Home is where the Heart Is

© 2013 by dqmwartist

Colleen could smell the crisp Colorado air already, as the train pulled into the station.  Even with living in Boston these past twenty years, she missed home something terrible.  She was grateful to have gotten her medical education to become a doctor, and now she wanted to surprise her Ma with a visit home.

Andrew grabbed what luggage they had with them while Colleen took little Anna’s hand in her own.  She had grown these past six years into the spitting image of her Ma and Grandma with her fiery red hair and independent spirit.  Kate would love being able to spend time around her little cousin, and perhaps little Jack too.

Stepping off the train felt like walking into another world.  What used to be just a platform with a telegraph office was now a posh station with plush seating and workers rushing about.  More tracks had been added to the line, giving it more of a city feel.  It felt so different until she spotted the old telegraph office.  It was still there but now solely used for incoming and outgoing mail.  Not many used the telegraph anymore with the invention of the telephone.

“Hello Lewis,” Colleen called out to the young man behind the mail counter.  Her Ma had written to her of Lewis coming to run things after his uncle had fallen ill.  The young man she had known as a young girl had grown quite tall over these past years.

“Hi Colleen,” Lewis waved back in the midst of sorting the day’s mail.  The train kept him busy with its comings and goings, more so than when he was a boy visiting Colorado Springs before the train even arrived.  Back then it was nice and quiet, today it was bustling and noisy.

Anna looked shyly around her mother’s skirts before deciding that Lewis was ok before she smiled and waved back.  Andrew gave his own greeting before they turned to head for the hospital.  They were bothanxious to see it after hearing of the months of construction and all the staff that had been hired.

Michaela had been up to her ears with just getting it off the ground, and Colleen had wondered if she was pushing herself too hard.  Knowing her Ma she was, but to tell her that was to elicit a great argument that she didn’t want to start.  Thankfully after about a year things had calmed down giving her Ma a chance to finally breathe.

Walking down what now were streets paved with cobblestones and large buildings that brought back memories of her first trip to Boston.  How grand she found the city then, only now this beautiful little town was the home she always loved.  Everything was just where she remembered it, but now as she turned the corner with her family she saw how opulent the hospital was.  “Colorado Memorial Hospital” the sign read with its beautiful lettering.  Below it was Dr. Michaela Quinn, MD.

Colleen smiled at the memory of the first sign and the one that her Ma wanted her name on too, before letting herself inside.  Anna stayed close not wanting to let go.  She’d been inside the hospitals in Boston, but this was different, a new place to explore with new faces to meet.

“May I help you,” the receptionist asked.  She was young with a bit of a stern look on her face.  With Anne still at her side, Colleen moved forward. 

“Yes, we are here to see Dr. Quinn,” Colleen replied with about as much confidence as she could muster.  Used to be you just knocked and walked in, how the times had changed. 

“Do you have an appointment?”  Colleen shook her head, “We’d still like to see her.”  This wasn’t going very well and she wondered if the girl knew they were family.  Looking around, Colleen wondered what to say next fearing she’d be told that she had to have an appointment just to see her Ma.

Andrew joined them just as Michaela appeared down a hallway carrying some charts.  She was so absorbed in them that she almost didn’t hear Colleen call out her name.  There was so much joy in the room that Anna didn’t know what to do.  She hadn’t seen her Ma this happy in years and was a little shy around the Grandma she didn’t see often.

“I’m so glad to see you, and here of all places,” said Michaela once she broke from the loving hug she had just given Colleen.  “Feels great to be home, Ma,” Colleen replied with a smile.  It truly was great to be home again.

Colleen was exhausted after a week of helping at the hospital with Andrew and meeting all the new faces in town.  She loved every minute of it, even though she knew she must slow down.  There was one thing she hadn’t told her Ma yet and had nearly forgotten about it, but someone else hadn’t.

Andrew had been nothing but concerned about her in private moments and in public ones making sure she wasn’t getting too tired.  He was glad she had a bit more of Charlotte in her at times, in knowing when to slow down.  With Michaela she hadn’t wanted to stop working.  Smiling to himself he remembered when Michaela did return and how much she doted on Katie, always the busy woman.

“You will sit and rest soon?”  Looking up into her husband’s eyes and smiling, “Of course, just one last patient to see.  Just a splinter, won’t take long.”  A moment later she was gone and Andrew found himself staring down a bustling hallway.

Turning on his heels, Andrew made his way to the door to get some fresh air.  He did miss the mountain air after all those years spent in Boston.  It was a fine city, but Colorado Springs felt like home and what he remembered on his first arrival was vastly different from what he saw now.  Paved streets and buildings that looked as if they belonged in a city, not a wild territory as it once was. 

“Papa!” Anna called out as she burst from the doors.  “Look what I got!”  Running straight into his arms, she proudly showed him the colorful lollipop she’d been given.  “Mama said I could have one if I sat still and waited for her.”  Andrew smiled down at his little girl, “I’m happy you have earned such a gift.”

Setting his daughter down on the porch, Andrew reached out his hand for her to take.  “Let’s go take a walk, shall we?”  Anna moved her treasured sweet to her other hand and stuck out her small one to be grasped in her father’s bigger one.   In just a week’s time, Anna had fallen into a routine as if she had lived there her whole life.  She had been born into society, but had her Ma’s pioneer spirit.  The outdoors agreed with her and she’d been out several times with her Uncle Brian.  Andrew had been a fish out of water upon his arrival and stumbled where his daughter danced.

As they walked he was peppered with questions about one thing or another.  Is that the church where you and Mama were married?  Was the schoolhouse always red? “Yes that’s the church, only its much bigger now.  It used to be a small church, but the Reverend raised funds to expand with the growing town.  I’m afraid so, your Uncle Brian really wanted that schoolhouse built.  He was so excited to go to school and learn.”

Anna stopped, turning to look around at everything her Pa had just described.  Everything seemed so vast and big to her and she loved hearing stories.  She tried to picture everything as rustic as it used to be, without all the finery.  If only she had her pencils with her, Colorado Springs had beautiful scenery that she wanted to draw.

Kneeling down next to his daughter, watching her taking everything in around her with the eyes of a child, made him realize how lucky he was.  To have someone to share all those special memories with besides his wife, who could pass those stories down through the generations just like the Indians did.  His heart felt overjoyed; he was finally home again.

Colleen carefully opened up the lid of her trunk, the one she had been given so long ago.  It had weathered with age but still held lots of memories.  She remembered the visit from Gilda St. Claire, dresses made by Emma, and all the spaces for her personal things. 

She still kept her dresses in there and some personal items, but now that Anna was a part of their lives she let her daughter store her special things there too.  Anna liked to think of it as her treasure chest with the magic pencils.  Now she wondered what the other special person in her life would bring into the world.

Colleen reached inside to pull out the pale blue yarn and needles.   She had started a baby blanket and had chosen the pale color as a reminder of the Colorado skies.  Learning to knit had been difficult with all the hours spent trying to get it right, and then those that she didn’t.  Smiling she remembered Dr. Mike doing the same with the blanket for Katie.

“It looks beautiful, Colleen,” Michaela had been watching her daughter pick up the blanket and delicately run her fingers over the stitches.  “Thanks, Ma.”

Colleen reached inside the hidden folds of the blanket, retrieving the small white booties and a hat she had made.  Both were of a delicate white and had taken hours.  She held them gently out to her Ma, a gesture that meant more than just saying she was with child again.  “Oh, Colleen,” Michaela breathed as she reached out to hug her daughter close.  “This is so exciting.”

Colleen leaned her head against her Ma’s as she stared down at the tiny baby things, thinking about how lucky she was along with the unborn baby.  Her child would have wonderful, wide open spaces to run, mountains to climb and two uncles an aunt and grandparents to dote on the precious little one.  Colorado was where she belonged and where she would stay with her growing family.

Part Two: Dreams do Come True