Bernie was putting the final touches on her Mother’s Day homily for Sunday when Dot buzzed her on Friday afternoon.
“Audrey’s here to see you.”
“Thanks. I’ll be right there,” Bernie replied.
It wasn’t uncommon for Audrey to stop by Hope Chapel after school to talk to Bernie these days; she needed someone older to talk to.
But Bernie’s heart fell when she saw Audrey. She was sitting in one of chairs in the reception area, with sunken shoulders, furrowed brows, and a stricken look on her pale face. She looked as if she had barely weathered a frightful storm on the ocean of life.
She stood up when she saw Bernie, wavered slightly and said, “Can we talk?”
“Of course,” Bernie said, kindly.”
Dot read the situation and offered to bring them tea.
Bernie nodded, gratefully, and ushered Audrey back to her office.
Bernie gestured to Audrey to take one of the comfortable chairs opposite her desk, and she settled into the matching chair next to her. She gave Audrey a few minutes, while she busied herself rearranging the papers and open books on her desk to make room for the tea tray.
Finally, she turned to Audrey and asked quietly, “What’s going on?”
Bernie’s kind words and gentle demeanor touched Audrey’s heart and tears filled her eyes. Bernie grabbed a few Kleenex from her desk and handed them to Audrey, as she rubbed Audrey’s back to comfort her wordlessly. Bernie knew when words interfered with meaningful communication.
The knock at the door and Dot’s appearance with the tea tray caused Audrey to sit up. She sniffed, wiped her nose, and avoided Dot’s gaze. Knowing that teens always welcome a bit of nourishment after school, Dot had put a plate of several biscuits–cookies in American parlance–on the tray. The Hobnob Biscuits were popular in Ireland as well as England, and Dot often made them to bring into the office to share with Bernie and visitors to the parish office. She had baked this batch the night before. Dot knew that they reminded Bernie of home because her mother had baked them when she was a child in Ireland.
“Thank you,” mouthed Bernie, before Dot turned and closed the door softly.
Bernie poured the tea, placed the cups and saucers on the edge of the desk in front of them, and handed Audrey two of the biscuits on a napkin.
“Dot makes these Hobnob biscuits just like my mum used to make.” Bernie chatted for a few minutes between sips of tea to give Audrey a chance to recover from the emotions that were overwhelming her.
When she finally started speaking, Audrey told a common tale of teenage cruelty. The word had gotten out around their school that Abbey Martin was not only a drunk, but was now also in jail, and would be there for a very long time. Girls she barely knew whispered or made cutting comments when she passed by. Even one of the younger teachers had asked her before class, in a voice loud enough for all to hear, if Audrey would be leaving school now that her mother “would be gone for a long time.”
To his credit, Bobby, the boy who asked her to the prom, stood by her and had encouraged her to ignore the comments. But it was hard. How could she possibly go to the prom next week?
They sat and talked in Bernie’s office for over an hour. Actually, Audrey mostly talked, and Bernie mostly listened. Bernie had perfected the art of sympathetic listening. It was a skill that she had purposefully developed since an experience she had in the seminary chapel when she was a seminary student.
She had been sitting in a pew in the chapel one afternoon, with the sun streaming in through the stained-glass windows, silently pouring out her heart to God about all of the matters troubling her. She found that the longer she sat and talked to God from her heart, the closer she felt to him. When the chaplain finally approached her after half an hour had passed, he just smiled at her sympathetically, and sat in silence with her. She felt at that time, that the Christ light was shining through him to her. She felt God’s warmth and comfort. She was strengthened and comforted by the chaplain’s presence and by the presence of God. She resolved at that time to emulate the chaplain as much as she could.
When Audrey finally fell silent, Bernie reminded her that she had offered to chaperone the prom, and that she would wear her collar to ensure that the teens would stay in line. Bernie had learned over the years that the combination of her 5’10” height and the collar was enough to keep most teens in line, at least in her presence.
A brief smile crossed Audrey’s lips at the thought of Pastor Bernie in her collar, towering over the skinny mean girls. When Audrey brightened, Bernie looked at the clock on her desk and realized that it was time to pick up the O’Connell kids for pizza night. She had recently purchased a used Sienna van with 8 seat belts to accommodate youth in the church and the O’Connell and Martin kids. Andy would walk to her cottage after baseball practice.
