Tears for my Baby
Tears for my Baby; A Northwood’s Tale (PG)

Except for her walks, Milly hadn’t left the house in over a year. She didn’t care to go to town just to run into someone who might ask a bunch of questions about where she had been. Thank God for that neighbor kid who picked up her groceries. He wasn’t really a kid. He had to be in his forties, she guessed. The only other people she talked to was Ralph and Mr. Miltsen, but they were rarely around.

Every moment of Milly’s life was spent mulling over the past. Specifically, that one day. She slumped down into her old green rocker, and began to rock slowly. It had been so long ago, but it stuck in her head like it was the only thing she could remember. Some days it felt so real, it got her to thinking that if she rushed out there right now and dug her up, perhaps there was more she could do. . . Oh God. . . to bring her dear. . . Oh my dear God. . . to bring her dear, poor Kasandra back to life. My baby, she murmured. My poor baby.

Over and over she repeated it. And as the tears came, she cradled her arms across her bosom as if she were rocking a baby.

She had cried every day since. She had married and buried a husband since then, and had cried every day. He never knew. Not for one second did he ever know. She raised two boys with him. They never knew. They were gone now. Both of them moved out of state. They didn’t like how crazy Momma had gotten since Daddy died; although his dying had nothing to do with nothing.

Had she tried hard enough to resuscitate the baby? Was there more she could have done? She had only been a poor child herself, practically.

She had immediately decided to move out of town when she found out she was pregnant. She was two months along at her graduation from high school. She told everyone a big lie about moving to the east coast to experience life before she settled down. Just for a year, she had told them. Then she’d come back and go to college. Of course, her dad was furious about it, but before she left, he shoved a thousand dollars in her satchel, which was a huge sum of money in those days. He told her to put it right in the bank when she decided on a place to stay, and he also told her not to be afraid to come back home if things didn’t turn out as planned. He also promised to help put her through college. Yeah, he said all those things, not knowing she was pregnant. She never did go home to face him.

She never went to the east coast either. Never intended to. She took a bus north out of Minneapolis instead, kept going north until she didn’t recognize any names in the payphone telephone books. Almost to Canada, but not quite. Then she paid cash for a tiny cabin, on a small lake, on a dead-end road. In those days, it went for $600. It was remote but only two miles from town. Within walking distance, but remote enough that people would mind their own business.

Things got a little tougher when winter rolled around. She considered herself wise by comparison to other girls her age. She had pre-stocked the wooden shelves in the cabin for her and the baby. It included plenty of baby food, diapers, canned goods for herself, and dried meats. A young man who drove grader for the county and waved every time he went by, had dropped off two cords of wood, though it wasn’t her intention to burn wood unless she absolutely had to. There was a propane stove she hoped would keep the small cabin warm enough.

The baby was born the third of January. She had a little help from the widow who lived up the lane. That woman, like her, kept to herself much of the time. But she stopped occasionally to see how Milly was getting along. She helped to bring baby Kasandra into the world.

Kasandra was a good baby, and made good company, too. Always seemed to have a smile when Milly needed it most. She suckled well, and managed to keep herself occupied during the times Milly had to go outside to shovel snow. One day, it had taken a full hour to clean up from the doorway to the privy. Milly didn’t care much for the privy, but that was all she had.

Milly recalled the early thaw they had that March. The sun coming in through the porch windows brightened the inside of the cabin and warmed it almost above her comfort level. She sat in a rocker with Kasandra in her lap, a very light blanket covering them. They must have rocked for a full hour; content with living in the moment for as long as it would last. Life seemed so good. So simple, and pleasant. Milly sung in a whisper an old lullaby she remembered as a child. It was about a lamb, sunshine, and Jesus. And Kasandra slept so quietly and so soundly, Milly could barely see the little flaps of her nose moving as she breathed in and out.

And then a cold snap. The temperatures dropped to well below zero, and lasted for days and days. Milly had resorted to using the wood stove in addition to the propane heater because the heater alone was just not enough. Someone had dropped off a sack of groceries the other day with fresh baked biscuits, cans of beans, boxes of noodles and some baby food. She knew it was from the widow. It must have been some time before she noticed the bag outside her door for the biscuits and other items were almost frozen straight through. Or, it really was that cold.

That next night, it began to snow. The temperatures let up a little, but it snowed and snowed. Baby Kasandra had come down with the sniffles; God knows where she picked that up because they didn’t go anywhere to catch these germs. The only carrier of sickness she could think of was the sack of groceries. How ironic, she thought, a simple and kind act to be transformed into the deliverance of a cruel and inconspicuous illness.

It really wasn’t the old woman’s fault. Or was it?

Perhaps she should have known better. Maybe there had been almost an epidemic of colds, flu, and other sicknesses in town, and she thought nothing of dropping off the whole works in a sack at her door step to be absorbed by her vulnerable and helpless baby. That stupid old woman. Damn her!

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Author's Notes:

This short story touches on the extremely sad and tender moments when a mother loses a child. I just want people to know this before they continue reading in case this type of material causes distress or is uncomfortable to you.

Secondly, a little background on this story. The plot of this story is fictional. The character of Milly is 100% fictional. But, there are parts of the story that are true.To add to that statement, I feel there was a spiritual energy that helped me write this story. You writers out there know what I am talking about.

Here is a behind-the-scenes look at the origination of this story; originally called:

The Crying Baby Ghost

Over the years, I have spent a lot of time in the Northwoods. I have hiked back to spots that seemed rarely traveled. I have sat around bonfires with nothing but dark shadows and balsams surrounding me. There was a woods I visited where twice I heard the sounds of a crying baby late at night. Now, there may be many explanations, such as echoes or animal calls in the night, ant that is fine. But it didn't describe the sounds I heard. On two occasions, I walked back in this part of the woods and found myself deep in the swamp. I took some photographs as I passed through. On one photograph, a strange apparition appeared. I have been shooting photography for many years. I know that strange white spots on my photos could be just about anything. But in this case, there was no way I could explain it. And ever since, I choose to explain this unexplainable apparition as my sighting of the Crying Baby Ghost. Believe what you will. The picture is below for your viewing.

In those years, my son and his friend were into scary stories. The story of the Crying Baby Ghost was born one late night around the bonfire. The original story focused more on the ghost, and was something I had just made up. But the story you are about to read or have just read, is something I have kept inside me for years. It is something that I picked up while wandering about the dark swamp. Something that connected its self to me like the seed of a wildflower or that of a weed. Something that grew for years under the skin like a lipoma or a tumor. On the 22nd of January 2012, I could no longer keep this part of the story inside me.

I have to thank my editor EM531. You did fine work in helping me polish this piece. And an additional thanks to Katie who proofread the story and cleaned up my mistakes.
The Crying Baby Ghost 
            - photographed by Russ Victorian