“Not to the Swift”
By Deone R. Sutherland
Synopsis: Julie Markham and her widowed mother live in Chicago, where Julie is studying music. Near the end of her work at the school, Julie is offered a scholarship in New York City, which her mother expects her to accept. However, Professor Craig Carlson, one of the teachers at the school has asked Julie to marry him and go out West to live. Julie promises to marry Craig.
Spring was a series of showers that turned every growing thing into a profusion of green buds and leaves. The damp was everywhere, but it was not yet hot. Craig and Julie ate their lunches on the rocks along the beaches of Lake Michigan. Craig was busy preparing for his recital, but there was time for long, lazy walks along the paths bordering the lake while he and Julie made plans. Julie had promised her mother to talk to Professor Rossi about the scholarship. After all, he had recommended her most highly. She could not delay too long in mailing back her decision, for someone else surely would receive the opportunity most happily.
Julie had been working with Professor Rossi on Handel’s Semele, “Oh, sleep! Why Dost Thou leave Me?” How she loved this stately music of Handel. Professor Rossi leaned back in his chair with his hand shading his eyes. His head ached slightly, and his wife would be most irritated if he were late getting out of the house. They were having weekend guests, and he was tired before the weekend even began. Neither he nor his wife had expected that he would end up giving endless lessons to an endless number of young people who were as egotistical in their assumption of talent and genius as he had once been himself. He rubbed his temple ever so gently with the tips of his long fingers. There had been all the preliminary concerts of promise, the good reviews … What had happened to him? There were just too many of them, perhaps, all struggling to reach the top. This girl’s voice was fluent, and she had a, how would you say it? a spiritual quality that was unusual. She had good technical background also.
He felt for an aspirin, but they were in his other jacket. He glanced at his watch. He was tired of hurrying. The house was too far away from the campus, but it had been easier letting his wife have her way … The lesson was over; surely the girl was not going to keep him longer. She had her scholarship, what else?
“Dr. Rossi, Mother insists that I talk this over with you before I decline the scholarship. You know that Craig Carlson and I … You know about his accepting the teaching position in Bradley …”
Dr. Rossi was preparing his brief case for going home. He had wondered about that engagement. Naturally he had assumed she would not hesitate to wait a few years before marrying, now that she had the scholarship. He looked a little more closely at the girl. Well, the world was full of surprises. The Mama was the one to worry about. His own Mama had been so full of ambition for him. Perhaps too much ambition made for unhappiness. The blossom of a girl who was asking him to solve her problems. He could laugh at that, all right. No, he would give her no comfort; let each one decide for himself.
Julie watched Dr. Rossi hurry down the stairs. She was going to wait for Craig. She leaned against the banister and felt nostalgic about leaving the old music building in such a short time. Poor Dr. Rossi. He seemed such an unhappy man. Craig would never be like that. Craig loved teaching. Craig was really interested in other people. Well, she had kept her promise to her mother. It had been awful for a moment. She thought Dr. Rossi might have been really provoked about her decision, but he had seemed quite indifferent at the end.
A door slammed somewhere, and the sound of Craig’s feet was on the stairs. She held the back of her hand against her throat for a moment. He must be able to see her heart beating there, she thought. In a moment he was at her side, and hand in hand they left the building behind them.
Craig’s parents came for the graduation and took many pictures. Julie’s mother snapped her and Craig. Julie wanted colored film of Craig, for his gown had the beautiful hood signifying a doctor’s degree in music.
Julie was delighted with Craig’s family. They seemed the most natural people in the world, and she felt at home with them immediately. They came to the Markhams’ for dinner, and Julie’s mother agreed that they were very fine people.
“What else could Craig’s parents be?” Julie asked happily. They had driven East, and were prepared to take Julie and Craig and Julie’s mother back in the car.
Julie and her mother sat preparing for the trip.
“It will be so crowded, I’m afraid,” Julie’s mother said. “Besides I’m not sure that I can get away from the office right now.”
Julie looked dismayed. “Why, Mother, you have your vacation time coming for this year. You know you have.”
Mary Markham was stitching a pink wool skirt for Julie’s trousseau. She didn’t look up from her sewing.
