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Monday, November 26, 2012

Post Script, Sweet Annie, A Page from Ruby Temple Blackchurch's Journal

                                                                                                  December 22, 1905

    The family gathered together for a Holiday dinner at my Aunt Ruth's home today. Afterwards we sat by the fire in the parlor enjoying our cups of cider when Aunt Ruth and Mother began reminiscing about their childhood holiday memories.
  I was only half listening to the conversation. My thoughts kept drifting back to my strange dream  and the little girl who had haunted it.
  I heard Mother say to Aunt Ruth,"Do you suppose Mama missed having her little sister while she was growing up?"
 The words little sister caught my attention. "Did Grandmother Bell have a little sister?" I asked interrupting the two of them.
  " Oh, yes, said Aunt Ruth, but she passed away when she was about five years old."
  My heart was beating hard in my breast.
"What was her name?" I asked as calmly as I could.
  Mother said, "Her name was Annie. Your grandmother Bell said she was a lively little thing, always laughing and playful. Everyone commented on how dark, long and lovely her hair was, just like a raven's wing.
   As Mother spoke Aunt Ruth had gone to the bookcase and had picked up an old photograph album.
It's cover was dusty and badly faded. It's edges were tattered. As she walked over to me, she was turning its pages. She placed the album in my lap. Pointing her finger at a small picture, Aunt Ruth said to me, "This is sweet Annie."

         "Oh, it is!" I whispered under my breath. There in the photo was the very same little girl of my dream, same hair style, same dress, same sweet face.
  "Why, sweet, Annie?" I asked.
    "She had a fondness for honey, ate it every chance she got. She was teased and told it would make her so sweet that the bees would think she was a flower and would try to take a sip of her. Your Grandmother Bell and your great uncles took to calling her Sweet Annie," explained Aunt Ruth.

I studied the face of this small girl comparing it to the face of the little waif in my dream. " I'd guess that she was barefooted when she sat for this pictured," I conjectured.
 Aunt Ruth had returned to her chair and was in the middle of taking a sip of her cider when I spoke. She choked on her drink and began coughing. Once she recovered her breath she asked me incredulously, How did  you know that?'
  I relied jokingly,"She looks like someone who would love to feel the earth beneath her feet." Just like the little girl who had been barefooted as she lead me through my dream forest, I thought.
          Aunt Ruth began to recall the tales of how Annie was always losing her shoes. She would remove them and then forget where they were. There had been a time when she left her shoes under a pew at church. The shoes had been found by the organist as she collected song books for the evening service.
Her shoes would turn up at neighboring homes, the library, the local grocer and mercantile. Annie's lost shoes became a fond village joke.
  The family seemed to be forever looking for her shoes.
" The dress Annie wears in the photograph was her favorite. She loved that white dress so much your Great Grandmother Abby could hardly get her to take it off, even to have it laundered! When Annie died the family buried her in it," Aunt Ruth said.
 "  What did she die of?" I inquired.
"I really don't know, said Aunt Ruth, I suppose it was one of those childhood diseases they have cures for now."
  "Have I seen this picture before now," I asked, thinking maybe I had looked at the photograph another time but had forgotten. And Annie's image was buried in my subconscious. I was searching for a rational explanation as to why I had dreamt of her.
  "I can't see how, Ruby,"Aunt Ruth replied. I was cleaning out an old trunk in the attic last week when I found the album. I haven't seen it in years and I know you haven't. Why do you ask?"

I got up and walked over to Aunt Ruth. I gave her a big hug and told her," I guess it's because she looks so much like you, I thought I might have seen it some other time thinking I was looking at a picture of you."

Much later when Mother and Aunt Ruth prepared for our departure home, I stole back into the parlor, picked up the album and removed Annie's photo. I slipped it into my dress pocket. I needed time to study the picture, time to puzzle out the how, why and consequences of her appearance in my dream and my life.
                                                                                                                                     R.T.B




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