Penny was sitting on the front stoop of the shack. What suffices for her front yard is dirt. There is a tire swing hanging from a tree branch. It is unmoving in the hot summer air. She has a large spoon in one hand and a coffee cup in the other. Up until a few minutes ago, she was playing in the dirt.
She’s about 3 years old, maybe 4. She has large blue eyes, long lashes and brown hair that cascades in waves and curls to her waist.
Daddy came home a little while ago. Daddy works in the woods cutting down big trees. She’s been to where he works. Her momma took her and her brothers out to Daddy’s work and they all had a picnic one day. She remembered climbing on a giant tree that was lying on its side. Her Daddy had to lift her up because even lying on the ground; it was so tall she couldn’t reach the top without help.
Daddy was in the house with Momma. They were yelling. So she stayed outside. She didn’t like it when her Momma and Daddy yelled.
Daddy walked funny when he got home, like he was dizzy. When he reached down to give her a hug, he smelled bad, sour. She didn’t like the smell. She didn’t like it when Daddy smelled sour. It always meant that he and Momma would fight.
Beside the front stoop was a small cloth doll. She picked it up and hugged it tight to her. The doll had blue buttons that Momma had sewn on for eyes, brown yarn for hair, and a pretty blue dress that Momma had made from an old shirt of Daddy’s. The doll’s name was Tinkerbell. This was a name that her mother called Penny sometimes. She loved her Tinkerbell doll.
Penny stood up and strolled to the corner of the house and looked out back. In the back was an outhouse and beyond that a creek where Momma got water. Sometimes Daddy or her older brothers would help bring in water if Momma had to do laundry or if it was bath night.
Momma would heat water on the big wood stove in the kitchen and each of them would get a turn in the galvanized wash tub she also used for laundry. Momma always made sure there was a good fire going in the kitchen so Penny wouldn’t get cold on bath night. She set the tub on the floor, not too close to the stove and her and Momma would splash and play while she was scrubbed clean. Then Momma would take her out and rub her down briskly with a towel, tickling her and making her laugh.
Penny was thinking about bath night as she heard the front door open and slam shut. She looked toward the front yard and Daddy got in his truck and pulled away fast, leaving a cloud of dust behind.
Penny walked in the back door. Momma was sitting at the picnic table in the kitchen that served as a dining room table. Her face and eyes were red.
Penny walked over and laid her head on her mother’s shoulder. Her mother turned and looked down at Penny and said, “It’s alright Tinkerbell” and took her in her arms, giving her a big hug.
About that time, the front door burst open. Her 3 brothers were home. They had been out playing in the woods. Penny tore away from her mother and rushed into the main room of the house to greet her brothers.
The main room of the shack had a large fire place and several beds. This is where they all slept. There was little else in the shack other than some boxes in the corner that served as dressers for clothing and Daddy’s tools.
The boys, David, Bruce and Roy were all jabbering excitedly. Momma walked in to see what the commotion was all about.
The boys pulled her outside and just beyond the front stoop was a bobcat, dead, that they had drug home.
The boys had grown up in the woods. The 2 older ones in their teens, never left the property without their bows and arrows. They had spotted this bobcat in the tree along a trail they frequented and Bruce took it down with one clean shot from his bow.
Penny didn’t understand what the fuss was all about. What she saw was a big kitty, a pretty kitty, that was dead.
They all went into the house and Momma stirred the pot of beans on the stove while the boys went out back to wash up before dinner.
Penny loved it when her brothers were home. They all sat down to big helpings of beans and delicious cornbread that Momma had cooked in her cast iron skillet in the wood stove.
Penny looked around her. She smiled. She was loved and she knew it. This would be another evening without Daddy, but he would there in the morning when she woke up.
Penny bolted awake. Shaking her head, she tried to clear the images from her mind. They clung tightly, like cobwebs you can’t see.
Why, at 56 years of age, would she be dreaming of that time so long ago? She swung her feet over the side of the bed. She looked around her. She loved her cozy home in the city. She had a good life here.
Most people think they are a product of their environment; Penny liked to think she was a product IN SPITE of hers. She had come so very far. She thought her mother would be proud.
Sitting on the patio, gazing at the skyline and sipping her morning coffee, Penny reflected on her life. Despite her humble beginnings, she had worked hard, always learning. She knew that knowledge had power and it would move her forward in life.
She was not rich by any stretch of the imagination, but she wasn’t poor either. She had a comfortable home, most creature comforts her mother never had, like air conditioning and a washing machine…. Such simple things, to most of us, that were light years away for her mother. She shook her head, marveling at the things most people take for granted.
Some people called her “Penny Pincher”, because even today, she was very frugal. In her past she had to be. Now it was just a way of life.
A thought occurred to her. She had been on the phone with her brother David and had been reminiscing about their childhood. That must have prompted the dream.
The road had been difficult. From the shack in the NW woods, to migrant life on the road with her family; her life seemed like a movie or novel she had read rather than something she actually lived.
She stood, stretched and yawned. She thought she would pour herself a 2nd cup of coffee and just enjoy the morning. Her cat, Otis wound his way around her legs as she fixed her coffee. She picked him up and held him tight. Penny looked into those amazing green eyes and said “Otis, you and I are very lucky indeed!”
Although not a religious person, Penny did believe in a Higher Power. She took her coffee cup back out to the patio and set about giving thanks for the little wonders in her world. Electricity, running water, a warm, comfortable home…..
Beautiful picture found on Unsplash by Aaron Burden