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A Day in Bed

By: Ardis E. Parshall - January 25, 2012

For you who have given up on our awful serial, here’s something a little different.

From the Relief Society Magazine, September 1932 –

A Day in Bed

By Estelle Webb Thomas

The doctor was grave. “Yes, a complete rest is what you need, Mrs. Carson, but you absolutely must learn to relax in any case. Whenever you feel one of those nervous attacks coming on spend a day in bed!”

“But Doctor –” began Anne Carson, weakly.

“Oh, I know all the reasons why you cannot possibly take a day off and spend it in bed,” the doctor interrupted briskly. “Nevertheless, it is necessary unless you prefer to spend a year or so in a sanitarium.”

“Why, of course, you can have a day in bed anytime!” asserted Richard, roundly, when Anne reported the result of her visit to the doctor. “What’s a day in bed, now and then? If he had said a trip away from home – that would have been different. Even a month’s rest in bed might have been a little difficult – but a day! Why you ought to be able to spend half your time in bed and still get along all right!”

“But with two little children, Dick –”

“You make it sound like a dozen the way you say it! How can a woman spend all her time fussing over two children and a five-roomed house? It’s all in your attitude anyway. So just make up your mind to go to bed tonight and not get up till day after tomorrow!”

Anne’s sleep was troubled. Countless times she went mentally through the familiar morning rush with the chief wheel of the domestic machinery, herself, absent. She couldn’t make the problem come out even and woke each time with a start only to go over it all again as soon as she fell into a doze. She was thankful when the hated whirr of the alarm clock jerked Richard into resentful consciousness and put an end to the seemingly endless night.

True to habit Peggy and Dick promptly wakened too, and came pattering barefoot into their parents’ room, two rosy, pajama-clad little figures vociferously demanding to be dressed. “It does seem as if you’d train those children to sleep until after my breakfast is over!” remarked Richard, crossly struggling with stubborn buttons while a strong odor of burnt cereal permeated the room.

“Where in the world are your stockings, Peggy? I should think you’d have some system about their clothes, Anne, it would save time!”

“She has a clean pair this morning. They are in –”

“Oh, here are the ones she wore yesterday. I haven’t time to be poking into dresser drawers –”

“Richard, I’ll get up just long enough to dress them and give them their breakfast, and then go back to bed.”

Anne reached hastily for her kimono, but Richard firmly forced her back onto the pillow.

“You mustn’t let every little thing affect you so! Come on, you two, and help Daddy get breakfast!”

Anne sighed. She could see that Richard regretted his pettishness and would think she had not overlooked it if she insisted on getting up. So she lay, every nerve tensed, waiting for sounds from the kitchen. They came. Crash! Bang! “Now, Peggy, see what you’ve done! Ran into Daddy and made him break one of Mother’s best teacups! Watch out! Oh, Dicky, you have done it! Now you naughty children can’t help Daddy set the table! What will Mother say?” Loud howls of anger and remorse from Dicky.

“What is it?” Anne called anxiously, above the din.

“Not a thing! Now, don’t start worrying!” Richard appeared at this instant with a heavily laden tray.

“It was dist the sugar bowl, Mummy, your blue one!” volunteered Peggy, who had followed him into the room. Anne swallowed a sigh for her treasured heirloom and left unspoken her wonder as to why he was using that never-used dish, and exclaimed with false gratitude over the unwanted and unpalatable breakfast. She was glad when the next strenuous half hour was over, and Richard, with many instructions to Peggy, as to the care of her little brother, was off. She dispatched the children into the yard to play in the sun and set her mind to the task of relaxing her taut nerves.

Richard had supplied her with writing material and she planned later in the day to catch up with her neglected correspondence, but for the present she would simply lie still and relax. Just think of something pleasant and restful, a warm, drowsy summer day, birds singing –

“I think Dicky is lost, Mummy!” Peggy’s calm seemed entirely undisturbed by her supposition.

“Lost! Weren’t you taking care of him?” Anne was out of bed, slipping on her kimono and reaching frantically for her slippers.

“Oh, yes, I was taking awful good care of him.” Peggy’s tone was consciously virtuous. “I was building him a house and telling him a story both, and when I looked up ‘cause he wasn’t saying anything he wasn’t there!”

“Dicky! Dicky!” Anne’s voice was frantic. One of her obsessions was that her children would be lost or victims of automobile accidents. “Run and see if he is at Mrs. Larson’s!” she said to Peggy, but Peggy had another idea. “Maybe he’s fell in the cistern,” she suggested, cheerfully and with a fresh stab of fear Anne raced around the corner only to run smack into Dicky, stepping along softly, his kitten asleep in his arms.

“Why, Dicky, didn’t you hear Mother calling?” She hung onto her temper with both hands. She must remember to keep calm.