Abbey Martin had been convicted of felony DUI (driving under the influence) with serious injury. The court had approved for the Martin twins to stay with the O’Connells temporarily pending her sentencing hearing. It wasn’t a perfect solution, but it worked for the short term. There was an out of state uncle, their late father’s brother, from Texas. But he was single, and hadn’t shown any interest in or ability to provide a stable home environment for the twins. Abbey’s mother, the kids’ grandmother, was on dialysis in a convalescent home and could not care for them.
The O’Connells were all very close to Audrey and Andy, but Liz and Brian were stretched very thin with two demanding full-time jobs and four school age children, including one with a serious illness. And while their five-bedroom home was large enough for their family, it would be a bit crowded with two more children.
In the weeks following Easter, Bernie had jumped in to help Liz and Brian with parenting duties by taking Audrey and Andy to doctor and dentist appointments, to school functions, to visit their mother in the County jail, to Andy’s baseball games, and to a myriad of other places. The twins had managed to get by on their own when Abbey was sequestered in her bedroom at home, but they welcomed help from a responsible adult. Bernie had a standing invitation to the O’Connell home for their Saturday and Sunday family dinners–and Bernie hosted a pizza and movie night every Friday evening at her cottage for the six kids to give Liz and Brian a weekly date night.
+ + +
Bernie had ordered the pizzas before leaving Hope Chapel. They were delivered shortly after their arrival at the cottage, and the kids gathered around Bernie’s big 60” TV screen (a recent addition to facilitate movie night), and scrolled through the smart TV’s movie offerings. They settled on Star Trek Beyond. As usual, Bernie asked them for the rating, and when Liam looked it up and told her that it was PG-13 for violence, she insisted that they text their mother to find out if it was okay for Sean and Kevin. Liz texted back that she was fine with them watching the Star Trek movies.
They all gathered in the kitchen to devour their favorite pizza. The parsonage kitchen had been enlarged over the years to accommodate parish potlucks and other gatherings. The old 60” round oak table was placed in front of the built-in benches under the corner window. The six kids sat on the benches, and Bernie sat on one of the two chairs at the table.
Bernie put the pizza in the middle of the table and handed the kids paper plates and napkins.
Just as she was poised to bite into a slice, Bernie stopped and asked, “So what’s this I hear about your plans for a birthday present for Mr. O’Connell?”
“What? How did you find out?” Anna demanded.
“Oh, I have my sources,” Bernie replied, smiling enigmatically, as she squeezed Sean’s knee under the table.
“So how are you coming along?” she asked.
“Actually, I guess this is a good time to discuss it, since you know about it,” Anna replied. “But don’t breathe a word to Mom or Dad. Promise?”
“Scout’s honor,” Bernie answered.
“We haven’t been able to find anyone who can host Dad for a round of golf at Dallas National, but Audrey and Andy came up with a great idea.” She glanced at Audrey.
“You tell it, Audrey.”
Audrey took up the mantle. “Well, as you know, mom’s publicist knows a lot of people, and she put me in touch with one of the producers of her TV show–a man who is quite sympathetic with mom’s situation, since he went through similar challenges when he was young. He was addicted to heroin, and it took him a while to get clean. Now he helps all kinds of addicts and their families.”
“How wonderful!” Bernie remarked.
Audrey continued, “Anyway, he was really nice when I talked to him, and he offered to help us in any way he could. When I told him that we were looking for someone to get Mr. O’Connell onto Dallas National, he said that he couldn’t do that, but suggested something else.”
“Drum roll,” Liam said, and they all pounded the table.
Laughing, Bernie asked, “So what is it?”
“Well, he has done some work with Robby Jones, last year’s winner at Dallas National. Mr. Jones has agreed to call Mr. O’Connell on his birthday and wish him happy birthday. He also loves to play at Riviera, where Mr. O’Connell plays golf, and will play a round with him!”
“Wow!! He will be so excited!” exclaimed Kevin. The kids talked about it animatedly among themselves, while Bernie collected the plates and put away the leftover pizza. She opened the cupboard and pulled out three bags of popping corn, and put one in the microwave to begin popping.
When he heard the popcorn popping, Andy looked at his iPhone, and asked, “Who’s ready to watch the movie?” He led the kids into the family room and queued up the movie.
“Wait a minute! Don’t start without us! We’re bringing the drinks and popcorn.” Audrey fetched the cold sodas and water bottles from the refrigerator, and Anna poured the popcorn into bowls for each of the kids.
Bernie hung back to clean up the kitchen and to offer a short prayer of gratitude to God for bringing children into her home life. She loved working with the youth at church, but spending time with them in your own home was different. She had never really been lonely, but these past few weeks made her realize that she missed family life. As she worked, she mused on what had happened.
