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  • The corn cribs and grain silos were filled. Alfalfa and hay had been cut and baled. The whir and chug and clank of the heavy farm machines slowed and finally stopped altogether. The harvest was nearly finished; fruits and vegetables grown over the long summer had been picked and preserved. Row upon row of glass jars marched rank and file along the wooden shelves in the canning kitchen and pantry and storage cellars. All labeled and divided among the women who had grown and prepared them, they would help feed their families during the winter. The green beans from my own little patch of earth were right up there with all the others. I had been standing on a kitchen chair counting the number of jars in my first-ever canning project. The project had been, of course, closely supervised by Mrs Carlson and the other ladies. Children, stoves and pressure canners are not a good mix.
    A warm breeze blew through the open windows and carried a first faint tang of autumn. And music; it drifted in from the other side of the cottages, teased at my ear, then faded. A note then another, a chord, a chord, a bridge... silence.
    Walking slowly, I went to the screen door and waited, scarcely daring to breathe, afraid if I hurried I would chase away the music. I heard the music before I heard the words that went with it. Then I heard the words, only a few but I knew them; they were parts of a song my mother sang.
    I didn't fully understand the concept of language, or that people who lived in different places didn't always use the same words. I no longer spoke French exclusively, but once in a while English and French would jumble themselves in a word salad that left people staring at me, bewildered. Words were either the words of my mother or not the words of my mother; les mots de ma mère, ou pas les mots de ma mère.
    Hands slapping the screen I pushed against the door. The mesh bellied out but held. They'd taken to locking the screen door right aound the fourth or fifth time I'd wandered off. But the window in the pantry was open....
    It wasn't a huge tumble. I landed in a bed of marigolds, brushed myself off and wandered across the yard looking for the music, the bright metal whistle Mrs. Carlson had hung on a ribbon around my neck bouncing as I walked. Sarah was on the front porch reading a book. She'd told me to stay by the house and assumed I would.
    I caught a faint sound of music and turned down the gravel road between the cottages. When the music stopped so did I. When it began again I'd orient myself toward it and start walking. The last time I'd come down this road Jerry had been pulling me in his wagon. We'd never gone all the way to the end of it.
    The road ended at a path scarcely visible now from long disuse. It meandered through a field. Corn had been grown here, once. And wheat, both now marked where volunteer seeds had fallen years ago and started generations of increasingly wild plants. And Queen Anne's lace, the delicate flowers far overhead dropped a sweet musky scent down to their ruffled leaf skirts. I pulled the blooms from lower down the plants, careful not to touch the stems which Jerry had said could make you itch.
    My pinafore filled, I started back in search of the music and stumbled into a lonely looking front yard. I emptied my pinafore on the porch and started dead-heading the spent blooms from a sad looking rose bush.
    An ominous metalic click interrupted my concentration and I turned.
    A tall, slim woman stared at me from the other end of a very large rifle, her jet black hair a halo of ringlets framing her face. She did not expect to see a four year old child standing alone in her front yard.
    And then she spoke.
    Où est ta mère?
    Where is your mother?
    She went away.
    She lowered the rifle and looked around the yard, down toward the road, then back at me.
    Are you lost?
    Are you hungry?
    She blinked and laughed then held out her hand to me.
    Inside, she set the rifle in a corner, then seemed to think better of it and put it atop a high cupboard.
    Bread and cheese, then a huge yawn and a nap.
    She carried me back to the farm, handed me to Mrs. Carlson then simply turned and walked away.
    I didn't hear the music again for many years.
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