Heart Room for Home
by Alice Morrey Bailey
Synopsis: Rosemary Freeman has stormed out of the living room of their Los Angeles home after a scene about her wedding, planned for the coming June, which she had expected her mother to finance. Her parents, Kim and Mary Ann Freeman, have brought her aged grandfather, convalescing from a broken hip, home to care for him, rather than sell his home in Mayville, Utah, and put him in a nursing home. His home is beloved by all the family. Rosemary’s mother must give up her job of teaching in order to take on this new responsibility, and it will cut the family income in two.
There was nothing for Mary Ann to do but leave, but she was near tears when she came out of Rosemary’s room, not only at the rebuff, but at her inability to reach Rosemary and at her own question. Kim came to meet her, to put his arm around her. She avoided him, because it did not seem fair to accept comfort for herself when Rosemary had none.
“I told you not to go in,” reminded Tommy.
“But she’s right. Rosemary’s right. What are we going to do for her wedding? Isn’t a parent’s first duty to the children?”
Kim was silent under Mary Ann’s rebuff, taking it, she knew, as a criticism of him.
“It wasn’t that,” she said later, and explained to him. “Kim, I’m sorry. I love you very much.”
“Do you, dear? And I love you. Now don’t worry about Rosemary. She has a good mind. Give her Sunday to mull it over.”
There were responsibilities on Sunday – Rosemary with her Sunday School class, Tommy with his priesthood class, he and his father off early to priesthood meeting, and Mary Ann playing right-hand man to everybody’s needs. Neither Tommy nor Rosemary opened the subject, busy as they were with their teaching assignments, but reverted to their usual Sunday morning activities. Of course, Mary Ann could not go. “Please make my apologies to the class leader,” she said. She was president of the gospel doctrine class.
“I wonder how soon I’ll be able to go?” asked Father Freeman, looking after the men with longing.
“Next Sunday, Dad,” assured Mary Ann. “We’ll be more organized by then. There’s no reason you can’t go everywhere with two strong men to lift you and a wheelchair to ride in.”’
“That’s good,” he said. “Beginning tomorrow I am going to start a definite program of exercises. Pretty soon I’ll be able to walk, and then I won’t be such a burden on you.”
It was useless to assure him he was no burden; he could see otherwise.
“Kim will help you with your bath when he comes home,” she told him, “while I get dinner on the table. And, Dad, we are very glad to have you with us. The children will all be here for dinner. I hope it will not be too much for you.”
“Just like it was at home when she was alive,” Father Freeman said with satisfaction, “the gathering of the clan.”
He was immaculate, his snowy hair sparkling, when the first contingent arrived – Jennifer and Dick and their pretty little family, three girls and two scrubbed, freckle-faced little boys.
Right on their heels came Cary, demanding to know if they had any tall, skinny red-heads around, kissing Rosemary unabashedly before them all.
“Tiss me, too, Tary,” said Jennifer’s youngest, Becky, pursing her little red lips. Cary complied, lifting her high. He was courtly, meeting Rosemary’s grandfather. “How do you do, sir? I want to hear about that fabulous home Rosemary has been telling me about. How was your trip?”
“Here comes Aunt Barbara and Uncle Hank,” piped Dennis. “Now we can eat.”
Barbara’s five children were dark-eyed and serious, well-mannered and quiet, in contrast to Jennifer’s sandy-red and vociferous brood.
It was the usual, happy babble at the elongated table, with a dozen conversations going on, interspersed with requests for food and the admonishings of parents as to manners and spilling.
“Grandpa, is my little castle still there?” asked Barbara.
“I think,” said her grandfather, “that a couple of mountain squirrels have taken up housekeeping, but the walls are unhurt.”
“Your castle?” echoed Tommy. “I’ll have you know I fought the battle of Hastings from that castle, and dubbed every knight of King Arthur’s Round Table. The moat was real and the drawbridge actually came down, chiseled out of sheer rock, the whole thing!”
“Now, Mr. Freeman,” put in Cary. “Everybody knows at last why I’m marrying Rosemary – so I can get to your place and revert to my boyhood for all the things I missed.”
“It’s a trap,” said Hank. “That’s why I married Barbara, and it didn’t work. I never get there.”