Bernie had grown closer to the twins during the weeks following Easter and they to her. The twins enjoyed Bernie’s outgoing, fun-loving temperament, and her terrific sense of humor. God knows, they needed to laugh more. They had endured so much hardship in the past several years.
As she thought about it, her youth had been similar to theirs in some ways. Audrey and Andy were, in effect, orphaned, with their mother in prison and their dad having passed away. Bernie realized that they had really been orphaned for a year, when Abbey fired Cathy, their nanny of 14 years. Bernie felt a connection to the twins having been orphaned herself. Fortunately, her Aunt Maureen had stepped up immediately to fill the parenting void.
She mused on the orphaned Queen Esther, adopted by her older cousin Mordecai, who asked her if she had been brought to her position “for such a time as this.” Had Bernie’s life experiences led her to “such a time as this . . .?” Her musings had led her to take the action to get involved with the twins after their mother was carted off to jail.
Bernie had only met the Martin twins a couple of months ago, but she had spent a lot of time with the them in the past few weeks. She learned that Abbey had not spent any time talking to her children when she was at home. Bernie found them starved for friendship– for an adult to consult and confide in. They talked to Bernie about their mother, their classes, their fears, their friends, their plans for the future, and their immediate plans for the summer.
During the course of her one-on-one discussions with Audrey, Bernie learned to appreciate Audrey’s maturity and her introspective spirit and analytical mind. She discovered that Audrey loved to write, and encouraged her to submit her work to various writing contests for teens. And she worked with Andy’s coach to arrange for him for him to attend a baseball camp during the summer in Cooperstown with his teammates.
A couple of weeks ago, Liz and Brian sat down with Bernie to discuss the twins’ immediate future. Brian noted that it was likely that Abbey would be incarcerated between five and eight years, and they all agreed that the twins needed a stable home environment during that time, and beyond.
Sure enough, just last week Abbey had been sentenced to five years with credit for time served. She was moved from the County jail to the women’s prison in Lynwood.
The O’Connells were relieved when Bernie expressed a desire to become a foster parent to the twins. There wasn’t anyone else who knew the twins so well and who would be an outstanding foster parent. Audrey and Andy wanted to remain in St. Michael’s Cove, but the O’Connells had been struggling over a decision about whether they could take on two additional teenagers at this time.
And the twins had become attached to Bernie. Bernie had the time to devote to them that they so needed. They were relieved that Bernie had invited them into her home. Bernie enrolled in the county Resource Family Approval program, and given her reputation with working with youth at Hope Chapel and in the Cove, she was temporarily approved after a home inspection. She would still need to complete all of the requirements of the program, but Bernie had dealt with county family services in the past, and knew that was just a matter of time.
In addition to the downstairs master bedroom and bath, the parsonage had a bathroom and two bedrooms upstairs, which were perfect for the twins. William fixed the drip in the bathtub and switched out the toilet for a newer model that used less water. The twins helped Bernie clean out the two bedrooms, one of which she had been using for storage. She called a budget blinds company, and had them come out to replace the bent, old venetian blinds that must have been on the upstairs bedroom windows for 40 years. She let the twins pick out new paint for their bedroom walls. Audrey chose a soft lavender, and Andy chose moss green. She and William helped them paint their bedrooms.
After the rooms were painted, William, Andy, and two other teenage boys in the church loaded the twins’ bedroom furniture onto William’s truck and moved it into their new rooms. Bernie thought it was important that they have their own things in the cottage. Besides, the trustees of Abbey’s trust had decided to remove all of the Martin house furniture and put it in storage so that the house could be rented. The O’Connells and Bernie helped the twins move their clothes and personal belongings into their new rooms. They had decided to spend their first night in their new home on Mother’s Day night.
+ + +
Bernie adjusted the rearview mirror of the Sienna before pulling out of the parking lot. She had just dropped Andy and six of his teammates off for their Saturday game against the Granada Hills Highlanders. She was now headed to the O’Connell’s house to pick up Audrey and Anna to take them shopping for Audrey’s prom dress. She had finally convinced Audrey to go through with her plan to go to the prom.
These past few weeks had given Bernie a new understanding of some of the many hats a mother wears–chef, chauffeur, confidante, encourager, counselor, nurse, teacher, fashion consultant, and comforter, to name a few. Both of the twins were going through a lot on account of Abbey’s problems, but they seemed to weigh especially heavily on Audrey.
