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Saturday, February 11, 2006

October 1945

October 1945

Saturday, Part 1

It was Saturday, and next weekend would be the harvest fair. Livy recalled her first harvest fair last year. Ray had invited her to go, and at first she resisted. This was something entirely new to her, and since she didn’t plan on staying here on the farm with Ray she wasn’t sure that she wanted to go. But she did go, and she enjoyed it very much.  There was lots of produce and baked goods on display that you could buy later in the day. The children had put on a play, and that was very well done and so enjoyable. They partook of some games and had a lot of fun with Ray’s niece and nephews. So today as she busied herself in the kitchen, listening to Slim and the boys on the radio, a smile came over her face thinking about last year. She and Ray were like strangers then, but not anymore. They had come a long way in a year.

Just after lunch Daniel had been very energetic, getting into everything he could. He was still crawling, but made many attempts to walk. He would hold onto chair legs and pull himself up, and then try to take steps away from the chair. He usually accomplished one or two steps until he realized he had no support, and would plunk down on the floor. At this point, he would revert to his trusted method of travel: crawling. Livy was trying to put a roast in the oven for supper. She was at the sink trimming the roast when Daniel crawled over to her and used her leg to try to stand up. One of his finger nails was very sharp and scratched Livy. She was used to him using her leg to try to stand up, but this time it hurt. She yelped, and Daniel started to cry. She quickly washed her hands and bent to pick him up. As she consoled him, she decided to take him upstairs for his afternoon nap.  She then went to the bathroom and washed the blood off her leg. It was a long scratch, but not very deep, and had already stopped bleeding. After that she went down to the kitchen and put the roast in the pan and put it in the oven. Her cooking still was not as good as Martha’s, but Ray never complained.  

While Daniel was asleep, Livy took the time to tidy up the house from the efforts of an active child. She then poured herself a cup of coffee and went out on the porch to sit in the swing. She looked down at the remnants of her garden. It had done well this year, and she was thinking about plans for next spring.

After her coffee was finished she went into the house. There was smoke coming out of the oven. She ran over, opened the oven door, and smoke billowed out. She opened the back door and some windows and started fanning the smoke in the direction of the door and windows. Finally she could see the roast, and took it out of the oven. She wanted to cry. Why was this such a tough thing for her to do? How hard could cooking be? Well, she reasoned to herself, obviously too hard for her.

She trimmed off the burnt part of the roast and saw that she could salvage the middle part. Livy had hoped that the roast would last for more than one meal, but now she had to make other plans for Sunday lunch.  Slightly depressed about another failed attempt to cook a roast, she went into the living room and flopped down on the couch. She wanted to cry, but felt that was such a baby thing to do. She held off crying for as long as she could.

She must have fallen asleep because the next thing she heard was Ray opening the front door. The smell of smoke was still in the room.  He and Franklin went looking for Livy and found her in the living room. He had that silly half grin on his face. Livy sat up and said, ‘Don’t laugh, it's not funny.’

He came over to her, sat down beside her and put his arm around her. Livy couldn’t help herself, she started to cry. Franklin put his head on her lap, and looked up at her adoringly with those big brown eyes of his. She patted his head, and he lay down on the floor at their feet. Ray tried to console her as best he could. ‘Livy,’ he said, ‘I see that you could save part of it,’ and raised his eyebrows and said, ‘That’s good.’

‘Yes, I know, but I wanted to have roast beef sandwiches for lunch tomorrow, and now I will have to wrack my brain for another idea,’ she said.

‘Don’t worry about it, sweetheart, we’ll think of something,’ he said consolingly, ‘And I’m sure Franklin would enjoy chewing on the burnt bits, as long as its not too badly burned.’  

Livy sighed. ‘You know, Ray, I’m an educated woman, and I can’t cook. It’s very frustrating,’ she said, ‘Why can’t I manage one meal a day without a disaster?’

Ray knew to tread softly and slowly around the subject of cooking, so said, ‘Its okay, Livy, really. I could give you a break tomorrow and do the cooking.’

Livy knew he was trying to comfort her, but he already had a lot of work to do, he didn’t need to cook for them also!

