Josiah Goes Shopping

An episode in the Eldwood family's life.

"What I need," Martha said as she stared grimly out of the front window, a bunch of limp tissues with which she had been coping wth the remains of her week-old cold clutched in one hand, "What I -need- is a new hat."

"Hat!" Josiah snorted, disregarding my warning scowl, "Why do you women always think buying a hat will make you feel better?"

"I know just what I'd like," Martha continued dreamily, ignoring her uncle's remarks, "A heap of lavender violets under a froth of veiling." She smiled at the mental picture which, I was sure, did not include her very pink nose and red-rimmed eyes.

"Sounds like something to eat." Jos teased. "But easy enough to find. I'll bring you one when Young Joe takes me to town this afternoon. Might even get myself a new hat while I'm at it."

That statement startled Martha out of her mood and caused me to drop two stitches in the sweater I'm knitting for great granddaughter Katy Lou II.

"Why, Josiah Eldwood, you hate even wearing a hat much less buying a new one." I exclaimed.

"Man can change." he replied, tersely.

Young Joe arrived as we finished lunch. Jos washed down the last of his cherry pie with a gulp of tea and pulled on his galoshes.

"You want a bonnet too, Katy Louise?" he asked as he shrugged himself into his coat.

"Certainly I do! If there's new hats going around, I'll take one." I laughed.

"Any particular color or anything?" Jos was halfway out the door followed by his grinning grandson.

"Oh, pink roses, lots of veiling and a feather or two." I replied before the door closed behind the two men.

"Wasn't that rather reckless, Aunt Katy? Maybe he'll really bring us hats." Martha chided me.

"Gracious, child, we can always exchange them if he does. What do you suppose got into him?" And we laughed over Josiah's intended shopping as we cleared away and washed up the dishes.

Both Martha and I found it hard to concentrate on our knitting that afternoon. The idea of new hats had infected us and the fantastic notion of Josiah's choosing them tickled our risibilities.

"What do you think he'll get for himself?" Martha asked after we'd exhausted our ideas of the silly chapeaux Josiah might choose for us.

"I don't know. Probably something warm. One of those yard-long knitted stocking caps , perhaps. We can only hope Young Joe prevents him from being too outrageous, if he can, that is. Once Josiah gets an idea in his head, he's like a ...... like a mule, I guess. Stubborn, silly old coot."

It seemed forever had passed and come again before Young Joe's truck drove up to the back porch. He helped Jos down from the high cab, loaded his grandfather's arms with bundles, and followed him up the steps.

"No new hat on his head." Martha muttered as she waited to open the door.

"Those bags look promising." I encouraged her. "What on earth, Josiah? Did you buy out the town? We just had Christmas a few weeks ago. Do you have time for a cup of coffee, Joe?"

Jos plumped his packages on the kitchen table while Martha poured coffee for everyone and I got out a plate of cookies which made Young Joe's eyes light up. He's always been partial to my molasses cookies with raisin "faces". After he'd removed his galoshes and meticulously hung up his coat, my aggravating husband began unpacking his bundles.

"They had some new yarn, Katy. Thought you'd like this. (he produced six skeins of soft blue wool.) Got this color for you, Martha. (six more of coral color.) Here's the writing tablets you wanted and some....."

"Aw, Grampa, for goodness sake give the girls their hats! Can't you see how they are suffering?" Joe broke in with a grin.

"Hats?" Jos looked up in exaggerated surprise. "Why, pshaw, I 'most forgot. Le's see, this one's yours, Marthy, and this is Katy's." He peered into each bag before he handed them to us. "Sorry about the feathers, Katy, but the girl said she didn't even have a pink one she could sew on. But there's plenty of roses on it anyway."

Plenty of roses indeed, and plenty of violets on Martha's as well. Never the less, we had to admit we couldn't be better satisfied if we'd tried on a dozen each.

"Where's your new hat, Uncle Jos?" Martha asked as she turned away from admiring herself in the kitchen mirror. "Let's see how you look in it." and she pulled the remaining bag out of Josiah's hand before he could protest.

"Fur! My land, it's fur." I exclaimed, struggling to surpress my giggles as Martha clapped the hat on her uncle's head and stepped back to admire the picture. Young Jos roared with laughter at the sight of his grandfather's white curls under the black fur toque.

"Certainly it's fur." Jos replied calmly, settling the shaggy black mass more firmly on his head. "You needn't laugh, young man, for I got one for you just like this and I expect you to wear it."

Young Joe choked on his coffee as his grandfather popped the second fur hat a-top his red curls. So we all sat down together in our new hats and enjoyed our coffee sweetened with laughter.

Josiah's gentle, affectionate teasing has made him an exasperating joy to live with all these years. Sometimes I let my tongue get a bit sharp with him but he usually finds a subtle joke to pay me back with when I do. The best thing about Josiah's jokes is that they usually leave you feeling good.

A new hat must have been just what Martha needed, or maybe it was all the laughing we did, for her cold has nearly disappeared. A bit of diversion is what everyone needs this time of year, whether it be in the form of a new hat, or discovering snowdrops blooming beneath the shrinking snow.