Why, good morning, Lizzie Beth! Come right in and get you a chair. Reckon you was surprised to find here. Dor'thy said she'd call and let you know I was back home but I told her you'd be headed out this morning and directly you saw smoke coming out the chimbly you'd stop to see who was here.
Did you uns have a fine Christmas with all the young uns there? I reckon it was a houseful -- law, what good times!
No, I didn't expect to be home so soon. When you come to the nursing home on Christmas Eve with all them nice Christmas gifts, I told you it was like to be another week before they'd let me go. And my, how I hated that but there weren't no way around it till I could make it on my own. Then lo and behold, not ten minutes after you'd left, here come Dor'thy and Bernice and Bernice's boy and they had got hold of the head lady there and told her how they'd fixed it so's I could come home.
You saw that ramp --Bernice's boy built it to make it easier for me to get up to the porch -- I can hobble about with a walker but steps is another thing -- and Dor'thy is going to stay with me as long as I need her. She's out hanging the wash on the line right now and can you smell that soup she's got bubbling on the stove?
Howsomever, they whisked me out of that place like one thing and as we drove back along the highway and I could see the mountains again, I felt like I was brought back to life. Then when we was crossing the bridge and I could see the river once more, oh how my heart swelled in my bosom! I'll confess that there was a time or two in that place when I was so low I wondered would I ever see the river again.
It was growing dark when we come past the church and there was cars and trucks parked all along the road. Bernice said they was having the Christmas play tonight. I tried to catch a glimpse through the windows but we whirled by so fast I couldn't see a thing.
And then when we come down along the branch and I saw my own little house and colored lights a-twinkling in the window, why I don't mind telling you I was just about to bust out crying.
They turned across the bridge and how good it was to hear them old boards rattling like always. I looked over at where I fell when that old bull knocked me down and ran over me and, law, honey, how I escaped being flung down in the branch or knocked against them big rocks, I purely can't make out. Seems there must be a reason I was spared . . .
But I didn't have much time to think on it for they helped me outten the vehicle and up the ramp and when they opened the door, what do you think, there was the folks of the Ridley Branch Freewill Baptist Church all crowded into the house and all of them lifting up their voices in song. Bernice and Dor'thy got me to my recliner and set me down and the folks just kept on singing.
There was a little cedar set on a table under the window and it was covered with lights and red bow ribbons. And there was plates full of all manner of cookies and cakes and when the folks finished their singing, the preacher said Welcome back home, Miss Birdie, and than Eveleen Davis come out of the kitchen with a paper cup of punch for me and told folks to go help themselves while she fixed me a plate of cookies.
You never saw such a party -- and all them folks coming up to say how glad they was I was back and to offer everwhat help they could. Dor'thy let them know she would be staying with me till I could manage on my own and one by one they said goodnight and started out the door to walk back to the church.
They was singing as they went -- that lonely sounding song about the Three Kings -- and I found my eyes blurring up some . . . just like yours are, honey.
So here I am, back again, thankful for friends and neighbors, and looking forward to another new year in this place I love the best. I tell you, Lizzie Beth, ain't nothing like a little adversity to make a body appreciate what all she's got. But still I ponder on why I was spared . . .
What's that you said? I still have stories to tell? Law, honey, now that I do.