It had been years since Bernie had been shopping for a beautiful dress. She and her sister loved to shop together when they were teens. Their aunt would drop them off at the mall and come back a few hours later, but Aunt Maureen always joined them when they were shopping for something special. Bernie laughed to herself at the memory– then frowned when she thought of how far apart she and Patricia had drifted over the years.
It wasn’t just that Patricia still lived in the Midwest. When their parents were killed in the car accident, Patricia was mad at God and everyone else, and she had refused to talk about it. Bernie had finally given up trying to talk to her. Bernie thought that she would grow out of it, but Patricia bottled up her anger, and became more embittered as she aged. Bernie had fled to God as her refuge when their parents died, but Patricia had distanced herself.
As Bernie thought about it, she wondered if now would be an appropriate time to try to break through to her. She sighed. Maybe she should call her, if only to tell her about the twins.
+ + +
The girls had decided that they needed to go to the nearby mall which had several large department stores with racks of prom dresses. Sophomores weren’t allowed to go to the Junior-Senior Prom at Anna’s school, so she was excited to be a part of Audrey’s search for a dress for her school prom.
Bernie quickly learned that a prom dress these days isn’t always a dress. More often, it’s a two-piece satiny or sparkly top with a coordinating satin skirt, often paired with a special lightweight cardigan with ¾ length sleeves.
They found the top and skirt in a dreamy powder blue satin within the first two hours, but it took longer to find the sweater. They finally found a perfect dressy light blue cardigan sweater with a few beaded flowers scattered across the top. Bernie offered to switch out the plain buttons for rhinestone buttons. They even found a slim rhinestone headband for her hair. Audrey looked absolutely stunning in the ensemble, with her long blond hair and striking blue eyes. They decided to leave the hunt for shoes to another day.
They arrived at the O’Connell residence just in time for the Saturday barbeque. The walking and shopping had left them famished, and Bernie was grateful that she didn’t have to cook.
Mother’s Day dawned grey just before 6 a.m. when Bernie and Molly left the cottage for their morning constitutional loop through the village, out to the bluffs, and back up Rose Hill Road. The LA coastline “June Gloom” had started in May, as was often the case. The morning fog rested lightly on the mountains on the Cove’s northern border. It will probably burn off in a few hours, Bernie thought.
Thirty minutes later, when she and Molly were half a block from the bluffs, the sky was already a blue grey, and the Pacific Ocean was a porcelain blue–a good sign that it would be another beautiful day in paradise. As they approached the bluffs, Bernie saw a tall, lone male figure silhouetted against the sky. Drawing closer, she recognized him as Gabe, the man who had asked her to buy him a breakfast sandwich two months earlier. She nodded to him, but he seemed to be lost in thought.
As she did most mornings, Bernie sat on the nearby bench with Molly at her feet, overlooking the ocean and meditating on the beauty and vastness of God’s creation.
A few minutes later, Gabe broke the silence. “Ah, the day is full of promise,” he remarked, shoving his hands into his jacket pockets.
Bernie nodded again. “Indeed, it is,” she said, and meant it. It was the day that she would become a mother. It was her Mother’s Day at long last.
+ + +
Bernie was heading home when Audrey and Andy woke up on their last morning in the O’Connell house. They dressed quickly and joined Brian and Liz in the kitchen at 7:00. The O’Connell children were still in bed. Liz plated the poached eggs on toast and placed it in front of them at the table just after their arrival in the kitchen.
“Do you mind stopping at the Food Gourmet before we leave the Cove?” Audrey asked.
“Sure,” Brian replied.
“They have some pretty pink hydrangeas in pots and I would like to buy one to bring to mom,” she said. “When I talked to her last week, she said that she had joined the gardening project. I figured that after she enjoys the plant in her room for a couple of weeks, she could plant it in the prison garden, and be reminded of us in the coming months.”
“It’s called a cell, dummy, not a room,” Andy muttered.
“A cell is also a room.” Liz interjected. “What a lovely idea, Audrey! I’m sure that your mom will appreciate having the flowers to brighten her days.”
“Well, if we’re going to be the first in line at the prison, and get back to the Cove in time for the 10:30 service, we had better get going,” Brian said.
+ + +
A few hours later Bernie was standing in the front of her flock at Hope Chapel winding up her Mother’s Day homily.
She glanced over the congregation, her eyes resting on her new family, seated next to the O’Connells. She gave them an encouraging smile.
“Mothers are well advised to heed Churchill’s words in 1941: ‘Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.’
