Chapter 13 –
December 24, 1907 – Marta
The house was brimming with activity and Marta couldn’t be happier.
Bertha and Mary Ellen helped Marta dress for her wedding.
“You look beautiful, Sis,” Mary Ellen said.
“I’m incredibly excited. I’ve waited so long for this day.” Marta fiddled with her hair.
“It looks perfect, dear.” Bertha beamed down at her step-daughter. “I wish your mother could see you today. She and your father married at Christmas too, you know.”
Marta reached out for Bertha’s hand. “And she and father had a beautiful baby girl the following Christmas. It’s a wonderful story. And now, it’s my turn to celebrate Father’s favorite holiday in style.”
Mary Ellen laughed. “We’ve heard the story a million times, Mother, but I love hearing it again.”
“I’m delighted the two of you have an entire week for your honeymoon. That’s the joy of being school teachers; you have all the Christian holidays off and the entire summer,” Bertha said.
There was a soft knock at the door.
Mary Ellen skipped over and opened the door to see her father standing there. Grabbing him by the arm, she pulled him into the room. “So, what do you think, Father?”
Raymond’s eyes swept over the satin gown, covered in lace and white pearls. His daughter’s face was aglow with joy.
“You are as beautiful as your mother, Marta.”
“Which one?” the girls laughed in unison. They may have been two years different in age, but the two of them had acted like twins their entire lives. When one began a sentence, it was not uncommon for the other to finish it.
Marta stood and twirled in her wedding dress. “How does it look, Father?”
“It looks as perfect as your mother looked twenty-three years ago when I saw her for the first time in her dress.” Raymond ignored the moisture in his eyes.
“And we thought our Marta was going to be an old maid.” Mary Ellen giggled.
“Watch it, sister. You’re not that much younger than me. Do you have any prospects yet?”
“Don’t you wish you knew?” Mary Ellen’s laughter filled the room.
“Girls, you’re absolutely giddy today. I hope you can compose yourselves before we go to the church.” Raymond slid an arm around Bertha’s waist.
“We shall try, Father.” Marta winked at Mary Ellen.
“Oh, I very nearly forgot.” Bertha reached in her purse and pulled out a small package wrapped in foil, handing it to Marta.
Marta carefully unwrapped the package. She opened the small jewelry box and gasped. “This is your brooch, Mother.”
“No, dear, this is your brooch. Your mother gave it to me on the day you were born, with the instructions to give it to you on your wedding day to carry something ‘borrowed’ from her.
Marta lifted the gem-encrusted piece from the box.
“It came from the Franklin Square Lithographic Company. Your father arranged to have it sent to Menomonie that Christmas as a very special gift for the help I gladly gave during the last month of your mother’s pregnancy.”
Marta stared down at the nine rose-cut diamonds and four pearls accenting the star. Tears filled her eyes. “I can’t believe getting a gift from my mother on my wedding day. This day couldn’t be any more perfect.”
“Here.” Raymond reached for the brooch. “Let me put it on you.” He carefully attached the brooch to the center of the lace bodice on the wedding gown.
The church was filled with people when Marta stepped to the entry of the sanctuary on her father’s arm.
Angelic music from the new pipe organ filled the space as everyone stood and turned to acknowledge the bride.
Raymond escorted Marta down the aisle as Nettie’s father had done so many years earlier. When they reached the front of the church, he gently removed her hand from his arm as he continued to the front of the church.
“Friends, we are gathered together in the sight of God to witness and bless the joining together of Martha Virginia Henson and Arthur James Rogers in Christian marriage…”
Emma Gerald’s eyes glistened with tears as Hazel Belsan ended the story of her mother’s wedding day.
“It’s a beautiful story, Grandma. I never knew the story of how we came to live in Menomonie. It’s so sad that Nettie never got to see Marta grow up.”
“Your great-great-grandmother was a caring and hard-working woman.”
The two returned to the kitchen and continued working on the Christmas cookies.
“Let me make sure I have this right. Nettie was my great-great-grandmother, and Marta was my great-grandmother.”
“That’s right.” Hazel continued rolling out the dough.
“So, that makes you Nettie’s granddaughter.”
“I believe you have it all figured out.”
May Gerald breezed in the back door. “It looks like you guys are nearly done here. Sorry I’m late!”
Hazel and Emma giggled. May was always late. They never expected her to arrive in time to help with anything.
