A few days after Genevieve’s first art show, Kelly was perched at the top of a ladder with his head just brushing the rain gutter at the edge of the roof. He could see Genevieve walking down the long driveway toward the county farm road. He wondered what she was up too, until he saw the car of the letter carrier disappearing in the distance in a small puff of dust. She was swinging a basket, which she always took to the mailbox in the off chance there might be a lot of mail, as she almost danced down the drive with a skipping step.
“That’s okay, Tony, you can let go now. I have enough screws in place to hold it,” Kelly said.
Tony stood up inside the window and flexed his back after having held each of the heavy grates in place that morning, while Kelly attached them to the windows, and said, “Boy those are some pretty hefty bars.”
“Why don’t you head on home and have lunch with that pretty little wife of yours? Take your time, but can you come back around sundown and help me get the animals squared away?” Kelly said, pleased with Tony’s work.
“Sure thing Mr. Kelly,” Tony said, with a broad grin, anticipating how happy his new wife would be to have him home for the afternoon.
“Oh, let Mr. Dupont know that I am cutting you loose before you go,” Kelly called out, at Tony’s receding back, as the younger man hurried from the baby’s room.
Tightening the last screw, Kelly carefully tucked his screwdriver into his coveralls, and made his way down. On the ground he tilted his straw cowboy hat out of his field of vision and stood looking up to the second story of the house. The wrought iron grids were artistically crafted, by the town’s blacksmith Gene Elbert, and painted a grayish tone so as not to stand out. Kelly didn’t like the way they looked against the white slat-board siding of the house. He vowed that as soon as Alexis was old enough not to be leaning on the window screens and falling, he was going to take them down, and make fancy gates for the barnyard out of them.
With the job done, he tripped the lever that let the two parts of the ladder slide together and maneuvered the shortened ladder to the ground. Balancing the ladder at the midpoint, Kelly hoisted it up on his shoulder, and picking up his tool-bag, headed for the haphazard storage shed, which was stuck to the side of the barn like a carbuncle.
As she returned to the house Genevieve was no longer skipping along. She was out right running. Kelly who just rounded the corner of the house after stowing his tools, nearly panicked to see his wife coming at such a pace. Seeing that nothing and no one was pursuing her, and that she wore a huge smile on her face, he relaxed.
“Kelly! Kelly! It is here. Already, it is here!” she called out as soon as she saw her husband.
“What is here?” Kelly called back, not able to make out the small white object Genevieve was waving in her hand, as she loped toward him.
“Oh, dear! What is going on?” Eileen asked, hearing her employer’s voices raised. Stepping out of the front door, she held Alexis firmly by the hand, as the child leaned away from her, trying to make her way towards her parents.
“My film; I got my film of Alexis!” Genevieve called out.
“Well, I do declare, it didn’t take no time at all, now did it?” Eileen asked, glad that the film finally arrived after having seen her employer happily dash to the mailbox every day only to come back looking dejected, every day.
“Oh, it seemed like forever to me!” Genevieve said, her voice adjusting to a normal volume as she approached her husband, and she smiled up at her wondering toddler.
“Four weeks to get the film back seems very fast to me,” Kelly commented, “I will go get the projector set up so that we can see it right away,”
Genevieve gave the basket of mail to Eileen and took charge of Alexis, while still keeping a strong hold on the precious box. “Eileen, would you put this on Kelly’s desk? I am going to take Alexis to watch her father set up. Can you stay and watch with us?” she asked.
“Oh, I wish I could, Mrs. Archie, but I have to be getting home to tend to my men. Maybe I can see it some other time?” she asked hopefully.
“Yes, yes, I am sure we will watch it over and over!” Genevieve said, as she led Alexis away.
“Come on Kelly, let’s get it going!” Genevieve said impatiently.
“Now woman, I am not going to let your first director’s debut be mundane. We are going to do this right,” Kelly said, and walked out of the sitting room that was pressed into being their home move studio.
Genevieve followed her husband, perplexed, balancing Alexis on her hip, as Kelly went back to the kitchen and started to make popcorn. Genevieve watched in amazement, always feeling that the preparation of popcorn was a magical event. Kelly measured the kernels as the oil in the popper heated. He dumped in the kernels and started shaking the pan to keep them from burning and so that most of the corn would pop.
“Dear would you put ice into some glasses, and get some bottles of Coke-a-Cola from the pantry?” he asked, wanting their home movie experience to be as close as possible to going to the cinema.
“Oh, look what I found,” Genevieve said, holding up a bag of the type of candy she preferred to eat at the movies, having realized what her husband’s aim was. “I guess it would be better if we used paper cups, but these tall glass ones will have to do.”