His quote is often translated to today’s parlance: ‘Never, never, never, never give up.’ Never give in to despair over your children. Never stop praying for them. Never give up on them.
This week’s Scripture lessons teach us to never give up when we are rejected. John recorded Jesus’ last words to his disciples, preparing them for the rejection that was certain to follow: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.”
Brian’s mind drifted from the sermon as he thought about the twins’ meeting with their mother. The room was a sea of orange, with the women behind the glass dressed in orange jumpsuits. It was sad that these mothers couldn’t wear anything special even to see their children on Mother’s Day. He was in the room, but hung back from their conversation to give the twins some time alone with their mother. He couldn’t hear what they were saying, but their body language spoke volumes. Abbey’s eyes were dull, and she was listless. Brian wondered if she was still on the withdrawal meds. Audrey was leaning forward to her mother, showing her the card tucked into the beautiful pink hydrangea with a pink bow, anxious for a smile or some acknowledgement that she was happy to see them. Andy sat back in his chair, his hands in his pockets, in a defiant stance, and a glum expression on his face. The twins had been silent on the trip back to the beach.
Liz glanced at Brian, and was surprised to see his mouth turned down in a frown. She squeezed his hand to bring him back to the present. He looked startled, then relaxed and smiled at her. He turned his attention to the end of Bernie’s homily.
In First Peter, Chapter Two, “Peter reminds us of Psalm 118:22 in reminding us that Jesus, the cornerstone, was rejected: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. . .’ Likewise, Stephen faced many who did not believe, and who persecuted him for his preaching of the gospel. But he continued teaching and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ crucified, and was stoned to death.
Dr. Luke records in Acts, chapter 8, verse 60, that Paul, then known by his Hebrew name, Saul, witnessed the stoning: ‘And Saul was there giving approval to his death.’ Paul, who later became a pillar of the fledgling church, was at that time persecuting Christians.
“Paul is a prime example that God can reach out and change anyone—even a murderous enemy. Never, never, never, never give up on those you love.
“Mother’s Day is a day to remember our own mothers—those who are still with us, and those who have passed on. It is also a day for thanking God for our families—for spouses, children, and grandchildren. And it is a reminder to continue to pray for them—to never, never, never, never give up on those you love. Amen”
+ + +
Bernie turned to sit down, and the organist immediately launched into the first notes of “Blessed Assurance.”
As they sang the last verse, Pastor Bernie rose and motioned for Avi, Harry, and the President of the congregation, Phyllis Wang, to come forward.
When the hymn ended, Bernie announced to the congregation, “Avetis Grigoryan and Harout Grigoryan desire to make public affirmation of their baptism.”
Turning to Avi and Harry, she continued, “Dear friends, we rejoice to receive you, members of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church, into our fellowship in the Gospel. In Holy Baptism our Lord Jesus Christ received you and made you members of his Church. In the community of God’s people, you have learned from his Word God’s loving purpose for you and all creation. Now, I ask you to proclaim your faith in Jesus Christ and confess the faith of the church.”
Bernie continued with the litany of questions to the Grigoryans and with the final prayers, finishing with a blessing:
“Now may the Lord of Peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with you all. Amen.”
Bernie hugged both Avi and Harry in the narthex after the procession during the postlude. “Welcome to Hope Chapel. We are so happy that you have joined with us to work in the kingdom.”
“And,” she added, “thank you for the invitation to your golf and tennis club for lunch. The twins and I are really looking forward to it. We have never been there!”
“It is our pleasure to have you join us,” Avi replied. The Thompsons are coming, of course, and Rebecca, and a few others from our seekers class.” I reserved a private dining room overlooking the 18th green.”
“What a treat!” Bernie exclaimed.
He continued, sheepishly, “Actually, it is a treat for us also. I played golf there for years and my wife played tennis until she got sick. We had a house next to the course, but I couldn’t bear to be there without her–so I moved into an apartment. The house has been rented out for the past five years, and I haven’t spent much time at the club since she died.”
“Well, it’s a lovely way to celebrate your rejoining the family of God at Hope Chapel.”
“Oh, and here they come!” Bernie noted as the first congregants approached them. Avi and Harry positioned themselves next to Bernie as the congregants moved through the reception line to welcome them to their flock.
In keeping with a Hope Chapel Mother’s Day tradition, Alma Mayer had arranged several vases of open, fragrant roses from Rose Hill Farm on the welcome table in the narthex, and wished each mother a Happy Mother’s Day as she handed her a rose to take home.
