Newlyweds Frank & Tina Warkentin both love cabbage borscht. But there's lots they disagree on. Here's Frank coming in from the field one spring morning in 1941.
As Frank opened the kitchen door, the earthy aroma of cabbage and tomatoes filled his nostrils. "Tina," he called, "your hungry man is here."
He stopped short in the doorway. What was this? Tina was crouching over her sewing table stuffing a flurry of paper and paints under a pair of overalls he'd been waiting for her to mend. He scowled at her. "What were you doing painting in the middle of the day when the garden needs planting?"
Tina clutched her belly like she was trying to protect the baby inside. "I made a nice borscht for your dinner, Frank. I put in lots of cabbage and tomatoes, just the way you like it."
"But why waste time painting when the weather's so nice?" Frank went to the stove reservoir, dipped warm water into a basin, and washed the dust off his face. "I hope you managed to plant the peas at least."
"Sorry, I didn't start the garden yet."
"Didn't start? At all?" he barked, the towel muffling his voice. "For Pete's sake, why not? We won't get any vegetables this year if you don't hurry up and plant some."
"I told you," Tina said, heading toward the stove, "the sun is too strong." She ladled soup into two bowls and carried them to the table. "My eyes hurt when I work outside."
Frank sat down at the table, trying to curb his anger as he waited for Tina to say grace.
"Come Lord Jesus," she said in her careful lemon-flavoured voice. "Be our guest. And let this food to us be blessed. Amen."
Frank picked up his spoon, wondering what the Lord Jesus thought of Tina sitting around the house all day when the garden needed planting. Before he'd married her, he'd admired her strong character. But that character seemed to be crumbling. Of course she was tired, being pregnant. But she found the energy to do things she enjoyed, like painting pictures and going to town with the neighbours.
He buttered a slice of bread. "Tina, you really need to get that garden going. It won't take long. Just do a couple rows at a time. Wear a hat to keep the sun off your face."
She wrinkled her nose. "My hat doesn't help enough."
"Find a better hat. Make a better one. Figure something out. What kind of a farmer's wife are you?"
"A bad one, I guess." Her voice sounded sullen.
Frank reached across the table and took her hand. "That's not what I meant. You're a wonderful soup-maker and you're good at looking after chicks. I never had much patience with them—hungry all the time, cheeping in those demented little voices of theirs."
Tina pulled her hand out of his. "I enjoy cooking and taking care of chicks."
"That's great, but we can't just do what we enjoy, can we? I don't enjoy shovelling manure but I do it. Marriage is supposed to be a partnership. Isn't that what Preacher Schellenberg said?"
You can read more about Tina and Frank in the novel CONSIDER THE SUNFLOWERS by Elma Schemenauer. It's 299 pages, available for about $20 in some stores, also from Chapters Indigo online or the publisher, Borealis Press of Ottawa.