A Gardener Takes Stock
Sam sat before the fire at Bag End. He was blissful in this quiet moment. Nestled in his lap was Goldilocks. Rose had just lifted tiny Hamfast from his arms and bore him to his own cradle. Goldilocks would be next. Sam could feel the drowsiness overtake her plump limbs. Her golden curls smelled sweet, like warm cream, as Sam nuzzled the top of her head.
His duties as Mayor kept Sam busy much of the time, but he still loved to put his hands in the sun-warmed earth. Of all his children, so far Frodo-Lad was the gardener. Hobbiton residents of the Gaffer's generation were always brought up short by Frodo-Lad with his grubby little arms around a pot of herbs or some such. At age 9 he was such an image of Samwise, that they sometimes felt time shift beneath them, and were surprised to see their own aged hands as they lifted them to wave, or pat miniature "Sam's" tawny curls. Today Sam and Frodo-Lad had planted new pea shoots in the ground, cut seed potatoes for planting, and laid out the rows for the younger hobbit to plant. That was all Sam had time for, but it had made Frodo-Lad happy, spending time with his beloved Sam-Dad in the dirt.
Sam could hear Elanor now as she moved about in the kitchen. She was probably looking at the tarts she'd made again, and maybe more than just looking. She was so proud she'd finally mastered fluting the edges of the crust. But it didn't matter whether they were fluted or not; the only thing sweeter than her baking was Elanor herself. Her sunny disposition, and pretty little face were a blessing at Bag End, and indeed all of Hobbiton. She loved to spend time with either parent in the kitchen concocting new recipes, and loved even more to share the better results with the neighbours.
Sam and Rosie didn't make favorites of their children; they were all as unique as the faces of the pansies by the doorstep, unfurling in spring. The Gamgees'little hobbits had their own interests and strengths, as well as their own charming flaws. Each was given freedom to find their own selves, and had the companionship of their siblings - and the comings and goings of various cousins, as well as the Gaffer down the road - to engender happy confidence.
Merry was a serious little fellow, who could spend hours constructing little hobbit-holes in the dirt complete with plant bits representing trees and crops. This was a thing which constantly amused Frodo-Lad who knew good earth was for planting things in. So long as Merry stayed out of the tiny corner of the garden Frodo-Lad called his own, domestic peace could be maintained.
As if some small part of his name-sake's spirit had been imbued along with the name, Pippin seemed happiest in the company of whichever of his brothers or sisters would give him their attention, but he got on well with everyone. Sam was glad the Shire was such a closed place, as he could imagine a child so out-going finding a world of trouble in a cross-roads like Bree. Rosie-Lass usually saw to him not straying far. She loved her younger brother with a ferocity that made Sam and Rose laugh to see it, and Pippin bridle at being followed about so.
More often than not, sitting as he was now, with one or another of his children in his lap, Sam remembered his dear Frodo. He would remember the day he saw the Oliphaunt, and made stewed rabbit for his friend and master. He'd sat that same morning, watching Frodo sleeping in the brown fern, and a warmth had filled him similar to the one he felt holding his babies just now.
There had been a mercifully few times - usually in times of stress - when he had dozed off before the fire, and dreamt of holding Frodo in his arms on another, darker day. The dream would begin with the pleasant feeling of weight in his arms, and Sam would feel happy bliss wash over him. But then the images would come - whip-scored flesh, hideous red light, and slit-pupiled eyes. Then he would start awake, breathing raggedly, tears stinging him. He would soothe himself, and whichever of his dozing hobbit-children he had startled, with kisses planted on the little curly head.
It was at these moments when he experienced a sensation of fierce protectiveness. It was the same feeling he had when the four - Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin - first returned to the Shire, and saw the devastation wrought there. It was akin to the emotion he had felt when Pippin and Merry had first approached him with the suggestion that he run for Mayor of the Shire. That fierce, protective feeling had transported him past the reach of any blush or stammer, and he had known immediately that he could and would do it. Now in his second term, it looked as though Frodo had been right when he said Sam could be mayor as long as he wanted.
Rose woke the drowsing Sam as she entered and lifted sleeping Goldilocks from his arms. She kissed his brow. "I'll be back for you in a few minutes," she said with a smile.