Maggie had been the eldest child of a family of eleven. She had helped raise many of her siblings. She could whip up a white cake in less time of a blink of an eye.
At 10 years young, she was not only helping mama, she was helping papa clean the chicken coop, gather eggs without dropping one. She could use a pitch fork almost as good as papa.
At 14 year old, she learned the trade of cooking for several people in the only cafe the small town had. She learned how to rely on God when the stress became too much from every table being full.
She met and married one of her customers and gave up her job to raise a family . The newlyweds built a house about a ten minute walk from her parents.
They worked the land. They grew soy beans and corn. On Sundays they went to his parents home for dinner. As each child arrived, Maggie used her experiences from her childhood to make new clothes . She used her imagination to create new menus for her ever growing family.
They didn’t have much, but they were blessed with love and food on the table. Life was good. The kids were doing good in school . They had good neighbors, and they belonged to a good church.
It was one Saturday morning when shivers went down Maggie’s spine. She heard the horrific scream. She recognized the voice of her husband, Mac.
She yelled at the oldest child to tend to the younger ones as she tore off her apron and ran to the voice. Her mind was racing as she saw a bear tackling her man.
She screamed, “Hold on Mac, hold on. I’m going to fetch the gun.” She turned and ran faster than she ever had. She threw open the door and grabbed the key. Unlocking and grabbing the shotgun , she quickly locked the cabinet and raced back to her husband .
The only thing she could see was blood. Blood covered Mac. The bear had blood soaked teeth. Her husband was trying to fight the bear off, but was becoming too weak.
He went to the ground with the bear hovering over him. Maggie aimed and fired . The bear stood his ground. Maggie fired again, hitting the bear in the side. The bear let out a loud groan, but didn’t go down without his trophy.
Maggie had to tell the children about the accident . The parlor had to be notified. There was a line of people paying their respect and food covered the table.
The winter was rough. Money was tight. Maggie couldn’t seem to rouse herself to do more than care for the children. Visits from friends came and in time slowly faded. The holidays came and went.
The beautiful Christmas tree that usually garnished their living room was replaced by a small spruce one of the kids had cut down. Somehow they made it through the holidays and soon it was Spring .
Along with new hope also brought sickness to Maggie’s worn down body. The older kids took over her chores. The eldest was hired in the same cafe her own mama had worked.
Month after month became the same more difficult . Food was sparse in the pantry. Meals were made and eaten, but tummies were not full anymore.
By Fall, mama could barely get out of bed. The cafe owner was sending the extra food home after her employee got off work. The meat store sent a small bird to Maggie’s home, which the children did their best to fix a nice Thanksgiving meal. Mama ate a few bites, but then went back to sleep.
Christmas was coming but Mama was leaving. There was no tree this year, no strung popcorn, no joy. It was one week before Christmas when mama went to see Jesus.
Six children , two being old enough to look after the others but no one old enough to keep the house and land going. It was snowing outside. It was the only light coming through the dark windows . The children were watching the snow when they saw a person walk up to their door.
They opened the door, letting the minister in. He motioned to the others outside, and one by one each came in with a gift. A decorated tree, food, wrapped presents.
The children smiled for the company that had arrived. The visitors sat down with the children and holding hands they prayed for the food and the kids.
After most of the food was eaten, a knock came at the door. The minister opened the door and let two of the town’s leaders come in. The two sat down at the table and without hesitation explained why they were there.
“We came here today because we hope you can help us. You see, money can’t buy everything . We have so much. We have money, a nice home, many wonderful friends. The one thing we don’t have is a family of our own. We have all those extra rooms, but they stand empty. We were wondering if all you children would give us the biggest gift of all; would you come live with us and let us be a part of your family . ”
One by one each visitor stood up and waited to see what the kids were going to do. The kids looked at each other, and they looked around their home. They loved their mama and papa, but they were sad and lonely . Together they nodded and got up and gave their new parents a big hug.