Chapter 5

Chapter 5

Mrs. Teresky

The trees began to grow closer, blocking out the sun and created long shadows on this part of the path. It was always a little darker here and a little cooler too, Molly remembered, from her previous walks through this part of the road with her mother. But the trail was familiar, and as she walked, she listened for the sounds of the birds far above the trees and she knew that at any moment she would see the blue of the sky around the next bend. At least she thought so, but as she continued on, the sky turned suddenly dark and cloudy, and a heavy mist began to conceal the path. Molly felt as though she walked through thick grey clouds when a chill wind began to pick up and fat raindrops began to fall. Molly had walked quite a long way already and she began to feel angry and sorry for herself again. It can’t be much further, she thought. Whenever she had walked this way with her mother before, it had never seemed to be quite this far or to take so very long.

Molly shivered in the brisk breeze that now blew coldly at her back, and she put her hands in her apron pockets for warmth. As she did, she felt for the spectacles. They were cold and hard in her already chilled hands. She fumbled with them as she tried to place them on her nose. She had hoped that they might help her find a way through the gloomy mist somehow, but her now wet hands made them difficult to hold. When she tried to remove them from their bag, they fell at her feet, splashing into the middle of a large and muddy puddle.

Oh! No! thought Molly anxiously. “Please!” she breathed aloud, her anxiety rising. “I hope I haven’t ruined them … oh I hope not … !” She quickly plucked them up from the muddy puddle and rubbed them on her sodden apron. Molly’s hands shook a little as she handled the spectacles. She was so cold, and a sudden and unreasonable fear clutched at her heart. What if the magic had been washed away? How silly, she reasoned. I did find them buried in the mud in the garden. Even so … she thought to herself once again, anything is possible. Molly placed the spectacles back on her nose, and the contact of her skin with the icy metal of the frame made her shiver and cringe.

Although the lenses were no longer as muddy as they had been, they were now so badly steamed up that when Molly put them on and peered through the streaked wet lenses and looked slowly around, she could see only darkness and feel only growing despair. Her mind felt empty and black too, just as she had when she had looked at Billy and Ivan. The fear and emptiness that filled her deep inside scared her with its intensity and made her heart beat faster and pound loudly in her ears. She looked carefully around her, struggling to see the path through the heavy mist. The foggy darkness was so complete that she wondered if the rain along this part of the path would ever cease and she longed to see the sun and bright colors again.

Suddenly, from somewhere closeby, Molly heard the loud, throaty yelp of a large animal. Listening carefully, she tried to turn towards the sound, but the fog and wind  made it impossible to know for sure where the noises she heard were coming from. Molly remembered that Mrs. Teresky had a dog named Jasper and she only hoped that the wild noises were from him. Jasper, she thought nervously, I hope that’s Jasper.
The loud yelping seemed to be coming closer and a small, frightened sob rose in her throat as she called out. “Jasper! Is that you boy?” Molly heard the sound of heavy paws slapping through puddles and approaching her rapidly, and she looked quickly around herself again, trying to place the direction of the loud and persistent noise.

“Please,” she whispered aloud, “please let it be Jasper.” The large animal’s paws hit her shoulders hard from behind. Before she could tell their direction, they smacked her squarely with such force that she fell face forward in the mud. Fear and anger filled her body and she struggled mightily to fight off the heavy weight that held her down. Thoroughly sodden and covered in grime, she tried again and again to roll over and push away her attacker, but the large paws of the animal and her twisted skirts made moving nearly impossible. She was more frightened and more miserable than ever as she struggled to free herself. Fighting to stand, she felt the heat of the great animal’s breath heave against her neck and along the side of her face. She lay pinned beneath it, barely able to move as her heart began to race crazily. Then suddenly, the great weight upon her shifted and she felt the gentle lapping of a slobbery, wet tongue wash against her cheeks. A wetness that was warmer and scratchier than the rain.

