Pa was a dreamer, brimming with ambition and determination. He had his sights set on the prairies of Kansas – Indian Territory – where the land stretched on and on for what seemed like an eternity. He wanted to travel far, far away from the crowded eastern border to a more vast land where he felt free…unrestrained.
On the morning of our departure, my five sisters and I gathered our few belongings, tied the strings of our sunbonnets under our chins, and climbed up into the back of the family’s horse-drawn wagon. I (and my twin sister) being the eldest, felt a churning pain in the pit of my stomach…or was it in my heart? This was our last good-bye to Great- Grandmother and dear Aunt Lois who had cared for us girls since the passing of our mother after the birth of our youngest sister Annabelle, who was now only three years old.
For the sake of the three middle sisters, I held back my tears. After all, being five, six, and seven years old, they were obviously quite excited about this new adventure, bouncing about in the wagon bed and giggling as if hiding secrets from the rest of us. I and my twin sister, however, clutched each other’s hand tightly, waiting nervously for Great-Grandmother and Auntie to approach the wagon one last time.
Grandmother was too dear to me; I could barely look into her soft blue eyes, knowing it would be the last time ever. Sweetly (yet strongly), she reached out and put her wrinkled hand on top of mine and Lizzie’s. She didn’t say a word. She didn’t need to. Instead, she pried our hands apart, turned them palm-up, and placed into each of them a little white doll wearing a yellow satin ribbon. We both stared at Grandmother’s handiwork. How many times had we girls traced our grubby fingers over those spanking white handkerchiefs, outlining the goldenrod bows and bouquets of pink and blue flowers? Never once did Grandmother scold us; she just started in with her stories of Great-Grandfather and how he romanced her over the years with six lovely handkerchiefs, saying, “One day, Catherine, you’ll have six great-granddaughters to hand these down to”.
I wondered that day, as we sisters bumped up and down in the wagon with our hankie dolls cradled in our palms, how Great-Grandfather (who we’d never met) could have known we would be born. Some things will always be a mystery, I suppose. Yes, that’s where we were headed that day – to a land of mystery -- the unknown – holding, close to our hearts, Great-Grandmother’s love…and Great-Grandfather’s, too!
©February 2020 by Angela Michelle Free
Photo: I made these dolls from the hankies that a co-worker brought to me. She plans to give them to her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren as heirloom gifts!
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