s interest in the next Bradford heir made perfect sense to Jefferson.
As spring moved forward, the Bradfords kept themselves busy. Jefferson painted a portrait of his wife tojoin the collection in the upstairs hallway. Everyone who saw it remarked on what a good likeness it was.
Of course, there were some who did not approve of its addition to the family collection.“Disgraceful,” Jan muttered each time she passed it. “Jefferson‟s portrait should have been done first.”
She immediately forced her son to sit for his portrait, and she worked diligently until it was completed.
It soon joined Marsha‟s, and everyone concurred that they were two of the best portraits to date.
Again, Jan would disagree with that statement, mostly because she preferred the subjects in another set ofportraits.
Before long, it was time for James to become a toddler. As Marsha‟s suspicions turned out to be correctand she was indeed expecting her second child, she insisted that it be only a family party.“How are you feeling today?” inquired Matthew.“Much better, now that I don‟t feel ill in the mornings any longer. Just a little more tired than usual, and thatis easily combated with a nap.”“Well, make sure you take care of yourself. My grandson needs to you to stay healthy.”“I will,” replied Marsha, resenting the implication that this child was a boy as well. This pregnancy seemeddifferent than her first, and she was hoping that it meant she and Jefferson would have a daughter this timearound.
When Jefferson arrived home, he was assigned the honor of bringing James to the cake that Marsha hadbaked.
Jefferson glanced at Marsha. “Ready for our baby to grow up?”Marsha nodded. “There will be another one to take his place soon,” she said, patting her expandingstomach.
The candles on the cake were lit, and the family began to sing as Jefferson rocked James back and forth.
Jefferson leaned forward, and blew out the candles. “Time to see how you turn out, James.”
James Bradford turned into an adorable toddler who favored his father in nose and his mother in mouth.As for his temperament, well, he took after his grandfather in that he was very neat, very playful, and very,very mean.
Marsha immediately set out to teach James some of his toddler skills. First and foremost was getting himpotty trained, so that when the new baby came along she wouldn‟t have to deal with two sets of diaperchanges.
But not long after that, Marsha found that taking care of a toddler as her pregnancy progress was simplytoo much for her. As much as she wanted to be the arms that James took his first steps towards, shecouldn‟t do it. She took to her bed for morning and afternoon naps, and hardly passed any time with herson.
James too took many naps, but his were not nearly as frequent as his mothers. One day, he woke up, andlooked around the nursery for a way to pass the time until Mama or Papa or Grandmother or Grandfathercame to play with him.
He settled on the bunny toy that his Papa had bought. It was one of his favorites, and he settled in for whathe thought would be an enjoyable afternoon of babbling at the plaything.
Shortly after, Jan went into the nursery, and sat down with her grandson.“Are you having fun with your bunny, James?”
“Like bunny. Wanna play more bunny,” he replied, his eyes never leaving the toy.
“How about Grandmother teaches you something new? Would you like that James?”“What Gwanma teach?”“To walk, like a big boy.”“Is big boy!” he insisted.“I know, James. Wouldn‟t you like to walk like Grandfather and Father, and not like a baby?”James threw the bunny to the side where it made a splendid crash against the wall.“Walk like big boy!” he demanded.
Jan smiled. “Grandmother will show you, because Grandmother wants you to be treated like the big boyyou are.”
She helped James to his feet, and took a few steps backwards.“Now, come to Grandmother.”
James stood on unsteady feet for a moment, watching Jan. He took a tentative step forward, and, when hedidn‟t tumble to the ground as he usually did, quickly crossed to his grandmother‟s waiting arms.
“That‟s my smart boy!” praised Jan. “I knew you could walk like a big boy. Your mother doesn‟t want youto walk, because she is selfish and wants to keep you like a baby. But Grandmother knows that you are abig boy and should be treated as such.”“Big boy!” agreed James.“Yes, you are, my dear boy. Always remember that Grandmother loves you and wants what is best foryou.”“Gwanma love James.”“Yes, I do. Whenever you need, you just ask Grandmother, and she will make sure that you get it.”
