Emma rolled over in bed and pulled the blankets up over her head as she heard her mother call her name from the bottom of the stairs. She hated the long winter months and dreaded walking to school in the cold.  She was already looking forward to the warmer months of spring and wished she could just stay in bed until then. She had to force herself to get up and more so had to force herself to find something to shake these winter blues.

“Emma you’ll be late for school if you don’t get up right this minute,” her mother called.

With hearing the sharpness in her mother’s voice, she knew she needed to face the cold and get out of bed.  She peeked her head out from underneath the warmth of her favorite quilt as she looked over at the wind-up clock on the nightstand. It was six o’clock, and she knew she needed to get up. With a deep sigh, she threw the blankets off and swung her feet over the edge of the bed.  The floor was cold, and she shivered as she quickly looked for her stockings. She immediately put them on to ward off the chill and walked over to the window.  The window was frosty on the inside, and she used the warmth of her hand to melt a spot on the window so she could look out.  It was still dark, and she knew by the clear sky it would be a cold walk to school.

She heard her mother call again and she promptly answered that she was up and would be down in a minute. She left the window and changed from her nightgown into her dress and apron and then made her bed before she headed downstairs.

As she came down the stairs, she heard her sisters, Rebecca and Anna cheerfully talking about their plans for the day. By the wonderful smells coming from the kitchen, she knew they had already started the cookies she was supposed to get up early and bake.  Her twin sisters were so close and did everything together she often felt a twinge of envy when she saw them together. She was sure they didn’t intentionally leave her out of their plans, but she never felt they went out of the way to include her either.

“Well good morning sleepy head,” Rebecca said with a sense of sarcasm in her voice.

She knew better than to feed into her sister’s snippy comment, so she walked over and hugged her as she thanked her for starting the cookies. It was Valentine’s Day, and she wanted to take a treat to school to share with her class.  Her best friend Katie loved her “Melt in Your Mouth Sugar Cookies” so she had decided she would make them.  They’re best right out of the oven, so she wanted to wait until this morning to bake them.  As she took the spoon and bowl from Rebecca, she told her mother that as soon as she got this last pan in the oven, she would go feed the chickens while they baked.

Her mother smiled and told her to be sure to bundle up before she went outside. Emma pulled her coat from the peg in the mudroom and grabbed the egg basket as she headed out the door.  She pulled her bonnet over her eyes and walked to the hen house from memory.  The winter wind was cold, and it stung her eyes as she walked across the yard.  As she reached the door to the hen house, she noticed someone had tied a yellow ribbon on the door handle.  It had frost on it and looked like it had been tied there for hours.  She couldn’t imagine who would have done such a thing.  As she untied the ribbon to open the door, she put it in her pocket to show her mother when she went inside.

Amish Short Story: A present for Emma

It was so cold she didn’t waste any time to gather eggs, breaking the ice from the chicken water and adding scratch to the feeders. Eggs in the winter were far and few between, but she did find a few scattered about in the nest boxes and added them to her basket.  As she walked back to the house, she noticed that there were bike tracks in the snow in front of the hen house.  Who on earth would be riding a bike in this weather she thought?  By the looks of the footprints and the tire marks whoever it was had tied the door shut with the ribbon.

Once she returned to the house, her mother had already packed her pink lunchbox and placed the freshly baked cookies on the top so they wouldn’t get crushed on the walk to school.  It was time to leave, and she didn’t have a chance to show her mother about the ribbon before she was rushed out the door to start her thirty-minute walk to school.

As she turned left out the end of her driveway to start her walk to school, she put her hand in her pocket and pulled out the yellow ribbon.  She hadn’t noticed before, but there was writing on the ribbon.  It looked like someone had taken a black sharpie and had written words on one strand of the ribbon.  She stopped alongside the road and placed her lunch box down and pulled the ribbon straight out so she could read what was written.  Clearly written in perfect penmanship were the words, “It’s too soon.” She shook her head trying to make sense of the words and couldn’t imagine what the ribbon and the words meant.  She put the ribbon back in her pocket and picked her lunch box up and starting walking faster so not to keep Katie waiting on her too long.

As she crested the hill that separated her parents’ house from her best friend Katie Yoder’s house, she saw her waiting beside the Yoder’s Strawberry Acres sign at the end of her parent’s driveway.