“Oh, yes, I heard,” said Dicky reasonably, “but I couldn’t answer ‘cause Fluff was having her nap!”

Fifteen minutes later she sank, sighing, into bed again. The fifteen minutes had been spent in getting old magazines from the attic, making paste, hunting up blunt scissors and old books which would do for scrapbooks. The telephone rang. By a supreme effort of the will she disregarded it. It rang persistently for several minutes and had barely stopped when the back door burst open without ceremony and little Annie Derwent, pale and distraught, rushed in. “Oh, Miz Carson,” she gasped, “can’t you come over right now? Gran’s got one of her spells and you know nobody can’t do nothing with her but you!” She scarcely noticed that Anne was in bed in her excitement, and sighing, Anne promised to go over as soon as she could dress. “But you’ll have to stay here with the children, Annie,” she added.

The session with Gran Derwent was more exhausting than usual. The old lady’s “spells” were periodic brain storms which grew worse with the passing years. Since Annie was first called in to assist the frightened little girl who stayed with her, Gran Derwent had refused to have anyone else in the house during her tantrums. Soothing the old lady and getting her to bed with a bottle of smelling salts in her hand, camphor cloths on her head and a hot water bottle at her feet took a full hour, and Gran was distinctly injured when Anne gently but firmly insisted on going home before she fell into the sleep which was always the aftermath of her hysterics.

It was time now for the children’s lunch and then they must be got ready for their nap. It was well past one o’clock when Anne, really ready for her bed now, slipped off her outer clothing and crept into it.

A loud decisive knock at the front door. Anne lay still. Another knock and then the door was thrown open and Richard’s oldest sister, Margaret, breezed in.

“What’s the matter, everybody dead?” She was taking off her hat as she spoke and now stood accusingly before Anne, efficiency in every line of her plump figure. “I tried to telephone you this morning and ask you to come out to Oakdale with us. I didn’t care to go without company. John had business there and it would have been dull for me – but you didn’t answer,” her tone was reproachful, “so I gave up the trip and as soon as I could came out to see what was the matter.”

An opportunity now being vouchsafed her, Anne told what was the matter. Margaret was all the energetic, efficient nurse at once. She immediately made Anne feel like a helpless paralytic. Let’s see! In the first place Anne must have some lunch. In vain she protested that she had eaten with the children. Margaret bustled out into the kitchen and brisk noises began to issue therefrom. “My goodness! Anne, this kitchen is a sight!” she called after a few minutes. “I’ll put on a pan of water and wash this floor after I’ve fixed your lunch.”

“Oh, please, Marge–” Anne’s tone was distressed. “it can’t be so bad, it was just washed yesterday!”

“Oh, here are the children!” Margaret paid no attention to Anne’s protest. “Come, kiss Aunty Margaret, Peggy, and you too, Dicky! My goodness! Anne, they’re shy! They must get that from you. I never knew a Carson to be shy!” She dispatched them to play in the yard overruling Anne’s objections. “Nonsense, Anne! If Peggy can’t keep Dicky from falling in the cistern, he ought to drown!”

“Where’s the picture of Uncle Gabe and Aunt Sally?” she demanded, when a half hour later, the kitchen floor attended to, she came into Anne’s room again. “I didn’t see it as I came through the hall.”

“Why, I put it in that closet, I think.” There had been a scene with Richard when the enlarged monstrosity depicting grim Uncle Gabe and sour Aunt Sally had been removed from the most conspicuous spot in the house and now another scene seemed imminent.

“I’ll take it if you don’t care for it!” Margaret’s tone was accusing.

“All right, I’ll send it over, tomorrow!” Anne hastened to offer. “I am not sure where I put it.”

“No, I may as well hunt it out while I’m here,” Margaret declared, briskly opening the closet door. “Mercy, it’s so full of stuff I doubt if I can’t find anything!”

“Don’t try, Marge,” Anne pleaded. “Richard can take it over, tomorrow. There’s no special hurry, is there?”

“I’ll enjoy going through this closet,” Margaret’s voice came muffled, from behind a screen of clothing. “What part of the closet do you suppose it’s in? Oh, here are some shelves! What an awkward place for shelves, Annie! You ought to have Richard change them. Achew! My, this dust is awful! I always dust my closet shelves regularly every week. You can put your hands on anything you want instantly. I’m funny that way! John says I’m overly fussy, but – what’s that, Anne?”

“I was just wondering if the children were all right,” said Anne, faintly.

“Of course they’re all right. If they weren’t we’d hear something from them! You baby them too much, Anne! They’ll never have any self-reliance! Now, Jack isn’t so much older than Peggy and he can take perfect care of himself all day!”