+ + +
The lunch at Avi’s club had been lovely. They started with the chef’s signature French Onion soup followed by a green salad, and a light salmon entrée. While Avi, Andy, Karl, and the others were engaged in a lively discussion about soccer over coffee at one end of the table, Ginny turned to Bernie and said, “I think this is a good time to go to the ladies’ room, don’t you?”
Sensing the urgency in her voice, Bernie nodded, and the two women excused themselves from the table.
When they were out of earshot of the others, Ginny said, “I just want you to know that Karl has been back to see Darrin, and he believes that his faith is sincere. They haven’t resolved all of their issues, but we worship a God of second chances, don’t we?” she asked plaintively.
Bernie laughed, and said “And third, fourth, fifth . . . well you get the picture!”
Ginny smiled and continued, “I think that Darrin is finally maturing, and that he was very fortunate to find a mentor like Steve, to nurture him along in the faith while he is in prison. They think that he will be released early in six months. Darrin is insistent that he will make his own way. Steve is working on getting him a job, and helping him to apply to Cal State Northridge.”
“Does he know what he wants to study?”
“He’s thinking of getting into computer programming. He has always been good at math and at fixing things. He has an engineer’s soul. I think he gets that from Karl.”
Bernie hugged her. “That is wonderful news! Our sinful selves are never the end the of the story. There is always an opportunity for redemption.”
+ + +
Bernie and the twins left directly from the club to attend the Grand Opening of the Old Library Nooks and arrived just before 3 pm when the ceremony was due to begin.
They found the O’Connells at the front of the crowd gathered around the stairs. Liz had just broken the exciting news that Kevin had been cleared to return to classroom instruction the following week, which brought cheers and good wishes to a beaming Kevin.
Liz waved as the SIS members trickled into the group, and motioned for them to come to the front where they would be called upon by the developer, Mr. Carruthers, to accept the naming contest award. Mr. Carruthers’ assistant, Tiffany, offered to give the SIS group a tour of the new facility after the ceremony, and invited them to a complimentary private tea that had been arranged for them in the Tea Room after the ceremony.
The group had agreed to ask Bernie to join the SIS group, because the ecumenical quilt had been the brainchild of a Hope Chapel member, and Bernie was a Cove treasure. Charlotte formally extended the invitation to Bernie while they were waiting, and she accepted immediately. Liz handed her a cross stitch Home Sweet Home sampler to work on during their special tea today. After five weeks of nonstop parenting duties, Bernie commented that she was ready for a little down time with “the girls.”
The ceremony was short and to the point, with SIS being honored for winning the naming contest. There was a short speech by Mr. Carruthers, who expressed his hope that the Nooks would be a community gathering place for another 100 years or more–a sentiment that was cheered by the crowd. The honorary mayor cut the ribbon, and the public was invited into the remodeled space to browse and shop.
Tiffany approached the group after the ceremony. “Are you ready for your tour?” she asked. They all nodded eagerly, and Brian signaled for the six children to follow him to the Suburban. He was in charge of the kids for the afternoon.
“Okay,” he said, when all of the kids were buckled in. “Are you all ready to help with the Mother’s Day dinner for Mom and Bernie?”
“Yes!” Sean shouted. The rest of the kids affirmed their assent with head nods and thumbs up. They stopped by the Food Gourmet to pick up a couple of pounds of scallops. Brian had tucked the chocolate fudge Mother’s Day cake from Pierre’s in the back of the garage refrigerator the night before.
“Mom and Pastor Bernie will be home about 6 o’clock so we need to work fast. They are having tea at the Old Library Nooks, so we don’t need to prepare an appetizer. I warned Mom to go light on the tea snacks so that she will have an appetite for dinner.
It was a quarter to five when they arrived home. Once home, Brian marshalled his troops. Anna and Audrey were put in charge of cutting roses from the garden for the table and buffet, and setting the table with Liz’s favorite Coalport Ming Rose china, linen napkins, and their wedding silver.
Liam and Andy were assigned to clean the kitchen, put away the dishes in the dishwasher, and take the garbage out. Kevin and Sean straightened up the family room, and fed and took Keller out. Brian made the salad and put it in the refrigerator to chill, washed and prepared the asparagus to roast, prepared the garlic and butter for the scallops, and put together the rice pilaf ingredients and spices to get it ready to cook. The O’Connell home was a flurry of activity for the next hour.
+ + +
“We’ll start with the first floor,” Tiffany said. “Follow me.” The group trooped behind her before the influx of visitors from the Cove. The huge double wood doors with beveled glass inserts had been beautifully restored. They oohed and aahhed at the transformation on the first floor, which had been reimagined into the “Library Bistro.”