“What took you so long? I didn’t think you’d ever get here, it’s so cold I just want to get to school and warm up!” Katie said as she walked out into the road to meet up with her.

As they walked side-by-side Emma excitedly told her about making her favorite cookies and the yellow ribbon she had found tied to the door of the hen house.  They both tried to figure out what the words meant and who would do such a thing.

They were almost to school when Emma stopped and asked. “Where’s Samuel?”

Samuel was Katie’s older brother and always walked them to school on his way to work at the Feed Store.  Emma was so caught up in the yellow ribbon she didn’t even think to ask about him earlier.

“Katie shook her head and shrugged her shoulders as she said.  “He was up and out the door before sunrise this morning.  He said he had something to take care of and wouldn’t be able to walk us to school.”

As they walked through the schoolhouse doors, they noticed everyone was already in their seats.  They quickly hung up their coats and sat at their desks. As the teacher started to recite their morning scripture verse Emma opened the top of her desk to retrieve her pad and pencil.  She couldn’t believe her eyes, someone had placed and a bag of chocolate kisses, tied with the same yellow ribbon in the top her desk. She looked around her room to see if anyone was looking her way and when she noticed no one was paying any mind to her she quietly pulled the bag out of her desk and placed it on her lap.  Keeping one eye on the teacher and one eye on the bag of chocolates, she untied the ribbon and stretched it so she could read the message written on it.  In the same perfect penmanship as this morning’s ribbon was written the words. “But someday.”

Emma was more confused than ever and couldn’t wait until lunch so she could talk to Katie.  At lunch, the girls sat in the corner of the room comparing the ribbons and as they ate their lunch.

“What could it mean?” Katie asked.

“I just don’t know! I keep looking around the room trying to see if anyone is looking my way but nothing.” Emma said as she once again looked around the room.

“There has to be a meaning to it all, but it beats me to figure it out.

Just then the teacher asked everyone to finish up and take their seats.  For now, the mystery of the chocolate kisses and the yellow ribbon messages would have to wait.

With both of the ribbons tucked away in her lunchbox, she took her seat and concentrated on her schoolwork. Toward the end of the day, the teacher gave them permission to pass out their Valentine’s Day treats and exchange cards with the other students. It was always a fun time of the year. By February winter had long set in and the cold, dreary days meant everyone could use something fun to look forward to. It was all the class had been talking about all week long. As each of them compared their cards and enjoyed their cookies and chocolates, the teacher told them that she was dismissing them early so they could go home and play outside before it got dark.  The whole class irrupted in a loud cheer as they busily gathered up their treats and raced to the pegs at the back of the room to put on their coats and head home.

On the way home, it started to lightly snow and the girls were anxiously talking about going ice skating on Miller’s Pond after they got their chores done.  Emma said goodbye to Katie at the end of her driveway and made plans where to meet in an hour. When Emma got home, she noticed her father’s buggy was gone, and her mother was nowhere to be found.  There was a note on the kitchen table telling her they had gone to the Mercantile and would be back shortly.  Her mother had instructed her to peel potatoes for supper and set the table for dinner.  She would need to go out to the Furniture Shop and asked her Dad for permission to go skating after she finished her chores.  Just as she was about to go down to the basement to get a basket of potatoes she heard a strange noise coming from the mudroom.

When she opened the door to the mudroom there sat in front of the door was a big wicker picnic basket with a big yellow ribbon tied to the handle.  The noise she was hearing was coming from the basket.  She knelt down and carefully peek inside. As she opened the lid, a little chocolate lab came barreling out and jumped into her lap.  She fell backward, and the puppy was covering her face with kisses.  She wrapped her arms around the dog and sat upright holding the puppy close.  Right away she noticed the puppy had a yellow collar on and dangling from the collar was a tag with the name “SOMEDAY” imprinted on it.  The yellow ribbon and the bag of chocolate kisses had been leading up to this Valentine’s Day surprise, she was sure of it. But who could have given her such a gift?

She crossed her legs and let the puppy sit on her lap as she smiled at the events of the day. For a day that had started out cold and dreary, it sure was ending up full of mystery and excitement.  Whoever left her this beautiful gift must have known she needed something to brighten this cold winter day and ‘Someday’ was just what she needed to warm her heart. This would always be a Valentines Day to remember.

Photo by Jim Fisher