Monday, March 26, 2012

AMELIA MERROW'S FOLDED HANDS; part 3 of 4; by Dorothy Donnell Calhoun; 1918

Two days after the social, Abel came in from his chores to find the hired girl standing on the table in the sitting room, her gaunt person arrayed in a beruffled white muslin dress, turning slowly while Ma basted up the hem. Scraps of conversation floated out into the kitchen as he hung up his cap and overcoat.

“An' then he ses, 'I'd be pleased to call,' he ses.” It was Lizzie's shrill soprano, tuned to the pitch of pride. “He ses it just like that, Mis' Merrows--'I'd be pleased to call.'”

“Ruel Granger's a nice steady boy, Lizzie,” Ma commented, evidently around a mouthful of pins. “I shouldn't wonder if he had intentions. There! That hem's ready to run on the machine. You go up and curl your hair and put that ribbon I gave you in the camisole and I'll have this done if a jiffy. Maybe you'd better lie down a spell. Trying on is tiring work. I'll call you, soon's suppers' ready.”

In the mirror over the sink Abel caught a glimpse of his face. It wore a slightly dazed expression. After supper he and Ma sat on the hard pine chairs in the kitchen listening to the creak of rockers in the next room where Lizzie in all the glory of the ruffled muslin, was entertaining her caller. Ma listened to the murmur of voices, her lips curving in the little secret smile women wear in the presence of love affairs but her shoulders had a weary droop. Abel eyed her anxiously.

“You look tuckered, Ma.”

Amelia nodded cheerfully. “I am sort of tuckered. I guess I'll go up and go to bed. It's been a full day. That dress Lizzie's got on was one your cousin Emma left hanging in the spare-room closet last summer. It was all yellow and I had a sight of trouble doing it up and ironing out the ruffles. I thought she looked nice in it, didn't you, Father, now she's getting a little plumper?”

Whether from the ruffled muslin or the additional plumpness Ruel Granger soon progressed from the formal status of “calling one” the Merrows' hired girl thru the intermediate stage known as “going with,” to the pronounced attentions that belong to “keeping company.” Lizzie began to crochet yards of lace while Ma, that her work might not be interrupted, washed the dishes and scoured the milk pans happily in the kitchen.

More often than not Abel would come down in the morning to find Ma building the fire and setting the coffeepot on the stove.

“Lizzie was out till eleven at the Ladies' Aid social,” she would explain rather guiltily. “Young folks need their sleep.”

At other times he would find Ma bent above the sewing machine, joyously working over her store of old clothes for Lizzie's adornment or baking a batch of sugar cookies for her to regale her admirer when he came to call.

“Having a hired girl would be a good thing,” he told himself musingly, “if only it didn't make so much work. Ma isn't really able to stand it. I don't know how folks that have two-three of them get along at all!”

Monday, March 19, 2012

AMELIA MERROW'S FOLDED HANDS; part 2 of 4; by Dorothy Donnell Calhoun; 1918

Amelia tilted the saucepan of stew over the blue bowl, dipping out the dumplings with a careful spoon. Her cheeks were delicately flushed, her eyes shone with the joy of her reprieve.

“Lizzie's gone to bed,” she told him comfortingly. “The poor girl was all worn out traveling so far in the snow so I sent her right upstairs. You sit down and start in on your supper, Father, and I'll be right back. I want to run up with this bowl of stew so she can eat it while it's nice and hot.”

The next morning the new hired girl had a stitch in her side and Amelia insisted on her remaining in bed. At intervals thruout the day, Amelia ran upstairs with doses of ginger tea and camomile. Abel's mild protest met with gentle indignation.

“Father! And you a deacon in the church, too! She may be a hired girl but it wouldn't be Christian of us to expect her to work 'round with a pain in her side.”

Lizzie's stitch was a reprieve for Abel too. It put off somewhat the disquieting spectacle of Ma with her hands folded in awful unfamiliarity.

One week after her arrival the hired girl appeared in the kitchen but even then Amelia hovered over her, ready to take the broom and dishcloth out of her hands at the first symptom of relapse.

To be sure when Abel came into the house from his afternoon trip to the village for the mail he found her rocking ostentatiously in the sitting-room bay window but there was always something a little breathless and flurried about her as if she had just that instant untied her apron; sometimes there was a dab of flour on her cheek and once he thought he caught a glimpse of the egg beater hastily concealed behind the row of geraniums.

