“The Blue-Pony Quest,” Friend, Dec. 1989, 28
Lidia trudged up the long farm lane, not even turning to wave to her friends still on the school bus. Her mind was too heavy with her problem: What can I possibly find between now and tomorrow morning to take to the class auction? As if a new language, a new school, and new friends were not difficulties enough, now she would have to go empty-handed to the auction.
Her problem was instantly forgotten, however, when she opened the cottage door and saw a letter on the floor. Mr. Williams, the owner of the farm where her parents both worked, must have pushed it under the door. It bore an official-looking return address, and it had a Red Cross emblem in the upper left-hand corner. She knew that she would have to be patient until her parents came home for supper; then she would read it to them. Without the advantage of school, which Lidia had in this new country, her parents’ knowledge of English was still scanty.
If only the letter contained some good news about her uncle! Lidia propped the envelope up against the only ornament on the bureau, a little blue glass pony. As her fingers touched the figurine, she prayed fervently that it would soon be reunited with its mate, the one that used to sit by its side in their house in Poland. When they had sadly made plans to leave their beleaguered country and go to America, not knowing when—or even if—they might meet again, the two Jelinek brothers had each taken one of the glass ponies, praying that they would be together again one day.
Mr. Williams, who admired the pony one day and was told the story, had written to the Red Cross, asking for information. Surely this letter would tell them that Uncle Jan was now in this country too!
Lidia snapped out of her reverie and got out pots for the vegetables that her mother had prepared earlier. As she set the table, she looked on all the cupboard shelves. There was nothing that she could take to the auction sale tomorrow! Not a trinket, not a spare dish, nothing. There were only the bare necessities that the Williamses had kindly provided for them. The auction, with its proceeds going to the Junior Red Cross, was an annual affair in the country school, but it was a new experience for Lidia. She dreaded being the only one in her class not to add some object to the collection on Miss Pearson’s desk.
The door suddenly opened, and Lidia rushed with the letter to greet her parents. And while they waited apprehensively, she stumbled through the unfamiliar phrases as she read the letter to them. Then, as she came to the closing sentence, she slowly read these discouraging words: “We are sorry that we have found no trace of your brother. However, be assured that we will keep trying …”
“I’ll wash,” Father said quietly, “then we’ll eat supper.”
After the usual prayer of thanks for food and shelter, Father told of a sick cow that was now getting well; Mother had helped Mrs. Williams clean the attic of the rambling old farmhouse.
“And how was school, Lidia,” Father asked.
The girl kept her eyes on her plate as she answered, “Fine, Father. Fine.”
“But you are very quiet,” Father pursued. “You have trouble at school?”
“No, no trouble.”
“Well, there’s an auction at school tomorrow, and I should take something.”
“What is an auction?” Mother asked.
“Oh, everybody takes something, then the teacher asks for bids, and the one who bids the highest buys the book or whatever. The money goes to the Red Cross.”
“That is good,” Father said, nodding. “The Red Cross helped us many times. Here, take this.” Fishing in his pocket, he drew out a crumpled dollar bill.
“No thanks, Father,” Lidia said, pushing it away. “I have money of my own from weeding. But we are supposed to take something that can be sold.”
Father’s eyes looked around the room. “There is so little here.”
Lidia’s face crumpled. “I know,” she blurted. “There’s nothing I can take—nothing in this place!” She hung her head to hide her smarting eyes and wished that she had kept her words in check.
The girl waited for a rebuke; instead, her father got up slowly and went over to the bureau. He stood a minute, then he came back with the glass pony in his hand. “Take this,” he said quietly.
Lidia’s eyes widened. “The pony?”
Lidia fingered the smooth blue glass and touched the dark eyes. Nobody spoke. She was touched by her father’s offer, and she sensed that her smiling, nodding parents were thinking back to happier days when there were two little ponies standing together on the top of a piano.
In the morning, the glass ornament sparkled on Miss Pearson’s sunny desk, and it brought the highest bid of one dollar. Nancy Crane, its new owner, wrapped it carefully in tissues and put it in her lunch pail.
At supper that night, Lidia described the sale and told her parents that Nancy said that she would take good care of the pony.
“It’s good,” Father said, smiling, “that the pony helps the Red Cross in a very small way.”
While Lidia was wiping the dishes after supper, a knock on the door startled them. Looking past her father at the open door, Lidia saw her schoolmate Nancy. With her was a tall man.
“Hi, Lidia,” the girl called. “This is my father, and we’ve come to see you about the glass pony.”
As they sat around the table, Nancy’s father took the glass pony out of his pocket, set it on the table, and began explaining: “I couldn’t believe it when Nancy brought this home. Your Lidia had told her that it was but one of a pair and that you left the other in Poland.”
“Yah,” Mr. Jelinek replied, “with my brother.”
“Well, folks,” the other man paused dramatically. “I’ve seen the mate to this pony.”
Lidia saw Father’s hands clench tightly, and Mother’s hand cover her mouth. “You are sure of this?” Father whispered.
“As sure as my name’s Walt Crane. I saw it only a few months ago.”
“How, Mr. Crane?” Lidia asked. “I mean, who had it?”
“A young fellow came asking for work. I didn’t need any extra help, but I knew that my cousin in Grand Falls did, so I drove him there. I saw the mate to this pony when I helped him settle in.”
“This place, is it far?” Lidia asked.
“About a hundred miles. Listen, folks, come home with me, and I’ll phone my cousin. As best as I can recollect, that young man did look like you, Mr. Jelinek. He must be your brother.”
The Jelineks were almost too happy to talk as Mrs. Crane and Nancy took them back home—Uncle Jan would be with them again tomorrow!
Lidia gave Nancy another grateful hug, then said thoughtfully, “It’s really funny. Just yesterday a letter from the Red Cross said that they had not found Uncle Jan yet but that they’d keep trying. And it was actually through the Red Cross auction today that we have found him!”
Nancy had happy tears in her own eyes. “My grandma always says, ‘God often works in mysterious ways.’ And I guess that it must be true. I’m just glad that I could help Him this time.” She slipped the glass pony into Lidia’s pocket. “Keep it, Lidia. Soon they’ll be a pair again.”