↑ Return to Dreams and Destiny

Part 2: Decisions



Before they knew it, Jakob was a year old and then immediately, the strawberries began to ripen. As in previous years, Stefan stayed home every second day to help in the harvest until the Doukobor girls arrived. His report card at the end of June was straight ‘A’s, even in English. His hard work had paid off.

Lydia and Pieter were coming to visit for two weeks in July, but this year, Erik was arriving on July first. He would stay for six weeks, to earn money for the entire summer, and Stefan was thrilled that his friend would be staying for longer. They worked hard during the day, collecting picked strawberries, nailing crates and loading them onto the Co-Op truck.

In the evenings, they either went swimming with Barry and Bruce, or the three older boys would venture into the woods and go fishing, often returning with a dozen little trout.

Stefan loved the trout for breakfast with scrambled eggs. He would come home and with Erik, precisely clean the fish, surrounded by the barn cats, anxious for the results of the cleaning. While Mikael had not been fond of fish, they became something to which he looked forward, especially the way that Stefan and Erik cleaned them of bones.

On Saturday evenings, Stefan and Erik would walk over to Barry and Bruce’s and ride into town with Anna and Mike to attend the weekly dance. They never shared with Maria whether or not they danced, but they seemed to be very particular when readying for the dance.

Lydia and Pieter arrived, with Nadia, Johan and Katrina in tow. Johan was the same age as Edna and Martin’s son and he was delighted to have an instant friend his age.

Nadia, on the other hand was left out. Not only was she the only girl, but also she was expected to help the women look after the babies and to preserve. She was not a happy girl, especially watching her brothers disappear to swim or fish, as she helped prepare meals or chased toddlers. Lydia spoke to her daughter, hoping to help her to feel better, but her twelve year old wasn’t content to listen.

“When I grow up, I’ll have people to help me!” she exclaimed sullenly. “When I grow up, I’ll have as much right as the boys to have fun! It’s not fair that just because I’m a girl, I’m not allowed to do anything!”

She flung her long ponytail over her shoulder, her hazel eyes flashing with indignation, as she stalked out of the house toward the barn, stopping in the garden along the way to pull some carrots to feed the horse.

Lydia threw her hands in the air. “What will I do with that girl?” she asked in tired resignation.

“You could try listening to her,” Maria replied softly, surprising Lydia.

“What do you mean?” Lydia asked curiously, her brow furrowed and hazel eyes flashing ominously.

Maria simply shrugged her shoulders. “How old was Erik when you allowed him to pick for us and make his own money? He was the same age as Nadia is now. At least, he has the evenings to fish, to swim and to relax with his friends. Nadia works hard all day and she never gets a break, not even in the evening. She baby sits, cooks, cleans and she never gets paid for it, does she? Katrina is not her child, Lydia, she is yours.”

Maria saw Lydia stiffen, and she expected her to be angry, but she had been honest. And Lydia knew it.

Sitting in a chair, Lydia studied Maria. “Of course Katrina is my child. All of the children are expected to help.

“And Nadia more than the others, because she is a girl,” Maria finished. “She is right, Lydia, it is not fair. But then, life is not fair is it? Sometimes there are no rights and no wrongs, just what is. We women know that for fact,” she chuckled, trying to lighten the conversation.

Lydia started to laugh. “Yes we do!” she said, shaking her head. “Maria, when did you get to be wise?” she asked no one in particular. “I do lean on heavily on Nadia, and it isn’t fair. I will talk to her.

Maria nodded at the babies, happily playing on the floor. “I will watch them. She is at the corral.”

Lydia sighed, and went to search for her daughter. Maria looked at the three toddlers on the kitchen floor. “Will you give me the same kind of trouble?” she asked as they looked back at her sweetly.

The following night was Saturday, and the boys eagerly cleaned up for the dance. Only this time, Nadia joined them her shining hair loose, hazel eyes sparkling. Lydia had spoken to Erik and Maria to Stefan. Both promised to look after her and make sure that she had a good time. At the appointed time, the three teens walked across to Anna and Mike’s and rode into town for the dance.

To Maria’s amusement, Lydia was somewhat unsettled that evening, unable to sit still for long. The babies were in bed, and the evening was beautiful. They sat on the front steps of the house, listening to the Doukhobour girls harmonize their cheerful songs and enjoying the cool evening breeze.

“She will be fine, Lydia. Stefan and Erik will look after her. Let her have a little fun” Maria reassured her friend.

