Paula’s Picnic

Part Three

As Derrick and his friend strolled toward the group around the picnic table, Paula took a good look at her. Slim and tanned, wearing a mini-skirt and what was probably a designer blouse, she looked like a million dollars. Paula glanced down at her own very practical clothes and felt like an ugly step-sister in the presence of Cinderella.

“Hey, guys! Have you left some for us?” Derrick called to some of the fellows who were sitting on a blanket.

“Hey, Derrick,” one of them called, “glad you could make it. You’re just in time to say a table grace.”

“You should introduce us to your friend,” Ryan Pinder added, looking quite impressed with what he saw. The blonde flashed him a grateful smile.

“I want you all to meet Kelsey Hallstrom, an old friend…and my new personal trainer.”

“Personal trainer! What kind of training are you needing, Derrick?” Brad asked as he stood up to shake her hand.“I’m Brad Miller. Pleased to meet you, Kelsey.”

“Oh, he needs a lot of training! You’ll have quite a job on your hands, lady!” one of the other fellows joked as he shook hands with her.

“Physician heal thyself,” Derrick countered with a laugh and a playful punch.

“I decided I needed to go join a gym and get into shape. Too much sitting in an office. And who should I meet there but Kelsey! She’s come back to her old stomping grounds and now she’s going to whip me into shape.” He gave her a warm smile.

“You look pretty fit for the job,” Ryan commented, giving her the once over. “Maybe I should get into fitness, too.”

The way he said it made Paula uncomfortable. She wondered, should a Christian be so open with those kind of looks and comments? Maybe Ryan was just paying a compliment, but she would be embarrassed if some man looked her over like that.

Kelsey just winked and flashed another big smile at Ryan. “I work at it.”

Paula glanced at Derrick. He was looking at Kelsey almost as if he was seeing her for the first time. What was he thinking?

The couple arrived at their table and more introductions were exchanged. “Welcome to our little group, Kelsey,” said Anne. “ Shall we make room for both of you here, or are you going to join the guys, Derrick?”

“Yeah, I’ll leave Kelsey in your care.” He smiled at Paula. “I know you’ll be good for her.” And he walked over to join the fellows on the blanket.

Paula moved over to make a space on the bench beside her and Kelsey sat down, smiling at her. A feeling of jealousy flashes through Paula’s mind, followed by the words, “”Let go and let God.” They brought her a moment of comfort. If it was God’s will for her and Derrick to get together, He’d work it out for them. If it wasn’t meant to be, she wanted to let it go.

Anne brushed a buzzy fly away from Kelsey’s arm. “Did I hear you’re back in your old stomping grounds?”

“Yes, I grew up here in Parkerton. I came back here in March, after my divorce.”

Well, I’m sorry to hear that…about your divorce, I mean,” said Sally.

“Yeah. Not nice,” Kelsey sighed. “Derrick and I went to High School together. Actually, we dated a few times, but then Shawn came along and swept me off my feet. I wish I’d stayed on them.”

She glanced toward Derrick and smiled. “I’m sure I’d have done so much better.”

“The burgers are ready,” one of the grillers called. “Everyone gather round and we’ll sing a table grace song.”

“Oh, dear. I don’t know any of that religious stuff,” Kelsey whispered nervously as they gathered in a circle around the table.

“That’s okay,” Paula assured her. Inwardly she wondered about Derrick getting involved with someone who didn’t know “religious stuff”. And I shouldn’t think he’s so involved. He may only have asked her here because she needs friends, she reminded herself.

After the blessing they lined up for the food. Kelsey went to stand beside Derrick in the lineup and Paula watched her talking and laughing with the guys. Disapproval washed through her thoughts. But if Kelsey doesn’t know the Lord she probably doesn’t see the harm in random flirting, Paula thought.

Then she thought of her teen years and remembered the way she’d acted around boys. She blushed, then smiled. You’ve come a long way, yourself, girl — with God’s help!

While she was standing in line waiting for her food, Paula sighed a prayer, “Lord, please grant me a pure heart, free from jealousy, and a love like Yours for those who need to hear about You.”


Hope you’ve enjoyed this story. Sad to say, the rest of the story isn’t written yet, but at least you’ve found out who this new lady is. If enough readers are interested in where the story goes from here, I’ll post some more as time goes on.

In my mind the setting for this story is back in the early 70s, when we were newly married and started attending churches in the protestant evangelical sphere. I was trying to capture the tone of those times as well as the people and the picnics I remember.

