From the Relief Society Magazine, June 1961 –
All for the Good of the Family
By Mabel Law Atkinson
“Mom, where do you keep the attachments for the vacuum? I can’t find them, and I’m rather rushed for time.” Ernest Peters’ voice was pleasantly urgent.
“They’re supposed to be in the hassock with the vacuum, in the lid compartment. Did you look there, son?” His mother’s voice was gentle, for gentleness and patience were as much a part of Sarah Peters as fragrance and beauty are of April violets. “But why do you need the vacuum this morning? Ruth went through the whole house yesterday. Did you spill foot powder on the rug as you did last summer when you were home on vacation?”
Ernest smiled broadly, gave his mother the sh sign with his finger to his lips, then answered, “No, Mom, nor did I empty the dirt from my shoes either, as I used to do. This is different. You see, I have quite a job ahead of me this morning, to get my pride and joy in tip-top shape. I must look like a promising and prosperous man this afternoon when I stop at a certain home in a certain city.”
Sarah Peters smiled as she watched him stride down the path to the gate and get in his “new” 1957 car, an electric cord trailing behind him from the porch light socket.
“It’s the biggest piece of foolishness I’ve ever heard tell of, this fussing over his car this way.” Thomas Peters, Ernest’s father, was joining two lengths of hose as he spoke. “Who ever heard of anything so ridiculous! Why, he just washed his car a few days ago when he first came. It hasn’t even got good and dusty yet.”
Mrs. Peters’ eyes were dancing as they met her husband’s. “I seem to remember a perfectly clean one-horse buggy stopping at the gate of my father’s ranch every Saturday afternoon of a certain summer. Let’s see, that was over thirty-five years ago, wasn’t it? Surely you must have shined it up each week and perhaps your family helped you.”
Mr. Peters grinned at his wife, then a startled look replaced the laughter in his eyes as he asked, “But, Mother, you don’t mean that Ernest is …?”
Before he could finish his wife interrupted, “Yes, that’s just what I do mean. I guess you didn’t use your eyes to good advantage last week when you saw him with Doris. Now go along and be happy about washing an already clean car while Ernest does a professional job on the upholstery. Ronny can shine the hub caps and the lights for you.”
Thomas Peters whistled and his steps quickened with you. “So Ernest is at last growing up!” he mused, “coming into his heritage. His rightful heritage of becoming a man!” As he washed the car carefully he found himself recalling the times he had washed every yellow spoke of the wheels of his freshly painted buggy. Black and yellow looked pretty together, too, he said silently to himself. And I had to carry water from the river. No garden hose connected to a hydrant. His grin broadened as he remembered bribing his big sis and his small brother to help him. “And didn’t my bay mare shine in the sun after I was through currying her and combing her mane and tail! Those were the days!” he thought reminiscently.
“Mother, do you think Ernest will be as proud of his car as I was of my buggy those years ago?” Thomas Peters had returned to the door where Sarah stood watching for a few moments before beginning her morning’s baking. “And tell me, did you notice how shining-clean my buggy was, even to the whip holder and the harness?”
“Yes, I’m sure I did. I distinctly recall the beauty of the clean cream-color lap robe with its raised red roses. You must have had it laundered each time you came, for it was always spotless. Never a worry I had about getting even a tiny speck of dust on my Sunday best dress.”
“Those were the days, Mother, weren’t they?”
“Yes, Thomas, and these are the days, too. I’m willing enough to climb into a car instead of a buggy.”
“Dad!” it was Ernest calling. “Dad, I haven’t too much time. Can you keep working till the car is done?”
“Why, I have it all done now, clean as can be.”
“But you haven’t shined it, Dad. Get Mom to give you a good soft cloth and rub every inch till it glows. I didn’t notice you had quit till I shut off the vacuum.”
“Remember, Thomas, how you shined each spoke of your four buggy wheels, and the dashboard, and even the two steel steps,” Mother reminded him smilingly as he started to protest. Ernest was already back in the car shining the chrome work.
“Surely, I didn’t bother to clean and shine the steps, did I, Mother?”
“Yes, my dear, you did. Your sister Mary used to tell on you. Made quite a dramatic production of it.”
“What’s Ernest up to now, Sarah?” It was Grandpa Peters who asked. He had risen from his mid-morning nap and entered the kitchen. “His car looks like it has just come from a bandbox. The boy must be getting ready to go courting. Seems only yesterday I washed my one and only conveyance for travel, a wagon, and curried my team till they shone and drove to Ernest’s grandmother’s home to get my Martha and take her to the temple to marry her. Times change, but people remain about the same, always clean up to go courting.”
“And isn’t it wonderful that they do, Grandpa, and that they remember what they do?”
“Then Ernest’s really going courting? She better be good enough for him. Sarah, could it be that friend of Ruth’s who was here last week? I hope so, for she was a real nice young woman, a real lady. You approve don’t you, Sarah?”
“Yes, Grandpa, I heartily approve. In fact, I was looking ahead when I invited Doris to go with us on our family picnic a year ago when Ernest was home on vacation. I wanted him to meet her and give the two a chance to see each other. They’ve corresponded occasionally since, and I liked what I saw last week. She is a lovely girl, Grandpa, and right for my son, and that is saying a lot for her. And he is right for her, which is saying much for him. Oh, Grandpa, isn’t this a wonderful world? And a beautiful day?”
“Yes, Sarah, and a beautiful day to go courting.”
“And a beautiful day to remember going courting, Grandpa1″ Sarah added.
“Yes, my dear, I feel young as April myself. Get me a shining cloth, Sarah. Perhaps I can help a bit.”
