Harper Wins Young Author Awards, for County and State

From Left to Right, Harper Maher, Anitra Jensen, Christine Jenkins and Maya Smith

From Left to Right, Harper Maher, Anitra Jensen, Christine Jenkins and Maya Smith


I love living in my little cottage along the Potomac River. My cottage is on my grandparent’s plantation. I sit in the windowsill and hear the birds tweeting. The wind carries the smell of the flowers in the fields on Mt. Vernon. My step-grandfather, George Washington, lived with my step-grandmother, Martha in Virginia, but they have passed on. I am a spinster and live by myself. My sister, Elizabeth, is in the enormous house where my grandparents lived, which is nearby.

            The sound of the gurgling river tempts me to go outside. I put on my cape and bonnet to go walking. It's a good thing that I know these paths by heart. As a child, I spent many hours running and playing on them. Now that I’m blind it can be hard to walk around places I don’t know.


            I am 67 years old and became blind when I was 53. Riding horses in a competition, I went over a jump. When I was thrown from my horse, I hit my head on the jump and damaged my eyes. It was hard to learn to be blind but I didn’t let it stop me. A couple of years after I became blind, I started using a cane by putting it in front of me then I can feel if something is in the way.

            As I walk the path, I can feel the gentle breeze and the sun shining on me. The voices of the wildlife fills my ears and I love their sound. All of a sudden, I hear a weak yip. I think it is a cat. I follow the sound calling here kitty kitty. I stop when I hear the sound right beside me. I gently pat the ground with my hands until I find a warm fuzzy bundle of fur. It is crumpled back under the bushes. I scoop up the scared bundle and feel it shake with fear. I follow the narrow path back to my cottage. The kitty is so sweet and gentle she must be a girl.

            The wee kitten makes me think of my childhood. Growing up, I had two sisters, Elizabeth and Martha. Martha passed on young, Eliza became very protective of me because she was the oldest of all three of us. When my grandfather became angry he made storms and we were underneath. Eliza and I created a poem that transported us to a private world.

                        Runder, Runder

                        hear the Thunder

                        from Papa’s rage

                        when girls are younger, cloak

                        of friendship binds our hearts.

And here I am, lucky me, taking the kitty home in the crook of one arm, all the while using the cane as my guide. It is a long endeavor.

            I open the door to a smell of soup on the stove. If a smell can be warm, it is soup. The kitty jumps down. I pull out two bowls from the cupboard. Soup in one, milk in the other. I put the bowl on the floor for the kitty.

                        Qurp, Qurp, Slurp, Qurp.

                        The sound of a friend

                        Qurp, Qurp



            Oh, I mustn’t forget a name. I’ll call her Quinn for the sounds she makes when she slurps. After dinner, I move to the upstairs slowly, to make Quinn a bed.

Two months pass by, Quinn and I are sitting on a bench in the stone courtyard waiting for Elizabeth.

            “Hello, sister,” says Elizabeth.

“Hi. This time I have news. Down by the Potomac, a tiny darling was lost. And now, the kitty’s found.”

            My sister coughs.

            “Are you sick?” I say.

            “No, it’s just, it’s just…”

            “What, is there terrible news from the outside?”

            “One could be worried about any number of troubles, such as the slave rebellion coming to people’s houses and harming them, Texas fighting for freedom from Mexico, Seminole Indians fighting white men. Or—one could be concerned that your adopted pet is not a kitty at all.”

            “What is it?” I sputter.

            “Ah, um…”

            I reach for Quinn and pull her closer, trying to imagine what else she could be. I wish I could see.”

            “It’s a puppy, sister.”

            “Oh, I must’ve been mistaken, I thought it was a kitty. Let’s go inside to make dinner while we wait for Sage, Theo and their beautiful brown-eyed girl.” Oh, I so wish I could lay my eyes on her. Lauren is the brown-eyed girl. She is Eliza’s only grandchild.