“Oh, Julie, I hope you aren’t making the wrong decision. I think you ought to wait at least a year or two. Give your talent a chance. See what you can do. There just isn’t the kind of money paid professional singers back West that you can get in the East, nor the opportunities. Don’t you want to have a career, Julie?”
“But, Mother, I will be having a career. I’ll be Craig’s wife, and we both love music. We’ll have that to share the rest of our lives. I’m not going to quit using my voice simply because I’m getting married.”
“Julie, I’m afraid there are many frustrations ahead for you that you won’t open your eyes to now.”
Julie picked up some bastings and rolled them in her finger. “Mother, you aren’t saying that you aren’t going to the temple to see us married? I couldn’t stand it if you weren’t to witness my wedding; I’m your daughter …”
“Julie, Julie.” Mary Markham wiped the tears from her eyes. “I’m afraid to leave on a vacation right now. I’m afraid the firm will find that they can get along very well without me. I tried to sound Mr. Thayer out about it, and he was very negative about leaving now. He thought this was an unwise time because we’re unusually busy. I usually take my vacation in July, you know. I have to go on supporting myself, darling. Besides, you’ll have Craig’s parents, and they have many relatives. We have a few out there ourselves, you know, on your Daddy’s side. You’ll be so busy at first, but later you can look them up. Daddy would like that …” Mary’s voice trailed into silence and Julie realized her mother would not be there.
Julie and Craig were married on a lovely June morning, and a small reception was held later for them in Craig’s home.
If only Mother could have been here for all of this, everything would have been perfect. Julie thought.
Bradley had snow-covered peaks as a backdrop, even though it was well into June. The college itself sprawled down lawn-covered hillsides. Some of the buildings were old yellow brick with climbing green ivy, and then there was a part of the campus that was new. Julie was glad the music building was still part of the older campus.
Craig drove Julie out to his grandmother’s old house.
“We can live here if we like until we get ours built. If you don’t like it, there are apartments and houses nearer the campus we can rent. The only advantage to this old place is that it would be rent free, and I always liked the scenery around here.”
Julie looked out of the high, narrow windows. Pine trees were visible on the near mountains, and a hemlock stood almost before the front door.
“I like the scenery, too,” Julie agreed. The lawn was big, and in the distance a swing dangled forlornly under an apple tree.
“Mother said she’d help with painting and stuff. She hasn’t really liked to rent the house after Grandma died, and nobody seems to want to buy such an old-fashioned place. Do you want to see the bedrooms upstairs?”
They went arm in arm up the stairs. Everything was narrow about the house except the stairs. Julie slid her hand along the gleaming banister. The wood was beautiful. If the walls were taken out between the front parlor and the dining room, there would be a lovely, huge room. And if that big old kitchen could somehow be made into a dining room, and that pantry into a small modern kitchen … Julie smiled at herself. Was there ever anyone who was less prepared to make a practical wife than she? Thank goodness, she had learned to cook a little. It would be wonderful to move into their own house. Not that she minded staying with Craig’s folks, she added hurriedly to herself. They were wonderful, but it would be fun to start taking care of her own home. The bedrooms were small and narrow, with high ceilings, but there were four of them.
They stood in the larger master bedroom in the front of the house looking out at the pines.
“Well, what do you think?” Craig unlocked the casement and opened the window. Meadow larks trilled distantly.
“I’d love to move in this instant.” Julie smiled at him.
“But feel the heat, and in the winter it takes a dozen blankets to keep warm. Of course, if we thought we’d be here very long, maybe something could be done about the heating.” Craig’s eyes were trying to tell her something.
“Oh, I’m sure it could.” Julie put her arm through his and leaned her head against his shoulder. “Did you stay here much when you were small?”
Craig kissed the top of her hair. “Every summer. Grandma would be putting stuff up in bottles all the time I was here. I slept on a feather bed, and the most wonderful smells sent me to sleep and woke me up each morning. I remember …”
Julie wrote her mother about the house. They shopped for a new refrigerator and stove, but there were many things that were left in the house that Julie loved immediately. She spent most of her mornings painting. She and Craig steamed the wallpaper from the front bedroom and painted it first. This was to be their room. Julie loved the four-poster bed, and she polished the wood until it gleamed. She and Craig’s mother made a new canopy out of white ruffly nylon and put up new curtains to match. Then she and Craig carried up the old walnut secretary that they had refinished from the parlor, and the room was completed.