Lydia sighed. “I know, she is fine, I guess that I am realizing that she is growing up. It is very difficult to let them grow and change. Erik is almost finished school, Johan is almost ten, and in a month, Nadia will turn thirteen. Where do the years go?” Lydia asked no one in particular.

“That is the question of the ages, is it not?” Maria replied.

They both went inside, laughingly joining their husbands in a game of cards. The trio returned home, giggling about something that happened at the dance. Obviously Nadia had a good time, as her entire demeanour exuded joy. Mikael winked at Maria.

The following afternoon, Stefan made an unusual request. After their meal and the young ones were in bed, he asked if Barry could come over and if they could play the radio.

“Vhy?” Maria asked curiously.

“Nadia is going to teach us how to dance,” he answered. “She is very good,” he explained with admiration. “She promised to teach me, Erik and Barry how to dance. Can we turn on the radio?” he begged.

Maria laughed and nodded. The large batteries didn’t last long before they had to be recharged, but this would be worth recharging them. The boys needed to learn to dance and Nadia needed to feel important.

“Yes, vhen kitchen be clean and babies be to bed, ve vill turn on radio to music. You need be know how to dance the vay dance here,” Maria declared. The smiles that Stefan and Erik gave to Nadia and then to Maria were brilliant.

“Thank you!” Stefan declared hugging his sister. He knew that she would understand. She always did.

Once the dishes were cleaned and the babies were in bed, Pieter and Mikael moved the table to the side of the eating area, where the adults sat with their coffee. Barry arrived at the appointed time and Nadia began her lessons. She showed them the step to a waltz, first without a partner, then with each of the boys, after which the radio was turned on.

The music, in truth, sounded surreal in the silence of the summer evening. Even the Doukobor girls stopped singing and listened. It didn’t take long before the boys were able to understand how to waltz, in fact, it took no time at all for them to become proficient.

Then, the radio played an old time waltz. They listened to the tune, and then Nadia showed them the steps to it, using the same method as before. Suddenly, Mikael stood and took Maria’s hand and they started dancing around the floor, followed shortly by Lydia and Pieter.

Nadia giggled as each of the boys took their turn twirling her around the small kitchen and eating area. The batteries wore down and the radio was turned off, but it was a delightful evening. Erik and Stefan walked Barry home in case there was a bear waiting for them in the dark, and returned home in high spirits, looking forward to next week’s dance.

Nadia smiled as they came in. She had shown the boys something that they didn’t know, and they respected her for it. The entire evening had been fun and she was a happy girl. She, too, looked forward to the dance the following Saturday night. At last, her family looked at her in a different way. She was no longer Nadia, the girl, the babysitter, the cook. She was Nadia, the person, and she was satisfied. For now.


The week quickly passed by and finally, Saturday arrived. As was the routine, the strawberries were picked and crated, but they stopped around four o’clock, earlier than normal. Their meal was ready early and after eating, the young people cleaned up.

Nadia, with the help of Maria and her mother, had washed her long dark hair that morning and Lydia wrapped it in rags, removing them mid-afternoon when her hair was dry. The results were shining, soft ringlets, hanging almost to her waist. After their meal, Lydia brushed her hair. It cascaded down her back in soft waves, silken and glistening, framing Nadia’s small face with a veil of dark waves. She looked like a Dresden doll with her dark hair, white skin and dark lashed hazel eyes.

Erik was impressed, Johan teased her, but Stefan was mesmerized. He had always thought of Nadia as Erik’s little sister. Now, he couldn’t believe the beautiful young woman standing in his house. His mouth went dry. Try as he might, he could not utter a word. He simply smiled and took her hand, leading her to the path that they would take to Anna and Mike’s. Erik looked after them in surprise, shrugged and hurriedly ran to catch up to them.

Once they were out of earshot, Maria laughed out loud. “I think that Stefan has just seen Nadia through new eyes,” she declared.

“Yes,” Mikael laughed. “I wonder if Erik and Barry will have an opportunity to dance with her tonight,” he chuckled.

“She reminds me of you when we first met,” Pieter stated. “Your hair was the same. When I saw you, my heart stopped.”

Lydia blushed then laughed. “You hardly said a word,” she remembered.

“I know,” Pieter giggled. “My mouth was so dry and my brain so empty, I could not think of anything to say!

