“What changed your mind about Molly?” I asked Ramona as we worked together, stocking the cabinets of my little straw bale house with canned goods. She smiled as she carefully stacked two loaves of bread in the old fashioned bread box on the counter.
“Nieces and nephews,” she answered.
“What?” I laughed, turning around to look at her.
“I've lived on a farm long enough to know the next thing that follows is nieces and nephews running around, giving me kisses and calling me Auntie Mona.” Ramona laughed and poked me in the ribs teasingly.
“I see,” I answered, thinking about that possibility myself.
I stepped back to look at the kitchen. White eyelet curtains hung in the windows, and the wood stove glowed dark red in the corner, warming the stuccoed walls and hardwood floor.
I felt like I had the whole world in my hand, everything I could possibly want. Doubtless, there would be hard days and struggles ahead of me, but today—today everything was great.
Molly had married me that very morning, on Christmas Day. At that moment she was upstairs at the farm, changing into regular clothes and saying goodbyes to her parents and Jeremy, while Ramona and I took a wagon load of food to my house.
Our house, I thought as I looked around one more time. Will and Molly's place.
Ramona went out the door and climbed into the wagon behind Roy. I dampened the fire so it wouldn't be too hot when we arrived later and walked out the door.
As we returned to the farm with the wagon, it began to snow. The limbs of the trees already carried a dusting from the night before. The moisture of the melting snow had turned the trunk and branches of the sage brush a purplish black beneath the silvery-green of the foliage. The tops were frosted with snow. Even the forest had dressed up for our wedding day.
Roy walked silently down the trail, his hooves leaving tracks that were quickly covered by new snow. I had painted the wagon black and the harness was made of black leather. But Roy was red, and that bit of contrast was pleasing in the black, white, and green world around us. Ramona sat beside me, singing softly to herself, so I thought back over the day.
We had a unique wedding, held right here on the farm with all of our friends and family. The day had included the exchange of corn pollen. Molly and I had eaten blue corn flour from a Navajo wedding basket to honor Grandpa's side of the family. There were many Navajo cousins there, all looking forward to the roast lamb and Achi'i37 that Grandpa had ready for the grill.
Molly's parents had come late to make the point they disapproved of us getting married. But they were too curious to stay away altogether. Before the day was over a few bottles of mead had improved their dispositions considerably. By evening, Billy Flynn was complaining that we had given them bad directions and made them miss the wedding. Molly rolled her eyes, but I knew she was happy to have peace again between her and her parents.
A few people had asked me about the scar on my cheekbone. I took to saying that I had failed to dodge something in my way and changed the subject. I know Molly's dad heard my response more than once. He never mentioned it, but Billy Flynn's parting handshake was firm, and he wished us happiness. “Take care of her,” he said gruffly, turning away to hide the tears in his eyes.
Molly's mother was ecstatic over our house. She wandered around it with a dreamy look in her eyes and Molly whispered to me worriedly that if we were any closer to Albuquerque, her mom would move in with us.
“Oh, no she wouldn't,” I answered firmly.
Molly held her head high all day, like she was a queen. I loved how proud she was of our homestead. I heard her telling her parents about the herd and the calves, and what our plans were for expanding the place.
It was Jeremy that gave Molly away, and neither one of them looked disappointed with that turn of events. He cried unashamedly right along with my mom and sisters, and then sang a Nigerian wedding song, much to the delight of all our Navajo relatives.
Grandpa responded with a song of his own, in Navajo of course. I understood some of Grandpa's song, because I had heard it before. It is called, The Blessingway.
“Shisiji, hozhoo do o leel
Shikesdee hozhoo do o leel
Shiyaagi hozoo do o leel
Shik'igi hozhoo do o leel
Shinaa altso hozhoo do o leel
Shizaad hahoozhood do o leel. . .”
He was praying for beauty to be in front of us, behind us, under and over us, around us and in our voices. It was the idea of walking in the right path, in the way that is good. The Blessingway is also known as The Corn Pollen Road. Corn pollen is the physical expression of prayer. To walk in beauty is to walk in prayer, and this reminded me of Jeremy. He and Grandpa were not so different from one another.
Susanna sang How Much I Love You, a song Mom had written when I was a little boy. “Much” had been my favorite word. It was the biggest, most passionate word I knew at four years old, and it applied to everything I loved. The song became our family lullaby and all the babies went to sleep to “Much.”
Just like the earth loves the late rain
And holds it dearly
Just like the sky loves the bright stars
That light up her face, blessing the dark
So we see clearly
And like the rain loves a good cloud
If you look up I know that you'll see how. . .
Much I love you.
Just like a song says how you feel
Just like a glad song
And like a book when it's all snow
Blanket and tea, nowhere to go
Waiting but not long
Like a picnic the next day out
Is just what you need; come and hear me say how
Much I love you. . .
