A Childhood Story
Connecticut, November 9,1962
Companion story to "A Childhood Lost"
By Gilmoradict
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"Laura, can't you go play nicely like your sister? Your grandmother and I are visiting. I don't think anything we're talking about is of any interest to YOU. Scoot now."
"Abigail, come now. Laura's not in the way." Laura's grandmother Anna pulled the six year old close, and attempted to restrain the child's wild hair behind one ear.
"You know your mother always loved to color pictures for me at the desk in her old room. Would you draw a picture for me?"
"Can't I go out in the yard and play?" Laura asked beseechingly, knowing her mother would not allow her outside alone, but hoping her Grandmother's rules might be different.
"Laura, I mean it. Go find something to do inside. No one wants to go outside today except you." Abigail answered before her mother had a chance, giving her daughter a disparaging look. The Connecticut day had dawned crisp and cool. Abigail's blood had thinned in her years in LA, she no longer tolerated the brisk weather of her childhood home. Turning back to her mother, Abigail said, "Frances always does everything I ask her to do, and is perfectly content. This one is never happy unless she's in motion - running, climbing, digging in the dirt. Sometimes I think she acts more like a boy than little Teddy."
Taking Laura's elfin face between her hands Anna kissed the freckled nose. "She's a perfect little girl Abigail. There's nothing wrong with a girl who likes to be outdoors."
Laura looked across her grandmother's spacious kitchen to the hearth room, where Frances was entertaining their little brother Teddy by building a block city. Teddy was enthusiastically driving a little metal car up and down the streets Frances had laid out for him. Three year old Teddy drove Laura crazy, playing with her things, and whining if she ran too far ahead of him, or if she pushed him too hard on the swing outside their California home. Frances seemed to have endless patience with him, and acted like his mother sometimes. She acted like Laura's mother sometimes too, and Laura certainly didn't need any more mother in her life. She wandered disconsolately up the stair case, her spindly legs poking out from the baggy corduroy slacks her mother had pulled out for her to wear that morning, saddle shoes scuffing on each stair. She hung over the banister eavesdropping on her mother and grandmother's conversation.
"How long ago did it disappear?" Abigail asked with concern.
"Oh, it's been well over a week. My hands get so stiff on these cold mornings. I can't quite remember taking it off, but all of a sudden I realized it was gone. I looked everywhere - into all the corners, under the cabinets, under the bed. It's as if it vanished into thin air."
"I'm so sorry Mom. Dad bought that for you on your twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, didn't he?"
"He did indeed. And he assures me he's going to hang in here with me with or without the ring." Anna's eyes twinkled as she caught a glimpse of Laura, entertaining herself by walking up the outside of the stair as she listened. The grandmother winked at the granddaughter, who smiled back, until she saw her mother look up at her as well.
"Laura!" At that exclamation the child startled, the leather soles of her shoes slipping off the tiny lip of stair they were balanced on. Falling, Laura managed to catch herself on the spindles of the banister, dangling nearly six feet above the hardwood floor. Abigail leaped to reach up and lift Laura safely down. The subsequent smack on the seat of her pants didn't feel exactly like rescue to the little girl.
"You are going to be the death of me! Upstairs NOW! I don't want to see your nose outside of my old room until we call you for lunch!" Abigail was breathing heavily. The fear she had felt at Laura's near accident was masked in anger.
Laura climbed slowly up the stairs, on the proper side of the banister now, turning to see Frances shaking her head. Teddy too stared at Laura with wide eyes, popping his thumb in his mouth as he did. Laura responded by sticking her tongue out at both of them, which for some reason inspired Teddy to begin to wail. Abigail scooped him up, cuddling him close to reassure him.
"You're just fine, Teddy dear, Mommy's not angry with you, but you must never climb up the outside of a stair like Laura just did. That was so, SO dangerous.'
Eyes stinging Laura turned away from her family and went upstairs alone, where she slammed the door to the room she and Frances were sharing. Walking over to the window, Laura stood and stared, her brown eyes bright with angry tears. Her mother always seemed to be unhappy with her. Laura didn't mean to be difficult, it just seemed like everything she did was the wrong thing. Daddy laughed at her misadventures, but on visits like this one, he wasn't around to smooth things over with her mother. As much as Laura loved her grandparents, she wished she could be anywhere else right now, as far away from her mother, Frances and Teddy as possible, maybe back home with Daddy.
Reaching into a drawer Laura pulled out a sweatshirt. She walked quietly to the door, opened it and crept out. The rest of the family was laughing and talking in the hearth room. Teddy had stopped crying and with great enthusiasm was telling his family a story. Laura sniffed. Creeping silently down the stair she slipped out the front door, holding her breath for fear someone would hear her.