 

The Hazards of “Wish Counselling”

Although this puts me out of sync with Fiction on Friday, I wrote this story yesterday in response to the Daily Prompt, which was:
You’re a genie who’s just been emancipated from your restrictive lamp. You can give your three wishes to whomever you want. Who do you give your three wishes to, and why?

So this is the thanks I get. You tell some people the truth and they toss you in the lake.

Of all the people who could have found me today, it had to be a teenage girl. Vexations untold!

I’m a genie, you see; I live in this fancy corked vase — have for several centuries now. You can believe I’ve seen lot of different types over the years and granted a lot of wishes, sensible and stupid, but whenever I see a teenage girl peering in at me I know my job’s going to be tough. If you’ve ever tried to please a teenage girl, you know what I mean.

Anyway, this rather plump girl comes plodding down the path not far from the shrub where I’d been left by my last liberator. I feel the thump, thump of her size ten clodhoppers — then I hear her stop. I gather she saw this squirrel dash up a tree, so she wanders into the bushes with her eyes on the squirrel and steps on my vase. People do that from time to time, then usually go on their way, not bothering to look inside.

Anyway, this girl picks up my bottle, lifts the cork and peers in at me. “Hey!” she shouts. “Are you a real genie? Wow, is this my lucky day or what? Outta there, you!”

So I waft out in my little cloud — my bit of fanfare, you know — and she asks if I have a name. Dumb question. “I’m Mabella,” I inform her.

That was considerate of her, actually. Most people just start with “Gimme.”

“And you can grant me all my wishes, Mabella?”

“Ha! In your dreams. Listen, let’s go over the ground rules right off. I can only grant you three wishes. Once those are gone, so am I.”

“That’s all? I can think of about twenty things already.”

“One, two, three, ciao. So I’d advice you to take your time. I’ve found that when people know they can have free stuff, they start babbling out whatever pops into their heads and later they wish they’d given the matter more thought.”

I could see the wheels of her mind turning. She almost seems to have some sense.

“I can believe that,” she says. “So how can I make the best use of my three wishes?”

“You’re in luck. Seeing the downside of some demands, I’ve gotten into Wish Couseling in recent years. I suggest you make a list of all the things you’d like to have, then from your list pick the three most important things — three things you can’t do for yourself. Maybe I can even help you decide. I’ve fulfilled a lot of requests and seen the results, so I can tell you what works in the long run and what doesn’t. Just don’t say the words “I WISH” until you’ve decided.”

“Okay.” She nods and pulls a scrap of paper out of her cargo pants pocket. Then she fishes around and finds a stubby pencil that looks like a chipmunk worked on it. (Hmm … She might wish to be cured of the habit of chewing on wood.)

She sits down on the grass and writes List of Wants: A size four body.

“Uh… Well,” I say, “I can give you that in five seconds. But remember: you’ll need to maintain it yourself. If you want to stay a size four, you’ll have to eat like a size-four person. Otherwise you’ll be size sixteen again before you know it.”

She sighs, scratches that out and writes: Mild case of anorexia.

“How about a lifetime membership at a local gym?” I suggest. She groans and rolls her eyes.

Then she writes: Fame; Singing talent like J-Lo.

Ah, yes, teenage girls. I knew this wasn’t going to be a picnic. If she knew how much work is involved in maintaining a singing career and dealing with obsessed fans, she might think twice. I won’t go there.

Then she writes: Hunky teen boyfriend.

“I can bring one of those along in a jiffy,” I told her, “but I can’t make him stay. You have to do that.”

“I do? How?”

“You have to be the kind of person he will want to spend time with.”

She sighs forlornly.

Although my former clients’ affairs are confidential, I decide to share one. “One day a sixty-year-old man found me. Right off he wished for a million dollars, a yacht and a young blond bombshell. So I delivered his goods. It took her about half an hour to assess the situation, get her hands on the million and be gone. The old man was so mad he threw me down a well — and it wasn’t my fault at all. I hope he’s at least enjoying his yacht. I put it up in Alaska where the harbor wasn’t so crowded.”

“That was pretty heartless of her.”

“Would you stay with a dirty old man whose only feeling for you was lust?”

“Gross! No, I sure wouldn’t.”

“And a teenage boy might feel the same, right? Or what do you want him for?”

