]The Diaries of Lara Anders, Part 1
My father Ritch Anders died last week at the age of 81. He had already outlived my mother by 14 years and had found further happiness in his later years with Jenneth, the widow of his friend Arie Bucher. He had served as leader of the banished migrants and mayor of the town since the day it became a town. We held his funeral at St. Martin’s and then processed to the cemetery where we buried him beside my mother. Even during the times in our lives when my father was angry with me for marrying Cliver and I was angry with him for not accepting us as we are, I still felt a strong connection with him. My brothers both told me that both the bond and the tension came because I was the most like him. Certainly after my mother died we were able to spend much time together and the breach of the past was healed. I believe that he actually came to respect me, which is all I could ever have hoped for.
The day after the funeral we held a town meeting to elect a new mayor. I was fully expecting that my brother Durwoodson would be elected, but he indicated that his role as our member of the legislature and vice mayor was more than enough for him to do alongside his job as fisher. When the ballots were counted I was flabbergasted when they read out my name as the new mayor. It will be some stress alongside my teaching duties, for the education of our children must always remain a high priority. I will do my best and pray that is sufficient for the challenge.
After the death of my father Jenneth had been living alone. Because she is now 77 both my brothers and sister and I and her own children Gianning, Linwoody, Lyndal and Arien were worried about her. She works as hard as ever, but she is not young--in fact she is now the last of her generation. Because Mackery had been living alone since Daliana died he volunteered to move in with her and see to her needs. All of the children agreed that this would be best and Jenneth herself has accepted the arrangement. This also freed Mackery’s cabin so that my nephew Elliott could marry Maddilynne Bucher.
My experiments and measurements with the new farm have yielded some interesting results. In the original farm’s pepper field, which measures 15 squares by 8 squares for a total of 120 squares, the yield was 784 peppers, or just over 6 and 1/2 peppers per square. In the new farm the two corn fields, 9 squares by 9 squares each or a total of 81 squares per field, yielded 588 ears of corn each for a total of 1176 ears of corn, or almost 7 ears of corn per square. No doubt the weather affects the two crops differently, but I will continue my measurements for the next several years to average out the results.
Time certainly flies by. It hardly seems possible, but yesterday I celebrated my 45th birthday. I feel much the same as I always did, yet when I look in the mirror there is no denying that I am no longer 20ish. I continue my work teaching and Cliver serves as our physician. My eldest brother is 65 but shows no sign of slowing down. He is preparing his huge collection of notes on the herbs and medicinal plants of the valley for publication. This has in many ways been his life’s work. He has allowed me to read through part of the draft and it shows his remarkable ability. Under other circumstances he could have had a very different life. When my parents gave up the settled life where they came from they also committed Mackery, a baby at the time, to a life he might well not have chosen for himself. Not that he would ever complain, but I do wonder what he might have become if he had been granted the chance for higher education. He is and Daliana was among the most widely read people I have ever known. I remember as a child sneaking into their cabin when all the adults were at work just to read from their huge library of books. It was those books which opened the world to me.
Durwoodson brought a family of nomads to the town hall yesterday. Their names are Estherford and Jalynor. They are accompanied by their daughter Arri who is 6 and their son Chadrian who is 3. Their story is horrible. They have escaped from a life of slavery and been helped to come to our province--where slavery has been outlawed for some thirty years--by friends of Durwoodson who live on the southern shore of the great lake. These people are part of a large network that brings escaped slaves northward and across the border. In particular a man named Levi and his nephew coordinate part of the network which brings people near to the border. This underground network brought this family to the provincial capital and asked Durwoodson whether they could settle in Allberger. Durwoodson said that he could not decide for the whole community, but he would bring them here and put the question to us. We immediately called everyone to the town hall for an emergency town meeting. When Estherford told his story of being sold from one plantation to another, the long hours of backbreaking work and the cruel punishments, most of us were moved to tears. The vote was unanimous to grant them immediate citizenship in Allberger and accept them into the community. We went right out and selected a site for a house for them at the new farm we are building. When we asked for their family name to record them in the list of citizens, they said that the only family name they had ever been allowed was the name of their masters. We gave them a list of the family names we were aware of and they chose “Unger” from the list. Estherford said it was because they had spent a lot of time hungry in their lives and that name would remind them of where they had come from.
Tavar has told us that he needs a break from his duties. Genardo Bucher-Flugel has become our pastor. He has served as apprentice to Tavar in a process the synod refers to as “reading theology.” At least that is what official forms and documents say. The reality is that Genardo’s wife Yessee is the pastor and she is the one who was actually Tavar’s apprentice, but we learned our lesson when we elected Lyndal and the synod came down on our heads. So now we tell them what they want to hear and they don’t ask. Someone referred to this as “Don’t ask; don’t tell,” which some of the citizens think isn’t completely honest. That is probably true, but we do the same thing when we hold an election. The province won’t allow women to vote, but whenever we re-elect Durwoodson to the legislature everyone votes. If we told the province they would probably disallow the results, so we just don’t bring it up. I have enough trouble whenever some official comes to visit and wants to meet the real mayor. At my age I don’t see why I should have to apologize for being the best person for the job. Yessee read all of Tavar’s theology books and has assisted him in his duties for several years now. We all respect her and she will be a good pastor to us all. But we will not commit any of this to official records.
A livestock merchant has landed at the trading post and we traded firewood for sheep. Now we can establish a herd and add mutton to our diet alongside venison. It will be a new experience as venison is the only meat I have eaten my entire life. I’m told that mutton is not quite so flavourful, but we shall see. More importantly we can sheer the sheep every year for wool. That will allow us to make our leather coats with wool linings, which will be much warmer in Winter. It will make the walk to the town hall considerably more pleasant.
Estherford and Jalynor have added a baby son to their family. Little Hezekiel was born late last night and both mother and child are healthy. Jalynor said to me that she was so happy that he had been born free and no one can ever treat him like a slave. The experiences of their lives have deeply scarred this family but they have already become valued members of the community. They have taught us some of the songs of their people, songs that have a haunting combination of deep sadness and great hope. They have tell us that many of these songs contain coded messages to tell the slaves when people are available to help them escape and how to find their way North. The songs are quite different from the hymns of the Old World which our parents brought with them and which we sing in church on Sundays. I have suggested to Yessee that it would be good to incorporate some of Estherford’s and Jalynor’s songs into the service. It might liven us up a bit. She agrees.
This year the fields performed as follows: Peppers, 778. Corn field 1, 586. Cornfield 2, 584.
Alessian started school, which means that I have two of my own sons in class. The boys are both good students and behave as well as boys can, but it is still hard to make sure that I neither favour the boys nor am too hard on them. I often err on the harder side, though they never complain. It would be much easier if I was not so close to all of the children, especially to my own. But such cannot be in a town like ours where not only does everyone know everyone else, everyone is related to everyone else. No story is left untold and no gossip left unspread for long. Both teaching and serving as mayor stretches me almost beyond my limits and I am sure that my role as wife and mother suffers the most. When I express my discouragement Cliver tells me that I am truly the best person for both jobs and he happily shares me with the town. I’m not so sure about the boys. They seem fine, but I’m not sure they would tell me if they weren’t. Aver is at that age where he both needs me and wants to be independent from me. One minute he insists that I accompany him on his latest quest; the next minute he wants nothing to do with me. He will graduate soon and can really become independent, but until then we live in tension.