From the Relief Society Magazine, September 1958 –
By Florence B. Dunford
As the spring day wore on, Shari Medford felt more and more restless. She was finishing up her housecleaning which she had kept at steadily for many hours each day for the past three weeks.
It’s about that phone call, she thought, polishing the last breakfast dish, placing it in its neat pile in her sweet-smelling cupboards. Sister Heath didn’t ask me for anything for the bazaar.
Well, she did ask for a dollar to help out with the dinner, Shari reflected. If she had wanted me to donate toward the bazaar, she’d have said so.
But would she? Shari, without a car, had found it difficult to attend Relief Society since the new meetinghouse was some miles distant from their home. But she wanted to be one of the sisters; Relief Society had always been her organization.
She loved the Magazine; it seemed to her to contain almost everything a wife and mother needed in the way of inspiration and instruction. She loved the meetings, the organization itself. Most of all, she supposed, though she did not know them very well in this new ward, she wanted to, and did, love the sisters themselves.
Sudden inspiration came to her. She dropped the towel, hurried across her living room to the hallway and telephone.
“Jessie,” she asked her neighbor down the street, “are you sending anything for the bazaar?”
Jessie was sending tea towels; she’d made them and embroidered them herself. “Sometimes if I don’t have time to make anything,” she offered, “I just send a little money. Are you going to the dinner?”
Shari said that both she and Will were going. “Maybe I can hunt up something around the house,” she added. She was giving the dollar to help out with the food. She could add another dollar, if she wanted to help out with the bazaar.
Shari had had a busy, hectic year. They’d been thinking of moving to another state. She had been trying to get the house and yard ready to sell, if Will finally decided to move. The past few months one after another of the children had been ill.
“But I want to do my part, not just with money, but really do my part,” she said aloud.
As she made the beds, used the dust mop, her mind scurried over her belongings. For the past year she had been sorting and discarding, giving away. I won’t keep anything we don’t really use, she had thought, partly because of the moving, partly because she had decided that old, unused articles cluttered up a house, even cluttered up one’s mind.
Most of the items shown at the bazaar, she knew, would be new, though Jessie had said Marilyn Hart was having a booth of odds and ends, small things.
Suddenly, as she worked, Shari thought of a luncheon cloth. It was small and colorful, with its pink roses on a snowy background. There weren’t napkins with it; perhaps that was why she had never used it. But it would be just the thing for her contribution to the bazaar.
Shari hurried to her linen drawers in the big hallway. In the kitchen again she folded the luncheon cloth neatly in white tissue paper.
Well, that ought to end it, she thought, meaning her conscience. And she turned her mind toward what to prepare for the children’s and Will’s lunch.
But somehow it wasn’t enough. A luncheon cloth without napkins was not much to give to her best-loved organization. If Marilyn Hart, who was new in town, was having a booth of knickknacks, she might feel badly with a skimpy display.
Yet run through drawers and cupboards as she would, Shari could not find anything suitable for the odds-and-ends booth. Just the week before she had loaded a couple of peach baskets with articles after her housecleaning, for a friend with children and little money.
“Old Mother Hubbard went to the cupboard,” Shari muttered. “There’s not an extra dish or small picture or new handkerchief or scarf in this house.” Will, who was one who liked to hold on to everything, usable or not, would have grinned at her for that.
Thinking about Will sent Shari’s mind in another direction.
Each year for the past four or five years she had been on the Art Association’s list. They held a “flea market,” and an antique auction, organized after those in France. Shari made it a point annually to go through all her old keepsakes, her costume jewelry especially, and contribute. Still, there might be something left.
Everything was nice and neat after the housecleaning. The few pieces she was not wearing currently were in a small cardboard box Jeffy, who was ten, had painted for her at school.
There was a tiny gold chain – it was too thin to be appreciated; a seashell, an Indian arrowhead, and a pale green marble. And Will’s pin.
Shari picked up the brooch. It was not very pretty, a half-circle of brilliants in a curved gold setting. The whole thing now was tarnished and dull.