“Ummm. Because everybody else has one. To hang out with. To impress my friends, I guess. You know.”

“If you just want him for an ornament, if you’re not prepared to be the kind of person he could love to be with — someone that actually cared about him — he may not want to hang around, either. Besides, you wouldn’t want your friends to admire him too much or they’d try to steal him.”

“True. But couldn’t you give me someone who’d never look at any of my friends?”

“Do you want a real human being or a cardboard cutout? I can’t manufacture flawless people; I only work with what’s here already.”

“This is getting so complicated,” she wailed.

Then she wrote on her list: One billion dollars.

I chuckle over that one. “These days it’s a billion. Inflation, I guess.”

I grin at her. “Back in 1934 I was liberated by a farmer hard-hit by the Depression and he requested the greatest amount he could think of right then: ten thousand dollars. So I handed it over in cold hard cash. He went out and bought his wife new furniture, his family all new clothes, and himself a new car. Made a few ‘loans’ to friends down on their luck. He’d intended to pay off his mortgage, too, but his money ran out before he got to that and he lost his farm.”

“Maybe he should have asked for rain?”

“That was his second wish: six inches on his wheat crop. So I obliged, but the land was so crusted most of it ran off. Still, he had about the greenest field in the area. The grasshoppers found it a refreshing change from tumbleweed and fence posts.

“Anyway, back to your billion. Yes, I could do that for you, but just remember that people have kidnapped and murdered for less. Better use some of it to hire a bodyguard. Here’s another heads up: you’ll have a ton of friends while the money lasts, but don’t count on them. Really, you’d be better off with $1000 and a financial planner. That way you’d learn to handle money on a small scale before hitting the big bucks.”

“Hmm… How come this always comes back to me doing stuff and learning stuff? Do I dare ask for instant popularity? Can you make my friends all love me?”

“Don’t waste a wish on that,” I tell her, “when you can do it so easily yourself. Just love all your friends and they’ll love you in return.”

She muses for a minute. “But my friends are all zeros. I don’t want to love them.”

“So why do you want a bunch of zeroes loving you?”

Suddenly she jumps up. “You know, Mabella, you sound just like my mom! She probably put you up to this.”

She grabs my bottle. “IN,” she orders. Then when I’m in she jams the cork into the hole, jogs to a nearby lake, and throws me in.

So here I am, floating on the waves and getting seasick. I sure hope the next person who finds me is a fisherman who only wants a new boat and the biggest fish in the lake. That I can do.

Teenage girls are just too temperamental. I sure don’t wish for another one.

SPECIAL DELIVERY

Seagulls walk on days like this, I thought as the wind hustled me down the city sidewalk. I kept my mouth shut against the blender of dust, last year’s leaves, bird poo and bug bits swirling around me.

A piece of paper — no, an envelope — twirled past me, tick-ticking as bounced off the concrete. I glanced over my shoulder to see if anyone was pursuing it, but it appeared to be unaccompanied on its outing.

At one point it flopped on the sidewalk, exhausted, but when I caught up to it the wind sent it sailing again, sweeping it over the traffic and into the next block. It didn’t have to wait for the WALK light like I did.

A queue had formed at the bus stop; there I noticed the envelope had landed again. A teen boy stepped on it obliviously, working his thumbs on his cell phone. I heard the beep, beep of an electronic game. He looked up only long enough to board the bus and flash his pass.

I snatched up the envelope before anyone else could step on it, then looked around to see if anyone was running after it. Nada. I boarded, waved my bus pass at the driver and found a seat.

As the bus pulled away I examined the envelope. No stamp, so it wasn’t mailed. The insignia at the top left said “Delorme & Pederson, Attorneys at Law.” Hmm…

Across the front, written in a neat script, was the name Mrs. Amy Allen. That’s it.

I sighed a prayer. Lord, how can I get this back to Amy Allen? Would she be listed in the phone book directory? Who Was Mr. Amy Allen? Why couldn’t it be Mrs. Kathy Klompenhaus or Mrs. Gloria Ganucci?

Oh, well. Best return it to the lawyers — impressively stamped by a teen’s sneaker — and let them deal with it.

At home I set the envelope on the counter to drop off in the morning and set about making supper. Kelly would be home in half an hour and needed a quick meal before his meeting this evening. And I’d promised myself a shower to wash off all this street dust.

