Esther Taylor’s children were baptized at the Lutheran Church at the summit of Stonecreek Ridge. The wooden house of worship was painted white and seated no more than fifty parishioners comfortably. On Sunday mornings, unstained windows were cracked to invite fresh spring breezes along with the Holy Spirit inside. The scent of mildew from old hymnal pages was infused with that of the oak pews. Only a few souls sang; most watched dumfounded with bated breath.
The Lutheran Church like the Catholic Church will baptize an infant in a heartbeat, despite the fact that the lord was a young adult himself before being submersed in the muddy Jordan. The sign of the cross was sprinkled delicately over screaming bald infant heads. Little bare feet kicked in protest, while outside, robins tip-toed upon green grass still dipped in dew; poking their pointed beaks into the ground like pitchforks, pulling out worms and gobbling them down as a minister read versus from the book of John. Not a soul took note of the scripture being read. A sense of accomplishment and contentment was in the heart of every mother and father who presented their offerings to the Lord like Esther did with all seven of hers.
Never were the babes emerged totally under water. There was a sense of peace that distilled like moonshine upon the hearts of mothers who guide their children to that old rugged cross through baptism, especially when a mother understands that church records are more official and important than paperwork kept in courthouses.
Esther named all seven of her children with names that started with the letter ‘B’, perhaps because all her kids were all baptized in the little Lutheran Church with no stained-glass windows. She hoped the act would prevent the baptisms of fire that were so common in times when all that was needed to feed another mouth was to add three more potatoes to the batches of mashed ones that were boiled for dinner every night. It was amazing how many mouths the Lord could feed off just one potato patch planted on less than an acre of land.
The Lord and his ways of providing were not hard to understand. As long as one was baptized, he never went hungry. “Be fruitful and multiply,” was the theme of every baptism made at the old Lutheran Church. Esther’s first born son, who most assume had an official name of William, had a letter B in his Lutheran name. “Bill” was written by hand, in script, upon the baptismal record at the church. At the courthouse in town, Bill was William, officially, but on top the hill, he was made, before the Lord, a Bill.
Esther was a woman well into her twenties– or so it seemed, unless one were to compare the official record of Esther Taylor the Lutheran to that of Esther Emerson, who was born a Catholic, who later went on to change her name to Staub in a second marriage, and a conflicting certificate of divorce which indicates Esther gave birth to her second child, Beatrice when she was just three.
It was an age when nobody stopped to ask a lady’s official age, when mothers who went into a Baptism came out, born again, so to speak.
Birth certificates were useless documents to families who lived secluded lives away from busy towns and cities, anyway. What was in a man’s heart and the glow in his eyes was how age was determined. When Esther went into the Huntingdon courthouse, one week following a sprinkling of holy drops upon Bill’s little bald head, she was moved to fill out paperwork at the courthouse to change an incorrect date of birth on her own official documentation listed within the Lutheran Church. She argued with the town clerk for several hours, insisting that the age of her own birth was listed improperly by the Catholics, and because she was required to list her date of birth upon her son’s document, it did not seem right to admit to being just over thirteen years of age when one could just as easily be three.
After learning from the town clerk that such an error was rare on birth certificates, Esther took it upon herself to correct the typographical error of her year of birth, years later on her own copy of the official document. Rather than make herself older after the death of her husband, she cunningly cut twenty years from her life once and for good on city papers. She asked her daughter who attended secretarial school to use one of the fancy typewriters for which she had access, to make a change of the birth certificate that made Esther appear much older than what she actually was. If it were not for the Lutheran Church and the documented baptism of her children, Esther Taylor would never have grown older than forty, either officially or in the eyes of others.
After Esther’s second child, Beatrice, gave birth to the family’s first grandson, oddly named “Bing” , Esther started to regret having used so many of the popular B names already. Esther insisted to her daughter, that Bing not be baptized because the Lutheran Church had too many secrets.
Esther went on to raise her grandson Bing, without an official church blessing. Beatrice moved away from the farm and Stonecreek Ridge to settle in Harrisburg. Beatrice attended secretarial school there. Esther called the little boy ‘Bingo’ and for good reason, for it seemed after the fat little boy with chubby cheeks came into the world, a stream of cash as glorious as the Jordon was made readily available to Esther and the little boy.