“Jasper, it is you!” Molly cried out with relief and happiness, giving a mighty push to rid herself of the enormous dog and to scramble up from the muddy puddle where she lay. Her long skirt and apron were dripping and clung tightly to her legs, but the spectacles were still there. Molly quickly retrieved the wicker basket from the ground where she had dropped it, and began to run as best as she could in her mud-caked skirts to keep up with Jasper as he trotted away through the heavy mist. Coming around a bend in the path, Molly smelled the smoky fire before she saw it. She heard Jasper’s deep woof just ahead of her on the path and knew she had arrived at Mrs. Teresky’s.

“Mrs. Teresky!” called Molly, “are you here?”

“Yes, girly,” replied Mrs. Teresky gruffly. The old woman stood under the overhang of her tiny cabin gathering wood from the pile by her front door. “Where else would I be?” she replied in a sarcastic tone. “It’s much too wet to be out and about on a day such as this. The cold and wet make my bones ache so. And where would I be a goin’ even if I could?”

“You could always move to town,” said Molly with a shiver, shaking out her thoroughly wet and dirty clothes.

“Town!” exclaimed Mrs. Teresky, “oh, no, never that. Not town! No, No, No.”

“I’m so sorry,” began Molly, “I didn’t mean to upset you.”

“Well, girly,” said Mrs. Teresky, “some folks was meant for town and some folks just aren’t. My family has lived in this spot for generations you know, and if it was good enough for them it is good enough for me! ” With that, Mrs. Teresky spun abruptly around and began to walk hastily back inside her tiny cabin. “Well, are you comin’ or not?” she yelled over her shoulder at Molly, without once turning around.

The wooden door to the cabin creaked on its rusted hinges when Mrs. Teresky went inside. She barely left the door ajar, but there was just enough space for Jasper to wriggle through. Molly followed the large wet dog and stepped into the smoky interior. She could hear the constant dripping of the rain as it fell down from inside the chimney and landed hissing and popping on the struggling fire below. Molly had to rub her eyes in order to clear them of the hazy smoke. When she opened them again, she could see that the cabin was bare except for a small table and two chairs placed close to the fire. Above the hearth in a little alcove just large enough for a mattress was Mrs. Teresky’s bed.

“You are Moriah’s girl, aren’t you?” Mrs. Teresky asked in her rumbly voice.

“Yes ma’am I am,” Molly answered shyly.

“Then what are you waiting for, girly? Come in, come in. Sit by the fire and try to warm yourself. Believe me, I know what it is to be cold. Even in the summer, I shiver. Let me give you some hot tea from the kettle. It is all I have, but it will help spread the warmth inside you.” Mrs. Teresky turned her back on Molly and began to assemble her cups and saucers. “And maybe a washcloth to wipe you off a bit.” She rustled around in front of the fire and as she did, Molly slipped the spectacles on her nose. As she had hoped, the small room began to darken and change. Around Mrs. Teresky’s thin, stooped body, a grey blue light dimly shone. Molly felt a chill that seemed to permeate deep into her bones. She shivered and her body screamed to be warm, but as Molly watched, a green vine began to grow slowly through the grey blue and a slow warmth began to creep back inside her. The vine twisted, turned, and began to bud. She felt hope fill her heart like the promise of spring and of new growth and soft green shoots beginning to bud in the garden.

“Here we are, girly,” said Mrs. Teresky turning slowly around. “’Tis all I have, but praise be it should help.” The green vine continued to swirl and blossom. Molly slipped the glasses off and laid them in her lap. She reached for the cracked clay cup and saucer that Mrs. Teresky held out to her, and wrapped her still chilled fingers gratefully around them.

“So,” said Mrs. Teresky, “you’re Moriah’s girl. She is special, that one. Let’s see that dirty face of yours and maybe I can see your mother in your eyes,” she said, reaching for the washcloth. “Ah … there you are! There you are!”

“Mrs. Teresky,” said Molly, trying not to squirm as Mrs. Teresky rubbed at her face with the scratchy wet cloth, “my mother sent along something for you. I don’t know what it is but I hope it will help.” Mrs. Teresky stepped back as Molly bent down from her chair and reached inside the basket. Several labels with her mother’s neat handwriting popped out at her. One after the other Molly began to hand them to Mrs. Teresky.