I don’t spend much time on Kijiji; occasionally I skim through the Hobbies & Crafts column to see if someone’s selling scrapbooking supplies á la cheap. Alone this evening, I felt an urge to go online and see if there’d be any interesting offers.

I scrolled through the first page of ads and was on the second when an ad piqued my interest. For sale: six rubber stamps. Hmm… I clicked on the ad and read it through, then my jaw dropped as I read: Contact Amy Allen, 304-3622.

It can’t be the same one. I grabbed the phone and punched in the number.

“Hello?”

My words tumbled out. “Hi. I saw your ad for rubber stamps and I’m interested. But I also need to know…are you that Amy… I mean…did you lose a letter in the wind today?”

“A letter? You found my letter?” She sounded shocked.

“I found one, sent from Delorme & Pederson, addressed to Amy Allen.”

“Oh, thank goodness! I was hoping and praying it would turn up somehow,” she exclaimed. “I picked it up at my lawyer’s office today, but it blew out of my hand and I had no idea how I’d ever find it again! I’m being called as witness in a lawsuit.”

“I didn’t know how I’d locate you, either, until I saw your ad on Kijij. Are you home this evening? I’ll bring the letter over.”

“Thank you so much,” she said. “I’ll put on some coffee, if you’d like.”

“That would be great. Do you do a lot of scrapbooking?”

“Not so much lately. And you can have these stamps if you want them. They can be my payment for a SPECIAL DELIVERY letter.”

THE END

Written for today’s Writing 101 prompt: Finding A Letter.
The goal was to be brief; one of you editors will have to help me with this. I haven’t mastered brief yet.

Day By Day Deeds of Kindness

An interesting thing happened one day at the Doughnut shop where I worked some years back. there were a few derelicts that came in from time to time, usually just to ask for a drink of water. One of them had come in and was standing beside a table when a car pulled up to the drive-thru window.

I had taken her order; now I handed the thirty-something woman in the car the coffee she’d requested. As she handed me her money she included another $1.50, pointing to the derelict and saying, “Give that man a coffee, too.”

I doubt if she knew him at all, just noticed his poverty and thought a cup of coffee might soothe it a bit. I also doubt he would have had the money to buy himself a coffee. He was very grateful when I called him over to the counter and handed him the beverage. Her small act of kindness happened in a minute’s time, but it touched me deeply and has stayed with me for years. Probably because it reproved my own attitude, my unwillingness to share with down-and-out types.

“Remember that the opportunity for great deeds may never come, but the opportunity for good deeds is renewed day by day. the thing for us to long for is the goodness, not the glory.”  F.W. Faber

Walk Beside Me Awhile

Take A Few Minutes to Listen

In the course of bustling around the hospital ward, Nurse Edith came past the room of an elderly lady who’d been in the hospital for a short time, recovering from surgery. The old dear was starting to shuffle around again; now she was standing in the doorway and called to Edith as she went past. With a cheerful smile Edith stopped to see if the lady needed anything.

“Isn’t there a television room at the end of the hall?” the old lady asked. “Would you help me to go there?”

“Sure I will. But it will be such a long walk for you, dear. Let me find a wheelchair and I’ll zip you down there in no time.” Edith looked around for a chair.

“Oh, you needn’t do that. The walk will do me good. Just take my arm and I’ll manage if we take it slowly.”

So Nurse Edith took the woman’s arm and accompanied her down the hallway; the old dear visiting with her the whole time. When they entered the lounge Nurse Edith led her toward a recliner. “Here’s a nice comfy chair for you, dear. I’ll turn the television on if you like. Would you like a pillow and blanket?”

“Oh, I don’t plan to stay here. I’m not interested in watching TV really, but I’ve so much been wishing for someone to talk to. I’ve observed you tending to other patients and you seem like such a kind, friendly person I thought you would oblige me. But you can take me back to my room now.”

What could Edith say? Her heart went out to this poor woman recovering from a bad bout and just wanting someone to talk to. With a sweet smile she took the old lady’s arm again and they went back down the same hall, chatting all the way.

Have you lent a listening ear to anyone today? If so, I hope the Lord will give you a blessing for it.

Washday on the Homestead

According to the Laws of Feminine Paradigms, Monday was Wash day long before the prairies filled up with settlers. Homestead wives brought this tradition from their far-off motherlands and planted it into the cultural soil of Western Canada. As Saskatchewan writer Robert Collins says in his book, Butter Down The Well, “To wash on Tuesday, say, or Friday, would violate God’s ultimate plan for the universe.”

