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Margaret's Story

Early childhood memories of Margaret Elizabeth Fitch Lewis, as told to her daughter, Janice Lewis Clark , in 2002

Margaret was born September 9, 1910. She was a healthy, active baby. She began walking well before her first birthday, and was soon into everything. It was almost too much for Mama, trying to keep up with a toddler who was full of lively curiosity, and too stubborn to obey rules she didn’t understand.

One day, when Margaret was a year and some months old, Mama went next door to talk to a neighbor for a moment. Margaret had been playing quietly, but now her curiosity bump started itching again. She had watched Mama make fire, and wanted to try it herself. There was no one in the kitchen to say “no” or “don’t touch.” Margaret climbed up on a chair and got down the matchbox. She took the matches out on the porch to light them, because the step was the right height to make a comfortable chair. One by one, she lit the matches, marveling at the beautiful flame that appeared out of nowhere. One by one, a playful breeze blew them out.

When Mama came home, she was horrified to find Margaret sitting on the porch step, surrounded by burnt matches.

It was shortly after the match incident that Margaret was sent to live with Grandma and Grandpa on the farm. Grandma was blind, and Grandpa was busy with farm chores, but Mama’s sister Margaret and brother Ray still lived at home and could keep an eye on her. Aunt Margaret was only 10; Ray was older, but neither was enthusiastic about baby-sitting. Margaret mostly ran free and did what she pleased.

Margaret missed her home but she had fun on the farm. She especially liked helping Grandpa. She poured water on the big grinding stone when he sharpened his tools. She helped to gather the eggs. She carried water to the calves in a little pail.

One hot day, Margaret decided to go for a walk in the cornfield. The corn was much taller than she was; it was like walking in a forest. It was cooler in the shade, and the green-tinted light was pretty. She walked a long time, not paying much attention to where she was going.

Suddenly, she realized that she couldn’t see the house and wasn’t even sure which way she had come. She darted back and forth, afraid she might never find her way back home. She couldn’t see anything over the tall corn. Then two black noses poked through the corn, each followed by a pair of shiny black eyes, and soon two wet, pink tongues were licking away Margaret’s tears. It was the farm collies.

Margaret usually pushed the dogs away when they tried to lick her face, but not this time. She was so happy to see them that she hugged them and let them kiss her all they wanted. Clutching tightly to their fur, Margaret let them lead her back to the house.

Sometimes on weekends, Margaret got to go home to visit Mama and Daddy and her new baby sister, Catherine. Uncle Ray would drive her in to town in the buggy, and when it was time to go back to the farm, Daddy would take her. She especially liked to go to Sunday School, where there were other children to play with. Margaret made friends easily, and the other children always seemed happy to see her.

By and by, when Margaret was not quite six, Grandma and Grandpa moved into town. They shared a house with Mama and Daddy for a while, then moved into the house next door. So Margaret was home again, and had grown up enough that Mama and Daddy didn’t have to worry about her so much. She was still curious, and still stubborn, but she had learned a lot on the farm.

Pouring the water on the grinding stone, while it turned and turned, taught her patience. Gathering the fragile eggs taught her to be gentle and careful, and to watch where she was going. Watering the calves taught her to think about others, and carrying the heavy bucket made her stronger. Getting lost in the cornfield taught her to plan ahead.

Margaret was old enough to start school. There was no kindergarten, so she went straight to first grade. She soon learned to read, and often went next door to read the Bible to Grandma.

Margaret made many friends, and frequently stayed overnight at friends’ homes on the weekends. She had become very independent, spending her early years on the farm, and wasn’t afraid of much of anything.

Margaret thought for years that she must have been very naughty, for her family to send her away. She was too young then to understand that they loved her so much, they did the only thing they could think of to keep her safe. She brought much joy to Grandma and Grandpa, and Grandpa was very proud of his little helper.

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