Immediately in front of them, the large u-shaped marble check-in and check-out counter was now a coffee and soda bar by day and a wine bar by night. The counter had been elevated to fit eight stools on each side of the long U. Sofas and overstuffed chairs were arranged to the left of the counter around the large, restored fireplace, and individual tables and chairs were arranged to the right of the counter.
The French doors to the right, on the north side of the building, led to the stone patio. When it was the library, there had been stone benches on the patio where readers could sit and have lunch or just soak up a bit of the California sun. The benches had been moved to make room for the dining tables and chairs. The developer had replaced the original decaying oak pergola over the patio, but had preserved the wisteria, now in full bloom hanging through the new pergola. Floor length white tablecloths, white candles in hurricanes, and small vases of colorful flowers adorned the round tables scattered around the stone patio.
Carruthers had retained the stone wall encasing the patio, but had replaced the old hedge bordering the inside of the wall with several dozen hybrid tea rose bushes, of varying colors–all of which were in bloom. The whole atmosphere was one of comfort and classic beauty.
“Are you ready to move up to the second floor?” Tiffany asked.
The women reluctantly followed her to the staircase.
“Oh, but before we leave the first floor, I want to give you a peek into the new garden in back of the library.” The dual wood staircases on the west end of the building had been kept and restored to their original grandeur. The rear door between the staircases led to steps leading down to a newly landscaped garden.
The stone walls from the patio area had been re-created in the back of the library and encased a long narrow garden about 50’ by 30’. Tall, dark green leaved camellia bushes were interspersed along the wall with full grown hydrangea bushes. A couple hundred hybrid rose bushes were planted according to color in neat rows, interrupted only by the appearance of the original stone benches repurposed from the library patio. It was a beautiful and peaceful place to sit in solitude or to have a light lunch or snack.
The ladies walked out into the garden admiring the rose bushes, most of which were blooming. They were all in great condition. “What kind of fertilizer do they use?” Asked Charlotte. “There’s no rust or black spot on the leaves–and no partially eaten leaves by snails.”
“I’m not sure of the fertilizer, Tiffany said. “My mom asked the same question. I do know that it’s a systemic fertilizer that wards off fungi and garden pests. The gardener also told me that he sometimes crushes eggshells and sprinkles them around a bush if he sees any partially eaten leaves. Snails can’t digest the eggshells.”
“What’s with all of the rose bushes?” asked Denise.
“I’m glad you asked,” Tiffany replied. “Mr. Carruthers was asked to keep the library in the same style and landscaping as the Cove. Mary Robinson, the founder of Rose Hill Nursery and Rose Hill Road, was the mover and shaker behind the Carnegie library being built. The landscaper and Mrs. Carruthers thought it would be a fitting tribute to the Cove to have a rose garden in honor of Mary Robinson. Mr. and Mrs. Carruthers decided to call it the Mary Robinson Rose Garden.”
“Plus” she added, “Mr. and Mrs. Carruthers have lived in the Cove for 27 of their 40 married years, and the Cove’s rose culture is quite ingrained in them.”
“Shall we move onto the second floor?” she asked. She added, “The basement has been refurbished, but it’s still basically a large room that can be cordoned off for classes or left open for a town hall meeting. We kept the old stage, with its wood carvings, but it’s all been refinished. Like the rest of the building, there is air conditioning in the basement and central heating.”
“Wonderful!” exclaimed Jackie. “Going to town meetings down there was insufferable almost any time of year because of the lack of air circulation, air conditioning and heating.”
They had trooped back inside, and started making their way up the right staircase to the second floor.
“I’m also happy to see the elevator,” Charlotte noted. I love getting my steps in, but it will be helpful when my mom comes to visit and I want to take her to tea. The Tea Room is on the 4th floor, right?”
“Yes, that’s right,” Tiffany replied. “The top floor. Wait till you see it!” she said with a twinkle in her eye. I see you ladies brought your stitchery bags with you, as I suggested.
They had arrived at the second floor. “Oh, how lovely, Alison exclaimed, seeing the reading nook between the two staircases. Beautiful wood carved benches were built into the beveled glass bay window, topped by deep, soft moss green velvet cushions. “I don’t remember this nook,” she said thoughtfully. “What a nice place to read in the afternoon, overlooking that gorgeous rose garden!”
