The backyard of Aunt Titus house ran all the way down to a small creek. There was a barn to the right of the yard where Uncle Sam stored the tractors, and farm equipment needed for the tree farm. He also had a bench in the back where he would enjoy his hobby of wood working. Pine wood was in large supply.
He mowed around the house but left the woods out back of the yard. Aunt Titus had her small garden to the left of the yard. She hung her clothes line between the garden and the barn. Snuggled next to the house on all sides were rhododendrons, roses, crocus, and green shrubs. This is where the birds used to hide sometimes.
There was a back porch where two wooden rockers and an outdoor glider seat were. I remember that us kids used to love to sit on that glider. Aunt Titus sat in her favorite rocker with a cup of tea and prayed each afternoon while watching the birds. Uncle Sam had hung a bird feeder so we had a lot of sparrows and cardinals. Once in a while we could hear a hawk or a woodpecker as well.
My favorite spot was the woods and the trail to the creek. How I loved those woods. I would explore the area and usually found rabbits or deer tracks. I would look up into the trees and see the branches silhouetted from the sun streaming through. The smell of the wet leaves and trees still remind me of those woods. The winding dirt path that led to the creek often had tree roots so it was a careful walk. The creek was narrow and the water ran smoothly. It wasn’t a rushing rapid sort of thing. The fish were plentiful though. I mostly caught perch and brought it home. Uncle Sam cleaned the fish as he didn’t trust me with a knife.
I saw deer at times, on the other side of the creek. The sound of the waves splashing over rocks as it went by was very soothing to me. No matter what was going on, I would find solace as I sat by the creek with my fishing pole.
It was a sunny afternoon when our Aunt Judy arrived with our cousins. Aunt Titus quickly ushered them all in and gave hugs to all. ‘Now Judy, I have your rooms all ready and I put the baby in with you for now. The crib is old but I am sure it will be fine. I put Jamie and Joan in with the girls. I figured they would feel safer that way. That is if it’s ok with you of course.’
Aunt Judy looked frazzled and just nodded her head. Aunt Titus had also brought down the old playpen from the attic and placed it in the living room. Little Mattie fell asleep as soon as she was placed inside. I went upstairs to show Jamie and Joan the room where they would sleep. I was to sleep in the large closet next to that room. The girls looked around a little bewildered. My sisters Betsy and Jane soon made them feel at home though. The room looked fairly big now that Uncle Sam had bought two sets of bunk beds for them. I remember each bed with a quilt of a different color. My closet bedroom sported a twin bed and tiny dresser that Uncle Sam had built to fit the room. Aunt Titus had hung a picture of flowers on the wall and the room already had a light on the wall. It was cozy.
The first night Aunt Titus and Aunt Judy went into the bedroom and tucked the children into bed, me included. This began a nightly ritual. We always gathered together in the living room for evening prayers and then off to bed.
Sometimes the noise from all of us kids was loud. I remember we were no longer allowed to run through the house or play in the living room. Our bedrooms turned into the playroom. When fights broke out between us, there was always a grown up to discipline us. Usually this was either a spanking, sit in the corner, no supper, or no dessert for a week. However, we all got along most of the time.
The mailman brought us some news that brought us all into a state of chaos. Our was missing and presumed captured. I remember my Aunts both going to Uncle Sam at once. He held them close and they prayed. It was the first time I saw my aunts dissolve in tears. Uncle Sam told me to bring the children upstairs quickly. No one told us at the time what was going on but we all knew something bad had happened.
A few hours later we were told to come back downstairs. We sat at the kitchen table and listened as we were told what had happened. I can’t remember ever crying like that. Nothing could help. My sisters were very scared and our cousins cried as well. The questions about what could happen to our dad flew around the room. Uncle Sam was the calming voice. We prayed that day well into the night. Someone must have called the pastor because he to was with us. Folks from church brought food.
It was like a funeral was taking place. This went on for two days. The seriousness did not go away but through the Lord’s help we became calmer and were able to carry on. I remember we were going with Aunt Titus to prayer meeting more often. No longer relegated to the nursery, we children began learning how to pray in earnest. Prayer meeting had been only an hour and half. The church now held prayer meetings that lasted sometimes past ten p.m.
Aunt Judy got mail from Uncle Bob once in a while. She told him what had happened to our father. We all prayed that this war would be over soon. We prayed that someday soon peace would reign.
The berries became ripe and the tomatoes still needed to be canned. Aunt Titus brought out her large canning kettle and she spent hours with Aunt Judy canning tomatoes, making pickles, making jam and canning all sorts of things like carrots, peaches and plums. This went on for several weeks. Sometimes the women brought over their sewing and they all sat together and talked. It seemed keeping busy helped everyone to cope.
We kids went outdoors to play and sometimes went fishing with Uncle Sam. I could go alone, but not with four of them. We were given jobs around the house. I filled the bird feeder and made the beds. I know I did other things but I don't remember. My cousin Jamie swept both porches twice a day and the sidewalk that went to the mailbox. He also gathered the mail each day. Joan, Jane and Betsy were in charge of picking up their toys and weeding the flowers and the garden. I also gathered the laundry and brought it downstairs. There was always something for us to do when we weren’t playing or doing school work.
Time went on but my father and Uncle Bob were always in the back of our mind. Aunt Titus and Aunt Judy continued to organize the women to reach out to those in need and Uncle Sam had the men do the same. Yes, time went on...