Desperate for a few moments to herself, Jan put on her coat and went to sit on the bench outside. Sheshifted, trying to find a comfortable position on the cold, hard seat.Ever since Jefferson had run off and married Marsha despite her best efforts, Jan had been searching for away to exact revenge on the woman who had foiled all her carefully laid plans. James‟ arrival had finallygiven her an idea. Marsha, being completely family-oriented, wanted nothing more than to be a perfectmother. If Jan could sway James to favor her over Marsha, the younger woman would be devastated. Janwould, for the time being, have to coddle the toddler, and lavish him with affection. With Marsha prettymuch out of the picture for the time being due to her exhausting pregnancy, it wouldn‟t be too difficult.
When he wasn‟t busy at work, Jefferson tried to spend as much time with James as he could. Oneevening, he was trying to finish up teaching the little boy to talk.“Now, James, it‟s pronounced Grandma. Can you say it?”
“Gwanma.”“No, James. Grandma. Say the „r.‟ I know you can do it.”“No.”“Please, James?”“NO!”
“James, I know you can do it. Just once, for Papa.”“No, NO, NO!!!” the little boy shouted.Jefferson sighed. “Maybe Mama will have better luck with you.”“No Mama. Gwanma!!”“You want Grandma instead of Mama? Why, James?”“Gwanma love James.”“Mama loves you too, James.”“Gwanma love James most.”
Jefferson‟s face fell at his son‟s statement. What has my mother been telling him while I’m away all day?Marsha mustnt know about this, or she would have said something to me. I’m going to have to cut backthe number of hours I spend at the office, to make sure Mother doesn’t do any further damage. Jamesthinking that Marsha doesn’t love him will destroy her.
Jefferson wasn‟t the only one to notice that Jan had been influencing James‟ feelings about his mother.Matthew brought home a block toy for James to play with, and proceeded to explain it to the boy.“You see, you need to match the blocks up with the same sized hole.”“Same?”
“Yes, James. If the block matches the cutout, it will fall through to the bottom. Now, find the block thatmatches this shape,” he said, pointing to the square hole.
James grabbed the square-shaped block that was painted blue, and jammed it through the identical slot.“Bravo, my boy! You are a smart one.”“I know, Gwanpa. Gwanma tell me.”“And your Grandmother is quite right. We are all proud of you.”
“Gwanma most proud. Gwanma love me best.”Matthew was a bit taken aback by his grandson‟s statement.“James, all of us love you very much. Grandmother, Grandfather, Father, and Mother.”
“NO!!” cried the little boy as he smashed a block into a hole that it wasn‟t meant to go through. “Gwanmabest! Gwanma tell me she love me best! More than Mama! Gwanma love James! Not Mama!GWANMA!!!!!”
“Is that what Grandmother told you?”“Yes. Gwanma love James.”“Interesting,” muttered Matthew. “Very interesting.”“James hungry, Gwanpa.”“Then Grandfather will fetch you a bottle. Because Grandfather loves you too. Not as much asGrandmother,” he quickly added when he saw the little boy‟s face fall. “Almost as much as Grandmother.”
Matthew brought the bottle up to his grandson, patted the boy on the head, and left the nursery.“Gwanma love James,” the boy said to the room. “Not Mama. Gwanma.”
Later that night, Matthew decided to confront his wife when her defenses would be low.“Jan, what have you been teaching our grandson?”“Why do you ask?”“He made some very…interesting…comments to me earlier today when I was showing him the block toy Ibought for him. He says, no insists, that you love him more than his mother does.”
