Hey readers! Joseph wasn't the only Harrison in Olive's life. Today, I let Olive introduce her maternal figure, Mother Harrison.
May 25th, 1890
Most children learn to take care with fire, but through Mother Harrison I learned even the memory of fire can be treacherous.
I imagine Mother Harrison was once as bold as the heroines from my books. She must have slayed her share of dragons and broken more than a few hearts before she found her star-crossed match in Doctor Harrison. But the flames that took her beloved soulmate from her overwhelmed the fire in her too. She retained just enough to be a beacon for us when we’d lost one reason for hope after another. I wish I’d known how to be the same guiding light for her. Perhaps I was in a small way.
The days Mother Harrison felt well enough to toil by her oven were few, but one morning she corralled me and Elliot in the kitchen to bake cookies. It was hard work keeping Elliot from devouring all the dough, but the scent of dried lavender and Mother Harrison’s smiles as she taught me proper mixing techniques gave me all the energy I could ask for.
Those smiles lasted into the afternoon as Mother Harrison took us to deliver our boon to folks from church. Most didn’t know what to make of me or my brother but welcomed her readily, but a young woman Matilda had known in school cradled her infant and looked at me and Elliot with an intense battle between guilt and fear in her eyes. She apologized to Mother Harrison but said her husband would be furious if she invited Fenians into her home.
My gaze shot toward Elliot’s and then to Mother Harrison to watch for the memory of Fenians and fire cross her face. I planned the fastest route to get her home before that memory of fire consumed her, but before I could sweep her away from that doorstep or send Elliot to fetch Joseph, Mother Harrison met my gaze as her cheer faltered. After a moment of looking to me as though I was now the beacon drawing her out of danger, she squeezed my shoulder and gave me another smile.
I don’t know if it was her sense of responsibility toward me and Elliot or some other benevolent magic that renewed her, but she breathed in deeply, raised her chin, and locked the memory of fire and fury behind her eyes. There was still a fragment of the fierce young soul she once was inside her, and she channeled her with a bravery I’ve seldom seen.
Mother Harrison told the young mother she had nothing to fear from inviting us inside, as we were not Fenians, and though a little uncertainty remained in the woman’s eyes, there isn’t a God-fearing soul in New Westminster who could refuse Mother Harrison twice.
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