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“Not to the Swift” — Chapter 6

By: Ardis E. Parshall - September 23, 2011

“Not to the Swift”

By Deone R. Sutherland

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Chapter 6

Synopsis: Julie Markham, who lived with her widowed mother in Chicago and studied music, became engaged to Professor Craig Carlson, a teacher in the school. Julie’s mother wanted her to have a career, but Julie and Craig went West for their temple marriage and Craig accepted a position teaching in a small college. Their son was born in April, and Julie was so busy and happy that she almost forgot her music. However, she sang for stake conferences and for school programs. She was lonesome for her mother, whom she had not seen since her marriage, and finally Mrs. Markham telephoned to say she was coming for a visit.

Craig and Julie and baby Ralph waited patiently for Mary Markham’s plane. The plane was late, and Ralph was beginning to get tired. They didn’t want to go home because each delay they had been assured it would be but twenty minutes more. The winter weather, Julie supposed. At last the plane was announced, and Julie and Craig hurried to the fence.

Julie’s mother looked very smart in her dark suit and red scarf beneath the fur coat over her shoulders. Julie wondered if she looked as dowdy as she felt beside her mother.

“Julie, you don’t look well enough to be expecting again. Do you think it’s wise so soon?” Julie’s mother couldn’t keep back her fear.

Ralph had begun to fuss, and Craig was trying to get him comfortable in his arms and carry a bag at the same time as they walked to the car. They had had to stand in line for her mother’s two bags, and this last delay was too much for the baby.

“Craig and I want a large family,” Julie said. Oh, dear, she sounded too grim for words, Julie thought to herself. Maybe in the car Ralph would go to sleep. Mother would see tomorrow what an angel he really was.

When they reached home, things seemed to go a little better, though Ralph woke up and cried. He feels how nervous I am, Julie thought, and he’s reflecting how I feel.

“I’ll have to quit worrying about making things go right,” Julie said to Craig later. “Everything goes wrong when I do.”

Mary admired the house and walked out briefly in the snow to look at the big yard. “Craig and I are really going to get busy on the yard next summer,” Julie said.

“It seems to me you’ll have more than enough to do next summer,” her mother said dryly.

Craig bought an extra ticket to the symphony concert, and Mary agreed that the music was exceptional. She enjoyed driving about and seeing the new beautiful chapels. Craig and Julie wanted to drive her the three or four hundred miles to visit her husband’s relatives, but she refused. The weather was bad, and she felt the trip would be uncomfortable for Julie.

Julie had almost given up hoping that Ralph would get acquainted with his Grandmother Markham. Craig’s mother had just to call from the doorway, and Ralph would tumble over himself in delight to see her.

“It’s simply that Ralph has seen so much of Mother,” Craig assured Julie. “Leave your mother alone with the baby. They’ll soon get acquainted.”

“I can’t do that,” Julie protested. “Mother has but a few days more.”

But Craig insisted Julie go with him to spend an evening with some other faculty members, and Mary agreed to stay with the baby. Julie insisted they come home early. Everything had gone very smoothly. Ralph was being quietly rocked to sleep by his grandmother when they came in the house.

“He’s a very good, sweet baby,” Mary told them earnestly.

Craig took Mary to the campus, and she spent the morning looking about the college and the town.

“I met a very nice man named Mr. Stuart who is the registrar,” Mary remarked later to Julie. “Even though it’s winter one can see that the campus is very pleasant.”

The last two days of Mary’s visit, she spent staying in the house looking out the windows or rocking Ralph.

“She must think this is the dullest place she ever saw,” Julie said to Craig after they were in bed. “I really hate to see her go back to Chicago, but I guess she prefers it infinitely to Bradley.”

“She seems very attached to Ralph,” Craig said, trying to comfort Julie.

They waited dispiritedly with Mary for her plane at the airport. “You’ll come next summer, Mother, won’t you? Everything is so lovely here in the summer.”

“I’ll try,” Mary assured them, and then the rush for departure began.

Craig and Julie drove slowly home. They had hoped to encourage Mary to move West to be near them, but they felt they had not succeeded. Yet it was sad to think of her going back to Chicago alone.

Robert Markham Carlson was born in the middle of a blustery cold March.

“How can the miracle seem even greater the second time?” Julie wondered happily to Craig as they bathed him together in the first few weeks that he was home.

It was more difficult for Julie to get out with the two children, but as summer brought mild warm weather she began to go to Sunday School and sacrament meeting. One evening at a neighboring ward Craig sang “In My Father’s House” with piano and violin accompaniment. Julie felt the tears wet against her eyelashes as she held Ralph on her lap. Tiny Bobby lay asleep in his car bed in front of the bench beside her. Craig had a great gift and he shared it freely. Was she really beginning to understand that people could contribute all of their talents or abilities no matter where they were? In her heart, now, she knew that. If only her mother could find this peace also. Really learning to love people was the answer to a full and complete life, and it began in the home with a husband like Craig and children like theirs.

Craig taught summer school again, so the work in the yard progressed slowly. Julie took the children in the yard with her, the baby in his bed and Ralph toddling about. She worked slowly on the flower beds. They had drawn plans of the yard, but in the end had returned to the original old-fashioned general outlines for the flower beds. Julie turned the rich black earth slowly around the new shrubs and flowers. She would have liked to water in the afternoon, but so would little Ralph, so Julie kept peace by waiting until he was in bed for the night. He was dragging his little shovel about the yard, now stooping to inspect a blade of grass, now putting on a burst of speed that sent him rolling happily on the grass.

“Julie, I can do that.” It was Craig home early. She hadn’t heard his car. “I parked in front. I thought you might like to go for a drive when it’s cooler.”

Craig kissed them all soundly and sat down on the grass while Ralph climbed over his shoulders and landed in a heap on his lap.

“Say, Julie, I ran into the registrar, you know, Mr. Stuart, and he said he’d written to your mother. What would he have been writing to your mother about? I was already late to a class, and someone else came up right then so I didn’t get a chance to ask him any more.”

Julie lifted the baby out and held him up to inspect the garden. “I don’t know. I can’t think that Mother would be interested in going back to school. She hasn’t mentioned anything in her letters about him. I guess it couldn’t be anything very important or she’d have said something.”

“Why don’t you ask her next time you write?” Craig said, holding onto Ralph’s legs. “Come on, boy, let’s go get cleaned up and help Mama with the dinner.”

“I’m going to write anyway,” Julie said, following with Bobby. “I was hoping so that Mother would come this summer. I wish she could meet Bobby. Mr. Thayer must owe Mother a half dozen vacations.”

Julie’s mother wrote that she was coming the first of September. Julie went into the living room and curled up in the most comfortable chair. She read the letter again. What would Julie think if her mother took a job in Bradley permanently? She had written Mr. Stuart about openings in his office, and he had given her a lead. On consideration of her recommendations and qualifications, she had been offered the job as assistant registrar. She planned to get a small apartment close to the campus. Mr. Thayer had been very nice about everything and she had agreed to break in her elated assistant for her job. The letter ended, ‘Would you and Craig mind my being so near?”

Julie tried to catch her breath. The letter seemed too good to be true. She would write her mother immediately. No, she would call her tonight. Surely the budget could stand one call on this wonderful occasion.

* * *

Craig and Julie helped her mother get settled in her new apartment. It wasn’t until her mother had begun her new job and was quite settled that Julie mentioned how she had surprised her. “I thought you didn’t like Bradley at all. I thought that visit with us had spoiled our chances for ever getting you to move here permanently.”

Mary Markham looked at Julie in surprise. “Why, Julie, I loved having a chance to catch my breath. I kept remembering how peaceful and quiet the snow was outside your big window when I was sitting in your living room one day rocking Ralph. I looked down at him, and I found myself wondering what life was all about. What was I doing living off in Chicago when my heart was with all of you. Yes, I was very depressed at leaving, and I was worse when I got back there. As soon as I was able to make my decision, life began to have real meaning for me again.”

Julie kissed her mother’s cheek. That night after dinner when her mother had gone home, Julie sat on the edge of the bathtub watching Craig brush his teeth. “Everything has turned out so well, Craig; do you think Mother will always be happy out here? Do you think she’ll ever regret moving West? I’d hate to feel responsible …” Julie yawned. It had been a long day.

