Ichabod paused at the washbasin beside the door. His shoulders and back were pleasantly tired from holding the plow steady as the team pulled it across the field. He had worked until dark to finish the plowing. It was the least he could do. He was leaving his mother alone while he went off to war. Uncle Abijah said that he would see the fields planted and tended until Ichabod came home. Guilt still curled in his belly.
The cool water felt good against his face and arms, the harsh soap stripped away the layers of dirt that had accumulated through the day. With one hand, Ichabod groped for a towel burying his face in its folds. It smelled of the lavender sachet that Ma kept in the linen cupboard. When he opened his eyes, he ran his fingers over the delicate embroidery along the edge. Ma’s company towel. He blinked away tears.
“Supper is ready, son.”
Ichabod gently laid the towel on the washstand and stepped into the warm kitchen. Ma stood before the hearth, scooped a roasted haunch of venison from the iron cook pot, and placed it onto the waiting platter. She bent to lift the heavy platter, but Ichabod took it from her hands, carrying it to the table.
“Are we having company for dinner?” Ichabod set the meat at one end of the table. Ma had set the table with her good dishes, heirlooms that had crossed the Atlantic with her grandparents.
“No, just us.” Ma wiped her hand on her apron and adjusted her cap. “I wanted you to have one good meal before you left.”
“You told me to pray before I made a final decision. How do you know what I will choose?” Ichabod frowned. Then he saw her red eyes and flushed cheeks.
“I know you will go. You are your father’s son and will do what you think is right.” Her eyes filled and a single tear trickled down her cheek. “I knew when they came to tell us of your father’s death on the battlefield that you would go.”
“Then you do not mind?”
“Of course I mind. This war claimed my husband, and now seeks to take my son as well. I do not want you to go, but I know why you must. We have been tied to Britain long enough. Even I know that if we do not claim our independence now, we may never have another chance. I want my grandchildren to live in a free country, unbound from the decrees of people so far away. The Brits have used us and exploited us for years giving little in return.”
Ichabod stared at his mother. He had no idea she felt that way. She smiled at him and dabbed at her tears with a handkerchief.
“You see, son, I have listened to your father and the others talk, I do understand.” She patted his hand. “But I do not have to like it.”