The Black Mennonite Chapter 5 by Daniel Whyte III with Meriqua Whyte

Chapter 5

New Help

 

“Seeing that you have Kezia with you, are you going to ask around? Maybe someone will recognize her,” Rebecca said as they approached town.

“I thought about it. But I sure would hate for anyone to claim her, and at the same time I don’t want anyone to think I stole her. You know: a white Mennonite woman with a black baby asking about the whereabouts of the mother. Besides,” Eva said, “I’m growing attached to her. From the note the mother left, I don’t think she is too eager to reveal herself just yet. For some strange reason I think she plans on us keeping Kezia for a while longer. As for how long, that I cannot say for sure. She pleaded in her note for us to keep Kezia with us at all times.” 

“Strange,” Rebecca said.

After dropping off the quilt and pillowcase set, Eva purchased a yard of aqua blue cotton material with burgundy flowers to sew a dress for Kezia.

“That is so pretty,” Rebecca said. “Do you think Daed will let you bring her into the church dressed in that? There’s nothing wrong with it; it’s just that in his eyes it doesn’t fit in with the church dress code.”

“Well, Kezia is a baby and a visitor,” Eva said. “Has he said anything about her since Sunday?”

“Not in my presence. I know Mamm tried to bring her up, but he hushed her with that look of his as soon as she mentioned her name,” Rebecca said.

After the ladies paid for their purchases, Eva happened to look toward the back of the store surveying the materials, notions, and accessories against the wall. She briefly caught sight of a dark-skinned young woman slipping through the back door.

That’s strange, she thought. “I didn’t know you had new help,” she said to Mrs. Rothchild.

“Oh, yes. That’s Kassia. She started doing little odd jobs for me about four weeks ago. I’ve been trying to get her to help me out in the store, but I don’t think she cares to interact much with people. I tell you, though, she’s quite skilled with a needle and thread.” 

As soon as Eva returned home she started working on Kezia’s dress. The following morning she stopped by her in-laws to drop off a freshly baked loaf of bread and to visit with Mamm Stoltzfus. Eva breathed a sigh of relief when Mamm Stoltzfus told her Bishop had to make an early call to Grossmammi Franz, the oldest living member in the community.

“She’ll be leaving us soon,” Mamm Stoltzfus said. “Have a seat while I set a fresh pot of kaffee to brew. Or would you prefer fresh mint tea instead?”

“Kaffee, please,” Eva said, taking a seat at the table while loosening the wraps from around Kezia.

“Let me hold that little bundle of joy,” Mamm Stoltzfus said, easing into her rocking chair after setting the coffee to brew. Cuddling Kezia as she rocked her, Mamm Stoltzfus quietly sang a nighttime lullaby. “It’s been a while since I’ve held one so small,” she said. 

Eva’s eyes moistened. How she missed those days when from a little girl on up into her late teen years—those days she and her friends spent visiting Mamm Stoltzfus to help with the baking, or some cleaning, or to help with quilting and other sewing projects, or for Bible study, and Mamm Stoltzfus would softly sing or hum a song that would create such a peaceful environment as they did their work.

“Have you any leads as to who her family may be?” Mamm Stoltzfus asked. 

“Not yet,” Eva said. “Mamm Stoltzfus, you had started to tell us something the Sunday you first saw Kezia, right before Bishop Stoltzfus cut you off. Do you remember what it was? I believe it may possibly have had something to do with Kezia’s folks.”

Mamm Stoltzfus thought for a while. “Mm, I can’t remember what I was going to say. If it was something important, I’m sure it will come back to me.”

Eva then mentioned the white dress with the note about Kezia’s dedication to the Lord. She was almost certain she saw a gleam in Mamm Stoltzfus’s eyes which changed to a troubled look when she ended with the question: “Do you think Bishop Stoltzfus will be willing to do a special dedication service for Kezia?”