Now I Must Close (x3)

Friday 10-18-1957

Dearest:

It was good to get your letter yesterday — and I should have had one in the mail to you, but I didn’t. Listening to Paul Harvey ruins my letter writing time. I used to do it as soon as Jimmy left on the bus and would have time to finish before the carrier came. Incidentally, I don’t think Paul Harvey sounds as good on these broadcasts. The commercials are evidently taped and it gives an unnatural ring to them, a change of quality in voice.

The radio has been on the fritz today. I managed to hear most of Tozier’s message by staying right there to punch the buttons or do otherwise to get the contortion out of it – not on the line, but in the radio. Danny is good at tuning it in. He has also been a good dish wiper this week. His cold isn’t any better – just get some improvement when he plays in the water or runs outside without a jacket.

The mailman just came and brought the part for the washing machine. I don’t know whether to try it out by myself or not. I’d hate to ruin something or get water all over the place. Later I’ll go down and see how things go. I want to finish this and then go to town to mail it, as well as spend some money. Since I have been so pokey about getting some money sent to you, why don’t you just put in the overseas Lit. money that you get on this coming Sunday. I’ll still set aside $25 for the Lord’s work: put part in here on Sunday and send some to the Fields for B. McDowell as we have mentioned before.

I’ll pay the telephone bill today (that is nearly $8 – several long distance calls on it). And then the rest will get some gas, baby food [Similac, see below], eggs, and groceries. Sort of hard to figure out just what are the most important things on the list.

You asked about bills. Besides the car insurance, your insurance notice came yesterday. Two months of milk bills, the gas bill make up the most important. Dentist, rent, etc. will come next. We will have to get some winter clothes for Dorothy and John. I don’t know about overshoes yet – we haven’t tried them on to see who has outgrown what or if they have grown into any!

It would be nice to get some meat in the freezer. It has really been going down when we are eating out of it instead of buying much. Mr. Milliman took the 24 chickens out that he had in, so that left a gap, too.

Had a card from Mother – guess I’ll just send it to you instead of trying to tell you what it says.

The youngsters are out of school next Monday and Tuesday for Institute. [?? who knows what that means?] I’m just itching to take off to visit you Tuesday – but of course I won’t. If wishes were horses, you know — or in this case an airplane! I did ask Marion if she would consider going then so Chuck could visit the school, but she said he has to stay for football practice. Game is canceled for tonight because of Flu. It is on the increase in the school here. Each day more out, and our youngsters have all been exposed now with someone in their room coming down with it during school and being sent home with a temp of 103° or so. I refuse to worry – I could get sick just thinking about what would happen if we all got it. I have been trying to see that we all get the necessary rest and been using plenty of orange juice and vitamins to keep their resistance up. It is in the Lord’s hands and He gives strength when needed. You cause me more concern by your irregular living, if you should get it.

Now I must close – surely do miss you. Guess I didn’t write partly because I was just too lonesome and didn’t want to sound sad. Those spells come when I feel as though I just have to see you and anticipating a weekend without you seems too much. I just must not think ahead to weekends but take each day as it comes. And the thought of you using so much time and energy and losing out on your studies just to come home doesn’t cheer me either. All in all it is not the most satisfactory situation, but it is the best one for us now or else the Lord would change it, of that I’m sure.

Now I must close. Danny has been dialing around on the radio and is quite amused at some of the programs. Jimmy has learned how to do something new. I said I would write you about it, but he suggested I write about something else so he could tell you himself when you get home…so you will have to wait to find out.

Carol continues to be good. One night and one day she was fussy, not from losing sleep, but the day I did the washing myself seemed to be what caused it. Dorothy said she would do the washing tonight so that wouldn’t happen again but I’ll get some Similac to help me out or help Carol out, as the work piles up too high when I have to wait on the children for all such jobs. Her nose is still stuffy too. She broke out with prickly heat on Monday from being too hot so much of the time. This has cleared up now.

For the third time, I must close; I love you honey, we all do, and we are praying for you daily.

Always,
Nellie

I’ve been reading my instruction book on the washer and I guess I’ll give it a try tonight.

