Wednesday, July 8, 2009

And on we go...

... 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.


Daniel said...

I had to laugh about the bread dough. I absolutely love kneading bread. But than I also like mixing ground beef by hand to make meatballs. And playing with play dough.

Pom Pom said...

More little details, please. Maybe she could walk in on Catherine and hear Catherine praying for her. And don't you think she'd be moved if she experienced her new family's generous tendency to make things for others and share meals? City folk don't do that as much. Keep going - it's good!

The Author said...

Very good! :D
But typical today. Thank you for sharing this story, it encourages me not to complain when I do what I do.

Mrs.Rabe said...

I am really enjoying this story, Mrs. Anna!

Thanks for keeping it going!

Persuaded said...

I want to be Becky!! Wouldn't it have been nice to have had all of that hands on training *before* one started on one's own home??

(but I suspect dear little Becky doesn't see things in quite the same light as I do;))

This is a good read, Anna.. I am finding myself very interested in Becky and her story♥

Mrs W said...

I really like this story. A lot. However, I think it would be MUCH more real, if, in the midst of all the things that Becky hates, there was one or two things she loved, and she was good at. I know some pretty useless people, but none of them are quite that useless...makes her seem not quite real. Maybe if she hated everything but loved the music and looked forward just to that, or whatever. But, it's not my story, its yours.

Mrs. Anna T said...

Mrs. W,

It will definitely happen :)

Shannon said...

"I wonder how come she doesn't take her knitting needles to the bathroom yet." LOL Anna! This end of this segment really cracked me up. I am liking this story and I think many of us ex-feminist (not sure of the right term to use) types can attest to being in Becky's predicament at one time or another.

Anonymous said...

I understand that this is a story about contrasting extremes, so if I'm reading too much into it, please do forgive me. It's just that not all less-than-simple lifestyles produce complaining spoiled, lazy children. I am not a full time homemaker and my daughters show none of the signs of having been indulged to the point of being spoiled that Becky has. I suppose what I'm craving is more of Becky's spoiled background. With her story out of context, it sounds as if anyone who doesn't live the life of Aunt Anne, Uncle Ben, and Catherine is somehow living a debaucherous life and spoiling their children.


Anonymous said...

LOL....I loved that last line: "if she could cross-stitch with one hand & play piano with the other, I have no doubt she would do that."

Poor Becky! I pray that soon she will develop a fondness for the feel of the dough, the rhythm of the needles, the happy feeling of growing good food to eat.

And on that note, it's time for me to tend to supper, & check on some of my flowers outside!

wishing you well, Anna-

Rose said...

I was wondering when we would hear from Becky again. I'm enjoying the story Anna. Best wishes, Rose

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Sally on this one. It would be good to have some background as to why Becky is this way - at the moment, it just seems presented as an obvious stereotype, as if anyone not raised like Catherine must be a spoiled brat.
(BTW, Catherine is really a Christian name in my book. I'm not sure I know of anyone Jewish called Catherine....although I do recall you are not quite settled on those details yet).

Even more, I would love background on Aunt Anne's family. They seem to embrace everything about the 'simple life', with a serious Victorian slant (calligraphy? flower arranging?) What makes this family tick? How did they get to be this way? It's unlikely they were raised like this (ESPECIALLY if you decide to make them Jewish). I think the story would gain a whole new level of depth if you expanded on how and why they chose this lifestyle, and what parts of it they are still ambiguous is grey, not black and white, and right now the contrast is too simple.

Complexity, ambiguity, mixed feelings, internal conflict, should be a part of every character just as in real life.
Fromt the very beginning, not as an afterthought. Otherwise it becomes caricature.

These are just my two cents. Hope it wasn't too critical, it is obvious you write beautifully. This story has the potential to become something so much more than propaganda for an idealized Victorian era.

Bailey said...

Catherine should meet my younger sister, our crocheter, bread maker, pianist and all-things-crafty girl. :)

I had to sympathize with Becky on chopping used to take me fifteen minutes to do, say, a single bell pepper. ;) Do keep sharing!

Jenn@Spejory said...

I am so enjoying this! I was once that girl...but had to learn to be a wife, keep a home, raise children, and homeschool on my own. How I wish I could have had an experience like this at this age. I can't wait to read what happens next.

Anonymous said...

I've *really* been enjoying these Anna, please continue on! (o:

Meagan said...

Wow. I remember now after reading your story why it is that I am no longer allowed to read fiction at this point in my life. If I get ahold of a fiction book, I tend to get into it and read all night... can't do that with young kids around.... they don't get why moms so grumpy and didn't get enough sleep...

Sasha said...

I agree that Becky seems a bit unreal...well a lot unreal. Even in the beginning,when she didn't care that much about leaving her boyfriend or miss her granny. It feels like she desn't have ANY feeling except for disgust and annoyance. Perhaps,you should describe her real feelings a little bit. And the family is too perfect which makes it feel unreal too. Lie they never argue or do anything wrong at all. Hope my words won't hurt your feeling,because I actually do enjoy reading this story.

Sasha said...

Oh,and one more thing.I won't inerrupt your own stroy,but it would be a nice idea that while Becky will gradually become modest and a good girl,Catherine will start to lose the right path(like dating boys,running away etc),and then Becky will help her return home and become a good and decent girl again.

Kim M. said...

I love this story!