When a chocolate layer cake with strawberry jam made its appearance in Lizzie's bony hands Abel voiced his suspicions.

“You've been doing the cooking ever since Lizzie came, 'Melia,” he reproached her. “I'd know one of our layers if I met it in Africa. What's a hired girl for, I'd like to know?

Amelia nodded serenely. “She seems real interested watching me cook. You can't expect old heads on young shoulders and that reminds me, Father, I baked an extra cake and boiled a ham for sandwiches and I want you to take Lizzie down to the Methodist box social this evening. She ought to get acquainted with some young folks. We don't want her getting homesick, you know.”

Monday, March 12, 2012

AMELIA MERROW'S FOLDED HANDS; part 1 of 4; by Dorothy Donnell Calhoun; 1918

Amelia Merrows sat in the bay window, her hands folded in her ample lap. The little sitting room was full of gray shadows, stirring noiselessly in tune with the snowfall outside. An exquisite color breathed from the soft polish of old mahogany and the gleam of the brass andirons in the firelight. The red geraniums on the windowsill gave out a spicy breath.
“It's 'most time for them to be coming,” she murmured distressfully.

She pressed her face to the windowpane, peering out into the gray February dusk. Reassured she hurried into the kitchen and fumbled on the shelf for matches, striking three in her eagerness before the oil lamp on the table was lighted. Then holding it aloft she turned and looked with a silent farewell about the little room.

White scrubbed pine table, cheery yellow painted chairs, shiny tin pans met her gaze like the faces of old friends. She made a little pilgrimage among them, giving them tender pats and prods.

“We're going to miss each other,” she told them drearily. “It won't ever be the same again with a hired girl round. I'll have to sit in the other room and listen to her doing things wrong out here. My soul!”

Amelia drew a breath that was like a sob. “Forty-five years I've washed dishes and baked pies in this kitchen and now I've got to give up and fold my hands for the rest of my life because Abel thinks I'm too old to work any longer.”

Down the road sounded a flurry of sleigh bells. Hurriedly Amelia arranged her face in a smile of welcome. Its plump curves readily took on smiles. She had never lamented long over the inevitable. “Abel wanted me to have a girl because he thought the work was too hard,” she comforted herself as she hurried to throw open the kitchen door. “Men folks don't set so much store by fiddling round their chores as women do. Bless men folks!”

The hired girl was a tall, gaunt person with sallow cheek bones and a general drabness that matched her cheerless name, Lizzie Gray. Abel Merrows shook his grizzled head dubiously when he surrendered Lizzie to Amelia's care.

“One thing,” he consoled himself, “a girl as homely as she is won't have any beaux round coaxing her away. Ma'll get a chance to fold her hands. I guess she deserves folding after all these years!”

In spite of his brave assurance Abel was secretly appalled at the vision his words evoked. Would he be acquainted with this new Amelia of the unfamiliar hands? A queer panic seized him as he plodded across the drifty yard. It would be strange, at first, not to see Ma bustling around dishing up supper, setting out one of her chocolate cakes, light as a feather, with strawberry jam between the layers.

It was in the nature of a pleasant surprise to find Ma herself stirring a savory saucepan on the stove as tho no hired girl had happened. But being a man, indignation trod closely on the heels of Abel's relief.

“Where's that girl?” he demanded aggressively. “Why isn't she getting supper, I'd like to know?”

Monday, March 5, 2012

YOU AND ME; by Edgar Daniel Krahmer; 1924

I wandered away in the dusktime,
Fragrant the garden close!
And I followed the magic of laughter
Till I passed through the heart of a rose,
Till I passed through a wood of wild wonder,
A forest of opal and gold,
To the valley of whimsical childhood
In the Land-Where-No-Child-Can-Grow-Old.

And oh, there were myriad children,
Witching and joyous and fair,
Their eyes all a wonder of dreaming,
The dust of the stars on their hair,
Tumbling in rapture together,
Hearing the leaves softly croon,
The little dog laughed to see such fun.
And the dish ran away with the spoon.

The song that they heard set them singing,
The cow jumped over the moon,
And Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard
Where all of the stars are strewn;
They frolicked and played together,
Laughing in careless glee,
And there was a dear little lass named You,
And a glad little lad named Me.

They came to me slowly and shyly,
I feared that they would not know,
But they rested close in my waiting arms
And my heart would have it so;
They kissed me and softly murmured,
"We Love You! We Love You True!"
The glad little lad whose name was Me,
And the dear little lass named You.