She disappeared into the closet again and a moment later exclaimed, “Here it is!” and came struggling out with the heavy picture clasped tightly in her arms and deposited it carefully against the wall. “My goodness, look at the dust! I doubt if I can ever get it out of all those curlicues in the frame! I’ll have to use a brush. I can’t see why you ever took it down. Mother was surely fond of it. It must have hung in that hall for twenty-five years!” Anne suppressed the retort that that was quite long enough in her estimation, and Margaret continued, “While I’m on the job, Anne, I’m going to thoroughly clean this closet. Now, don’t say a word! You aren’t strong, and goodness knows this is a job for an Amazon! John always says I’m too fussy, but I do think closets and cupboards are an index to a housekeeper’s ability!”

Working as fast as she talked, she began piling things onto the floor of Anne’s room. Suit-cases, shoes, hats, wraps, cartons, the pile grew to enormous proportions before Anne’s embarrassed eyes. Her rating as a house-keeper seemed to be very low, indeed. Suddenly, to her immense relief, the children rushed into the room. But what a sight they were! Hair, face, hands and clothing were literally plastered with mud, while their feet, from which they had thoughtfully removed socks and slippers, were feet of clay, indeed!

“Oh! Mummy, we’ve had a wonderly time!” They flung themselves onto the bed, dripping mud as they came. Aunt Margaret’s horrified shriek was followed quickly by a peal from the door-bell. Swift as a deer, Peggy was out of the room and opening the front door before Anne could prevent her. Anne gazed wildly about. Of course, Peggy would conduct the visitor into her mother’s room. It was too late to ask Margaret to prevent it. She was lost again in the depths of the closet. Wildly, Anne contemplated slipping down in bed and pulling the covers over her head, but that would not help the case of Peggy and Dicky – terrible travesties of the well-bred pair it was her delight to keep the most immaculate children in the neighborhood. Peggy was even now proudly ushering the visitor into her mother’s room. A chill of horror ran down Anne’s back. It was Mrs. Sewell, the beautiful wife of the new high school teacher, returning the call Anne had made a few days before.

Anne had an instant mental picture of the two scenes side by side – the cool, artistic sun parlor where Mrs. Sewell had entertained her, the perfect chocolate and wafers she had served so graciously, the soft subdued music from the unseen radio – and this! But she forced her eyes to meet the rather bewildered ones of the caller, who was tactfully trying to avoid the debris Margaret had thrown out into the room, while she made her way toward the muddied, disarranged bed.

At the sound of Anne’s greeting Margaret’s towel-turbaned head popped out of the closet.

“My goodness! Visitors, Anne? Why didn’t you tell me? I didn’t know you were expecting anyone! How-do-you-do! You mustn’t blame Anne for his muss, Mrs —? Sewell? The poor girl will get snowed under, you know! Or perhaps you don’t! Some people can manage so much more easily than others – and just must be dug out by an old timer like me! Isn’t that so, Anne?” Anne writhed, and Margaret rushed on, “She’s not really ill today, you know, just an attack of nerves – she works too hard and nothing to show for it. Misdirected energy, I tell her —”

Mrs. Sewell’s call was brief. If it occurred to Margaret that her voice had been practically the only one heard during the visit she made no sign, but attacked her housecleaning with fresh vigor after Mrs. Sewell’s departure. “I think I’ll just hang this spare bedding out on the line –” she was beginning when the shrill peal of the telephone cut her short. She came back from answering it with a blanched face. “Oh, Anne, the awfullest thing has happened! Jackie just fell off the roof of the porch and they fear his arm is broken! Isn’t it provoking! I should have stayed at home, I suppose, but as John says, I can’t refrain from shouldering other people’s burdens to the detriment of my own affairs! Good-by, dear! I only wish I could have helped you longer! You must learn to control your nervousness! Things get into such a mess when you give up!”

Anne lay for a long moment after she had gone, with closed eyes. She was trying as Margaret had suggested, to “control her nervousness,” also to shut out the sight of the disordered house and dirty children, who were attacking the treasure Aunt Margaret had unearthed with shrieks of joy.

Then resolutely Anne stepped out of bed and began dressing. Then making a fire in the kitchen range she proceeded to heat water, lots of it, and lay out clean little garments for the disreputables in the bedroom. She had just completed the hopeless task of sorting and returning to their proper places the results of Margaret’s excavations, much against the children’s will, when the telephone rang again.

It was Richard this time. his bluff voice was rather apologetic. “Honey, I hate to do this – but Frank Jarrett is in town and I could hardly avoid asking him out to dinner. Is it all right? Yes? Well, I thought that after a long, restful day in bed you shouldn’t mind fixing up a meal for an old beau like Frank! ha-ha! How’s that? Nothing prepared? Oh, that doesn’t matter. Just give us anything. You always have something good cooked up! I told him it would be pot-luck!”

But when, two hours later, he and the “old beau” sat down to an attractive table in an orderly and pleasant room, having been kissed good-night by a shining pair of cherubs who forthwith disappeared decorously bedward and were seen no more, Richard looked at Anne deftly serving the guest and a shade of annoyance crossed his face.