“Oh my!” exclaimed Mrs. Teresky, as she took a large square package from Molly.“Let’s do this slowly. All good things come to those who wait, and anticipation is almost more fun than the gift itself,” she said with a chuckle. The first package was large and floppy. Inside was a knitted shawl of a soft grey blue. The fringes on the end were green and viny, and at the very tips of the fringe almost hidden from sight the beginnings of tiny buds could be seen.

“How lovely!” exclaimed Mrs. Teresky, wrapping herself delightedly in the shawl. The next package was quite a bit smaller. Molly leaned forward to see better in the dim light of the room. Mrs. Teresky pulled the string on the package and peeled back the paper. “Oh,” said Mrs. Teresky again. “Thank you, Moriah,” she breathed in a heartfelt whisper. Inside the package that lay in Mrs. Teresky’s lap was a pair of soft warm gloves that matched the shawl exactly. The palms of the gloves were a soft grey blue, the five fingers were a rich new green, and if you looked closely at the very tips, there were the beginnings of tiny buds all set to grow.

“Perfect,” sighed Mrs. Teresky, snuggling deeper into her shawl and admiring the gloves in her lap. “But I can’t very well open the last package with gloves on, can I? Here, girly,” she said wiping a small tear from her eye and handing the gloves to Molly. “Put these on. You look like you might need them more than I at the moment. Mind you though, I want them back!” she sniffed. Taking a handkerchief from her apron pocket, she blew her nose loudly. “What’s next?”

“I don’t know,” said Molly reaching back into the basket. “Let’s see. I am finding that my mother is even more surprising and remarkable than I ever knew before.”

“Her name means ‘the wind,’ you know,” explained Mrs. Teresky. “Seeds travel on the wind. The universe makes its desires known through the wind and rain, the changing tides and seasons and the movements of the planets in the sky. My people have always been listeners to the earth and growers of necessary and beautiful things. I can never leave this place … but, sometimes my old bones find it cruel. I always wait for spring.” She gave a small shiver more from past memories than from cold.

While Mrs. Teresky spoke, Molly lifted a rather large and heavy jar from deep in her basket. She was surprised once again at the weight of the jar, since while she had carried it in her basket on her errands it had not seemed as heavy as it was now. As Molly raised the jar, she saw yet another oval package wrapped in a green checkered cloth. Molly lifted that out too. By now, she had guessed that the contents of the jar held one of her mother’s delicious soups, and her stomach rumbled in hunger.

“Look, Mrs. Teresky, soup!” cried Molly with excitement. She knew if her stomach was rumbling after just a short while that Mrs. Teresky’s had to be very empty indeed. “It’s my mother’s special soup!” Molly felt a sudden and wonderful sense of gratefulness and relief, but it was not just because of the food she would soon receive.

“Yes, girly,” replied Mrs. Teresky. “Moriah’s soup is very special indeed. On a day such as this I will enjoy it immensely,” she said. Taking a pot from the back of the stove, Mrs. Teresky poured the smallest amount of soup you can imagine into the bottom.  She took two bowls down from her cupboard and placed them on the table. “Open the bread,” said Mrs. Teresky in her crackly voice.

Molly opened the green checkered cloth and its folds relaxed and covered the small table. A rich, yeasty smell filled the room and combined with the delicious aroma of bubbling soup. Suddenly, the gloom inside the small room began to dissipate. Molly’s stomach rumbled again but she was firmly resolved not to eat a bite of the soup her mother had provided for Mrs. Teresky. She could eat later, thankfully, but she just hoped it would be soon.

“Here we are, girly,” said Mrs. Teresky turning around from the pot on the stove, “nice and hot.” She placed two bowls down on the table, one in front of Molly and one in front of herself.

“I’m not very hungry. I don’t—” Molly stopped mid sentence. Looking across at Mrs. Teresky’s bowl she saw that it was filled to the brim and steaming. She looked to the jar of soup on the stove — it was full. She looked down to her own bowl of soup, and so was hers. How could this be? Molly asked herself in amazement, her eyes growing wide with wonder. She looked at Mrs. Teresky, who was eating her soup in large hearty gulps, as though nothing strange was happening.