It was lonely living on the top of a mountain in an empty house that once was filled with so much laughter and the constant babbling of all things B. Esther’s husband was dead. He crashed his car while driving drunk a few months after Esther had left him. Esther moved into an apartment with her daughter Beatrice in the nearby town of Huntingdon. Mother and daughter waited patiently for the child to be born. Prior to Beatrice’s decision to move far away to Harrisburg where a girl with a clean birth certificate, a cunning smile and bright red hair could find a good government job, George kicked Beatrice out of the house. The mother and daughter were the spitting-image of each other– both having bright orange hair, blue eyes and beauty unmatched by any blonde. The pregnancy drove George to his death.
It is not a strange coincidence that George turned to heavy drinking after his wife left the farm, turning from their chickens to tend to different hens of sorts—Beatrice and Esther did hair for a living in Huntingdon. It was so silent on the farm after all the children but one, Barry, the youngest, had gone. George could not tolerate the solitude. On hot, lazy afternoons, only the buzzing of airplanes flying high overhead broke a steady, nerve-wracking tone of millions of grasshoppers singing to slowly in the heat of summer.
Bea and Esther started a beauty parlor in Huntingdon, for it seemed the business was better than the one that caused so much anger to surface in George and to cause a man to disown his own flesh and blood. George wondered why she had even been baptized. Esther wanted a divorce from George long before the scandal erupted involving their eldest daughter. Esther threatened that if George did not stop drinking, she would leave him. She left her husband of forty years the next day. Esther used the excuse that George slapped Beatrice far too hard for a girl well into her way to womanhood, and quite honestly, Esther was sick of how possessive George was of her as his wife. Esther gave birth to all seven of their children at home, on the kitchen floor, not because they were poor, or because they were Lutherans. George did not want any other man to see his “wife’s bird”. It is no wonder he lost his cool when he learned what Beatrice, his red-head girl was being called.
George arrived home from a day of hard work intoxicated. He stumbled up the lane and nearly fell to his knees as he walked under a mulberry tree. At sunset, the glow of the red horizon turned his blood shoot eyes to a terrifying glow of the devil. He slapped his daughter with his giant, red, hand without explaining why he was doing it. He nearly knocked her two front teeth out. He left behind a welt that swelled like a bee sting. Despite the ice that melted while Esther held it in a plastic bag upon Bea’s cheek with shaking hands, the swelling would not go down.
The farm house, although seemingly as large as a hive is to bees, started to close in on Esther when Bingo came along, soon after George was dead. Esther wanted a fresh start, and agreed with her daughter that in order to be able to raise the child that seemed to come from a stork, she would need a trailer to live in. Esther wanted a pink one with carpet inside. For so long she had lived in the big farm house.
Bea left home in a rush, fluttering away from the family, spreading her own pollen of sorts across the sprawling countryside filled with many fields of clover, corn and hay.
Certain gentlemen, in hushed circles of town gossip, started referring to the red head with a not so pristine reputation as the “red arrow” and not using the letter B as B’s mother, Esther with her first letter vowel insisted upon. Bing, Bea’s child was conceived during a moment of hot passion between a business woman and an important man of town. Bea, who has always had a knack for business, years before becoming a secretary, found no purpose in marriage. The commissioner of a Pennsylvania federal prison had children of his own already, and a wife with a temper as hot as the red hair that lined Bea’s near translucent and pale Irish skin and vagina that opened like a pussy willow next to a green, stagnant pond on Stonecreek Ridge in the heat of August.
The freckles on her youthful and muscular farm girl legs caused men to salivate when having sex with her. In states of heightened, drunken arousal, the men began to salivate over Esther’s second eldest, like she was a piece of chicken. The image of those freckles brought to mind salt and pepper on mashed potatoes to the many farm men turned construction workers who stopped by the beauty shop on their way home from work, hours before dinner.
A cash settlement made it possible for Bea to pull her life together, move away from the farm, and begin what was to become a senior position with the Pennsylvania Dept Labor.