Ruth’s eyes sprung open! It was still dark in the house, but she could feel the hum of the day starting. A new day. An exciting day! A day she had been anticipating for months! She fought the urge to spring out of bed, choosing to lay in the dark and savor the early morning stillness. The quiet before the busyness of the day began.
Laying with her eyes closed, she heard the sounds of her family waking up. Her father stretching on his pallet and her older brother grunting as he buried his head under the covers, hoping for a few more minutes of sleep. Squinting in the darkness, she saw her mother’s silhouette in front of the glowing embers of the fire. She rocked slowly from side to side and Ruth tuned her ears to catch her mother’s song; the song that she always hummed as she nursed the baby. The same song Ruth chose for her mother to sing to her every night at bedtime. Ruth smiled and slipped out of her bed, grabbing a shawl to wrap around her bony shoulders. She tiptoed to her mother and nestled into her side, perched on the end of the bench.
“Good morning, Mama.” Ruth traced a slender finger over her baby brother’s forehead and smiled in the darkness.
“Good morning, my Ruth,” Mama whispered. “You’re up early.”
“I was too excited. So much is happening today. It’s like a festival!”
“Shhh ... yes, it promises to be a busy, busy day. Much to do.” She looked pointedly at her daughter, “Much to help with, Little Ruth.”
“I know, Mama,” she whispered, “I’ll fetch water and feed the goats first thing. But I really want ...”
“We’ll see,” Mama cut her off, patting her knee with her free hand. “We’ll see.”
Ruth slid off the bench and knelt in front of the hearth. With a long piece of wood, she poked at the embers, stirring up sparks. She reached into the basket by the rock fireplace and drew out three small logs. Propping them up over the coals, she leaned forward and puffed, teasing a fire to life. The sparks popped and flew and soon she had a small blaze. Satisfied, she stood and dusted the ash and bark from her lap. Ruth stepped lightly to the front of the house and pulled the shutter aside to peer out at the street.
The early morning light crept through the single window in their home, a grey, frozen glow. The frail gleam illuminated the humble home: shelves cut into the wall housed the family dishes and a few lamps. The hooks on the walls held the many cloaks and shawls her family wore to keep warm during the harsh winter days. She shivered and let the curtain drop, casting the house back into darkness. She tiptoed around the bags of wheat and dried beans on the dirt floor and gathered her clothes from the hook by her bed. Moments later she, slipped out the front door, a clay pot in her grip, and darted down the street toward the well.