After a long moment Mrs. Teresky looked over at Molly and said between spoonfuls, “What a lovely treat for such a rainy day. Moriah’s soups are always delicious. Eat up, girly, eat up,” as she passed Molly the spoon that lay on the table next to her bowl. “Your mother is special indeed. I for one never question any of her gifts,” she added with an air of finality, and she went back to spooning up the last bits in her bowl.

Molly did not know what to say, and for a long moment she just sat there marveling at what she had seen. Since Mrs. Teresky had told her not to ask questions, she picked up her spoon and began to eat, but Molly hardly tasted her food; her mind was whirling with questions. How did that happen? she wondered. Was it really my mother like Mrs. Teresky said? Molly didn’t know what to think, and it was certain that Mrs. Teresky would not answer any questions about the soup. Molly had other important questions to ask her; she held her breath a moment and gathered her courage.

“Mrs. Teresky,” Molly said with a small quiver in her voice, “my mother sent me on this errand today, and I am very happy that I came. But before I leave, can I ask you a question, please?” She was more than a little nervous asking anything after what Mrs. Teresky had said, but this is important, she thought, I need to know. So she waited anxiously for a reply.

“A question?” huffed Mrs. Teresky in her gruff and rumbly voice.“Yes, a question,” answered Molly shyly. “You know that my name is Molly. You remember the girl with thirty-five names. My mother told me you were one of the people who named me. Can you tell me, Mrs. Teresky, do you remember whom you named me for, what she was like, and why you chose to bless me with her name?” The questions tumbled out, and once again trembling slightly with anticipation, she slipped the spectacles back on her nose.

Mrs. Teresky sat in quiet reflection, and then after a long moment she answered,   “Sarah. Sarah, the mother of millions as she was called in the Bible. Just what is needed in a garden. Be fruitful, multiply, and all that. But you are named for my sister Sarah. She was an amazing woman herself, and in her hands our gardens and our family blossomed more fully than ever before. She had twelve children and they all went on to create and build and nurture their own beautiful families and gardens. My sister Sarah passed on her love of nature to everyone around her, and I who loved her dearly could think of no greater gift to give you at your birth than that.” Molly sat quietly while Mrs. Teresky spoke and through the lenses of the spectacles, she could see the soft blues that swirled around Mrs. Teresky’s head growing deeper and warmer, chill skies melting away, and the green of spring and new seedlings starting to form in the earth.

“Sarah,” Molly whispered, “Sarah.” She felt her heart swell with possibilities and gratefulness. I am Sarah, she thought to herself, I am Sarah who loved the beauty of the garden and I am Lucy of laughter and happiness. Molly was delighted to learn about the women whose names she carried and the stories both Mrs. Teresky and Mrs. Eos had told her. Her smile was once again as warm and bright as the sun, but curiosity still prickled at the edges of her happiness. She leaned back into the wooden chair where she sat at the table and thought about what she had just seen and heard.

Mrs. Teresky watched her for a brief moment, and though she could see that Molly’s curious mind flew with questions, she said nothing more. So before Molly could ask any more of the many questions she ached to ask, Mrs. Teresky pulled her new shawl a bit tighter around her, stood up on her spindly legs and went to her front door, opening it slightly. Molly watched her and knew that the time for questions was over and she would just have to wait patiently for the answers she needed. She resigned herself to that fact and sighed deeply. It had to be enough for now.

Mrs. Teresky was waiting for her to leave. Molly took the spectacles from her nose, and placing them gently in the pocket of her apron, she rose from the table, leaned down next to her chair and picked up her wicker basket. She was so very glad that she had come on this errand today and was overjoyed with what Mrs. Teresky had told her about Sarah, but of the soup and the many colors and feelings she felt so deeply she would just have to find out in her own way. That was all she could do for now. It was all part of the wonderful idea that she had had and in good time she was sure she would discover all that she needed to know. Going to the door, Molly kissed Mrs. Teresky on her wrinkled cheek and thanked her once again. Then she walked out of the house and down the path with Jasper yelping heartily at her heels. At the top of the lane Molly turned to wave goodbye, but Mrs. Teresky was nowhere to be seen.