Pulling the sweatshirt she had brought with her over her head, Laura shivered. Her mother was right, it WAS cold outside today. Avoiding a path that would allow the others to see her from the windows, Laura walked away from the stately house. She tucked her hands under her arms to keep them warm, but her bare ankles were soon chilled. Leaves were blowing around her, the wind tangling her already untidy hair, and slicing through her thin clothing. Stubbornly continuing, despite her shivering, the six year old continued walking for some time. Finally turning Laura stopped to look back. The road had turned, and she could no longer see her grandparent's house. A car swooshed past, honking, making Laura jump. Another streaked past, from the other direction. Laura's heart began to beat faster.
A solitary figure in a heavy coat appeared in the distance. Laura held her breath for a moment, until she realized the figure approaching was her grandmother. Running quickly toward her, Laura found herself enfolded in comforting arms.
"I'm glad you came back." Anna said solemnly. "I was afraid I wasn't going to be able to catch up to you!"
Laura shrugged. She wasn't sure she could speak without crying. She was surprised at how glad she was to hold her grandmother's hand, as they continued walking down the road. After several minutes of silence Laura finally asked,
"How did you know where to find me?"
"I just guessed, Little One. Laura, your mother went to talk to you just minutes after she sent you to your room. She was scared when you fell, and wanted to make sure you were o.k. When you weren't in your room everyone was concerned. Knowing you were upset, and that you like to be outside, I decided that's where I would start looking." Anna was thoughtful, smiled finally and said, "Do you know who you remind me of Laura? ME! I always had a hard time sitting still, and loved being outdoors exploring, just like you."
Laura turned her large almond shaped eyes on her grandmother. "You? You're always quiet, and perfectly well behaved. You don't have a bad temper like me. Even though you lost your special ring that Grandpa gave you, you didn't get mad. I get mad at Teddy and Frances all the time for bothering me and getting into my stuff.
Anna laughed. "Well, I'm a lot older than you, and I've had lots of time to practice patience. Things are never worth getting upset over, though, Laura. People. People are what count. I hope you'll always remember that. You know, your mother is worried about you. Perhaps we should head back to the house and let you warm up, and let her find you."
Laura nodded. They turned and began walking back. "I could help you look for your ring, Grandmother. I've got really good eyes."
"You have wonderful eyes, Little One. That would be the perfect thing for you to do while you're here." When the two were close to the house, Anna pointed to the cellar door. "Why don't you slip in there. I'll go in the front door, and tell them I've given the outside a good search already."
Glancing around to make sure no one was looking, Laura darted in the cellar door. The laundry was just inside. As she started down the steps Laura spotted something bright just under the washing machine. Stooping down, she picked the item up. It was her grandmother's ring! Laura stared, and rubbed the dirt and dust off of it. Hearing Frances coming down the inside stairway, she looked around for a hiding place. Seeing the big laundry bin under the clothes chute, Laura launched herself in backwards, scooting under the dirty clothes a bit, all while hanging on tight to Grandmother's ring. She closed her eyes and tried not to breathe heavily. Even so, Frances found her almost right away, and hollered out.
"Mother- I've found her! She was in the laundry hamper!" Frances shook Laura's arm, thinking the younger girl asleep. Laura opened her eyes, to find Frances trying to hug her from up above. "Are you o.k. Laura? We were so worried you'd run away. I'm sorry I didn't go out and play with you earlier. I will after lunch, o.k.?"
Laura hugged Frances back. "Frances - look what I found in the hamper!"
"Wow! Grandma's going to be really happy." Frances looked at the ring, her mouth a great, round circle. "Great job Laura!"
"Help me out please!" Laura said, trying to pitch her skinny leg over the side. Frances dragged her out, and the two ran up the stairs together, running into Abigail at the top.
"Look, Mommy! Look what I found in the hamper!" Laura held up her grandmother's ring. Abigail picked Laura up, closing her eyes as she rocked her daughter from side to side. Teddy jumped up and down by her side, hollering "Laura, Laura, Laura!" Frances took his hand and hushed him. As their grandmother came around the corner her face lit up too.
"Why Laura! Where did you find that?" She hugged Laura and Abigail together. "Two lost treasures! Laura, I think we will have to come up with a reward for finding my ring. And Frances, one for you too, for finding your sister!"
Laura looked at her grandmother and was about to say something when she stopped. Grandmother winked at her, and continued speaking as she pulled a leaf from Laura's hair, "I'm delighted that Laura found my ring, but finding our precious Laura safe is even better."
The End

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