Sarah, Returned--Chapter 46 (A Steemit Original Novel)
It’s amazing how resilient kids are. My little ones have been pulled away from everything they’ve ever known and dropped into an alien environment, their friends, neighbors, and grandparents on Joshua’s side in a distant, unreachable land. They walked into my house not knowing how to use a light switch or flush a toilet, much less comprehend what a TV was, or use a computer. When the cab picked us up, Hannah and Clara got a little freaked out about how it moved with no horses, though the younger children took it in stride; Joshua was unnerved, but said nothing, remembering cars from my descriptions of them on long, freezing winter nights by the hearth at our farm.
Matt and I explained every new thing to them in the simplest possible terms, and now, two weeks later, it’s like they’ve lived here all their lives....the children, anyway. Joshua is another story; it will take him more time to adjust, just like we both thought.
The only thing the kids don’t understand is why they can’t write to their friends in 1699 Dover. Well, Clara and Thomas don’t understand; Patience and David are too young to write to their friends.
Hannah does understand. She’s got a remarkable, firm grasp of what time travel is, even if she’s as in the dark about how it works as the rest of us. I can talk to her about it with complete openness. After trying and failing to convey the information in an age-appropriate way with the other four, I just let Clara and Thomas write their letters. After they were done, I put them away in my own memory box for some future, unknown purpose. I expect to keep doing this for the foreseeable future. Pretty soon, I’m going to have to start writing back to them, pretending to be whoever they wrote to, or there will be more awkward questions to answer.
I wonder if they wrote to me in a similar way when they were still in 1699. I haven’t asked Joshua. While it’s been easy with the kids, getting him acclimated to 2017 has been a full-time job. Their first night with me in 2017, we all slept together in my bed, so I didn’t get my longed-for alone time with my husband. Thank God the bed is a California king, so it fit everyone, adults included. No one was left out of our cuddly family reunion. We were so happy to be reunited, and I didn’t want to let them out of my sight, much less my arms.
It made things seem more normal for them, too. Like most farm families of the 17th century, we slept multiple people to a bed; children almost always slept in the same bed as adults until they were Thomas's age, and our house was no exception. After age seven, children got their own pallets on the floor, either in the parents' bedroom or in other parts of the house. In our house, the older children slept in an adjoining, multi-purpose room. Joshua and I were already talking about expanding our house to fit our growing brood when I was pulled back to 2017.
So, it wasn’t surprising when the girls were beyond thrilled to each be presented with their own bedrooms their second night at my 21st century house. That’s a luxury even rich children don't typically get in 17th century New England; someone is always sharing a room with someone else in the colonies. Hannah, Clara, and Patience thought they were queens. Thomas was more subdued about getting his own room; he didn’t say so, but I think sleeping alone seems unnatural to him. Still, he said thank you, and moved in as requested. He also showed up in my room later that night to get in bed between Joshua and me, like he’s used to. I’m sure he will adjust in time.
As for little David, I moved a faux antique child’s trundle bed from the attic into my room for him; technically, he’s old enough to have his own room, too, but I want to keep him close to me for now, until I’m sure he’s acclimated to his new surroundings. I kind of became used to having a full room in the 17th century, and with Joshua now sharing the room with me, it’s nice to have at least one of the kids nearby for a while longer.
We’re keeping Grandma’s room as it is, for now. If she is still out there somewhere, and if she comes back, Jacob will tell her we know everything. Maybe once she knows we know, she will come back to us. We’re hoping. If nothing else, she will surely want to meet her great-grandchildren, one of whom is also her half-sister. Matt already feels terrible about getting rid of most of her things. I keep telling him she wasn’t expecting to live in this house again, so he shouldn’t feel guilty. He does, anyway. That’s just Matt.
Matt and I finished searching under Grandma’s floor the first morning Joshua and the kids were with us. We let them sleep in unusually late while we looked for that elusive piece of jewelry. I don’t know that any of them have ever slept past sunup. It’s part of the luxury of not having farm chores to attend to. We didn’t find the earring, or anything else. No matter. I no longer need it to open another portal, so finding it was just to satisfy my curiosity at this point, and to make sure there was nothing in the house the kids might use to accidentally time travel. It would have been nice to find it, but I can live with it being forever missing. As long as it's not in the house, I'm good with it.
I didn’t think I’d spend more than a day here when I stepped through the portal the second time and found myself back in 2017. Nothing mattered more than getting back to my husband and children. It's only now that they're with me once more that I realize I would have age regressed upon returning to them, and may have been no more than Hannah's age when I got there; in my desperation to get back to them, I wasn't thinking clearly. Still, knowing what I know now, I think I would have done it anyway. Nothing was more important than reuniting us all, even if I had to be a kid again to do it.
Thank goodness I didn't have to make that choice. Now, they’re here, and we’re staying, as a family. I’m happy. Matt is happy. The kids are happy. Joshua is happy to be with me, but getting him used to this century, despite my tales of it in the past, is proving to be a challenge. Though he knows every strange thing he encounters is a human invention based on science and technology, part of him still suspects witchcraft may be involved.