“He’s right!” abetted Dick. “It was part of the deal that I get to fish in Jennifer’s grandfather’s pond, but it never came through. She keeps my nose to the grindstone just like Rosemary will yours.”
“I’ll tell you what!” said Rosemary, suddenly excited. “Let’s go there for our honeymoon – instead of Hawaii. Would it be all right, Grandfather? Oh, please say yes!”
“Certainly,” said her grandfather, flushing with pleasure. “Of course you may go there for your honeymoon. I’ll ask Victor and Emma to make it ready for you.”
Mary Ann caught her breath and looked at Kim. He was remembering, too. It was to that house Kim had brought Mary Ann proudly to meet his parents in their courting days, the pretty new teacher from the Heber Valley, come to Mayville to teach. “The Marriage Bureau,” Kim had laughed. “Never a schoolteacher escapes this town. That’s why we have such a high rate of culture here. The mothers are all school marms.”
It was there he had brought her temporarily as a bride and they had been given the whole upstairs in which to set up their new little housekeeping, Rachel generously contributing everything from bedding to bottled fruit, but never intruding on their privacy. That sweet privacy among the treetops, where they could look from their bedroom window into the nests of birds, into the petaled hearts of apple blossoms. The beginning cycles of nature had seemed symbols of their own beginnings, and to this day the songs of early robins reminded her of Kim when he was a slim young man, earnest and blonde, when they were newly in love. That house held the Eden days of their early marriage, and it was a fitting honeymoon house for any young couple, secluded as it was between towns, in the mouth of a canyon, its own little entity, and Rosemary’s first suggestion brought cries of appreciation from Barbara and Tommy.
“I’d like that,” said Cary simply, his eyes shining.
“Now you’re talking sense, sis,” Tommy congratulated. “Be a lot easier on the budget, too, than Hawaii.”
“When are you planning to be married, Rosemary?” Kim’s father asked when the excitement died down.
“June the third,” said Rosemary.
Mary Ann sensed Father Freeman’s unease and could see him mulling the date in his mind. By his calculations he would be home long since by the first of June. Spring started for him in April or in May, but he said nothing. Any honeymoon should not include an aged grandfather.
“They set it for then, Grandfather, so they wouldn’t break into my studies, and I could still make it to the wedding. I should be all through with my requirements by then, to graduate a week later.”
“Oh! Tommy, that’s not true!” protested Rosemary. “We set it for ourselves, didn’t we, Cary? I always wanted a June wedding.”
“I don’t,” said Cary, with proper gallantry. “I wanted it the day I asked Rosemary, or the next day – no later.”
“Cary!” said Rosemary. “You know we can’t be ready until June – all the things I want for my wedding. I have it on a timetable, month by month, day by day. It can’t be before June.”
Wasn’t Rosemary going to scale down her wedding, in view of their conversation last night? Mary Ann’s eyes sought Kim’s.
“You will be here for it, won’t you, Grandfather? And well enough to go with us to the Los Angeles Temple?”
“You bet I will, darling,” her grandfather assured her, but Mary Ann noticed a false heartiness in his voice, and her heart ached. Kim, always sensitive to her thoughts, noticed it, too.
Later that night with the day behind them and the children all dispersed to go to their respective wards when Kim’s father was resting, Kim brought it up.
“It doesn’t seem quite honest of us to not tell Dad he can’t possibly get back home by spring, no matter what his condition of recovery. We can’t let him go back alone, and we ought not to hold out hope.”
“I think he’s coming to the realization by degrees,” said Mary Ann, “and it’s better that way. Maybe we can wean him gradually to California living.”
“I hope so,” said Kim without conviction. “I wonder what Rosemary meant, the things she wants for her wedding. Can’t she see that now she will have to plan for less?”
“Spring is a long way off,” said Mary Ann. “As you say, Kim, we’ll just have to play it by ear.”
“What about tomorrow?”
“Barbara will come while I get over to school and talk to the principal.”
Kim fell asleep easily, but Mary Ann was afraid to sleep too soundly, for fear his father might need something during the night. She awakened feeling tired and apprehensive about breaking her contract.
“How does it feel to be leaving for work the last time?” asked Barbara when she came.