Soon they were settled into the sitting room with their cokes and popcorn, letting Alexis take little sips of their coke, while she played with the popcorn rather than actually eat it. Alexis soon found that she could wet the popped kernels with her tongue and stick them to the flat surfaces of the sitting room. She slipped off the sofa to pursue this activity while her parents were distracted.
As the film rolled, the somewhat shaky image revealed Alexis walking after one of the barn cats, as she looked back at her mother for approval. “As you can see, she took to being filmed right away.”
“Well, it is only natural that she wants to make you happy. You point that thing at her and smile and laugh when she does what you want. You both win,” Kelly said, happy that his family conformed nicely to his social theories.
Alexis’ attention was absorbed by her exploration of the properties of popcorn, while her parents enjoyed the film. The on-screen Alexis, with changing scenes and action from cut to cut, charmed her parents. She rode in front of Patrick Dupont, atop the rangy roan, as the sheep were rounded up in a slow dance and put into the pen. It seemed as if the sheep were aware of Patrick’s need to ride slowly, flocking in a leisurely fashion. The next scene followed Alexis as she tried to move a small lamb that had no intention of being moved by a creature that was barely bigger than it. They watched as Alexis danced, hopped, talked earnestly into the camera, in the babble that only a parent would call talking, and Alexis standing on a chair watching with amazement as Eileen whipped cream in light fluffy sweet peaks. Eileen gave Alexis a spoon of the confection, most of which made it into her mouth before she excitedly slung the rest around the room. That scene ended with the camera moving quickly to dodge the oncoming cream.
Finally, the scene came, which would come back to haunt Alexis as she grew up and began dating. It was the scene, which her parents would, with unerring timing roll out to cause her the maximum embarrassment anytime they were breaking in one of her new boyfriends.
“I have to admit, I wanted to be in on this one, so I gave Eileen the camera to film us,” she remarked, as the camera showed Genevieve and Mae Cooper holding their respective babies and waving at the camera under the old pecan tree in the front yard.
The two women placed the babies face to face at opposite sides of a blanket, which was laid out to protect the baby’s soft skin from the scratchy Johnson grass. The two women sat back on their heels watching the children like concerned fight managers, waiting for the opening move. The babies sat eyeing each other. They could have been brother and sister, with their white blonde hair that the locals referred to as tow-headed, and their still dark blue eyes. Their eyes would change over time to blue for Woody and green for Alexis, but for now the two round faces that stared at each other were as alike as two peas in a pod, to use another local phrase. Alexis stood her ground, looking at Woody imperiously, until he gave way; standing up, he toddled over to her on legs made unsteady by the unusual softness of grass covered by a blanket. When he got near her, he lost his footing and unceremoniously sat down, hard. Alexis’ face broke into a huge smile as she clapped her hands, at this little person who was so much like her.
Eileen moved the camera around to get a better view as the children started to examine each other, paying particular attention to each other’s hands and feet. “Uh Oh, I hope we are not seeing a couple of foot fanciers being made,” Kelly quipped with a wicked grin.
“Oh, Kelly!” Genevieve said, smacking her husband with a playful slap. She looked down at Alexis playing on the floor and was glad that Alexis was still young enough that they could have their little jokes without worrying about explaining things to her.
When the children finished playing and their mothers picked them up and whispered in their ears; the two waved and called out bye-bye to each other. Genevieve sat back, satisfied with her first film.
“You are right dear, this is just downright cute,” Kelly said, as the reel came to and end. “I wish I could have been here, but I am so glad that you filmed it for me.”
The next day when the film was screened once more for Eileen and Bennie who just arrived from New York on the train. Eileen even sat down to watch, though sitting down in the Archies’ house, outside the kitchen, was normally something she would have thought very improper. Having missed Bennie, Alexis lost no time climbing into the boy’s lap, to watch the show. She didn’t seem to recognize herself on the screen though she called out Baby several times, joyfully at the image.
“It will be so embarrassing for her when she becomes a teenager,” Eileen said, as she looked on at the movie.
“Oh, let’s not rush things, I don’t want to think about my little girl growing up,” Kelly said laughing, as the young artist model bounced Alexis on his knee. Bennie encouraged her to talk about her new friend Woody, using full range of her limited vocabulary. Watching the two Kelly realized that Bennie was truly like a brother to his child and felt the comfort that if anything ever happen to him, Bennie would help Genevieve look after her. Shaking his mind from such dark thoughts he held out his hands to take his daughter and hugged her to his chest before passing her on to Genevieve for her bath.