My mother-in-law talked of scrubbing clothes clean on the old washboard until after WWII, when they applied for a washing machine. For some years after the war consumer goods were restricted to those deemed most in need and she was crippled, so they got their machine.

Grandma Vance, too, would have done her fair share of scrubbing on the board as a housewife in the nineteen-teens. With Grandpa running a threshing machine, going from farm to farm, there would have been grease and chaff-clogged coveralls to scrub clean. Likely they needed boiling as well. Mom Goodnough told me that whenever her brothers went on a threshing crew they always came home with lice, so all the clothes had to be boiled.

Before the wringer washer appeared someone had invented a washing barrel with a stick agitator. One of the family worked this stick back and forth; this would turn gears that would crank the agitator back and forth to agitate the clothes. Tubs of water were heated on the wood stove and dumped into this barrel together with Fels Naptha flakes that the housewife had shaved off a hard yellow bar.

In summertime clothes were pegged out in the sunlight; this heavenly bleaching agent could be counted on to get diapers and linens extra clean. They came in smelling of fresh breezes, ready for the flat iron — Tuesday being likewise universally decreed as Ironing Day. In winter the laundry was hung out to get the benefit of the sunlight and breeze, then carried in stiff as boards and hung to dry on makeshift clotheslines strung up all through the house.

The gas-powered wringer washer was welcomed heartily by hard-working wives, but you had to be so careful when feeding the clothes through that you didn’t get your fingers too close to those rollers. It happened many a time; I recall hearing of one little girl who got her arm in the wringer right up to the elbow.

One day Mom F told me about an incident from back in her youth when she was brave enough to tackle the washing herself. She’d wet the bed one night and woke up so embarrassed and afraid of the consequences that she jumped out of bed and grabbed the sheets off the bed. She was big enough already that she was able to heat the water and fill the washer. In went the evidence.

I’ve gotten the impression that Grandma was a strict disciplinarian and Mom was seriously afraid of the punishment she’d get for wetting the bed. When Grandma got up she was really surprised to hear the washer chugging away, but Mom told her she’d decided to get the washing started early this morning. I wonder if Grandma ever suspected the real reason?

Hopefully it was a Monday morning.

The Mother’s Day Plant

Our assignment for “The Write Practice” today was to write about a father figure in a way that lets the reader really see this person, get up close to him. I thought I’d share my essay with you folks. Does this let you really see one aspect of the man that was my Dad?

He was grumbling about Mom again as I drove him home from the hospital that afternoon. In as gentle a tone as I could manage I said, “Dad. You have a vision problem.”

He glared at me with his good eye. “Whaddaya mean, a VISION problem?

His other eye was bandaged, but the bandages didn’t completely cover the mess on that side of his face where cancer had chewed up his eye socket and was draining in open sores. He’d just had a dose of radiation to slow down the disease’s insidious spread into his brain. He did indeed have a vision problem.

Though I felt sorry for his suffering, now was as good a time as ever to face the truth. Who knows how many months he had left? “In all these year you’ve never been able to see in any good in Mom.”

I braced myself for his angry response, but he gave me the silent huff, one of his well-practiced skills.

Before we’d left the city, heading for home, we had stopped at the grocery store and picked up a few things. Mother’s Day was two days ahead so I’d bought a spray of yellow carnations for my Aunt Sadie, who lived with Mom and Dad at this time. I was pleased to see Dad pick up a potted plant with beautiful blooms on it. Mom would like that. In my recollection, Dad rarely gave her anything but grumbles and scowls.

Mom was looking at the mail when we got home and showed us a card from their son*, Verne. As we put our groceries away she read, “To a wonderful mother…”

“Wonderful!” Dad snorted. “Hmph. I’ve been married to you for forty years and I’ve never seen anything wonderful yet.”

I piped up, “Well, Dad, I told you that you had a vision problem.” He glared at me again.

I handed the bouquet to Aunt Sadie and she admired it. Mom was glad, too, and commended me for thinking of Sadie, since none of her children were nearby. Mom was always glad to see others get something nice. In spite of the unhappiness she lived with daily, in her old age she had a sweet, sensitive disposition that endeared her to everyone she met.

Two days later the neighbour lady, a woman about twenty years younger than Mom, phoned and invited us for tea, so Mom and I went. We chatted about this and that, then she happened to say to Mom so sweetly, “Your Fred is such a dear. He brought me this lovely plant for Mother’s Day. But that’s Fred, always thinking of others.”