“You don’t look so rested as I expected, Anne! I don’t believe you really try to relax and control your nerves! Now, shouldn’t you think, Frank, that a woman should be as fresh as a daisy after a long, restful day in bed?”



18 Comments »

  1. Now you’re just trying to be provocative, Ardis…!! I didn’t think it was possible, but Repatriation is definitely better than this.

    Comment by Alison — January 25, 2012 @ 2:44 pm

  2. Sorry…Expatriation!

    Comment by Alison — January 25, 2012 @ 2:45 pm

  3. Oh, my goodness! Now I need to slap someone.

    Comment by Kathy — January 25, 2012 @ 3:01 pm

  4. Okay, but all I promised was DIFFERENT!!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 25, 2012 @ 3:02 pm

  5. Well, I can definitely relate!

    Comment by Marcelaine — January 25, 2012 @ 3:22 pm

  6. Reminds me of The Yellow Wallpaper, Mormon style . . .

    What, I wonder, was the point of this story? Did they want to make mothers laugh and shake their heads? Did they want women to show it to their husbands so they would feel some kind of sympathy for their wives (doubtful)? I’m not sure why it was included in the Relief Society Magazine. It’s certainly not inspiring. If anything, it’s discouraging.

    Comment by Michelle Glauser — January 25, 2012 @ 3:22 pm

  7. Different indeed, as in believable dialogue at least. With it’s references to nervous attacks, an alternate title for this might be Cheat the Victim of an Asylum.

    Comment by kevinf — January 25, 2012 @ 3:24 pm

  8. Well, kevinf, someone was cheated in this story…

    I always wondered as a kid why my mother said she could never rest…

    Comment by Paul — January 25, 2012 @ 4:06 pm

  9. I just glanced through it. Don’t call a bathrobe a kimono!!!

    Comment by Mark B. — January 25, 2012 @ 4:28 pm

  10. Michelle, I think from the point of view of women in 1932, this probably filled two purposes: humor, in the style of oh-isn’t-it-funny-to-see-how-many-things-can-go-wrong, and also an acknowledgement of the value of women’s work, showing how the world falls apart when the essential woman takes even a single day off from management.

    As much as we feel like slapping the husband at the end, I think even that last line was meant to be funny. In an age of the idealization of gender equality it may not seem funny, but it’s the same vein as the sitcoms of just a few years ago that show dads as incompetent bumblers, or from earlier years that show women as dizzy-headed dames (think: I Love Lucy), all for laughs.

    It’s very different from modern taste, but I suspect it was very much enjoyed by our grandmothers.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — January 25, 2012 @ 5:25 pm

  11. I always dust my closet shelves regularly every week.

    Slacker. I dust my closets twice a day.

    Comment by HokieKate — January 25, 2012 @ 8:01 pm

  12. Hmm, if Marcelaine can definitely relate to this one, it sounds like her husband may need a good talking-to. : )

    Comment by Researcher — January 25, 2012 @ 8:32 pm

  13. “I always dust my closet shelves regularly every week.”

    That sentence is as redundant as her habits.

    Comment by Carol — January 25, 2012 @ 9:31 pm

  14. “I always dust my closet shelves regularly every week.”

    That sentence is as redundant as her habits.

    Cut her some slack. She was just trying to distinguish herself from the bums who dust their closet shelves irregularly every week.

    Comment by Mark B. — January 26, 2012 @ 4:50 am

  15. I will add what the author did not. After tidying up while Richard and his guest discussed their love of fishing and Anne went to bed yet again, Richard took a bath, slipped into bed and started to caress Anne’s breasts….

    Comment by Kris — January 26, 2012 @ 3:59 pm

  16. Estelle Thomas is my great-great aunt. How fantastic to see some of her writing in a current blog. Can you tell me how you found this or where I can find some more of her stories? I have some of her published books but none of her magazine stories. Thank you for this and what a great find!

    Comment by Mindy — May 9, 2012 @ 9:40 am

  17. Mindy, I’m glad you found us! Keepa posts stories and poems from the old Church magazines five days a week, along with other materials on LDS church history. I’ve posted at least three short stories by Estelle Thomas: Ring Out the Old, It’s Christmas Everywhere, and this one.

    I’ve found these stories by going through the old Church magazines, mostly Relief Society Magazine but one of these stories came from the Improvement Era. Internet Archive is gradually posting scans of all the magazines, if you can figure out how to search there, or perhaps you live where you have access to paper copies of the old magazines.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — May 9, 2012 @ 10:03 am

  18. Hmmm . . . I was thinking about this story today and decided to read it again. I can’t even remember why I said I could relate to it anymore.

    Comment by Marcelaine — January 29, 2014 @ 1:35 pm

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