Jan rolled away from Matthew, so he wouldn‟t see the smug smile on her face. “Can I help it if the poorchild thinks that? His mother has hardly seen him – she spends all her time resting. That‟s not my fault.”“And you have said nothing to sway his affections towards you?”Jan did not reply, and Matthew sighed.“You need to be careful, Jan. There is nothing more dangerous than an angry mother.”Jan couldn‟t help but snort. “Then she should have realized that when she interfered with my plans forJefferson. I told you that I wasn‟t going to stand for it, and I‟m not. Now go to sleep, and let me worryabout dealing with our daughter-in-law.”
“Jefferson, are you awake?”“I am now,” he muttered sleepily. “What‟s wrong? Is it time for the baby?”“No. I just…it‟s silly. Go back to sleep.”“No, what‟s on your mind.”“It‟s James. He doesn‟t seem to like me very much. He always asks for your mother whenever I go intothe nursery.”Jefferson closed his eyes. He had hoped to keep this fact from Marsha until after the baby was born.“I noticed that too, when I was trying to teach him to talk. Hopefully, it‟s just because she‟s been caring forhim while you‟ve been pregnant, and he‟ll come around once you can spend more time with him.”“I hope you‟re right, but with your mother…”“I know. I‟ve told my office that I‟m going to need to cut back on my hours for a little while, and I‟ll do mybest to keep an eye on what Mother tells James.”“Thank you. I just hope it‟s not too late to undo any damage she may have done. I can‟t bear the thoughtof my little boy not loving me.”
The next day was a Saturday, which meant that Jefferson didn‟t have to go to work. Marsha decided toshow off her improved violin skills, and lead him down to the music room. The plan soon changed, as itbecame evident that baby number two was about to make an appearance.
Having missed the birth of his son, Jefferson was at a bit of a loss as to what he should do.“Just go call the doctor!” grimaced Marsha between her labor pains.
Jefferson rushed to the telephone, while Marsha doubled over in pain.
This time, Marsha was able to make it upstairs to her bedroom for the delivery. A short time after, shebrought down the little bundle to meet the rest of the family. This baby favored Jefferson in eyes and skin,and shared Marsha and Jefferson‟s brown locks.
“This little beauty,” said Marsha, holding up the infant to rub noses, “is Viola.”
Viola was strong and healthy, and Jefferson couldn‟t have been more pleased.“I know how much you wanted a daughter,” he smiled at his wife.Matthew nodded, stating, “She‟ll be the belle of Simsfield when she gets a little older.”Jan sniffed. “Looks like you‟ll have to try again for a brother for James.”
Marsha was deeply hurt by Jan‟s words, but did her best to brush them off.“Mama and Papa are very glad you‟re here, Viola,” she said to the baby as she burped her. “No matterwhat anyone else says. You are one of the most important people in the world to me.”Viola replied with a content noise, and Marsha smiled.“At least with you being a girl, I won‟t have to worry about your Grandma trying to corrupt you.”
Spring moved closer to summer, and Marsha was pleased to see that the gardener had been correct, andthe orchard trees were bearing fruit again. She spent a pleasant afternoon harvesting lemons, ignoring thecomments from Jan, who felt that Marsha‟s time would be better occupied in the house with the children.“Leaving the babies alone again,” she muttered just loud enough for Marsha to hear.
Marsha ignored the snide remarks. She won’t be complaining when we have fresh lemonade to enjoy onthe warm summer afternoons that will be here shortly. Not that she’ll be thanking me either.
Still, the call of the nursery was strong, and Marsha decided to see if she could undo some of Jan‟sinfluence on her son.“Hello, James. Mama would like to teach you a song. Would you like that?”
“No! Want Granma! Want Granma NOW!!!”
Marsha sighed, and sat down across from the boy. “Are you certain about that, James?”
“Yes! Want Granma!” he whined.
“But James,” said Marsha in a moment of inspiration, “Grandma asked me to teach you this song.”“She did?” replied the little boy, his eyes growing wide.“She did,” Marsha nodded, trying to keep her face sincere.“Teach James song!” he demanded.
“I shall, James. Now, repeat after me:Hickory, dickory, dock,The mouse ran up the clock.The clock struck one,The mouse ran down!Hickory, dickory, dock.”