‘Was your mother a good cook?’ he asked.

‘Well, now there’s a thought,’ said Livy, ‘When Abby and I were barely in our teens, my mother took on more committee work at the church, and she hired a woman, Bertha, to clean our house and cook the meals. Her husband was the caretaker of the church, and since my father was too busy at church, he took care of our lawn, and shoveled the snow in the winter.’ Livy paused and then said wistfully, ‘Mother would spend her spare time with us in her flower garden, not the vegetable garden or the kitchen. Maybe she should have spent time with us in the kitchen, or at least suggest that we help Bertha out and learn how to cook.’

They sat in silence for a few minutes, Ray still had his arm around her, and she enjoyed the comfort that he offered. Finally Livy said, ‘You know, before I got pregnant and came here to you, I spent a lot of time taking classes, and studying, writing exams, doing projects and experiments, and research. I only had two more courses to do,’ she said wistfully.  Livy paused for a moment and then continued, ‘And before I could get my degree we had to go on an actual dig. I was right in there with the other students, planning, organizing, and raising money for our trip.’ She sighed and said, ‘I never spent any time in the kitchen, no wonder I can’t cook.’

A thought crossed Ray’s mind, and he wanted to make sure he worded it just right because he didn’t want to upset her any more than she already was.  On her first night here last year, she admitted she didn’t know how to cook. He had looked up at her in surprise. He then suggested that maybe Martha could teach her how to cook, and Livy had said, ‘No, I’m sure it can’t be that hard.’  The next day on their first trip to La Junta he got her a book from the library.  She had tried a few recipes but not too successfully, but they managed.  After their accident in September, when friends and neighbours brought over a food, mostly casseroles, they often included the recipe. Ray had noticed that she was better at making casseroles than the meat, potatoes and vegetables type meals.  Casseroles required a bit of organization, but mostly you prepared the vegetables and meat, put them together in a bowl, and put it in the oven.

Ray cleared his throat. Livy looked up at him. He said, ‘Well, one thing that I have seen is that you are better at the casserole type of dinner than the meat, potatoes and vegetable type.  I know you don’t want to make them all the time, that might get boring.’  Ray paused, cleared his throat again, raised his eyebrows and said, ‘I don’t know much about your schoolin’, other than what you told me, but maybe you could approach cooking like your school work.’

Livy sat up, and Ray thought she might get mad and leave the room so he put his hand over her hand.

‘What do you mean?' Livy asked.

‘Well,’ Ray said haltingly, ‘Maybe, uh, maybe you could approach cooking like you did, say, an experiment you were doing. I dunno much about them, but maybe organizing all the tools you will need, you know, knife, fork, cooking pan, and stuff, uh,’ and here his voice trailed off.

Livy looked at him intently. Ray started to squirm.  Slowly and softly Livy said, ‘You know, you might have a point there, Ray.’  He tried not to show it, but he felt relief.  Livy contemplated his suggestion some more. ‘It’s not easy trying to look after Daniel, and come up with exciting meals,’ said Livy.’

Ray interjected quickly, ‘I know that.’

Livy smiled at Ray softly and said, ‘I know, just hear me out, my love. Like you said, if I approach it as an experiment, or as a project, and made notes, planned it out, assemble the tools that I will need, take it one step at a time instead of overwhelming myself with the whole project all at once. Are you listening to me?’

‘Hm? Oh, yeah, sorry,’ said Ray with a sheepish smile. He didn’t want to tell her that he hardly heard a word she said because he was stuck on two words that she said, ‘my love.’  He felt his heart thumping and had an overwhelming urge to kiss her.

‘So, I think that will work. What do you think?’ she asked.

‘Uh, I got distracted, can you tell me again?’ he asked.

‘Ray! I knew you weren’t listening!’ she said, as she gave him a loving swat on the arm, and then she repeated what she had said. Livy continued, ‘I might need to get that book out of the library again, and maybe I’ll ask Martha for some help.’ Ray smiled. He knew how independent she was, and that it was hard for her to ask for help. And now he put his arms around her and pulled her close. He loved her with all his heart, and knew she loved him, too, and this time when he felt the urge to kiss her, he did.