            “But sister,” Eliza says, opening the screen, “Let’s put your puppy in its crate to sleep. Lauren is too little and will be scared.”

            On cue, Quinn yawns as a puppy would.

            Only ten minutes later I hear a pitter-patter on the front door. “Come in.”

            “I brought you both…”

            “Sorry to interrupt but what is that beautiful smell?” I say to the brown-eyed girl.

            “It’s the flowers, Eleanor. Lauren brought us both a bouquet of daffodils, roses, sweet peas and daisies.”

            “Thank you, my dear. I wish I had something for you. In the meantime how about a cold glass of lemonade?”

The next day, I take a stroll with my puppy. It felt exactly like the day I found what I thought was a kitty but now I have a puppy. All of a sudden Quinn is yipping, and I follow her sounds and realize I’m going toward the Potomac. I want to grab the puppy but she seems out of my reach. Before I know it, my cane misses a step. I trip and fall into the mill striking my head against the bank.

I am out for two days. From Mt. Vernon, Lauren followed a butterfly down the path. She came upon the bank toward the Potomac. Lauren found me and ran to get help. Now I’m in bed.

            I remember when I was young like Lauren; I heard about Papa, George Washington, having a difficult problem with his teeth. They were rotting and he solved this by having his teeth replaced with a fake set made with cow’s teeth, human teeth and elephant ivory. Even though he could get upset easily, I still loved him for who he was. Fake teeth and all. I was used to being without sight. However, when I wake up today, Sage and Theo and Lauren are right in front of my face.

            “I can see. It’s hazy. But I can see,” I say until I’m frantic. “Where’s my puppy?”

            Lauren says, “You must be woozy from the fall.”

            “Go ask my sister for Quinn,” I say.

            Theo and Sage leave me and I’m alone with Lauren.

            Later, Eliza comes with what looks like a fox.

            “Is that Quinn?” I try sitting up in bed. “You told me it was a puppy.” All red, tip of the tail white, nose is pink. I’m angry. “Why would you lie to me Eliza?”

            “I was trying to protect you.”

            “From what?”


            “I would’ve kept the fox, if you had told me the truth.”

Early spring arrives. My days are spent with eye doctors or Quinn. She had found a mate and has had babies. I use up most of my time playing with the five of them. I go through a lot of milk.

            I haven’t seen Eliza since the fight.

            I am in the living room with the fox pups and Quinn, looking at old pictures of my sisters and I. Suddenly I remember that Lauren’s birthday is on Thursday, which is tomorrow. Oh. I must get her a present, but I have not made her anything and it’s not like I can get a quilt done by tomorrow.

            “Okay, calm down Eleanor you can do it.” I thought. “First, we will do my handiwork. Let’s go now, put the bowl in the dishwasher.

            I forgot. What am I going to do with the fox pups? “That’s it,” I say aloud. I will give Lauren the most special pup which is the runt and set the rest free. Eliza did say Lauren wanted a kitty for her birthday. About Eliza, I just want us to forget about our argument and I want to forgive her.

            Again I remember:

Runder, Runder

            hear the Thunder

            from Papa’s rage

            when girls are younger, cloak

            of friendship binds our hearts.

            Okay, I have decided what to do. I will name the fox Runder, give it to Eliza to show I forgive her. Eliza will give it to Lauren because she is too busy to take care of the fox. Lauren wanted a kitty but a baby fox will do just as well.

            The next day at Lauren’s birthday party, I watch Eliza give the fox pup to her. When I see Lauren’s face light up with a smile, I know I made the right decision. Lauren is happy, my sister and I are friends once again. Life is amazing now that I can see.






Hort, Lenny. George Washington, A Photographic Story of a Life. New York, NY: DK Publishing, 2005.

Keller, Kristin Thoennes. George Washington, Let Freedom Ring. Mankato, MN: Capstone Press, 2002.

Online Source:

 Parenting: mountvernon.org


Macye Maher