Years earlier the town council purchased the old country church. With moderate renovations, they converted it into the town hall. Five wooden steps led up to the bright red door, a sharp contrast to the pale green building. The small boy spotted the familiar woman with salt-and-pepper hair. She bent down in one of the flower beds beside the steps.
“There’s Grammie,” the small boy exclaimed. “Can I go see her?”
Not waiting for a reply, the small boy pulled the door handle, pushed hard, and dashed out. “Grammie,” he exclaimed, running. The grandmother turned; arms open. The small boy slammed into her. Teetering, she caught herself.
“Whoa there, cowboy, you’re about to knock me over.” She swallowed the small boy in her big hug. The sun warmed the morning air.
“I’ve missed you so much,” the small boy lamented, tightening his arms around her neck.
“Missed me?” his grandmother smiled. She pulled back and looked him in the eye. “You just saw me yesterday.”
The small boy took his grandmother’s face in his small hands. “But yesterday was so long ago,” he expression serious, “I really missed you.” He kissed her cheek.
A cool breeze brought a song sparrow who landed on the edge of a birdbath. The tiny bird shared its cheery tune. The small boy and his grandmother held each other’s eyes for a moment. The grandmother grinned and winked at the small boy.
“Well, then,” she said, releasing her embrace, “stay here with me. You can help me capture the bad guys who are invading the gardens.” The small boy’s face broke into a smile.
“Oh, yes. I’m good at catching bad guys.” his eyes danced as he began his hunt.
Infant and diaper bag in hand, with the blue blanket draped over her shoulder, the young mother walked to where the small boy worked alongside his grandmother. “Let’s go inside,” she said to the small boy. The small boy stopped, a blade of grass in hand, and looked at his mother. He held his breath, not wanting to go indoors yet.
Standing up, the grandmother said, “I’ve got him.” The small boy exhaled. “You go on in.” She turned her attention to the infant, “Hello, sweet girl,” she reached out, took the infant’s extended hand, and kissed her fingers. The infant gave her a gummy grin.
“Thank you.” The young mother left them. The grandmother returned to the flower bed and the small boy.
“Look at this one, Grammie. He’s wearing a big yellow hat.” The small boy tugged at a dandelion hiding under a pansy.
“Oh, I wonder if he’s their boss?” the grandmother questioned, wide-eyed with a gleam. “We better lock him up good, or he’ll escape.” The small boy giggled.
They spent a few more minutes pulling errant weeds.
“We’d best get inside,” said the grandmother. “The program will start soon.”
The small boy stood and aimed his hands for his shorts.
“Wait!” his grandmother asserted.
The small boy stopped, seconds away from swiping dirt everywhere.
“Let’s wash your hands instead of wiping them on those shorts.”
“Sorry Grammie,” the small boy said with a sheepish grin.
“It’s ok. Cowboy.” His grandmother held out her hand. The small boy took it and they made their way up the stairs and entered the hall. Inside, they scooted to the washroom to scrub the dirt from the small boy’s fingernails.
Meanwhile, during the time the small boy and his grandmother busied themselves outside, the young mother entered the hall. It buzzed with activity. Children who’d arrived early with their mothers or other VBS volunteers chased each other around. “Settle down, quiet down, stop running” was heard from different corners of the room.
A woman and a young boy straightened chairs, making five rows. The pianist practiced at the old, upright piano. She cringed every time she played an out-of-tune note. Several other ladies sat at a craft table figuring out what supplies they needed for the day’s crafts.
Hellos greeted the young mother as she walked to a crib set up in the front far-left corner of the room. “Just come join us when you’re ready,” called a woman from the table.
“Ok,” responded the young mother. She put the diaper bag down and hung the blanket over the crib railing.
A ten-year-old girl with thick, long, blond hair and clear blue eyes approached the young mother. “Hi Auntie, can I have her?” she asked, reaching for the infant.
“Sure,” the young mother handed the infant to the girl, her niece by marriage, then joined the women at the table. The young girl carried the infant to a chair and sat down. Placing the infant facing towards her on her lap, she told the infant some baby stories and sang baby songs. The sun shone through the gothic-arched windows. A chickadee on the windowsill chirped.
Promptly at 9:30 AM, the VBS leader stood on the stage and clapped her hands, “Let’s take our seats. We will start in a minute.” Children hustled to their chairs, each trying to get as close to front-and-center as possible.
The young mother walked over to where her niece entertained the infant, picked the infant up, and carried her to the crib. She grabbed the blue blanket. The infant’s large green eyes looked into the young mother’s brown ones as she reached for the satin edge of the blanket.
The young mother stared directly into her infant’s eyes, “Now, you be a good girl. And stay quiet.”
Outside a heavy cloud covered the sun, the room darkened.
The infant looked at the young mother, blinked in compliance, then lifted her hand, and plugged her mouth with her thumb. “Good girl,” the young mother kissed the infant’s chubby cheek.
In the darkened room, the small boy, his young cousin, and their grandmother each felt a shiver travel up their spine, as the hairs on their neck stood up. The grandmother shuddered. The small boy furrowed his brow, looked at his grandmother, then to his cousin. The young cousin frowned and watched as the young mother lay the infant down. The cloud passed and the sun lit the room again.
The infant watched the young mother walk away. She held the cool satin edge of the blue blanket next to her cheek and sucked her thumb. Observing the activities through the crib spindles, her eyelids grew heavy, and she fell asleep to children singing Jesus Loves Me.