Daniel came too, but couldn't stay long. When he hugged Mom I saw tears in his eyes. He sat beside Grandpa and the years he'd been gone melted away. It seemed as though he'd always been there and always would be.
“Congratulations, Will,” he said as he gripped my hand. “You're so far ahead of me, I'm envious. But, you can congratulate me too; I made a down payment on a piece of land this morning.”
“Really? Where?” I asked, feeling a rush of joy.
“About five miles south of here,” he said, with a broad smile. “Tell. . . the family for me, okay? I'm no good at goodbyes.” Then he took one last look around him, and walked away.
Dr. Meir found us mid-way through the afternoon, making his way through the crowd by waving a white envelope over his head.
“I have a new tenure in France, Molly,” Dr. Meir announced excitedly, handing us a letter. “They've offered you free tuition and an understudy to finish your doctorate with their university! You're all over scientific press right now. Look at this: our third article! They published all three in a row! You're famous—and infamous. But you've brought to the fore a lot of things that have been about to boil over anyway.”
“I. . . I can't go,” Molly stuttered, glancing through the letter, her face as white as her dress.
“I'm sure they'll be fine with you doing remote work,” Dr. Meir added. “They've got an associated school in Colorado Springs too, you know. They need you more than you need them. Your name will make them look good.”
“Oh,” Molly said, looking up into my face. “Just like you said.”
“Only if you want to, though,” I told her. “It's up to you. And maybe we can go to France for your graduation, Dr. Flynn.”
“Dr. Molly Morgan, to you, sir,” Molly laughed, and pulled my head down to kiss me.
And so the day was perfect from beginning to. . . well, almost the end.
I turned my face up to the sky and let snowflakes fall on it for a moment before we reached the barn with the wagon. Ramona jumped off and went inside to tell Molly I was ready. I unhitched Roy from the wagon, and put his saddle on instead, then I rode him up to the front steps of the house. Molly met me on the porch, family and well-wishers all standing around her.
“Are we going to ride off into the sunset?” she asked, coming down the steps. She was wearing her jeans and shiny red boots; her jacket was white and the red curls cascading over her shoulders made her boots seem plain.
“We could,” I answered, giving her my hand so she could mount Roy and sit behind me. “But if we did, we'd be riding into Arizona, and away from our house.”
“Oh,” Molly laughed, and hugged me around the waist.
Roy was patient with the cries of “congratulations” and “goodbye” as we rode away down the trail, the trail where everything important seems to happen. There was no wind at all, and the snow flakes drifted downward slowly, fluttering and bouncing off the pine needles as if they were dancing in the air.
“It's so beautiful!” Molly sighed. “It couldn't be any more perfect than it is.”
“Are you still glad we're staying here for our honeymoon?” I asked, pulling her hands into my jacket pockets to stay warm. She had forgotten to wear gloves.
“Yes!” she said, hugging me around the waist. “Where, other than here, would be this perfect? Look at our little house down there in the valley. It looks like a snow globe.”
And it did. Smoke rose out of the chimney and mixed with snow that drifted downward to melt on the roof.
“I've got to feed the cows and put Roy in the loafing shed for the night. Why don't you make us some hot tea and bread and butter for dinner. I won't be hungry for more than that, will you?”
“No. But I was too excited to eat all day. Bread and butter sounds good.” She slid off of Roy and went up the steps of the porch, turning to say over her shoulder, “I'll be waiting for you.”
I laughed and stayed there, watching her until she disappeared inside before I turned away to do the chores. Ten minutes later I walked across the open field and up the steps, to my house and my wife, and opened the door.
Smoke billowed out to greet me. Molly came running out with tears streaming from her eyes, which were doubtless smarting with the smoke.
“I can't figure out the stove!” she cried. “I tried to turn it up like Ramona does, and it just started smoking all over the place. What did I do wrong?”
I went to the stove and re-opened the chimney flu, and opened the air flow to the fire, which blazed up right away and stopped smoking. Then I opened a window on the other side of the house and the smoke billowed out the front door with the flow of air current. Soon the house was clear. I turned to find Molly watching me with tragic eyes.
“I don't know anything!” she said, laughing and crying at the same time. “Why did you marry me, Will? I won't be any good to you at all!”
I closed the door and window and returned to Molly who was still standing in the middle of the room, looking forlorn.
“Why?” she whispered. I put my arms around her.
“Because I needed a bit of luck,” I said in her ear. “About this tall. . . and this big around. . . and this heavy. . .”
With my hands, I measured her height, and her waist, and then picked her up off the floor and cradled her in my arms. “Not much. Just a little bit of luck.”
“You heard what Dad said that day?” she asked, happy tears running down her face.
“I need your perseverance,” I whispered in her other ear. She turned her head obligingly, giggling as I switched from ear to ear. “I need your willingness to work, and fight until you win. Your courage and spirit. . . your faith in me, and in yourself. Molly, I love you. Molly Morgan. You're my little bit of red-headed, blue-eyed luck.”