I was stunned. I eyed the plant Dad had bought, innocently blooming its heart out. (Good thing there was no big knife around or I might have grabbed it and hacked that plant to pieces.)

Neither Mom nor I responded to her remark. I wonder if she understood our silence?

Yeah, that was Dad. Even as he faced death he was still always thinking of somebody else rather than his own family. Especially other women.

(* I was raised by my Aunt Myrtle and Uncle Fred from the time I was three months old. Verne was their only child.)

THE STRANGEST THINGS HAPPEN

Oh, I have to write about this. Nothing like it has ever happened to me before!

Yesterday we were in the city; we made a stop at a downtown shop and I made a purchase, put my wallet away and we went off to Scott’s Parable, a Christian bookstore, to browse and get something at their little coffee nook.

En route I wondered if I had a certain gift certificate our children had given me for Christmas so I unzipped a small inside compartment in my purse and looked all through the contents. Nope.

I noted that I had some stamps among the gift cards, extra cash, etc., that I stored in this pocket. That was good; I wanted to send a birthday card to a penpal. Then I stuffed it all back in the and I’m sure I closed, or mostly closed, the zipper.

When we got to the bookstore Bob went to check out the latest books and I went to the cards. Of course I carried my purse in, also a clipboard with a notepad, but that’s all I had in my hands. I selected a card and purchased it, then went to the coffee nook to get myself a coffee.

Because the place was almost deserted, I set my purse on a nearby table, opened the main zipper and took out my wallet. I was the only customer standing at the till; nearby one young lady was sitting on an upholstered chair reading or writing. I bought my coffee — had to wait a bit as the server was rather distracted — and sat down to write.

I pulled my address book out and addressed the envelope; by then Bob had come to join me. Then I reached into that zippered compartment, which was unzipped now, to find those stamps again, pulled out the misc gift cards & notes — and I found a passport!

I don’t own a passport in the first place; in the second, the owner’s picture is on the first page and I don’t have a CLUE who she is.

It was large for the compartment but it was inside. Bob suggested maybe it was lying on the counter and I must have picked it up along with my coffee. But how would it get inside that pocket? I had to have put it there, or someone else did.

He wondered when I might have gotten it, but I’d just gone through everything in that pocket on the way there. The tables around had been, and were still, deserted except for that one young lady.

Still flustered, I gave it to the server at the coffee bar and she took it to the store cashier, but this really puzzled me. Other people’s passports don’t suddenly appear in one’s purse. Was some spritely spirit messing with my mind?

My husband was nonchalant about it. “Well, they’ll take care of it and get it back to its rightful owner.”

I said, “How would you feel if you reached into your shirt pocket and found a checkbook and it belonged to someone you didn’t know.”

In fact, a man might well pick up something from a counter absent-mindedly and stuff it in his pocket , but I couldn’t unzip this compartment and tuck a passport inside without some thought. Besides, folks don’t leave their passports casually lie around (though it could have fallen out of a purse.)

And that’s the only conclusion I can come to: it fell out of some other lady’s purse, whoever sat at the table earlier. That young lady sitting and reading must have seen a passport lying on the floor under my table and decided it was mine so she picked it up and tucked it into that pocket, since my purse was open. Then when I found it and rushed over to the counter with it, she decided to say nothing; it was being taken care of anyway.

What do you think? Had I not been so flabbergasted I might have asked.

A Tale of Two Sisters

“I feel so privileged to be entrusted with these heirlooms! You can be sure I’ll take good care of them.” Pearl took the box from her cousin’s arms and set it on the table in her hallway.

He  shrugged. “Whatever. I still think we should just toss them. Why dredge up old bones? You’ll find Mom had a lot of them.”

“Maybe.” Pearl smiled sympathetically. His mother, her Aunt Matilda, seemed to specialize in old bones.

“But you’re young yet,” she said. “When I was your age the past was ancient history; I was out to remake the world. Since I’m retired I think more about our past and what we’ve inherited. I’ll try to be discreet, though, when I compile the Family History; if the Aunties wrote anything nasty about anyone I certainly won’t record it. Maybe I should even tear those pages out of the journals?”

“Who cares? I’m sure most of the folks they wrote about are dead now. Anyway, suit yourself, I’d best be off.”

