Monday, December 10, 2012

Midwinter Memories {ten}

To start at the beginning ...

“Little Ruth!  You are under foot and bound to be in trouble before this day is ends.  Off with you!”  Ruth laughed at her mother’s scolding, ducking out of the way of her mother’s load and darted to the front door to peer out at the crowds in the street.  
An old man walked by, leaning on a crooked staff.  His shuffling feet carried him slowly along the frozen road and soon he was lost in the crowd.  Ruth spotted three children her age, hands clasped to one another, wide-eyes staring out at the throng of travelers.  They were nestled to one side waiting for their mother to return, perhaps.  In a few moments, a woman in a deep indigo cloak passed the window and called to the three children in a language foreign to Ruth’s ears and she watched as the trio bustled across the flow of the pilgrims and clung to their mothers skirts, relief flooding their eyes.
“Please, Mama.  Just one trip to the market?  I promise to come right back.  Please?”  Ruth’s excitement made her eyes sparkle.  She smiled broadly and clasped her hands at her chest, pleading.
Her mother stood near the fire, a load of olive branches in her arms.  She sighed and shook her head, “It’s not safe, my daughter.  Wait until Andrew returns from the field.  Perhaps he could escort you to the market; then I’d know you would be protected.  Now help me stoke the fire.”  Kneeling, she let the thick branches tumble to the floor and then began adding them to the embers.
Ruth groaned and her shoulders slumped.  She shuffled to where he mother knelt in front of the flickering fire.  Working together, they soon had a hardy blaze warming the inn and heating the stew that simmered in a large pot over the fire.  

“Stir this for a few minutes, Ruth.  We don’t want to burn dinner.  I hear Benjamin fussing; it’s time for him to eat again.”  Ruth watched as her mother bustled through the door, out of the inn and into their private quarters.  She picked up the long wooden ladle and slowly stirred the stew.  The pungent smell of the burning olive branches mixed with the savory seasonings of the lamb.

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