Yet just touching it made Shari’s mind fly back, back to that day twelve years ago, their first wedding anniversary.
* * * * *
Shari was pregnant, and the construction company where Will was a bookkeeper had laid off its newest help. With Will out of work, Shari decided she wouldn’t even mention the occasion.
Still, she was always one for birthdays and special dates; besides, she wanted to show Will how much she loved him and appreciated him. All day she had worked in the kitchen. She could laugh now and shed a few tears at the real ingenuity and courage it took to make a festive dinner with the cupboards bare.
The instant Will saw the candle-lit table he was all contrition. Shari had to wait dinner while he went downtown – and after closing hours, too – and found her a present. He had bought the brooch at a drugstore, he said. But he was pleased with it. Shari knew it had cost him his last dollar.
In spite of this the pin had never suited her, although Shari loved it because Will had given it to her. Over the years, she supposed she had put it on and taken it off dozens of times.
She made up her mind quickly. Will wouldn’t mind. Long ago he’d forgotten about the pin. He had never remarked about her not wearing it.
At the kitchen sink again, Shari polished it until it gleamed like new. And of course it is new, in a sense, Shari thought. She sighed, thinking now that her mind was at rest about doing her part for the bazaar. The brooch on its bed of pale blue cotton in the small white box looked very nice. Tonight, of course, though again she had not been asked, she would offer to help out after the dinner. They could always use an extra hand in the kitchen.
But try as she would, her mind wouldn’t be free or at rest. It kept going back to the pin, to the conditions under which Will had given it to her. To Will, himself.
Finally, just before Will and the children came trooping in for lunch, Shari just had to take herself in hand.
I’ve made up my mind; I won’t change it. The pin is just the thing for the bazaar. I’ll stop worrying about it.
Yet she didn’t, and she couldn’t. The spot where the brooch had lain was like an emptiness in herself now. She felt guilty and worried. Had she sacrificed something big in order to do something small?
Will was working long hours; it was income tax time. Still, he was going to the dinner with Shari. Jeffy had come home from school with swollen glands. In order to avert feelings, Shari had decided all three children were better off at home.
As Shari and Will came into the big hall off the foyer of the chapel, Shari gave her luncheon cloth to one of the sisters behind the counter. The small white box with the brooch in it, she gave to Marilyn Hart. “I hope this is all right,” she said humbly.
Although she had only tasted her soup at luncheon, and the plates of roast beef, whipped potatoes and brown gravy, and fruit salad, were sending out savory whiffs form the long tables, Shari’s appetite had deserted her. In its place was a large cold lump in her stomach. Whenever she looked at Will she had to swallow and look away to hide her tears.
Luckily for her, Will was the jovial, little-noticing kind. Also he had to get back to the office. He did not have time for conscience-stricken wailing females.
Shari felt grateful that he consented to watch the cake walk, listen to a young man sing and tell stories from the stage, while Shari helped out an hour in the kitchen. She did not even have time to go down to the bazaar. “Please get me some of the tea towels,” she told one of the sisters, giving her some money.
With her stint in the kitchen behind her, and the tea towels under her arm, Shari followed Will through the lobby and outside to their car.
As Shari leaned over to touch her lips to his cheek, there in the driveway of their home, before he went to the office, Will said, “Oh, I about forgot,” though something in his gray eyes said he hadn’t at all. He drew a small white box from his coat pocket.
“I saw this at the bazaar,” he went on. “I liked it. Somehow it reminded me of you.” He put his arm around her shoulder, drew her to him, kissed her on the mouth.
Inside the house, Shari, still clutching the box in her hand, paid Mrs. Fabian for sitting with Jeffy and Rosie and Paul. It was only when she was alone that she opened the box.
Shari sat with her own pin again in her hand. Smiling and turning it over, she seemed to see it for the first time.
“Why, it’ll go nicely with this navy suit,” she decided suddenly. “It’ll go well with almost everything I have!” she hurried toward the bedroom.
With the pin in place on her lapel, she met her own eyes in the mirror. What was that saying about “bread upon the waters”? That was the way she felt now. It was exactly the way she felt now.