It rains a lot. Sometimes for days on end. There is a solace in the rain that I cannot begin to explain. It makes me feel secure, calm, soothed. It also makes people want to get out and besociable after so many days inside! Tonight there is a dance for the community and all of us are very excited to attend. Willie justturned two years old last week and it can sometimes be a challenge to get out and meet people my own age. I feel a fluttering inside about this particular dance. I spent all week re-making one of my dresses, adding bits of new fabric with a pale rosebuds in the pattern.
As we cannot afford an entire new dress, papa was very happy to come home with some scraps from the Allson’s, who are dressmakers here in the valley. Papa makes friends with everyoneand Mr. Allson often trades his carpentry skills as well as his daughters’ dressmaking skills for some of our famous pickles and other canned goods.
Vida Allson is 18 like me and she loves
Willie so we often spend time together. She and her sisters have taught me a lot about sewingand I have taught them what I know of cooking and canning.
Using the rosebud fabric, we created a sash to go around my waist and a matching wristcorsage for me to wear to the dance. The theme is what has me so excited. We also made abow tie in the same fabric. As each single male pays to enter the dance this evening, he willselect a bow tie. During the quadrilles each dancer will discover who their dance partner for the night will be. My younger brother, Frank, already has his eye on one of the Ewing sisters, so he is hoping to get hers, while Vida is trying her best to make a match with my twin brother, John.
As we finish up the usual Saturday chores and clean up after dinner, I am wondering if I should even attempt this. Who wants to be matched up with a tiny, serious, awkward mother of a two year old? A knock at the door startles me back from my worries and Vida comes in to help me with my hair and last minute details. I am always in a struggle with my hair. It has a natural wave that doesn’t quite curl and can become quite unruly. Vida and I have a collection of hairpins and ribbon that we are hoping will allow her to tame it into the latest style, the pompadour. We have in the past taken to the hot iron, which did not bode well for me or my hair! The smell of singed hair stayed in my nostrils for several days while I did my best to cover the disaster with a hat when going out in public! I will have none of that on this evening. Vida has researched the technique and is dedicated to conquering the look. I, on the other hand, will plait Vida’s waist-long locks into a beautiful braid using a technique I created called the herring bone. Well, I didn’t actually create it, but I have perfected it and with her long, thick, shiny hair itwill be the talk of the dance.
At 7:30 we join the White’s from next door and all of us walk in the cold night along the muddy pathways carrying our coal oil lamps. As we enter the IOOF hall where the dance will be held, there is a feeling of static in the air as everyone wonders who will be wearing the bowtie that matched her dress
The musicians are warming up… Papa is there with his violin and several from the Colony are joining him. For the square dances, where we will dance with our “match”, the caller tonight is Jimmy Sampson, one of our neighbors. He is amazing because he can call and fiddle simultaneously! He has a nice, loud voice so that when we do square dances it is easy to hear him call out, “Swing your partner round and round, do si do”. We will close the evening with a waltz, which makes me very nervous as I anticipate who in the world I am going to partner with.
First, though, there are the quadrilles. It is a bit complicated at first, but we have practiced a lot and it goes well. At first I don’t see anyone with my rose-budded bowtie and I am worried that I have been left out, but after the first set we realign for another quadrille for those unpartnered and I look into the bluest eyes on the kindest face I have ever seen and my heart leaps before I even realize he is wearing my tie! His shy grin as we whirl past each other makes me feel …well, I don’t know… complicated! When the music stops we are face to face and he hesitates as he introduces himself as, “H-hhhhhello, Lizzie, I’m George H. Tietjen from Nnnn-ebraska, nnnn-ewly arrived and happy to make my acquaintance.” I am mesmerized by those blue eyes and fail to make a peep while he just stares at me, with that crooked, shy grin and his eyebrows raise in question and I am stuck. It seems like an eternity that we are there and I am silent and he is smiling and we are staring at each other… and he has found me at last and I am so taken aback that I cannot quite believe that I am looking into the eyes of my first love, the father of my boy child, Willie. How, when, what in the world is happening? A hairpin falls from my hair and a clump of my unruly hair springs loose and I cannot move or think or swallow. My mouth is dry and my heart is beating out of my chest and again he smiles and says, “H-hhhhhello Lizzie. I found this b-bbbow tie and it looks like we are made for each other”.
Whatever else ever happens in my life cannot come close to what I just experienced. When we left Nebraska two years ago, I left part of my very heart behind and had no expectation of ever
getting it back. George was a farmhand on a crew of young men who helped out around the county. When I met him I was 15 years old and we fell for one another in such a way that I cannot explain… and by the time I found that I was pregnant he had moved on and I had no way of finding him.