“Oh, yes…now where was I?”
“The wild girl.” I, being a wild girl myself, was very interested in her.
“Yes. Charles did think that Momma had gone a little over board in her enthusiasm for taking in strays when Momma scooted over next to Charles and reached down to offer the girl her hand for a lift up into the pristine pram. ‘Precious Baby Girl!’ My momma hugged and kissed on the girl, ‘I haven’t seen you in so long. Sit with us, and talk to us while we all go into town.’ Now Charles was all for helpin the poor… but not necessarily in his buggy. He would much rather put some cash in the collection plate at church and let the preachers decide who was most in need… or put some cash in this poor girls hand that she could go and buy her a pair of shoes, a nice dress and a hair comb. Charles also wasn’t generally vain, but this was not the grand entrance back to town that he had hoped for.”
“So who was she?”
“Well, she was actually from a really good family. Charles, of course, was probably wonderin what rock she had crawled out from under, and he wasn’t at all sure that our momma was safe with a wild mountain girl sittin nearly on Momma’s lap. Charles’ pride was no doubt battling his pity. He was torn between not wantin to be seen in public with this half wildcat girl, and not wanting to hurt Momma’s feelings… he didn’t want Momma to think badly of him, especially since it was his first visit home in nearly forty years.”
“So who was she?”
“Hold on! I’m gettin to that part! Before Charles could get the buggy started back up, Momma said,
‘Charles, I’d like for you to meet someone very special.’ Charles turned toward the girl, and for the first time he really looked at the stranger. The girl was no poor beggar waif… in fact, she was stunning. Her eyes were big and gold and round like the eyes of a big tiger that Charles had been entranced by on a trip to the Chicago Zoo. Charles told me later, after I had a chance to visit with him a while, that the first impression he had of that girl made him feel exactly like when he was spell-bound watchin the cat prowl back and forth in front of him… separated by only an inch of glass. The tiger had walked from one side of his cage to the other…back and forth, back and forth, all the while with its eyes locked with Charles’ eyes.
“This wildcat girl had eyes that he knew right away could see right through him. ‘It was unsettling’ he told me. He knew that she wasn’t lookin at his groomed mustache and his pomaded hair. She wasn’t lookin at his manicured nails or his tailor-made suit. She saw a man who envied her. She saw the boy who wished with all his heart that just once in his life, just once, that he had been truly free . He stopped looking at her with pity. Instead he looked at her with admiration because she stood for everything he had always yearned for …a free life… without concern about what others think… without games or manipulations or pretense. She was what she was…love it or hate it, there was no mistaking it. And in that moment, he mourned for the loss of his innocence. The loss of his childhood where he had never been allowed to be a child.”
“ That’s so sad. Poor Charles.”
“I’m not done yet…you still don’t even know who the girl was. Like I said, she was a beautiful creature. Her hair was like a wild mane of spun gold, red and chestnut-brown. Her skin was much too dark for a young lady with any breeding… but this girl was not gong to be satisfied sittin in a parlor, hands folded demurely in her lap, workin on her cross-stitch, and waitin for a visitor to maybe come by. She was the one out visitin… and it wasn’t to people’s houses. She would visit the creeks and the woods and the hills. She would visit with whatever people she saw out, or with the animals that would inevitably follow her on her travels around and through the country side. Her favorite rooms were far to large and lavish to fit inside a house… or any other man-made building.
Her handiwork were clover and daisy chains… a long one worn around her neck and a smaller one that crowned her head. Tiny braids framed her face and were tied on the ends with long strands of thin grass that looked liked green silk ribbons.
“Charles felt like he had met this girl from somewhere before… somewhere long ago. But this girl before him was so much brighter, so much more vibrant than the girl of his memory. The girl that he knew had only been a shadow of this woman child. ‘Charles, this is your sister Hannah’s girl. Isn’t she just the spitting image of Hannah? Such a sweet child, and as they say, this apple didn’t fall far from the tree. She is just like her sweet Momma. Charles, don’t you think she favors her Momma?’
Charles felt more thoughtful and subdued than he had felt in a long time. He answered never taking his eyes away from the girls piercing honey eyes, ‘Yes, Momma. Just like her.’ You can imagine how humbled Charles was to see his mistake. This was his own niece, wealthy in inheritance… but also rich in so many other ways.
“During Charles’ visit home the two unlikely friends spent a lot of time walking together through the county, talking about the differences since he had been a boy… since the last time that he had seen it when he had been just about her age. They discovered that the amount of years that separated their ages was not a barrier. Old souls are drawn to other old souls, regardless of the time their bodies had been on earth. People draw people to them that are like themselves. Charles’ new found friend was exactly what he needed to learn how to be who he was meant to be…true to himself and free. Free from his bitterness and free from his past here. He was so happy about being back that he built himself a house on the far end of Jeremiah’s property. It was a clearing high on a hill that looked out over the mountains… a breath-taking view really. He spent more and more time in that cabin on the hill, until he finally retired there. ”
“That’s a happy ending… but you never said who the wild girl was. Do I know her? “
“You sure do. It is your great cousin Katherine. You were named for her, you know? After you didn’t come out a ‘Pascal’ we all started thinkin about girls in the family that we hoped that you would grow to be like. We thought about your Grandma Naomi, she was a wonderful and beautiful woman, but she had such a hard life… Even though it did turn out well in the end. Then when somebody said, ‘What about Katherine?’ We all immediately said, ‘Yes!’ But Katherine is too formal a name for you. You are a Katie, through and through.” Grandma poked me with her pointer finger for emphasis.
“So what about Marie? Where did that come from?”
“As far as we all knew, nobody in the family had ever had the name ‘Marie’…and you looked like an original.
“I like that. Thanks, Grandma. That was a good story.” I loved a happy story. Grandma had too many sad stories, usually. I was so thankful that she had found my Granddaddy. He had come from pure fun, so that was all he knew. It would have been impossible to be with him for very long and all of his playful, happiness not rub off.