I already knew her name--Isabella. I occasionally caught a fleeting sight of her slipping around a corner as I entered a room in the old farmhouse. Or sometimes she'd flit between the trees in the apple orchard. She was always playing tricks on me. Cupboard doors would be left open. Items would disappear from where I knew I'd left them only to reappear days later in corners of the house that I hadn't explored yet. The house was full of angles and corners and surprises.
The house was an old northern New Mexican farmhouse made of light brown stucco with a blue metal roof. An old adobe wall divided the front porch from the apple orchard. A statue of a young St. Francis stood by the wall watching over two teenage frogs enthralled with each other caught in stone. Cecil the pottery pig should have been there too. I think Isabella must have taken him. Hidden him.
She has left presents for me some days. A pink mottled Gravenstine apple on the rocking chair, a small round Jonathan on the table on the upper deck. She had a lot to choose from in the old orchard. I still don't know all the varieties that are growing there.
In the kitchen there are a couple of terrones in the kiva fireplace. A cast iron kettle sits by the pot hanger waiting. I wonder if she cooked her dinner there. The terrones are adobe blocks cut out of the Bosque' to make adobe bricks and these two were put in the fireplace---a reminder of Isabella' s home. I think the porcelain farm sink must have come from her home too; as well as the tin light fixtures hanging from the beams over the table. The floors are red brick.
I'd sit on the upper deck early in the mornings listening to the birds calling in the Bosque. A heron and a couple of sand-hill cranes wandered through the orchard one morning.A wild turkey made himself at home. Raccoons and neighboring horses helped themselves to the ripe fruit and a friendly neighborhood skunk visited with the dog next door. Poor dog.
Several times that week I'd see an old blue Chevrolet drive slowly down the dirt road. A dark haired woman in her late forties would gaze out the window as she drove past and watch. I don't think she saw me sitting under the metal roof of the second floor deck. Tomorrow I will go out to meet her.
Maria was quiet, reserved, and lonely. The house use to belong to her. She had lovingly added pieces of her grandmother's home to her own. Isabella, a child bride from Spain came with her darkly handsome husband to start a new life in New Mexico. Divorce had not only taken away Maria’s husband and home, but her grandmother’s remembrances. I don’t know yet whether I’ll be friends with Maria. I want to keep the home happy, away from anger and sad memories. I’ll have to think about that in the coming months.
And now the orchard is mine to watch over. The house our home, and Isabella my constant companion. Her spirit is comfortable living here with us. I hang the painting of my own grandmother’s home above the fireplace in the kitchen. It is a picture of an old stucco home in a cherry orchard that my mother painted. I’m adding my mother’s and grandmother’s spirit. We’re coming full circle.
I was talking to my daughter the other day. She has a new job at an answering service for funeral homes. She’s not always comfortable with this enployment. Sometimes the callers need answers that she isn’t able to give them in her position. But one woman called recently who needed to just talk out her grief to someone who would listen. It was hard but she was able to help. Have you had the opportunity lately to make just a little difference in someone’s life?
“You are the guardians of the hearth,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley in the general Relief Society meeting in 1995. “You are the bearers of the children. You are they who nurture them and establish within them the habits of their lives. No other work reaches so close to divinity as does the nurturing of the sons and daughters of God.” Our most significant responsibilities are centered in strengthening families and homes—no matter our current circumstances. “ Barbara Thompson, upon hearing this thought “ remembers, “I felt the significance of the message. I also found myself thinking, ‘This is a great guide for parents. It is also a big responsibility for parents.’ I thought for a moment that it really didn’t pertain too much to me since I wasn’t married and didn’t have any children. But almost as quickly I thought, ‘But it does pertain to me. I am a member of a family. I am a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a cousin, a niece, and a granddaughter. I do have responsibilities—and blessings—because I am a member of a family. Even if I were the only living member of my family, I am still a member of God’s family, and I have a responsibility to help strengthen other families.’”
I was reading an article last week about warrior mothers. These are women who went to battle for their ideals, their children, their country. These are women like the Celtic Queen Boudicca, Cleopatra, Catherine the Great, Isabella of Spain, Harriet Tubman, and Susan B. Anthony. While I was reading I kept thinking of the Mother’s of the 10,000 stripling warriors in the Book of Mormon. They taught their children to uphold their values and fight for their rights, and country, and faith.
Susan B. Anthony said, • “The older I get, the greater power I seem to have to help the world; I am like a snowball -- the further I am rolled the more I gain.”
My mother was a warrior in her own way. She grew up in a time when women were not accepted equally with men. She was the first woman to graduate from the school of landscape architecture at BYU and her professor was not happy to have her in his classes. He felt it was not a womanly occupation. When she was hired by the Utah state government as a landscape architect her boss had her only use her initials so that she would get equal pay for equal work. When we moved to New Mexico in a small company town she fought and changed government policies to benefit the women in town giving them more options.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that a hero is no braver than an ordinary person, but they are braver for five minutes longer.
How can you become a warrior mother, a guardian of the hearth?
I am a retired old woman trying to learn new things. I've decided that since my children are grown I would start some new adventures in life. So I moved across the country to a big city.
I'm blogging in hopes that someone will read and enjoy my writings. Next I'll get out the old paintbrush!
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