September 13, 2017

CNF/Memoir by Lucia Walton Robinson: "Kind-Hearted Woman"

Born a Hoosier, Lucia Walton Robinson has been writing and editing ever since she learned to read. She also raised a pair of highly literate offspring, taught English in a Gulf coast college for twenty years, and now enjoys retirement near the Carolina coast.                                    

Kind-Hearted Woman

   My grandparents didn’t own a cat, so I wondered why a picture of a smiling cat
was carved into a fencepost downhill from their front porch. One time Grandmother took me to see Mrs. Hefner’s kittens, though. Mrs. Hefner was a tiny bent old lady, 94 years old, the oldest person I’d ever met, and the kittens were so new their eyes weren’t open yet. I’d never seen any animals that young and was fascinated as the mother cat carried them around by the scruff of their necks–wondered if it hurt, but they didn’t seem to mind. The tiny fluffs made little mewing sounds whether she carried them or not. Sitting on the floor, I petted the kittens carefully while the mother cat kept a close watch.
    Grandmother had carried a basket filled with Ball jars full of fruit and vegetables she’d canned, and a mince pie and a fresh loaf of bread. After Mrs. Hefner kissed me goodbye and we left, I realized Grandmother didn’t have her basket and remarked that she’d forgotten it. She didn’t seem worried but said she’d get it the next time she visited Mrs. Hefner. At four, I didn’t realize what that meant.
    During the Second World War, we lived far away and saw our kinfolk only once a year because gasoline and tires were rationed. In that time Mrs. Hefner left this Earth, so there were no more visits with kittens. After the war we moved back to Indianapolis, and Mother took me to stay with my grandparents in their small town while she took the train to Chicago to meet Father returning from the Navy. One day when Grandmother was making out her grocery list in the back parlor and I was playing jacks in the front parlor, a knock came at the door and I ran to answer it, thinking it might be my parents come back early. A raggedy man in overalls with a long scrawny beard stood outside. I was so frightened I ran and jumped into Grandmother’s lap–jumped right into her sharp pencil and have a blue-gray mark on my face from the broken-off point of it to this day.
   Grandmother pulled out the lead with tweezers, comforted me, went to the door where the man still stood and told him to go around to the back. Behind the kitchen was the sunporch where the stone duck lived and the tall pie safe stood, with pretty cutout-tin designs and “1870" on its doors. I watched as Grandmother cut thick slices of bread and ham, made sandwiches which she wrapped in waxed paper with home-canned pickles, and went to fetch a pie from the safe. She put the food in a cardboard box she took from underneath it, opened the porch door, and gave the box to the man. I watched from behind a curtain as he went to join another tramp downhill by the creek. They had tin cups they dipped in the clear water as they ate the meal Grandmother had provided.
   I was long grown up and Grandmother long gone before I learned what that cat on the fencepost meant. Now her big cookie crock and the stone duck live in my kitchen, the pie safe holds books and games at my niece’s house, and I see Grandmother’s sweet loving face every time I write a check for the food bank.  Sadly, I think I’d still be afraid if a tramp came to my door.
© Lucia Walton Robinson

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