“Good catch,” laughed Tiffany. Those benches were saved from another Carnegie library in Northern California with a similar footprint. In fact, many of the special features of the refurbished library were purchased from that property that has been re-developed into condos.
“Oh dear!” Liz remarked. I’m so glad that the Cove decided to reimagine our library into a place open to the public!”
The second floor was neatly divided into three shops on the south wall–the Toy Nook, the Arts and Crafts Nook, and the Chocolate nook. The Cheese Nook was opposite the Chocolate nook on the north wall. The larger Book Nook took up most of the north wall and opened up onto a beautifully landscaped large balcony, dotted with small tables and chairs.
As they moved on to the Third Floor, Bernie remarked that so many features of this library had reminded her of a Carnegie Library in Brooklyn, where she and her sisters had studied after school if her aunt was working. Her aunt knew the Irish- born librarian who watched out for them while they did their homework. Their aunt would meet her and Patricia in the library after work.
Like the rest of the library, the Third Floor retained many of the fine architectural features that endeared the Cove residents to the building, while upgrading it to current electrical, plumbing, and earthquake safety standards. The clothing shops were on the Third Floor–the children’s shop and the men’s shop on the south side of the floor, and a women’s clothing store on the north side.
“Are you ready for the big reveal? The Fourth Floor? Tiffany asked as the group edged toward the great wood staircase on the right.
“Yes!” They responded in unison. “We’re ready!” added Denise.
As they walked up the steps to the Fourth Floor, they gasped when reached the top of the stairs and saw the solarium to their immediate left. The Fabric Nook was immediately in front of them. The shop’s two sets of French doors opened onto the solarium on the north side of the floor, containing eight partially enclosed sewing nooks. Each nook was furnished with a 6’ desk, a chair, and a recent model Bernina sewing machine.
Their eyes widened as they glided through the shops–they were terrific! They now had everything they needed for their stitchery projects right here in St. Michael’s Cove.
The Fabric Nook featured a whole wall of quilting cottons in addition to sewing patterns, many fabrics from silks to woolens, and a great variety of sewing notions. Liz also noticed a sign stating that the shop does routine maintenance and repairs on Bernina sewing machines. She would no longer have to drive 60 miles round trip for maintenance and repairs of her sewing machines.
The nearby Yarn Nook was tucked into the space between the two staircases on the west side of the building. It offered a wide variety of yarns and notions.
Tiffany led them into the Tea Room, that made up the entire south side of the floor. The large fireplace was surrounded by overstuffed loveseats, sofas, chairs with small tables and lamps. The tea counter was an L shaped counter in the north east corner of the room.
Tiffany left them to get settled on the comfortable chairs and sofas, while she went to see about tea.
They had all pulled out their various projects, and were chatting when the tea cart was brought out a few minutes later. The large silver teapot was placed on the top shelf, surrounded by china tea cups and saucers. The bottom shelf contained trays of tea foods.
Tiffany poured the tea, while the ladies passed the platters of cucumber and egg salad sandwiches, scones, and shortbread cookies.
The women whooped with delight toward the end of the afternoon, when Charlotte shared the news of her pregnancy with them. She told them that she was two and a half months along and was expecting a Thanksgiving baby.
“How appropriate,” cried Liz. “We are all thankful that we will be welcoming your baby to St. Michael’s Cove!”
+ + +
Brian greeted Liz and Bernie at the door a few minutes after 6 with flutes of champagne. “Happy Mother’s Day, ladies.” He ushered them into the family room and dining area. Audrey and Anna grinned when Brian pointed to them in response to Bernie’s query as to who had set such a beautiful table.
“And what is that delicious odor wafting from the kitchen?” Liz asked. Is it coming from your incomparable scallops in garlic butter?
“Indeed it is–Brian replied. “Nothing but the best for the best mothers around!”
Brian poured Martinelli’s for the kids and a flute of champagne for himself. When they had finished their drinks, he motioned for all to gather around. “I would like to say a special prayer on this Mother’s Day for both Liz and Bernie,” he said.
They held hands and bowed their heads.
“Gracious Father, we thank and praise you for creating the family unit—where mothers and fathers can love, teach, nurture, guide, and care for their children. We thank and praise you for the mothers who loved us and never gave up on us. We thank and praise you for Liz and Bernie and for the children you have entrusted to their care.
When we are worried and anxious about our children and we don’t know how to help them, remind us of Jesus’ words as recorded by John: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled.’ Keep your protective and guiding hand on our children throughout their lives. Give us the insight and resources to help them—and to never, never, never, give up on them. We ask this in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen”