Gram-Letter10-art - 7/19/15
"A Mother's Concerns and Recollections" by Lady Shara of Starwood, OVO, CMC, AoA. A series of articles on various crafts and medieval life written in first-person style. This is number 10 of 11 articles in this series.
This article was submitted to me by the author for inclusion in this set
of files, called Stefan's Florilegium.
These files are available on the Internet at:
Copyright to the contents of this file remains with the author.
While the author will likely give permission for this work to be
reprinted in SCA type publications, please check with the author first
or check for any permissions granted at the end of this file.
Mark S. Harris
AKA: Stefan li Rous
stefan at florilegium.org
This article was originally published in the "Tal-Mere Tidings", the newsletter of the Shire of Tal-Mere, Kingdom of Meridies.
A Mother's Concerns and Recollections
by Shara of Starwood, OVO, CMC, AoA
Have you heard any word yet of our wandering girl??? I am surely as anxious about her progress as are you, her mother, mayhaps more so, for you have been about her more than I in recent years and so are more sure of her readiness to venture so far beyond your protection. I don't worry so much for her safety as for her health and state of mind in this her first venture out into the world without us. She is still young yet to be undertaking such a long step from home and hearth when the realms of her world had for long been so small. I cannot believe how I fidget and pace about, late at night, worried if she is sleeping well-sheltered and peacefully, not even after so much preparation for this undertaking and how much experience the years have given me to the expectations involved. When I made my own early steps toward the far horizon, I too, was young and sure, granted, not to mention spoiled and willful and a young bride as well. I had your father by my side and I was as invincible as my happy childhood and new love could make me. There was nothing to stop me from achieving anything I under-took. Besides, I had trod the Pilgrim's Path more than once already, under my parents guarded wings, and so felt an old hand to the task, anxious to show your father how experienced I was to win his admiration as well as his gentle love which assured that my feet never seemed to weary.
When your turn came, it was also not your first and besides, you were as confident as I had been and we had made so many friends along the route that it seemed we were but passing you from one familiar set of safe hands to another and back again. Even so, I still worried for you, but not as much after the first time.
With Rebecca, I don't know, perhaps because I'm older she seems so much younger, or mayhaps it's just because she's my favorite. Do not scold me for saying this...she's my first grandchild and I got to enjoy her more as a child before Jon took you so far from us when his father fell ill. I never got as much chance to know the other children as well, and so yes, she is my favorite.
I remember when you were little, parading around with a length of slender sapling in your hand, your 'Pilgrim's Staff', you proudly called it. And later, in years, about the age of 8 or 9, you had not only that but an old scrip bag of mine you'd found (or I gave to you, I forget which....maybe you found it and asked for it) in any case, you would get Cook, or old Abigale to provide you with chunks of bread and fruit to put into it, and then you would set about the gathering of the other children to go with you on a 'pilgrimage' and there I would see, headed away from the manor, a rag-tag string of happy children, 3 or 4 dogs, and a couple of ducks marching merrily away to venture first down to the pond, and later up to the far shepherd's hut, where Samuel would give you all fresh mussel shells to bring back as proof of your successful arrival. And once home again, I'd praise the lot of you for being so brave and see to it that cook rewarded you with sweetmeats and hot broth and comfits, if she had any.
Each journey had you going further and further, but I forbid you to go beyond the Hawthorn hedges of Starwood's boundries. At about 12, you got to go with your father and I, for the first time, and you brought back your very first shell of the scallop. You showed it first to Cook and Abigale and then you took it to Samuel's hut and made him a gift of it. He came to me later, tears in his old eyes, and begged me to give it back to you again, but I would not. He insisted: "Boot hits theh wee wun's furst, an ah canna tek et!". I reminded him, that in your eyes, 'He' had given you your 'first' one, and many more there-after, that you but gave him his first one, as you knew in your young heart that he would likely never know the soul's satisfaction of such a holy journey in what was to be the remainder of his days. He sat down heavily and openly wept. I held his shaking, too thin shoulders, til he exhausted himself, and then he meekly took his leave and returned to his sheep. He bore your shell on a leather cord upon his breast, til the day he died, his most treasured posession. You were so young, I oft wondered if you'd ever understood the true value of that gift of love you so unselfishly bestowed upon a man who never knew the love of wife or child of his own. And as often, I've wondered what inspired you to such generosity, for I knew how proud you were to bring home that small prize. Was it also in anticipation of presenting it to our Samuel, to prove to him, that you'd finally been beyond the thorny hedges and beyond the far horizon? And why did you not just bring back two shells? You could have. We would have provided you with the coin to make purchase of another from the booths along the way homeward, if only we'd known of your plan, you could have kept your own, and still Samuel would have had his small gift.
But you did not. Even then, you knew you would see the dry lands of Spain and the Moors again and that Samuel would most likely not even return to his Highland snows and bright heather, for his friends and family were most lost to sickness and clan wars and the like. He had little much to return to in the North and we were his family now. Which reminds me, though he is no more, still it is that the sheep must be tended and so it is that we now have Timothy who is busy, at last, about the task of seeing the sheep washed to disolve the worst of their grime and the wool sheared, thereby losing the red raddle marks of ownership not to mention freeing them from their heavy coats just as the weather has warmed to consistant days of blessed heat, at long last. I have spared lard to annoint the wool for ease in the spinning of it, but I refuse to part with even an ounce of precious new butter, when I would have it, instead gracing my bread, after a full month of the last of the old tasting of rancidness.... To know again the taste of fresh butter upon my lips is to know sweet joy that never changes from my youth to my silver years.
But back to the wool. There will be aplenty of it soon for spinning and my drop spindle awaits the long days ahead to spin it into fine yarns for the later weaving. Alas the tapestry loom that was my mother's and her mother's before, is no more. It was mostly lost in a small fire in my chamber during the winter past. I had had it set up close to the fire for both warmth and light and was suddenly called away to see to some upset amongst the servants.....I woke Sarah from where she dozed nearby, and told her to tend to the fire til my return, but was delayed and then nearly back when I heard her frightened shrieks, and rushed in to find a small log had apparently rolled free when she had dozed into slumber again. The log had come to rest against my basket of brite colored yarns beneath my loom. The smoke or something, for she was not hurt, had aroused Sarah and instead of doing what she could to smother the flames, had instead set about the making of such noise as to raise the dead. I arrived first, but fast on my heels were others, and I know not who's woolen cloak was first to land upon my dear loom, but twas Adam's foot that did kick the wood back toward the fireplace as he then grabbed Sarah and thrust her roughly away so we could tame the flames that would make short feast of my loom and the tapestry upon it. The fire was quickly put out but the damage done to it could not be repaired with my tears. This has been the final straw with me, regarding Sarah. As this is the only home she has ever known I will not put her out, but for the time being I can not bear her about me. I have taken Cook's Anne to be my maid and companion...she is bright and full of a merry spirit, and eager to please, and yet I was barely aware of her til young Adam suggested I might find her agreeable. (me thinks he has an eye toward her for himself in time, for now he is seldom far from sight of her and it's glad I am that he favors her). As for my loom, your father took the charred wood of it to Thomas the Turner and he hath made of the best of it, new tapestry bobbins and short sword so that I might have still that of my mother's tools to aid me in my work. Ben, the carpenter, has since promised that he shall have me a new loom of walnut to replace that which was lost, in time to apply brite yarns to a new tapestry, after the Summer yields up enough Madder and Ladies Bedstraw, blackberries, Tansy and Coreopsis and lichens and later, for Winter weaving.
William has been about the task of making horn spoons of late and I swear, I will never get used to the smell of heat-worked horn. Granted, the spoons are welcome as are the combs and lanthorn he makes, tis when he hath need to heat the horn that I am want to steer well clear of his cottage and save myself the stench that accompanies many of his work pieces.
I have discovered Alkanet growing in one of the meadows and will set out on the morrow with young Joseph in tow with a barrow and a means to pry the plant's roots loose from their lodging and cast about for more to bring down to my garden, where it will be safe from grazing and at hand to add rich color to the cheeses. I'd had some in my garden at one time, but thought it all lost after one dry Summer. Whether the birds carried seeds of it to the meadow, or whether it was there all along, I know not, but after to morrow, it will dwell once more close at hand.
One of the children has discovered a bank of clay after the hard winter rains and I am anxious to induce a potter to come here and set up a kiln and make practical use of the clay. For, until this time, we've had to purchase our needs of it from a full 15 or 20 miles away. There is not only the pot from the window sill to replace, but Cook says she is in need of various things about her kitchen kingdom and the dairy is always in need of crockery.
Your father is taking me to a large Spring fair in a few weeks where he and Adam have plans to do some trading and I believe your father has a fancy to make purchase of a new type of sheep he has heard mention of. He also has hopes to find us a potter for hire there. As for myself, I will take Anne and go in hope of finding purchase of fine Eastern silks and Egyptian cotton to give me welcome relief in the humid Summer months, and hopefully, also some gold and silver embroidery trims and silk flosses, for should our Rebecca eventually settle on one of her young suitors, I would have ready for some of her dowry fine garments to show off her new status in.
I also hope to come home with fresh spices, for we have used the last of the ginger and cloves and your father is wont to have pepper upon his foods again. (if he had not been so much the glutton of what we last purchased of it, he, we all, would have some still to partake of. For we had gotten far more of it than I'd thought wise, considering that it had cost us most dear. Still he would pay the ransom of it and forego other needs to have it.
On this note I must needs close for I have been writing well into the morn as your father's soft snores have kept me company and the pewter cat we call 'Lady' has lain soft and warm upon my feet. It seems that as I get older I have less need of sleep, which is just as well, for I'll get little enough in what remains of this night. Even so, I love the quiet night for at no other time can I write long with no distractions. But now my old eyes are prickled as I had not realized the window was ajar and the night humors been allowed to enter. I have closed it and am now to bed and pray that I will not be ill with it on the morrow.
All my love, my darling,
Copyright 2001 by R.D. Wertz. <windsingersmoon at yahoo.com>. Permission is granted for republication in SCA-related publications, provided the author is credited and receives a copy.
If this article is reprinted in a publication, I would appreciate a notice in
the publication that you found this article in the Florilegium. I would also
appreciate an email to myself, so that I can track which articles are being
reprinted. Thanks. -Stefan.