Vivian woke early to the sound of a rooster crowing in the distance. The house was situated just far enough from the chicken coop to hear the morning crows. Grandpa Sonny had warned the kids that farm life means early morning life. “You’ll hear Russel Crow just before the sun comes up every morning.” The table erupted in laughter. Grandpa smiled, knowing well the name he’d chosen for his prize rooster would amuse the kids. And, he was right. They’d laughed and carried on over the fried chicken, corn, green beans and homemade cornbread the evening before. Everything on the table had been bought locally, born or raised on the farm. Vivian didn’t want to think about what might happen if Thatcher became attached to one of the chickens only to find out it was Sunday dinner. She’d cross that bridge if or when it presented itself. As she laid in bed the events from the night before replayed in her mind: they’d eaten a hearty supper and then unloaded clothes and bathroom essentials from the vehicles and trailer. There was more to unload today, but they’d made a good stab at it last night. Vivian knew they needed to get the U-Haul trailer turned in today, so she’d make emptying it their first priority this morning.
Vivian could feel Tatum stirring next to her so she slowly and quietly slid out of bed, grabbed her pink robe, and headed to the kitchen to brew some coffee. She’d made sure the coffee pot was unpacked and plugged in properly before she’d called it a night. What she hadn’t expected was the pantry to be full of groceries and the refrigerator/freezer loaded with produce and meat. She’d nearly wept when she realized it. Her Mother told her the church had gotten together and sponsored a “pounding” for their family. Vivian hadn’t heard that word in so long, she remembered as a child bringing canned food and produce to the church many Sundays for a family who needed some help. The thought warmed her to the very core.
She stood at the kitchen window with a steaming cup of coffee and looked out over the fields. The morning dew made the sunbeams dance, and for a single moment she forgot she’d ever left this place. Her mind wandered back to easier days, back to her innocence before life had made her jaded. She remembered running through the tall stalks and singing at the top of her lungs. Often times she’d have Rosco on her heels barking and loving the fresh air and sunshine. She remembered naming the chickens and playing in the coop until her Momma made her stop. “You’re getting them all riled up!” She’d say to Vivian in her high pitch voice. The barn had been one of her favorite places to sit and read. She’d climb up into the loft and get lost in one of “The Hardy Boys Mysteries.” She’d hear Happy below her whinnying and Vivian would talk to her softly and tell her how much she was loved. She thought back to the autumns of her youth when the fireflies would appear for their nightly light show. If you were real still they’d land on you and tickle your skin with their feathery legs. There were the church bells that chimed every day at noon, she wondered if they still did that these days? She had no idea how long she stood there reminiscing before she heard Tatum’s voice. “Morning, Mom.” Vivian turned from the window to face her, “hey, sweetie, how’d you sleep?” “Pretty good, I guess. Any idea where the toaster is?” Tatum had her heart set on toast with homemade raspberry jam they’d discovered in the pantry, a gift included in the pounding. Vivian and Tatum looked through the cabinets and drawers until Tatum exclaimed, “Bingo! Found it!” The smell of breakfast brought the rest of the Lancaster’s into the kitchen and soon the room was full of chatter.
After they’d eaten, they tidied up and made the short trek to Grandma and Grandpa’s house; the kids were eager to explore this place their Mom called home. Vivian was surprised that even the bigger kids seemed excited. Grandma Mae met them at the back door with warm hugs and kisses explaining that Grandpa was already out in the barn. That’s all Thatcher needed to hear, “Can I, Mom? Please?” He stood wiggling in place waiting for an answer. “What do you think, Mom, would Dad be okay with the help of an energetic ten year old?” Vivian smiled as she asked the question. “Oh, I’m sure he would.” Grandma Mae spoke as she opened the back door she’d just closed. Thatcher didn’t have to be told twice, he took off like he was being chased all the way to the barn. “Anybody else want to go?” “I’d like to,” Trevor spoke and moved toward the door. “Me too,” Trace followed his brothers. That left Timothy and Tatum with their Mother and Grandma in the house. “I was just about to feed the chickens,” Grandma smiled big, “who wants to help?” She knew Tatum would and she hoped to entice Timothy. Tatum stepped forward eagerly, but Timothy turned and walked over to the couch; he plopped down and opened his book, completely uninterested. Grandma tried to hide her disappointment as she looped her arm though Tatum’s and led her out the door to the chicken coop. Vivian’s heart was heavy watching her shy thirteen year old have such a hard time adjusting. “Hey, Timmy, want to go walk around the property with me?” She knew the answer but thought she’d give it a try. “Nah, I’m at a really good part in my book.” He answered without looking up. “Well, I’ll be back in a bit then, okay?” Timothy shook his head.
Vivian walked out the front door and in the opposite direction of the barn. She wanted some time to herself and she knew the kids were all in good hands right now. She made her way past the yard and kept walking until her feet were trudging through the black tilled up soil. She stopped and inspected the small plants that would soon be taller than her, not forgetting the miracle that one seed could produce thousands more. She appreciated the bright blue sky peppered with white clouds and she was especially thankful when the sun would hide behind one. She stooped and picked up a handful of dirt and let it flow through her fingers, such familiar sights and sounds everywhere. Something about this place would always pull at her heart strings, you don’t grow up running through the fields and not end up with dirt in your blood.
She walked, without paying attention to the time, thinking about the past and the future and what would become of them. She hadn’t gone to college, Thomas had told her she didn’t need to, he would provide for them. She’d worked hard to get him through undergrad and then law school and they’d celebrated big once he graduated and passed the bar exam. The first job offer seemed like a dream, and Thomas worked so hard to be successful; and he was. He was the youngest man in the history of the law firm to be a partner. “See, honey, I told you I would take care of us,” he’d told her. That very night they’d gone to a fancy dinner celebrating his accomplishment. If only they hadn’t put so much emphasis on success. She let the tears fall as she walked. She wished she could go back to those young married years and tell Thomas not to work so hard, not to be so caught up in what people thought of him. She didn’t know if it would’ve made any difference, but, oh, how she wished she had tried. “How did we get it so wrong?” She spoke to the budding corn stalks and the blue sky. If regret could somehow be channeled into change, she’d change so many decisions about their path. Starting with their faith. She had no idea how it happened, but over the years of their marriage, they’d almost completely quit going to church. Vivian wasn’t one who thought church was necessary to get to heaven, but she knew Christian community was good for the soul. When had they decided it wasn’t important? She couldn’t remember ever thinking that exactly, but her actions reflected what was in her heart; and, obviously, faithful church attendance wasn’t in there. “We got a lot of things wrong, Lord,” Vivian looked to the heavens as she spoke, “and I am so sorry and full of regret. But, with your help, I’m going to make some good changes starting today.” Vivian didn’t hear an audible voice and the wind didn’t blow majestically right at that moment making it feel sacred. But, what she did feel was determined. Maybe more than she’d been in her whole life. Determined to make good on her promise to do better and be better. “Help us, Lord, guide us, lead me and protect the kids.” It was the cry of her heart and the only ones to hear it were the Good Lord and thousands of little stalks of corn. Right then, the small plants didn’t look like corn to her, they looked like a promise. A promise of growth.