There is also the question of making him feel useful. With my part of Grandma’s inheritance, there is no need for him to work. None of us have to. While I plan to go back to my studies at UNH next semester and Matt is immersed in learning more about Grandma’s activities and the fate of our dads, Joshua feels somewhat useless. There’s not much I can do about it, either. Even if he wanted to go out and get a job, just for something to do, he’s only qualified to be a blacksmith and a farmer, two occupations that are not in great demand in the Dover of 2017. The idea of being a house husband when I go back to school isn’t enticing to him, because he comes from a time when men are expected to take care of their families, wives and children included, as well as any servants.
Until he adjusts and learns to enjoy raising the kids in a more hands-on way, with some travel to see the world in this century, I need to find a project for him, one that makes him feel essential to the well-being of the family. He doesn’t understand him just being here is essential to us. No, he needs something more, at least for now, and I have to find it, while integrating him into the community and modern life. I have to turn my 17th century husband into a 21st century man. He promised he would become one, and I know he will. Getting him there, though....that task may prove to be the hardest task of all.
I’m sitting at the bar, drinking my coffee and eating some fabulous blueberry pancakes, courtesy of Matt (our self-proclaimed resident chef), working on my laptop while the kids watch cartoons and eat cereal in the living room just behind me, Joshua in the back yard chopping a truckload of logs I had delivered to him into firewood, when Matt slips onto the bar stool beside me. It's a little after 9 am on a Saturday, and he's still wrapped in a red and white striped robe. He likes to make Saturdays as relaxed as possible, and dresses the part.
“Find anything?” he asks. He asks this every morning. To my frustration, the answer is always the same.
“Nothing,” I reply, irritated. I take a sip of the rich coffee and feel a little better. “It’s like the guy doesn’t exist. Professor Robert T. Johnson not only never taught at UNH or M.I.T., he never taught anywhere. At least not Physics, or any other science. I’m beginning to think he was writing to Grandma under an assumed name. Jacob said she went to the university to visit him a few times, so he must be a real person, and had to have worked there in some capacity. Robert Johnson just wasn’t his real name. Maybe he wasn’t even a professor. He could have been another time traveler. I’ve searched every university and community college in the United States, Europe, and Australia over a fifty year period going backward from this year, and haven’t found a trace of him in any position at any of them, teaching or otherwise. I’m going for Asia, Africa, and South America next.”
“You’ll find him,” Matt assures me, giving me an encouraging pat on the shoulder. “Someone wrote those letters.”
“I know. It’s just frustrating. He’s the only one I know of who might be able to tell me how to protect my family from time travel. He may be the key to finding Grandma again, too, plus I would really like to bring Grizel back from Canada. Once Margaret grows up and goes back to Dover, maybe she will be more willing to go through a portal, especially if I can reunite her with Grandma and Hannah. There is so much I can do with time travel, if I just learn more about it. I need him to help me figure this stuff out, Matt.”
“I know you do. And believe me, I want Grandma back, too, even if she’s 15 years old when she returns to us. You’ll find him. I know it.”
“The good news is there are records of my stay in the 17th century. I’ve been searching genealogy records online, too, to make sure it wasn’t all a dream. Sometimes, it seems like it was, and honestly, Karen’s accusations of mental illness, and my mother’s family history….well, let’s just say your former fiancée planted the seed of doubt she intended. Don’t worry. I’m good. I know it was real. I mean, the confirmation is right there in our living room, watching TV. It’s nice to get official confirmation, though. And, it exists. My marriage record to Joshua is there, as are the births of all the kids. Quakers kept excellent records, better than anyone else of the time period. If Joshua married someone else and had other children in a different time line, before I went there, it's erased now; because I didn't research it before I left....and, why would I?....I'll never know. The world doesn't seem to have changed much from my journey, at any rate. You know, when I was there, in the past, I hoped maybe one day you would start researching our family history and find those records, so you would know what happened to me. You’re smart. You would have figured it out.”
Matt sips his coffee, inhaling deep of its hazelnut aroma. “I hope your faith in my intelligence is not misplaced. I’d like to think I would figure it out if confronted with those records. It was bad enough with you missing for a month. I don’t know what I would do if I never knew what happened to you.”
I take a bite of pancake and chew it thoughtfully. “Well,” I say, swallowing a piece that is sweet with blueberry juice, “thank goodness we don’t have to find out. Hey, do you think Grandma left any records in the past? I mean, we don’t know where she’s been, or when, or even if she used her real name. But, with all the traveling she’s done, you’d think she would leave some kind of record somewhere. If we knew more, maybe we could trace her journeys. Even figure out where she is now.”
“I’ve thought about that,” Matt admits. “I’d like to know what she’s been up to, myself. Why don’t you keep looking for the mysterious professor, and I’ll handle tracking down Grandma?”
“Sounds good to me. To delegation.” I raise my coffee mug up, and Matt clinks it with his own.
“To delegation,” he repeats, smiling.
Catch up with the entire "Sarah, Returned" series here: