From the Relief Society Magazine, 1946-47 –
FAITH IS A HERITAGE
Christie Lund Coles
Enid piled her starched clothes on the wooden washboard and brushed a wayward curl from her forehead. Then she stepped noiselessly to the door leading to the front room which was both living room and bedroom. She smiled gently at the sight of her small daughter sleeping soundly, one arm thrown above a tousled, dark head.
“You Angel,” she whispered, kissing the pink cheek. Rising, she placed her hands on her hips to say, “I’m thinking you get to look more like your father every minute.”
As she went out into the April sunshine, with the blue skies overhead and the spring sunlight falling upon the expectant earth, she laughed with the sheer joy of living. A song found her lips as she took each piece of clothing, shook it, then pinned it upon the clothesline. A neighbor, hanging clothes across a high board fence, called, “One thing, It’ll soon dry in this sunshine.”
Enid called back, “Yes, isn’t it wonderful?”
The other woman looked at her rather sharply. “I can’t say it’s so wonderful. Mud to be tracked in and out of the house … this sudden thaw. Wait till your baby can run in and out by herself. And wait till you get a couple more to wash and iron for.” Then, as a last gloomy thought, she added, as she turned to enter the house. “There’s death in this weather, too, if you ask me.”
But Enid did not let her neighbor’s pessimism spoil her day. She was twenty-three, she had a husband whom she loved and who loved her. She was strong and well and had the most beautiful baby in the world …
She thought of these things as she cleaned up the large, old-fashioned kitchen before starting to set the table. Yet, catching herself pausing in her work, she thought, “I have no time to be dreaming – even though it is wise to be counting my blessings. I must dress Sharon and feed her so she will be sweet for her adoring Daddy.”
There was none too much time. She was just wiping the last crumb from the small girl’s mouth when she heard Tom’s footsteps on the porch. She would know the swift, strong sound of them any place.
She hurriedly took Sharon up and rushed forward to meet him as he came in, large and brown and smiling. Her husband, her Tom, her world.
“Enid, Doll,” he called her, taking her chin in his hand to tilt her face upward for his kiss. Then, to the baby, “If it isn’t my big girl. Come here, you blue-eyed rascal.”
“Wonder where she gets those beautiful blue eyes?” Enid asked archly, looking at him from under dark, heavy lashes.
“Now I wouldn’t have the slightest idea,” he returned laughingly, taking the sixteen-months-old baby into his arms and lifting her to his shoulder where she was carried into the two-room apartment which they were renting because it was the only thing available.
As Enid served the meal which she had put into the oven before hanging her clothes, Tom said, “I like washday. I know we’ll have scalloped potatoes.”
“And today, fruit cobbler,” she told him.
“No kidding? Whatever did I do to deserve this?” He shook his head in wonderment at his good fortune, then his eyes became grave and his voice serious as he looked at her, saying, “Someday, Enid, and soon, we’ll be building our own home. We won’t live here very long. You’ll have everything you want, be the finest lady in Pleasant View. I’m in line to become foreman at the factory. By nineteen twenty-nine I’ll probably be the chief engineer.” He toyed with his fork. “I’ll be a good foreman. I won’t drive the men like Hutchins does. There’ll be fewer accidents, too … better work.”
“I’m not worried about your making good, Tom. I know you’ll succeed. But, as far as I’m concerned, I have everything I want right now. If I thought being the finest lady in town would make me any less happy, I wouldn’t want to be that.”
She had served the cobbler as she spoke. Tasting it, he said, “This is mighty good. Mighty good, indeed.” After a moment he took up the thread of their conversation. “Yes, Enid, we have many good things. Maybe the best part of life is when you are young and full of dreams, full of faith in the future. Even so, I’ll be glad to get you out of these two furnished rooms, trade a few of our dreams for some brick and mortar, a sunny bay window. You are going to have the best of everything.”
“Don’t you think that might be a little bit selfish?” she teased, adding soberly, “I think what you said first is right. Dreams and faith are the things men live by. Especially faith.”
He got up from the table, looked down at her fondly. “Be sure to keep your faith in me, Sweetheart. And in the future.”
When the clothes had been gathered in and the dishes done and put away, Enid put on a clean voile dress, brushed her hair, and with the baby in her cart, started toward town to do her shopping. The people she met on the street were friendly. Though she was a comparative stranger, she knew most of them. Those she didn’t know, however, knew her because her husband had lived here when he was a boy. His parents had been among the leaders of the church and the community. She thought, as she walked along, that it was strange that both of them should be orphans, without any near relatives. Her parents had died when she was quite a young child and she had been reared by an aunt in Salt Lake who had been very good to her. She was dead now, too, and both of Tom’s parents had died during the flu epidemic when he was thirteen. Her heart yearned tenderly over him as she thought of him left alone with aging grandparents. She thought of his bewilderment and his hurt. It seemed even greater than her own because she had been so young. She must make up to him for his loss, for the years he had had to work to get through school. She would see that as soon as there was enough money put away, he would return and finish his engineering course, so that he could be a trained electrical engineer.
They had each planned to go back after a few years, but Sharon changed that. Well, she wouldn’t have it any different, not for worlds.
The grocer was most kind when she found that she was short of cash to pay for the groceries. He smiled, “That’s quite all right, Mrs. Drage. Just have Tom drop in with it any time.”
She heard two young women speaking about her as she left the store. One said, “That’s Tom Drage’s wife. Isn’t she pretty?”
The other answered, “Yes. We’ll have to ask her to join our sewing club.”
She walked home, unaware that the clouds had gathered overhead and a few large raindrops were beginning to fall. Rain, wind, clouds … it was still a beautiful day.
Enid was rolling Tom’s socks to put in his drawer when she heard a knock on the door. Rising to open it, she saw the tall, gaunt woman from whom they rented standing in the doorway. She hoped they had done nothing to displease her. She was not married, and certainly not the most pleasant person in the world. But Enid had thought little or nothing about her, being too occupied in her own full life.
“Miss Nobbit,” she greeted her. “Do come in.”
The other woman stood still, looking at her oddly for a long second. Enid felt the blood move to her face as she wondered again what could account for the unprecedented visit. Finally, the woman came forward, almost hesitantly, to take Enid by the shoulder, saying, quietly, kindly, “My dear, you must be brave. …” Then, her words falling swiftly over one another, “They just phoned me from the sugar factory. Something happened to your husband. You mustn’t look like that, child. Here, let me get you a drink.”
Enid seemed to lose consciousness for just a moment. Her legs gave way under her. She found herself on the bed, dazed and trembling, her breath coming fast, “He … he … wasn’t …?”
She couldn’t say the word, but Miss Nobbitt said, honestly, “I don’t know. They told me they were bringing him home.”
Suddenly, Enid got to her feet, ran to the window. She could see several men carrying an improvised stretcher upon which lay a still, oh, an alarmingly still figure. Tom’s figure.
She heard Miss Nobbit say, “I’ve phoned for the Doctor. He should be here any minute.”
She heard herself saying, “Thank you …” as her feet started toward the door, toward the street. But, instead of going out, she suddenly turned and ran into the kitchen.
Once there, she fell to her knees, buried he face in her hands, crying, “Oh, God, please give me strength. Give me strength. Please let him be all right,” adding, almost grudgingly, “if it be thy will … please …”
When she returned to the room her face was paper-white but she carried her head bravely and her voice was almost calm as she said to the men, “Put him there, please. And do be careful.”
When they had laid his unconscious body on the bed, one of them awkwardly tried to explain that he had been trying to save time and, instead of stopping the machinery to adjust a belt, had tried to push it on with his foot. He had been caught in the horrible wheels.
She shuddered as she thought of it. Somehow, she remembered his words that if he were foreman he wouldn’t drive the men.
She knelt beside him, stroked back his hair from the quiet forehead. She whispered, “Tom, Tom, darling. It’s Enid …”
But he did not hear her, and somehow, as she heard the doctor at the door, she knew with a dreadful certainty that he was dead.