... telling the story of Becky, who isn't too happy with her new life. For the previous part, click here.
I thought things were bad, but now it's getting worse. Aunt Anne is determined to make my life completely and totally miserable.
One of these days, she told me that for tomorrow, she assigns me as her personal helper and I will work by her side all day long. Alright, I thought, this means a break from school, doesn't it?
Next day, she woke me up at five in the morning. Five! It was still dark outside. What on earth was she thinking? But I knew better than to say this aloud. Instead, I politely asked:
- What's going on, Aunt Anne?
- Nothing special, Becky. Get dressed quickly and come downstairs, we're baking bread today.
No kidding, I thought. Why does it have to be so early? But she dragged me out of bed anyway.
That was the first time in my life I ever touched dough. I couldn't even imagine how sticky and disgusting it is. I was in dough up to my elbows, I had dough under my fingernails, I even broke one nail! I suspect it remained in the dough, but no one noticed.
After breakfast, Aunt Anne sent me to do schoolwork for two hours, but for the rest of the day, she kept me by her side. I had to peel and chop vegetables for lunch (I think I must have cut my fingers a hundred times), load the dirty laundry into the washing machine and hang it to dry, pick berries at the garden, stir the jam while it cooked, fold the dry laundry, sweep the living room floor, and a thousand other chores I'm too tired to write about. Never before I was so happy simply because I can finally crawl into my bed and sleep.
Today, Uncle Ben went to town on work business, and gave Aunt Anne a lift so she can make her weekly shopping trip and run some errands. Most of the fruit and vegetables we eat come from the garden, but there's still a lot to buy. Aunt Anne was gone all morning, so Catherine took over preparing breakfast and lunch. I thought I could slip away, but she wouldn't leave me alone. We had beetroot salad on the menu. I had to peel and chop the beetroot, and my hands are still bright pink, even though I've washed them three times. Then we went to do our schoolwork, and Aunt Anne returned around lunch.
After that one miserable experience, Aunt Anne didn't make me get up at the crack of dawn to bake bread (Catherine sometimes volunteers to get up early instead of Aunt Anne, and bakes bread for the whole family - have I mentioned I think she's crazy?); when she saw that I already learned how to wash the floors and dishes and operate the washing machine, she decided that I should learn what she calls "fine feminine arts". I tried to protest, but in vain. C., shining with enthusiasm, volunteered to help. I'm trapped! At least they aren't making me play the piano. Yet.
So, what did Aunt Anne mean by "fine feminine arts?"
Sewing - by hand and using the sewing machine
Knitting and crochet
Cross-stitch and embroidery
Making flower arrangements
Doesn't it sound like it would bore anyone to death? And it's just the beginning. Catherine happily told me that as soon as I try my hand at all of the above, she'll be glad to show me how to do calligraphy, basket-weaving and scrapbooking.
- Make that every day after lunch, Becky, - said Aunt Anne. - You don't need to be very good at sewing, but you should at least know how to fix a loose button.
Every day? I couldn't take that. I protested. If you believe this, Catherine stepped up for me. Aunt Anne allowed me to practice sewing and all that every other day, and on days when I don't, bake with Catherine or work in the garden. Thanks a lot!
I wish I had thought twice before coming here.
The first sewing lesson was terrible. It seemed as though I managed to stick the needle in my fingers more often than in the fabric. But Catherine is optimistic. Alright, I understand that fixing a button can sometimes be practical, but why, oh why would I ever want to knit sweaters or make doilies?
- I'm not saying you will need it, Becky, - said Aunt Anne, - and I'm not saying you will like it. But I do believe you ought to at least try.
So, I was given a whole basket of clothes to mend, and I'm knitting a scarf. I keep missing stitches and it looks dreadful, but Aunt Anne and Catherine don't seem to care, they are just delighted when they see me in the process. I still don't see the point in all this. Aunt Anne doesn't mind that the buttons are lopsided, as long as I "keep busy".
What I fail to understand is how C. can endlessly sit and do all that stuff without anyone making her to. Whenever she has a spare moment, she takes out her knitting. She does that while we wait for the boys to wash their hands for dinner, in the car if she goes to town with Aunt Anne, and even in bed before she goes to sleep. I wonder how come she doesn't take her knitting needles to the bathroom yet.
I forgot to mention another brilliant idea of Aunt Anne. While we sew or knit, we do that to the sounds of classical music. It's supposed to "fill us with energy and inspiration". C. is far from objecting, of course - if she could cross-stitch with one hand and play the piano with the other, I have no doubt she would do that.