They all laughed and teased, poured some coffee and began their card game as they listened to the melodies that the Doukobor girls sang. It was later than normal when the young trio returned from the dance. They gave their families a recap of the evening and then went to bed.

It wasn’t until later the next afternoon that Lydia had an opportunity to speak to Nadia. “Did you enjoy dance last night?” she asked casually.

“Yes,” Nadia replied with a smile. “It was very nice. We all danced and had fun. The boys learned to dance very well,” she added.

“They be have you to thanks,” Maria commented while peeling potatoes. “You be dance very good. Vhere you be learn?”

Nadia walked across the room and scooped up Katrina, who was reaching for the wood stove. “At school. The girls teach each other. Most of them dance well,” she replied.

Lydia paused. “Nadia, I was talking to Maria earlier, and she suggested that you could stay here until Erik comes home. Would you like to?” she asked.

Her hazel eyes opening wide, Nadia looked at her mother in utter surprise. “Really?” she asked. “I could stay for a little while?” Lydia nodded.

Nadia hugged her mother. “Yes!” she almost shouted. “Thank you!” Then she hugged Maria. “Thank you,” she repeated, unable to stop smiling.

“Then be settled,” Maria declared. “Vhen Lydia and Pieter go home tomorrow, you be stay for two veeks.”

Nadia’s face glowed with happiness. She felt so adult, so independent, that she was almost giddy. The remainder of the evening she was so happy that she wore a constant smile, humming a little tune to herself as she went about her self-appointed tasks.

The following morning, Nadia’s family left for home. To be truthful, she felt an overwhelming urge to cry as they waved from the wagon, but that was quickly replaced by excitement – two weeks’ of freedom! She was so delighted at the prospect. The daily routine began again, and the berry crop continued to come in. As in the past, Erik and Stefan picked cherries, while the Doukobor girls finished the raspberry harvest.

In the evenings, the teens sat on the stoop, talking, telling stories and enjoying the cool evening breeze. Sometimes, the radio was turned on and they danced. The boys became more adventurous and were becoming very proficient dancers.

Nadia assisted Maria during the day, keeping Ivan and Jakob busy while Maria preserved strawberries, raspberries, cherries and made jam. The garden was producing and she was starting to do the odd jar of vegetables as well. She was grateful for Nadia’s help and told her so. Nadia beamed with pride.

Saturday evening, the teen trio left for the dance and Maria and Mikael were alone. “The house seems quiet, no?” Mikael remarked as they sat on the front steps, enjoying the cool evening breeze.

“It is,” Maria smiled. “It is not unpleasant. I like being alone with you.

Mikael grinned and put his arm around his wife. “We have our dream now, Maria. Is it what you imagined? Are you satisfied?

Leaning into Mikael, Maria paused. “I am satisfied. We have a good life. We have food, a home, our children. It is not what I imagined. It was impossible to imagine what life here is like. It is so different from the village in the old country. Is it what you imagined? Are you satisfied?” she inquired.

“Yes,” Mikael grinned. “I am satisfied. I am not sure what I imagined, but this is better. Especially being married to you. It is even better than I imagined,” he whispered, kissing his wife passionately. “I love you even more than I did then.”

“I love you too, Mikael,” Maria whispered.

They heard a noise in the dark and were surprised to see Mike’s wagon materialize and pull up to the house. Barry and Stefan jumped out and helped Erik into the house, closely followed by Nadia, issuing orders.

“Vhat be happen?” Mikael asked.

Mike answered. “Erik was dancing and someone spilled a drink on the floor. He didn’t see it and fell. Dr. Preston was there, luckily, and checked out his ankle. It’s sprained, he thinks. He wrapped it and wants it elevated for at least twenty-four hours. If it doesn’t improve, he will want to see him again. I’m sorry, this was something none of us could have prevented.”

“This no be your fault, Mike, no vone be fault. Thank you for be bring home,” Maria replied. Mike and Anna refused coffee, called Barry and continued home. Mikael and Maria went inside to check on Erik, who was sitting on a chair with his right leg on another chair. His ankle was wrapped in gauze and by the look on his ashen face, it was really hurting

Mikael pulled a bottle of whiskey from the top shelf of the sideboard and poured him a generous shot. “Drink, Erik, vill be help you be sleep,” he said.

Erik accepted the whiskey, took a deep breath and gulped the liquor, making a face as it burned its way down his gullet.

