Rachel has been home schooling all the kids together since Booker started school; Booker and Lily are almost the same age, at 6 and almost 6 respectively, there birthdays are just a few months apart. Before that Tucker and Harper had been at the fancy private school in town, but then when Nikki started to travel with her book signing, it was really inconvenient to have to pull them from school and take them with her, hire a tutor to come along and eventually she started to consider “home schooling” them, which for her meant to hire a full time tutor/nanny. Once Booker turned 4, Rachel suggested letting her start homeschooling them all together, besides, she’d already been taking care of Booker as an infant alongside Lily, practically raising him as Lily’s twin brother, this felt like a natural progression. It was a bit more to handle than she realized at the time, but as with all things mommy related, give it time and the kinks work out. Not long after the kinks were worked out Nikki called and said she was expecting another baby, and would Rachel mind taking care of this one as well. In case you were wondering, Nikki does pay Rachel, she doesn’t pay her “professional” nanny fee’s mind you, but she does more than enough to cover the food that the kids eat, the electric that they consume and all the school supplies that Rachel goes through, and even enough for Rachel to set aside enough for that one rainy day when she can finally be a little selfish. In addition, Rachel and Lily get their “Without them I couldn’t have written this book” credit at the beginning of each and every one of her lovely children’s books. Yep, without them, tending to her children, she couldn’t write children’s books. Whatever happened in her life that left her so devoid of emotions for her own flesh and blood? That’s fodder for another book my lovelies, back to this one.
The kids, The kids feel it too. They are starting to pick up their dad’s habits, repeat his harsh tone with each other. Rachel doesn’t like hearing it in her house. Grandma Mary really doesn’t like hearing it. “If I had half a mind, I’d, I’d get out of this bed and on the phone with John and I’d give him what for. Why, in my day we didn’t speak to each other like that and we certainly didn’t speak to our cousins like that without haven’ to run right out side and pick out our switch for a spankin’.” Tucker, the oldest son at 10, was the worst offender. You’re always the hardest on your first child, that’s where you’ve laid all your eggs, put all your hopes and dreams and where you’ve hedged all your bets. John was rough on Tucker, and Tucker is rough on his siblings. He’s real bossy with his sister Harper, she’s next in line at the age of 8. She’s real motherly and tries to fill in where her mother so blatantly leaves off, but Tucker doesn’t want any of it. He wants to be all the man his daddy is, and then all the man he sees in his Uncle Ron, and all the man he hears about of Grandpa David, from Grandma. He wants to be ALL the man. That’s a lot of man for a kid who hasn’t even hit puberty yet, but he is determined, and the result is a bullish, red faced kid who comes across as annoying, bossy and sometimes whiney when he can’t get his way. Harper puts up with it all. She’s been around Rachel and Mary long enough to see what a servant heart looks like, and like I said, she fills in the gap where her mother Nikki leaves off, and she does it with style like no other 8 year old has ever done. I honestly don’t know how long she’ll hold up though. I half expect that one day we’ll hear her having a conversation much like her Aunt Rachel had a few days ago, hollering to Tucker “When do I get to be selfish? huh?” But only time will tell, time and the Holy Spirit. See last year little Harper gave her life to Jesus, she really understood what it meant that God came down in flesh, died on the cross in her place, and rose from the dead because death couldn’t hold Him, and she trusted Jesus with her life. Every day since then, except for two days she was real sick with the flu, she had prayed “Thank you for saving me. I love you. Please help me do good things for you. Amen.” She had, in it’s sweetest form, faith like a child. Rachel knew this and she and Ron and Mary would take time each night, alone as they fell asleep, to pray for Harper, as well as the rest of the kids, Booker, an adorable little boy, named for Nikki’s love of books, and a precious little girl named Catcher, because as much as that girl wriggled in her momma’s tummy, she thought “I’ll never catch her!!”
“When do I get to be selfish Ron? When do I get to run off and get my nails done and go shopping by myself and sit for hours writing my thoughts out and daydreaming all in the name of “writers block”? When do I get to be free? I work and I enjoy it, I really do, but I do it day after day, and I get very little thanks from anyone that doesn’t lay their head down in this house. You and Lily and momma, you all say thanks, you all give me kisses and pats and I see it, I notice it and I’m thankful that you’re thankful *laughs at self* but I just want them to say thanks, I want them to see what it is I go through, what it is I am doing to take care of their business, and how it is not my job, but I do it anyway. Why? Because I’m the good girl Ron, I’m the good girl and I do it because it’s the right thing to do and I do it because it honors God. That’s what I tell myself day after day. That and the simple fact that my reward is in heaven. My thanks is in heaven. But really, when do I get to be selfish?”
Ron pats Rachel’s feet, she’s sitting up in bed, folding laundry slowly as she says all this, he is at the other end, patting her feet after he’s just taken off his boots. You can see he is tired too. He is dirty from just another long day of farming and needs not just a shower, but a full body scrub down. He has stopped and has listened to her and let her vent. His eyes show true empathy, he wishes more than anything that Rachel didn’t have all this on her shoulders, that she could only have their Lily to raise, but as it is, she is raising, virtually, five kids, all because her brother John and his wife and their all too busy, selfish and otherwise disengaged lives. He tells her “Rachel, I don’t know when you’ll ever get to be selfish, I guess maybe never. I know that’s not what you want to hear. What I pray is that John and Nikki see how selfish they’ve truly been. To keep having these kids, these precious kids, but never having any intention of doing anything with them. It breaks my heart. And the kids put on a strong front, but how is that going to affect them in the long run? only time will tell.”
John’s wife Nikki is a children’s book author, who ironically can’t be bothered to stay home with her children for more than three days in a row without getting really irritable. She spends her days traveling to different book stores signing autographs, traveling to zoos, children’s museums and recreation centers to observe children for “research” for her next books as well as taking lots of time to just sit still as a method to banish writers block. It’s something she learned about in college and she clung to it like a binge drinker clings to the last call’s final pour. That method suited her personality much better than that of a stay at home mom, and it makes one wonder why you’d bother having kids if you really had no intention of being with them, then hide your disdain of them by writing books for children. One of life’s ironies.
If you had asked Nikki about this she would tell you she IS a mother to her children, and isn’t farming them out to be raised by Rachel. So why is it that Rachel, who is the mom to her single “belly baby” Lily, feels like a mother of five?
Rachel’s brother John is the father of the four kids that just piled into Rachel’s kitchen and plopped their backpacks onto her table. He had been a farmer as a young boy but was badly burned in a barn accident, the same accident that took his dad David’s life and his mother Mary’s legs. It was a bad accident, and one that wasn’t really talked about much anymore. Rachel was afraid that bringing it up would be too hard for grandma Mary. On that day Mary lost her husband David, she lost her legs, and although she didn’t lose her son, she lost a part of him, because their relationship has never been the same. From that day forward he started his journey away from her and the rest of their family, away from Jesus and his church family, away from all his memories of farming, without of course, being a total jerk. After all, his dad did at least raise him to honor his momma, so he would still be around, he would still call her once a week and send her a mother’s day card and a birthday card and he’d spend way too much on her at Christmas.That was the true extent of the relationship. In his heart, if he were really honest, he were an orphan of his own making. He had set out on his own, plowed his own way and hadn’t ever gone back to how things were and had no intention of ever doing so. He decided NOT to be a farmer and to stay far from it.
John is now an orthopedic surgeon. Something about seeing his mom go through all that pain of losing her legs pushed him to orpthopedics. It was also the one way to show the outside world that he was in fact, not a total jerk. As far as the town knew, it was the accident that turned him away from farming and into “something greater”, this new career of genuine healing.