“Eight times eight is sixty-four; eight times nine is seventy-two; eight times ten is eighty-one.”
With satisfaction, I finished my arithmetic recitations and sat back down on the wooden school bench. Truth told, I had been reciting my times tables by rote since last year, getting them right one-hundred percent of the time. Today’s competition was no exception. Instead of engaging my mind, I let it wonder to distant lands where I hoped to travel one day, or to our family’s ripened apple groves where we harvested and played. This time, however, my thoughts were set on the award for the “Young Ladies Annual Arithmetic Competition”: a delicately stitched, powder-pink handkerchief! For the longest time, I had yearned for a pretty hankie, one that proved I was now a lady and could be trusted not to lose or soil it. Mama said I still had some maturing to do, but I was out to prove her wrong.
“Incorrect.” The word, spoken by Miss Hensen, struck me unexpectedly…painfully -- like a forgotten Ambrosia thrusting itself down from the tree to take revenge. “The answer is ‘eighty’. Eight times ten is eighty, not eighty-one, Emma Elizabeth. I’m sorry. The prize goes to Anna Clemmons.”
Anna stood, walked to the front and claimed her reward. Even though she was my best friend in the whole world, my eyes still welled with tears. I had failed again, proving that I was not yet the lady I wanted to be. Still, I was happy for Anna, so I blinked away the sadness, offering her the smile she deserved as she passed by to return to her desk. I could never hurt Anna’s feelings by showing my disappointment; praise was all I would give her on her special day.
When Miss Hensen dismissed school, I rushed to Anna’s side to congratulate her. She held out her new handkerchief and we both admired it. On our walk home, we reminisced about the many weeks of study we had spent preparing for the competition. We even missed our last warm day for wading in the creek, we were so busy.
The next day was Saturday. Just before the noon meal, Anna rode up to our cabin door on Scout, her young Morgan, a basket strapped to his saddle. “Wanna go on a picnic? I’ve got the food all ready,” Anna asked, patting the picnic basket.
“I’d love to! Let me check with Mama.” Off I dashed into the house.
Mama was agreeable. “Don’t forget your shawl,” she hollered, as I ran back out the door.
We rode on horseback to the lake, spread our blanket on the grass, and unpacked the lunch. After we thanked the Lord, Anna reached into the basket and lifted out a delicate cloth doll made from the handkerchief she had won the day before. “I couldn’t have won this without you, Emma.” She placed the handkerchief doll in my lap. “Thank you for helping me learn my arithmetic facts, and for being the best friend ever!
©2020 by Angela Free
PHOTO: This little darling doll measures approximately 7.5" in height. The intricate stitching throughout her pink dress gives her a delicate, feminine look. I gave this doll as a gift to a friend who was in the hospital after surgery. She was very blessed! Please visit my Etsy shop for more handkerchief doll selections (link above)!
My daughter "LEAHZ" and I write these short heirloom doll stories. The idea came from my daughter when, one day, she told me that I should use my creative writing skills to write a unique, one-page historical fiction story for each handkerchief doll. And, so, we joined up together and started writing! We hope you enjoy these sweet little tales! Angela Free