She’s Not Here, A Short Story

phoneThe young girl sat up in her bed, rubbed the sleep out of her eyes, threw her hair off her face in one easy motion, and scrambled out of bed.  It was an early Saturday morning in May. The house was hushed.  With the stealth of a burglar she tiptoed down the hallway and carefully descended the creaky stairs.

After some domestic disarray, the ten-year old clung to the solid comfort of this familiar routine.  She turned on the stereo, adjusted the tuner, and turned the volume to its lowest setting. Grabbing some throw pillows, she dropped to the floor inches from the speaker, flat on her stomach, her elbows in the pillows and her hands cupped under her chin.

The next two hours brought radio programs for children.  Thirsty for story, she drank in the drama while the rest of the house slept. Midway through the last show the jangle of the telephone pierced the quiet.  Like quicksilver she jumped up and grabbed the receiver before the phone rang again.

“Hello,” her high childish voice could barely be heard.

“Hi! Is your mommy there?”  the other voice trilled.

“Mmm…no,” she whispered tentatively.

“Would you leave her a message, please?”

“’kay…,” her voice wavered.

“The chair she had reupholstered is finished and is ready to be picked up at the shop.”

 “Thanks. Good-bye.”

She replaced the receiver and returned to her position on the floor.

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~     ~     ~     ~     ~     ~

The next Saturday was the same. The family slept while the young girl listened to Aunt Bee, Ranger Bill, and Sailor Sam. She took every precaution to listen without waking them.  Once again, the clatter of the telephone shattered the solitude. She darted to the dining room side table and grabbed the phone before the second ring.

“Hello.”

“Hello!  I’d like to speak to Nellie Harper!”

 The girl paused; she finally said, “She’s not here.”

 “Well, listen hon, this is the upholstery shop calling, and I called last week and left a message.  I told her when she brought it in that it would be ready in two weeks, and this chair has been in the shop for a month now, and I really need your mom to pick up this chair.  Would you puh-lease let her know?”   Her voice was a mixture of artificial sweetener and ill-concealed irritation.

 “Hmmm.”  came out in hushed tones.

 “Thanks, hon, I really appreciate it. You have a good day, now.”

~     ~     ~     ~      ~     ~

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A week went by.  The light was lasting longer, birds were chirping in the trees, and  school was winding down.  Summer had almost arrived, though the markers of seasonal change were little noted in that house.  Again, the young girl woke up early Saturday morning, crept around the squeaky spots and kept her rendezvous with the radio.

She wasn’t surprised when the phone rang; she answered it as she had done before.

“Hello,” spoken softly, so softly.

 “Hi!”  spoken in the tone of one eager to check off items on her list.

 They both recognized the other’s voice; they both had the script memorized.

 “Honey, look, is your mommy home this morning?” came the coaxing plea.

 “No.”   The single syllable dangled in space with nothing to support it.

 Exasperated, the woman on the other end of the line raised her voice.

“Well, where is she?  I’ve called, I’ve left messages, and still Nellie has not picked up her chair.”

She clipped each word shorter than a buzz cut.

The moment of truth could be delayed no longer.  The words that were stuck in the child’s throat, words that could not be spoken the previous Saturdays, words that were impossible to say, even today, were forcefully dislodged.

 “Ummm………she………well……..ummmm.   She died.”

 “Ohmygosh, she died? She died?  Your mommy died? What happened?  Oh, honey, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.  Was she in an accident?  She died?  I had no idea.  Oh, honey, I’m so very, very sorry.  Oh dear.  I–am–so–sorry.”

 “No…..she…….just……died.”

The silence was more uncomfortable for the girl than for the woman.  She sensed the shock, the awkward drop, the conversational vertigo of the voice on the other end.  The ten-year old knew she would have to bridge the gap and end this call.  The girl found her voice and began to comfort the caller.

“It’s all right.  You didn’t know.  It’s okay. No one told you.  I’ll tell my daddy about the chair when he wakes up, okay?  He’ll come to your shop and get the chair.  It’s okay.  You didn’t know… Good-bye.”

She walked back to the stereo, turned the radio off, sat down on the floor and sobbed.

 
[Originally posted November 2006]