“Time will tell.” Craig rinsed his toothbrush. “We’ll have to wait and see, I guess.”

Craig mentioned the Messiah a few days later to Julie. “But it seems so early to talk about the Messiah,” Julie said.

“No, you don’t understand. This is a special big event. It’s one of the most beautifully finished music productions out here. The music department head wants you to try out for the soprano. They have professional singers or singers of professional caliber sing all the major roles. I want you seriously to consider doing it.” Craig kissed the back of her neck. “The children during the rehearsal time will be well taken care of by two grandmothers and the proudest father in the world. I want you to try for the role before the committee which selects the soloists. I’ll drive you down and do the accompaniment.”

“I’ve studied it, of course, but it’s been so long ago. I’d have to practice. I’d never get the role, but I believe I would like to do the try-out. What music will I need?”

“It’s in my brief case. I brought it home today.”

Julie hadn’t known how much she really wanted to sing the role until it became hers. She went down to the music building and practiced with Craig. How little she had understood and felt this most famous of all Handel’s oratorios before. Had she really grown up in this respect also?

Craig and Julie had family prayer before each of the final rehearsals and before the first of the two performances. As Julie took her place with the other soloists she began to pray in her heart again. She had prepared herself for this role as completely and adequately as it had been possible. Now she placed herself in her Heavenly Father’s hands. The first two parts passed as in a dream. There was no sound in the great hall. She had a feeling that for this moment she had been preparing all her life. This was why she had been blessed with her voice. “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth …” She sang not only with certainty of talent and preparation, but also with the certainty of knowledge in this greatest message of all.

Julie’s mother wept when she found Julie after the performance. “Julie, I almost failed you. All the time it was in this place that your talent was to come to fruition. How could your own mother have been so blind?”

But Julie refused to let her mother say more. She no longer needed praise from others to tell her how she had sung. She knew she had done far better than her talents alone could have carried her.

After the last performance, which was held on the following day, she and Craig returned to a quiet house. She put some of the bouquets of flowers that had been sent to her about the house in vases. Craig wrestled with Ralph on the living room floor. Julie rocked the baby and chuckled over the great grunts and groans that Craig made with Ralph astride his chest.

Craig’s eyes met hers for a moment. Then he said lightly, “Is it an anticlimax to be home, Julie, and have it all over?”

“No,” Julie said, trying to hide how deeply she felt. “I would be no other place.”

(The End)



5 Comments »

  1. “Do you think it’s wise so soon?”

    Isn’t it a bit late to be asking that question??

    Comment by Mark B. — September 23, 2011 @ 3:40 pm

  2. My favorite quote: “But it seems so early to talk about the Messiah.”

    It helped that I missed the italics when I first read it, and I thought that Julie and Craig must have inside information on the second coming. Alas, it was just Julie sharing her talents…

    Comment by LAT — September 23, 2011 @ 3:57 pm

  3. This was not as riveting as Nancy Drew at the North Rim Cattle Ranch, but it was sweet and satisfying.

    Comment by Mommie Dearest — September 23, 2011 @ 11:07 pm

  4. Sweet, and no bizarre turns. It felt flat compared to the Haven family and their version of Dynasty, or rustling the cattle rustlers on the Arizona Strip, and clearly is just as interested in teaching rather than just entertaining. Probably a reflection of the time frame in which they all were published, and I suspect the growing strength of correlation and its precedents.

    Serialization of stories worked so well for Dickens and other 19th century writers, but compared to our present Ensign magazine, this type of fiction clearly was in transition. Not to say that the current church magazines aren’t as entertaining, but clearly the Ensign is not interested in publishing fiction in its current format.

    Comment by kevinf — September 27, 2011 @ 3:02 pm

  5. I appreciate your considering what the story meant in terms of why and when it was published. A lot of the fiction I’ve picked out to post just isn’t much good as far as literary merit goes, but I think it says something about us as a people. I’m just not always sure what and like to hear what others have to say.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — September 27, 2011 @ 5:59 pm

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