“Here, Mother, let’s get you sorted out.” Emma tied an apron around her mother’s waist. “There, we wouldn’t want to get any flour on that black velvet Christmas skirt now, would we?
Amazing. Nettie was a guide, just like me. The guardian angels watched over Nettie and her baby way back then, too. Mother Blue and Eunie Mae were the angels who carried Nettie to heaven. I can’t even imagine what God has in store for me next.
Emma turned back to the table to cut out the last batch of Christmas sugar cookies.
Elle Burton mixed the cookie dough for the second batch of sugar cookies. “Grandma, can you hand me the vanilla, please?”
“Here you go, dear.” Emma Statler handed the bottle to Elle, pleased her granddaughter was willing to carry on the tradition of the women in the Menomonie family tree.
“There’s a picture on the mantle I haven’t seen before. It’s of three ladies dressed in winter clothing. Who are they?”
“Well, the lady on the left is my great-great-grandmother Martha Virginia Henson Rogers on her wedding day.” Emma Statler leaned in to help position another cookie cutter.
“Is she who my mother got her name from?”
“Yes, she is. We named Ginny after Marta.”
“Who are the other two?”
“The one in the middle was Marta’s half-sister, Mary Ellen. The woman on the right was Marta’s stepmother, Bertha. I found the picture in an old box last week and decided it was the perfect Christmas story for this season. I’m glad you noticed it.”
“So, are you going to tell me about it or what?” Elle handed her grandmother the tray of cookie shapes to stick into the oven.
“Well, yes, I think we have time for me to tell you the story. It’s a lovely reminder of the true meaning of Christmas.”
If you haven’t read the previous chapters, you can find them below:
Emma – Chapter 1
Nettie – 1883 – Chapter 2
Maria, June Bride – Chapter 3
Moving to Menomonie – Chapter 4
The New School – Chapter 5
Independence Day Celebration – Chapter 6
New Seasons – Chapter 7
Nettie’s Wedding – Chapter 8
New Life – Chapter 9
A Child is Born – Chapter 10
Christmas Baby – Chapter 11
Bertha’s Promise – Chapter 12
The woman in the picture on the front of this novella was a woman I only knew from a picture in the gilded frame I found in the attic of my aunt and uncle’s farmhouse.
When I was little, I used to sneak up into the attic and stare at the picture, making up stories about the beautiful woman in the white dress.
As I grew older, I discovered the woman was my great aunt. She died of pneumonia only four months after Uncle Bill was born. He was passed around to family members to care for him until his father remarried the amazing woman who became my nanny when I was a little girl. Uncle Bill grew up and married my mother’s sister.
It is their story, plus the amazing Burton and Henderson family pictures that inspired this prequel to the story of Elle Burton and her amazing journey as a guide to the guardian angels who protect the earth’s children.
Remember how precious life is this Christmas and give your complete attention to those you love most.
“The Christmas Prayer” is a work of fiction, but it accurately depicts life in Menomonie, Wisconsin, in the County of Dunn at the turn of the last century.
The Dakota Uprising occurred before the story began, but it still affected the local people in the 1883-1885 timeframe.
Menomonie grew up around the lumber industry, and the Knapp, Stout, & Co., Company influenced the city and the educational system that eventually became the University of Wisconsin, Stout.
I hope you enjoyed Nettie’s story as much as I enjoyed writing it. It provides a backstory to the Elle Burton books, and the concept of miniature guardian angels who watch over every child to protect them from the social injustices of this modern age; not so very different than the challenges faced by our forefathers.
You can click over to the Elle Burton series:
Elle Burton and the Reflective Portals
Or, you can check out my other books:
Gloriously Gluten-Free Sweets & Treats: From the Kitchen of Ginny Burton
So What Do You Do? Vol. 2 – Discovering the Genius Next Door
An Anthology of Modern Fairy Tales #1
I now live in Menomonie, Wisconsin with my loving husband, an elderly rescue dog who has lost her hearing, and a new puppy.
I spend my time writing, traveling, working to protect the environment and clean our polluted waters, and with my artistic friends at Arts Coming Together and Chippewa Valley Watercolor Artists.
My wish for all my readers is to find the incredible love shared by Nettie and Raymond and to be able to raise children free from the fear of bullying and abuse.
If you enjoyed this book, I would love it if you left an honest review on my Goodreads blog.
Thank you for helping me to reach my dreams of inspiring everyone to kindness in this often less-than-kind world.