“Ve get you to bed,” Mikael said, helping Erik to stand, supporting him on one side, while Stefan supported him on the other. They helped him to change for bed, easing him into his bed. He would be in for a restless night.

“Do you think that he’ll be all right?” Nadia asked Maria in concern. “He fell really hard.”

“Eric strong, he be fine,” Maria reassured her. “You all right?” she asked.

Nadia nodded. “Erik won’t be able to pick cherries this week. I’ll take his place,” she declared with conviction. “I can pick cherries, how hard can it be?”

“Harder than you think, Nadia,” Stefan said as he came into the kitchen. “But if you want to, I’ll show you how.”

“You be sure be do this?” Mikael asked Nadia. She nodded emphatically. “You be pick,” he smiled, to her obvious relief.

Nadia stood to leave. “I need to get some sleep then. I’ll check on Erik before I go to bed. Good night and thanks!” she concluded, as she walked down the hall to the bedrooms. Stefan left for bed as well, leaving Maria and Mikael looking at each other.

“What do we do? Do we send Erik home on the train, or does he stay until it is time to go home?” Maria asked Mikael as she set up coffee for the morning.

“Let the boy decide,” Mikael advised.

They were about to go to bed when Jakob began to fuss. Waving Mikael to bed, Maria went to deal with her son. He wasn’t feeling well and it took some time before she got him to sleep, rocking him in the rocking chair. Every time she tried to take him to bed, he woke crying. Eventually, she spent the night on the rocking chair with Jakob asleep against her chest.

“Good morning,” Mikael declared as he came out to the kitchen at dawn. “Jakob was fussy last night, is he sick?” he asked.

Maria shook her head as Mikael took the baby from her and placed him into his own bed without waking him. “I just think that he was fussy. I was awake most of the night and I am tired.”

“Go to sleep, I will look after things this morning.” Mikael said. “You look very tired.

Maria smiled, kissed him and walked into the bedroom, almost falling into bed, asleep immediately. By the time she woke, the sun coming into the window was strong. She knew that it was late. She could hear Ivan giggling and Jakob shrieking. All sounded normal. Quickly, she dressed and went into the kitchen, surprised to see Erik sitting on the floor with the boys, playing a silly game.

“Good morning,” Maria smiled. “Vhere everyvone is?” she asked as she poured coffee.

Erik smiled his thanks as she handed him a cup of coffee. “They went to Mass. They should be back soon. I convinced Mikael that I could look after the babies.”

“How is ankle?” Maria asked as she began to prepare a meal for her hungry brood’s return.

Wincing as he moved his ankle, Erik gulped. “It hurts,” he admitted. “The girl that I was dancing with was very concerned. She held my hand the entire time that Dr. Preston was wrapping it,” he explained, his blue eyes twinkling with the memory.

It was all that Maria could do to not smile. As much as Nadia looked like her mother, Erik was his father’s son, stocky, blonde and blue-eyed. He was as tall as Stefan, firm, fit and tanned from his time working the sun. Maria could well imagine some girl hovering over this handsome young man.

“Vhat you vant be do? Go home on train, or vait?” Maria asked.

“Wait,” Erik immediately replied. “Nadia is enjoying herself. If I go, my parents will expect her to come home too.”

Maria nodded. “She be decide to be pick cherries today, your place.”

Laughing out loud, Erik hauled himself off the floor and hobbled to a chair. “I’m not surprised. She will do whatever she sets her mind to do. She’s a very stubborn girl,” he explained with admiration. “Stefan will enjoy that,” he added.

“Vhat you be mean?” Maria prompted as she sliced potatoes and onions into a pan and then refilled Erik’s coffee.

“They’re friends. Many of the girls at the dance try to get Stefan to dance with them, but he just dances with Nadia. It’s like they don’t need anyone else. It’s hard to explain. They talk about what they study, what they will do. Stefan really liked Calgary, and Nadia listens to how he described it. They talk about Calgary when they’re finished school,” Erik explained.

And Maria listened. This was information with which Stefan had not been forthcoming, and she was interested, very interested. She couldn’t wait to tell Mikael when they were alone that night.

The horse and wagon pulled into the yard, and Stefan, Nadia and Mikael burst into the house, laughing and happy, quickly eating and changing into work clothes. Nadia reappeared in a tee shirt, a pair of Johan’s old jeans and her hair was loosely braided down her back.

“I’m ready,” she declared.

Stefan smiled and led the way to the cherry orchard. Mikael grinned, winked at Maria and followed them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>