James smiled at his mother, swinging his arms in time to the music as she sang.“You like that, don‟t you James? Now, you try.”James repeated the rhyme that Marsha had sung moments before, laughing as he did so.“Very good, James. Mama is very proud of you.”James beamed, and then rubbed his stomach.“Hungry, Mama!”“You are? Well, Mama will go get you a bottle.”“Granma?”“No, James. Grandma is still busy. Wait just a moment, and you shall have your bottle.”
“Here you go, James.”“Gimme!”“James, say „please‟ and „thank you.‟”“Granma no make James say.”“Well, it‟s what a big boy and a gentleman would say. Don‟t you want to be a gentleman like Papa and,”with a moments hesitation, “Grandpa?”James nodded. “Pwease bottle, Mama?”Marsha put the bottle in the boy‟s outstretched hands. “Tank you, Mama.”“You are welcome, James. Now, drink up, and Mama will tell you a story before you go to bed.”
Marsha watched James as he gulped down his milk. He might have a quick temper, and Jan‟s influencesmay have turned him against her to an extent, but he was still barely more than just a baby. Perhaps, witha little love an affection, Marsha would be able to reverse whatever Jan had taught her son. There wasplenty of time to make him see that she wasn‟t the enemy.And I will do that, vowed Marsha. Jan will not take my son away from me.
“You‟re in a better mood today,” commented Jefferson, as he and Marsha relaxed in the quiet of their room.“I think I made some progress in getting James to like me a little bit more.”“How did you accomplish that?”“I did have to tell him a little white lie,” she admitted. “I told him Grandma asked me to help him. Oh, Iknow that was a risky move,” she said quickly, when she saw the shocked look on her husband‟s face, “butI had to do something. I can‟t have my son grow up thinking I‟m a horrible person, Jefferson. I just can‟t.”“I know that love. I‟m just a little concerned about you using similar tactics to what my mother is.”“I know. I can‟t stand the thought of lying to our son either. But I had to find a way to get through to him.You do understand, don‟t you?”“I do, my love. With any luck, you won‟t have to do it again.”“That‟s what I hope as well. Now, there is something else I‟d like to speak with you about.”“And that is…”She leaned in closer and whispered in his ear. “I want to have another baby.”
Jefferson stiffened, and sat up straight. “Are you sure? You‟ll be tired again, and with this progress thatyou‟ve made with James…don‟t you want to wait a little longer?”Marsha shook her head. “I want to have our children while we‟re still young enough to enjoy them. Jameswill be growing up soon, and Viola will become a toddler. I want another baby, Jefferson. I promise thiswill be the last.”“You know I can deny you nothing,” he said, kissing her hand. “All right. Let‟s start trying for our third.”
Summer was soon closing in, and Jefferson was enjoying a late morning in the garden with his wife.“You do this every day? Isn‟t there something that we could do to keep the weeds from popping up likethis?”“No, Jefferson.”“Well, maybe we should increase the gardener‟s hours so that she can help out with things like this.”“Jefferson, the whole point of a garden is to tend it yourself. Now, if you don‟t want to weed, why don‟t youget out the spray and take care of those plants that the bugs have taken over?”“Killing things, even if they are small, is much more manly. I‟ll do that.”
As Marsha finished up the weeding and Jefferson began spraying, her stomach lurched. Her hands flew toher mouth and stomach.“Is something wrong?” asked Jefferson, when he noticed her discomfort.“I think the smell of the spray doesn‟t agree with me. I think I‟ll go inside and lie down for a while.”
*************************************************************************************************************************That is the end of Chapter 17. A little shorter than I usually do, but it‟s hard to write much about babies andtoddlers, IMO.Unlike usual, I‟m not going to try and guess what‟s coming next. I‟m not exactly sure where some thingsare going, and I don‟t want to make promises as of yet.Thank you for reading. Please leave all comments on the Bradford Legacy thread at Boolprop.com. Untilnext time!