“A farmer feeds the people, but a poet feeds the soul.”
Sören loved that quote from his teacher, Miss Matchan. He recited it for his mother once. She smiled and kissed the top of his right ear. She was still taller than Sören at that time. Now he’d grown another inch and a half and could look his mother straight in the eye. It wouldn’t be long and he’d tower over her, he thought.
A shrill cry from a crow shook him from his reverie. He looked down at his hands, his index fingers turning yellow at the first knuckle from pulling carrots. His nails rimmed with dirt. Sören began to stump over on his knees to the next row when his father hollered, “Son, there might not be any green tops sticking out, but there’s still roots in the soil. Feel around until you’ve pulled them all!”
He twisted back to his former spot, but lost his balance and sat down without grace on his back end. “Sören, you’re sitting down on the job!” his sister teased with a broad grin.
He looked over at Sonja. Her teeth were orange with bits of green leaves between her two front teeth.
“What’cha doing eating the green tops, Sonja,” he asked.
She swiped at her mouth and rubbed her tongue along her teeth, imagining what her brother must have seen. “Becky said that Ruthie said carrot tops would make your eyes bright,” she said defensively.
“Ah, ding-a-ling! I think it’s that carrots improve your eye sight!” Soren retorted.
“That may be, Mr. Smartie, but I want my eyes to look bright and alluring, too, not only sharp,” she replied. “A girl’s gotta look her best so’s to catch the right man.”
Right man. Right man. Sören mulled that over in his head. “What’s looks got to do with the right man? The right man’s not gonna choose you because you have bright eyes, sister. The right man’s gonna ask you ‘cause you can cook and sew and raise his children right,” he stated.
“Ha! A lot you know, Sören! You’re never gonna be the right man for anyone with that kind of attitude,” said the apparently-wiser girl, dropping fat carrots into her basket.
“What do you mean, ‘with that kind of attitude,’ It’s the truth! A girl needs to be efficient in the home so she can be the housewife,” Sören said, his voice rising at the end of the sentence.
“Well maybe your wife will be a good cook and seamstress, but I’m gonna get married to someone rich and we’ll buy store-bought clothes and eat at restaurants every Saturday night,” Sonja stated emphatically.
“Nooo,” Sören lingered on this one word as he formed his next thought. “I want to marry someone just like Mor.”
“Quit your chattering and get to pulling. You should have had the whole row done by now!” Far admonished. “Come in for lunch when you’ve finished the field.”
Sören looked down the row and saw that he and Sonja each had two more rows to go. He pulled up another carrot, but this time, took his own bite out of it before tossing it into the basket. “Yes, sir,” he replied.
“I can tell you now, Sören,” whispered Sonja impudently, “I’m not ever gonna marry someone like Far.”
The boy kept his thoughts to himself, but wondered about his mor. She was gentle with her children as she taught them how to clean and dress a frying hen; she sewed them sturdy clothes for school and church; she never complained about the mess Far made on butchering days even though she always had to clean it up. He loved his mor and she married his far. There must be something about love and marriage he still didn’t understand.