A Simple Change

Free A Simple Change by Judith Miller

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Authors: Judith Miller
Tags: FIC042000, FIC042040, FIC042030
and when I pointed to the empty space beside me on the sofa, she immediately filled the spot. “Did you work in a Küche like my Mutter?”
    â€œNo, I taught school at an orphanage a few miles from our home.” I didn’t know if my father had shared that bit of information, but I saw no reason to withhold the truth. Keeping my eyelids at half-mast, I ventured a glance at Brothers Werner and Ritt, curious how they might react to such news.
    Madelyn gasped and clapped a hand to her lips, her eyes shining with disbelief. “You were a teacher?” Though her words had been muffled, I’d clearly understood her question.
    â€œYes, I had a wonderful group of boys and girls in my class, and I was sad to tell them good-bye.” I inhaled a ragged breath, remembering each of the children’s faces as clearly as if they were sitting in front of me right now.
    Madelyn moved her hand from her lips. “What will you do? The sisters cannot teach in the Amana schools, only the brothers.”
    Her look of concern warmed my heart and I patted her hands. “I knew that before I came here, so you need not worry. Brother Herman has already told me that I will be caring for my mother and also helping to clean the quarters occupied by the outside workers near the woolen mill.”
    â€œYou’ll be helping Sister Margaret.” Brother Werner took another draw on his pipe. “She’s a nice young woman and ahard worker, but she is . . .” He hesitated for a moment, obviously looking for the proper word. “Clumsy. Ja, clumsy. She sometimes can make as much mess as she cleans. It will be gut for her to have help.”
    I snapped to attention at Brother Werner’s remark. I doubted I could provide a cure for clumsiness, and any attempts to correct Sister Margaret could spell disaster. And I didn’t think she’d like being corrected by an outsider.
    During my first weeks at the orphanage, I’d learned that suggesting new ideas could lead to heartrending ostracism—something I wanted to avoid here. I would do my best to perform my job in a suitable and efficient manner, and I would do my best to help Sister Margaret, but unless requested, I wouldn’t make suggestions. And I certainly wouldn’t criticize her work habits.
    â€œIf you still want to teach, you could help me with my reading, couldn’t she, Vater?” The color heightened in Madelyn’s cheeks as she turned toward me. “I’m not gut at reading. Brother Wieler says I need more practice. He’s our teacher. He is married to Sister Bertha at the Küche.”
    â€œIf your mother and father agree, I would be pleased to help you with your reading, Madelyn, but I don’t want to break any of the rules.” I glanced at Brother Werner.
    â€œAch, would not be breaking rules to help her read. No different than to have her Mutter or me sit at her side and listen, but I can stop at the school and speak to Brother Wieler, so he will know you are helping Madelyn.” He pushed up from his chair. “I need to go to my room for a few minutes. Please excuse me.” He waved to the three of us. “You go on and visit with one another.”
    Ritt smiled at his sister. “The schoolwork is not so important, Madelyn. You worry too much about your reading and writing.”
    I stiffened at Ritt’s comment. Did he truly believe education wasn’t important? Or did he think it wasn’t important because Madelyn was a girl? Either way, the thought annoyed me. A good education was the foundation of a productive future, for both men and women, and given his age and experience, Ritt should realize that. I folded my hands in my lap and tightened my lips into a strained smile. I didn’t want to challenge Ritt in front of his sister, but if we were ever alone, I’d ask him to explain his remark. For now, I’d take another tack.
    â€œIf I remember

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