Julie wrote of each detail to her mother. Her mother wrote that she was shipping Julie’s wedding present to her.
“Oh, Craig, she mustn’t send me the piano. I know how much having it has meant to her. It would be almost as if she were giving me up.”
But the piano was shipped from Chicago and placed in the living room. Julie sent a check to cover the shipping costs, but the check was returned. There was no mention in any of her mother’s letters concerning her vacation or when she could come West to visit them. Julie knew her mother had been hurt by her decision to give up the scholarship, but surely relations would soon be normal between them again.
“Give your mother time,” Craig said gently when Julie expressed her worries. “After all, your mother is behaving much more generously and wisely than her own mother behaved toward her. Write to her about the music department, and about your singing. She’s had a disappointment, at least to her way of thinking, and it will be some consolation if she knows you’re singing, and people are happier for hearing you.” Craig kissed the frown from her forehead and picked up his lunch. He was leaving for his first day of school.
Julie followed him to the front door and watched him back the car around and drive slowly down the road. She felt a pang of loneliness. There was the crisp feel of autumn in the air. It would be fun to be at the school today, too. She could hear again the ever-present sound of practicing, the pianos, the scales, the students in the halls between classes. She shut the front door and walked back through the house. She put Craig’s dishes in the sink.
She went out in the hall and looked at herself in the gilt-edged mirror. She was still young and slender and pretty. She still looked like a college student. She went back to the dishes. It was just that she didn’t have enough to do. After she’d shined the house up, she would practice until this silly mood passed.
She had written glowingly to her mother about singing duets with Craig. Julie sighed. They had sung at church; people had been kind and told them how beautiful they thought “Oh, Divine Redeemer” was. That older lady who taught school, Miss Hightowers, had said the arrangement they had used for “Teach Me to Pray” was her favorite. But perhaps her mother had been partly right; there wasn’t the same excitement in her music now. Maybe she missed the admiring comments on her voice, the feeling that she had a future. Julie sat at the breakfast table again. Maybe she just needed to mature a little. She was feeling just a little under the weather, too, and perhaps that depressed her. Or maybe it was the fall. The feeling of autumn in the air always made her think she should be accomplishing things.
There was a gentle knock at the back door, and Julie opened it quickly. The older woman introduced herself and explained she’d knocked at the front door, but she thought she hadn’t been heard.
“Come in, Sister Baer. Craig and I have left the doorbell until last because we wanted to think of something special and different that would suit this house.” Julie led the way into the living room.
“It’s beautiful, what you have done to this old house,” Sister Baer exclaimed.
Julie was so pleased she took her visitor upstairs though only one of the bedrooms was actually finished, but Sister Baer was more than delighted with what they had done. She told Julie of the many times she had been in the house in the past. Julie showed her the bathrooms which were also finished. “Craig used most of his TV savings on these bathrooms, but most of the other redecorating has been very inexpensive because we did it ourselves during the past two, almost three months.”
Julie and Sister Baer sat down in the living room.
“I’ve come especially to ask you to sing with our Singing Mothers in our Relief Society. I know your lovely voice can be an inspiration to the group.”
Julie smiled, “I’d love coming, and I’d probably have sung with the group without a special invitation. I love singing so much.”
Julie leaned back in her chair. She really did feel wretched this morning. She’d have to ask Craig about a doctor. She’d always had such good health.
Sister Baer was withdrawing a small box from her large knitting bag. “Craig loved my brownies so when he was a youngster; I thought you’d both enjoy a few.”
Julie thanked her and took the box, and then felt her face grow pale as she followed Sister Baer to the door. Surely the delicious odor of brownies couldn’t make her feel this awful. She put them on the table in the hall and waved goodbye. As she came back into the house, a print of Picasso’s Maternite hanging in the hall caught her eye. She stood staring at the picture for a long, long moment. She, Julie, was expecting a baby! Of course she was. She knelt down in the hall. “Oh, thank you, thank you …” She must tell Craig. No, she wouldn’t call him. She put the receiver back in the telephone cradle. She would have to wait until he came home. She didn’t want to tell anything this wonderful over the phone. She sat down at the piano. After several minutes she began to finger softly Brahms’ beautiful “Wiegenlied.” Yes, she would practice the “Lullaby.”