“Chip off the old block,” Pearl murmured after the door was shut. She looked at the stacks of books in the box and thought of the two sisters, Mabel and Matilda. Each of them had her own way of looking at life; each recorded her perspective in these journals.

The years were good to Mabel and Matilda, both of them lived into their nineties before they passed away. After their demise Pearl heard all their journals were to be destroyed; hoping to write a family history book someday she begged permission to look through them before the grim sentence was carried out. Then her cousins decided since Pearl was the only one in the family with enough patience to pore through them and prudent enough not to blab the contents, she could have the lot.

Pearl had breathed a sigh of relief; so much information would have been lost! Now the precious books were in her hands. She carried the box to the coffee table, set it down and started sorting the collection into years.

Skimming through Aunt Mabel’s slapdash version of the late 20’s, Pearl could picture her so clearly, a teenager eager for life. She smiled. Aunt Mabel would have been a flapper! It will be interesting to see how she coped during the Depression years, Pearl thought. Good thing she couldn’t see the future right then.

She set 1928 down and flew through the years to 1985; Aunt Mabel was widowed by now and enjoying outings with her children and grandchildren. Then Pearl picked up Mabel’s diary from 2000 and noted that she still found interesting little news items to report every day. Perhaps a caller popped in or she took a walk. If she couldn’t get out she wrote about the weather and other things she observed from her window. Spring blossoms excited her; birds in nearby branches were noted in her books; she described in detail the trees turning color in fall. She wrote with humor about the Y2K panic.

Yes, that was Aunt Mabel. Always interested in life and the people around her, always ready to visit and relate humorous little stories that gave everyone a chuckle. She stayed as active as she could for as long as possible and when she was too frail to get out family members stopped in to share her good cheer.

Then Pearl picked up one of Aunt Matilda’s 1990s diaries to read, but soon found herself fighting sleep.  “Nothing much happened today” was the most frequent entry, coupled with complaints about the rheumatism which kept her from getting out or the fact that no one had called.

Pearl remembered Aunt Matilda telling her once, “I never call anyone. I don’t want to be a bother. Anyway, if they want to talk to me, they know my number.”

Another time she complained, “Seems like whenever I do phone someone they’re quick to say they have something pressing and have to run. Folks these days are just too busy to talk.” Though Pearl was sympathetic and never contradicted, she got the feeling folks were eager to get away from Auntie’s litany of woes.

As elderly widows they’d lived together for over fifteen years, looked out the same windows at the same changing scenes, but one had seen beauty and one had seen monotony.

Pearl could remember Aunt Mabel grabbing her raincoat and umbrella, off for a walk in the rain while her sister sat by the fire with her sore joints and wouldn’t do handwork or read for fear she’d ruin her eyes. Mabel went out to search for life while Aunt Matilda expected life to come in and tickle her. Which seldom happened.

Such a shame, she thought as she closed the bleak diary. She stood up and walked over to the window, savoring the bright morning. She watched a robin dash in and out of the sprinkler spray.

“Now,” she said, “I know some people I should be calling.”

This is one of the stories you’ll find in my upcoming book.
Note: this is copyright material. Please respect my rights as author and do not copy.

 

Qualities of a Quality Man

A MAN
by Edgar Guest

A man doesn’t whine at his losses;
   a man doesn’t whimper and fret
or rail at the weight of his crosses
   and ask life to rear him a pet.
A man doesn’t grudgingly labor
   or look upon toil as a blight:
a man doesn’t sneer at his neighbor
   or sneak from a cause that is right.

A man doesn’t sulk when another
   succeeds where his efforts have failed;
doesn’t keep all his praise for the brother
   whose glory is publicly hailed
and pass by the weak and the humble
   as though they were not of his clay;
a man doesn’t ceaselessly grumble
   when things are not going his way.

A man looks on woman as tender
   and gentle, and stands at her side
at all times to guard and defend her,
   and never to scorn or deride.
A man looks on life as a mission,
   to serve, just so far as he can;
A man feels his noblest ambition
   on earth is to live as a man.

From his book A Heap O’ Livin’
published 1916 by The Reilly & Britton Co

(And I daresay this man will be able to hold his head up to others and be able to look himself in the mirror every night. We ladies should be aspiring to these virtues, too–not to be self-righteously sweet but to be a REAL person, gentle, caring, and faithful to our Creator. It’s our calling to be a woman men can respect.)