“I’ll tell you later,” said Mary Ann as she joined Rosemary in the waiting car, because, of course, Rosemary would have to go on substituting until she was replaced. Just now she felt the loss of her job was cataclysmic. H ow were they going to go on without her salary?
It was Rosemary who opened the tender subject as she drove along the boulevard toward San Gabriel School.
“You know, Mother, they paid us Friday. The first real pay check I ever had! It’s rather a good feeling.”
“Rosemary, dear, I’m so sorry about your having to scale down your wedding.”
“Don’t be,” said Rosemary serenely. “I don’t intend to scale it down. I’ve been thinking. There’s no reason why I can’t get a job and earn the things I want myself. Do you think they will let me have your class? Or do they have a backlog of teachers just aching to take over?”
“If they had they would certainly not have let you substitute for me in the first place, but we can ask,” replied Mary Ann, her spirits rising.
“I think part of my reluctance to work was fear that I couldn’t do it, but this little interval has given me confidence.”
This was a new facet of Rosemary, who had always seemed so self-sufficient, if not self-satisfied and somewhat supercilious, even critical of the methods of her mother.
“I had no idea!” Mary Ann said now, looking at her daughter with new fondness. “It always seemed you were born knowing how to do everything.”
“Mother! Is that how I really seem to you? That’s how you always appeared to me – capable of anything. I’ve been thinking it over, since I have this experience – oh, student teaching is so supervised –and I have come to the conclusion I was chipping away at you to bring you down to my level.”
“Could that be true?” Mary Ann asked. “How honest of you to say so!” Rosemary was noted in the family for her analytical mind.
When the car pulled into the parking lot of the school the children of the fourth grade swarmed about it.
“Hello, Mrs. Freeman,” they said respectfully to her, but she was astonished to see the little girls vying for the privilege of holding Rosemary’s hand as they walked to the building, their adoring eyes taking in every detail of Rosemary’s pretty, flowered dress and accessories. Rosemary dressed immaculately and daintily, with an eye to color combinations.
“You held her hand yesterday. It’s my turn today,” said one.
“Yo ho! We weren’t here yesterday.”
The little boys turned handsprings, their eyes seeking Rosemary’s approval.
“Freddie, how nice you look with your glasses!” Mary Ann complimented.
“She got them for me, and now I can see everything on the board,” said Freddie, but his shy smile was all for Rosemary.
Although this was somewhat of a blow to Mary Ann’s ego, it gave her courage to face her principal, something she had dreaded, she found now. A contract was a contract; her rating as a teacher was high, and the school board might rightfully hold her to it.
“Well, Mrs. Freeman. This is unusual, but I can see your problem. Needless to say, we will not want to lose you. Breaking your contract is not a matter for me to decide, however, as you probably know, and we will need time for the proper replacement.”
“My daughter, Rosemary, who is substituting for me, would like to continue in my place,” Mary Ann replied diffidently.
“Really? Her attitude so far has been that she did not want to teach school. I have watched her with interest, and like her work, but she has let it be known she is not interested in a contract. Unless …”
“Why don’t you talk to her?”
“I’ll do that. In the meantime you may fill out these forms for resignation. Perhaps we can send her application in with it, along with my recommendation to the school board. It was astute of her to discover little Freddie Williams’ eye trouble and initiate his getting glasses. It is this kind of personal involvement we like in our teachers. I see no reason why she can’t continue substituting for you until we hear from the school board on your release at any rate.”
“I don’t know whether to feel relieved or deflated,” she told the family at dinner that night. “I think they should have put up a token fight at least to spare my ego. And Rosemary! What did you do to get them eating out of your hand like they do – the children, I mean?”
“Nothing, Mother. Maybe it is my pretty clothes, or my red hair. I certainly am strict with them, but I try to be just, and I certainly do love them, every one. Do you think I’ll get that class? I really do want it.”
“I hope so, dear,” Mary Ann replied. “Mr. Waverly was most impressed and that’s half the battle.”
A few days later twin letters came from the board of education, one addressed to Mary Ann, a gracious release from her contract “in view of the circumstances,” and thanking her for her past high-ranking performance, the other to Rosemary. It was all Mary Ann could do to refrain from opening Rosemary’s letter.