“You, too, Grandpa? Has Ernest cajoled you into helping, also?” It was Ruth who spoke. She was eighteen, and although she spoke candidly her smile revealed the warmth of her heart and her love for her family.
“Grandfather, you are simply the most! Shine it well, won’t you?” Ernest was smiling, pleased as could be to see his old and beloved grandfather helping him.
“Sure, my boy, and she better notice!”
“She will, Grandfather. I’m sure she will.”
A half hour later, when the car had been minutely inspected and pronounced satisfactory, Ernest asked, “Dad, may I use your car a little while?”
“Why not drive your own precious car?” It was Ruth’s laughing voice. “Your car just might get a speck of dust on it. That’s the reason, isn’t it?” Her warm smile belied her words.
“Yes, Sis, it might, where I am going.”
“And where are you going?”
“Well, I thought I’d drive up the canyon a ways and get a sort of corsage for Doris.”
“A corsage! Up the canyon!”
“A corsage of wild flowers wouldn’t be so bad. I remember many’s the time I took your grandmother a bouquet of sego lilies.” Grandpa’s eyes were twinkling.
“And your father used to bring me mountain bluebells and wild roses he picked on the way. I loved them.” Mother’s eyes were shining.
“May I go, Ernest? Please?” Ronny pleaded. “I’ll help you get a corsage.”
“All right. Bring the shovel and those two boxes and let’s get going.”
A half hour later the two returned and Ernest carefully placed one of the boxes in the trunk of his car. The entire family, even to Grandpa, crowded about him.
“A wild rosebush! What a lovely gift!” Mother’s eyes held a glad light.
“Do you think Doris will like it, Ernest?” Ruth asked seriously. It would never do for her sensitive and kindly brother to be humiliated.
“Yes, she will like it, Ruth, so don’t you worry over me getting hurt.” Ernest smiled at his sister who was almost startled at his intuitive powers. “When Doris saw the wild rose in our garden, she said she wanted one in her garden some day. Remember, Mom, when I brought you your wild rose from the canyon?”
“Indeed, I do, Ernest, and I’ve enjoyed my home garden wild roses each spring since. You were such an eager little boy then. And I’m glad you are still eager even though you tower above me.”
Ronny whispered to Ernest who quickly replied, “No, I’m not forgetting. I shall do so now.”
He took the second box from the car, placed it in front of his mother and said, “Ronny and I thought you might like a corsage, too. We brought you this little cedar. I haven’t disturbed the roots, so it should go right on growing. We couldn’t leave out our best girl, could we, Ronny?”
Ronny felt big and important to be included with Ernest in the giving of the tiny tree, and stood a little taller and straighter as his mother kissed them both.
“I’m sure it will grow, you darlings, and what a lovely memory will be entwined in its branches as they reach outward and upward! Carry it to the back of the house in the shade. Father will plant it while you get cleaned up ready to go, and I finish with dinner.”
“Mother, do you feel as unsettled as I do?” Ruth asked. “I simply cannot settle down to anything. I’ll be glad when we get Ernest off and on his way to Doris. He will like her parents, mother, and her brothers and sisters. There are eight of them, all younger than Doris. They’re real people.” Ruth and her mother were sitting on the front porch after dinner waiting to see Ernest off.
“Did you spill the cologne on you?” Ruth cried in mock alarm as Ernest came out of the house. “Doesn’t he look handsome and clean and good, Mother?”
“And very much in earnest!” said Grandpa coming out to watch his grandson leave.
“That’s right, Grandpa, an earnest Ernest!” Wonder and admiration were in Ronny’s voice.
“Don’t drive too fast, son.” It was Father who spoke as he joined the waiting group.
“Dad simply has to give that bit of advice, Ernest.” Ruth turned to her father and planted a light kiss on his cheek.
“Well, I guess I’m all ready at last. Do I look all right? Wish me luck, all of you.” Ernest went to his mother, bent and kissed her gently on her forehead, and said, “Wish me the best, for I think I’m going to like Doris very, very much. You like her too, don’t you?”
“Yes, my dear, I do. Someday I may tell you a little secret. Remember I’m proud of you.”
Ernest waved at them as he drove away. His family stood by the gate in silence for a few long moments, then walked to the porch and sat down still silent, for already a great vacancy seemed to be felt within their hearts.
It was Ronny who interrupted the quietness with a low whistle as he said, “I better feed my rabbits. I forgot all about them helping get Ernest off.” He left quickly.
“I think I’ll go in and write to sis and tell her every little detail.”
“You do that, Ruth. You have a way with letters, my dear. I can just see Bill and my four little grandsons smiling as Beth reads it to them.”
After she had gone, Sarah said, “Come, Grandpa, you’ve worked pretty hard this morning. You better take your afternoon rest a little early, hadn’t you?” Sarah spoke softly.
“I believe I will. All of a sudden I feel a bit tired.”
“I hope you didn’t overdo, Father.” His son’s voice held concern.
“I hardly think I have. A little extra rest will make me good as new. Anyway, I enjoyed it, and it was all for the good of the family. Doris is a splendid young woman, a fine addition to a good family.”
“Tell me the secret you will tell Ernest, Sarah. That is if you don’t mind.” Grandpa had gone in and Sarah and Thomas were alone.
“Of course I’ll tell you. It was over a year ago, when Doris first came home with Ruth for a week end. She helped so much and proved to be so sweet in every way that when she told me goodbye, I could not resist saying, ‘You’re the kind of girl I hope to have for a daughter-in-law someday!’”