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Archives for : March1955

Mood Management

The winter doldrums had officially set in. The skies were cloudy and moods were on the edge of gloomy. Winter had not yet left us and Spring wasn’t yet in sight. I loved this kind of day.

Steve was at his desk, paying bills. Depending on the amount of the heating bill, he would come out and turn down the thermostat 2 or 3 degrees. This would be followed by directions for all of us to wear sweaters if necessary.

Stevie Junior was working at the kitchenette on a new model airplane. The stickers were small and sticky with the glue and from time to time, I heard a sigh followed by a declaration that he “couldn’t do this” which I ignored as he continued to work.

Daisy was standing on a stool next to me helping me bake cookies. The oven was already preheated and even when the thermostat would be lowered, we would still be warm. Daisy was placing small spoonfuls of dough on the sheet pans. There was really nothing better than freshly baked cookies. When I realized that this was bill paying day, I decided to bake Oatmeal Raisin Cookies. They were foolproof and a favorite of Steve’s. Daisy was stealing raisins from the batter and I pretended not to notice.

I realized that my silent manipulation skill was in use. Stevie wasn’t really incapable of putting together his model; he had completed dozens before this one. In fact, I would say that he was becoming an expert. And the planes were a great conversation starter for big Steve and little Stevie.

Daisy was just testing the water and indulging her need to get away with something, an important part of her development. There were still lots of raisins in the batter. Not being scolded for every wrong turn helps her to learn when to break the rules.

And Steve just needed to be reminded that his role as a provider was super important and that he had some control over how the money he earned was spent.

Right on cue, Steve came out of the den and lowered the thermostat. He came into the kitchen and made his declaration about our use of sweaters. He also grabbed a freshly baked cookie. I poured a glass of milk and handed it to him with a kiss. He complimented Daisy on her delicious cookies and sat down with Stevie Junior to admire his most recent creation. Steve was happy to explain the flags and props to Stevie, who was happy to have the attention from his dad.

The days may be gloomy outside, but inside our home it is warm and wonderful. It just takes a little help from me to keep it that way.

The Bad Thing Happened Anyway

Just a hint of sun peeked out from behind the pink early morning clouds. I was up early after a fitful night of bad dreams and hoped some early morning solo smoking time might relieve me of the remnants. I was standing just outside the back door. In retrospect, it was probably the unexpectedness of the bad news this week that caused the nightmares.

Many times in the past, I helped the children understand that worrying about bad things didn’t help. But sometimes the bad things happened anyway.

Sally Johnson lived with her husband, Todd, and teenage son, Carl, near the far end of the block. Todd had served in the war, worked on and off through the following years, but never settled on one career. He walked a little slowly, didn’t talk much to the neighbors, kept up his yard and could be seen in the summer throwing a ball with Carl next to the house. He seemed a little hard on his son’s ability and there weren’t many words of praise about his throwing. But not all dads believe in coddling their sons or giving them false hope.

Sally didn’t play cards with us but she wasn’t a stranger. She sat on the fringe of our group at the block parties and made fantastic baked beans from scratch that Steve always enjoyed. Not a recipe I had tried to perfect and I was a little envious when Steve gushed so much over those beans when complimenting Sally. But she would chime in from time to time in conversations. Her time was mainly taken up by her job at the local dry cleaners. Carl was old enough to come home in the afternoon and take care of himself. There weren’t too many working mothers in our neighborhood. The roles for women had changed so much already in our lives. We worked while the guys served, then stopped working when they came home and we married. Being at home was nice but I enjoyed my job and thought about what it would be like to work again sometimes. Maybe when the children are older and don’t need me so much.

The first sign that there was problem at Sally’s was the ambulance siren. They parked in front of the Johnson’s house and two medics raced in the open front door. A small group of neighbors gathered every few houses on the front sidewalk to discuss possibilities. Thirty minutes later, a gurney was wheeled out with Todd on it. He was covered in blankets with some kind of breathing contraption on his face. Sally followed him out and jumped into the back of the ambulance. Carl was left standing at his front door. Someone needed to go get him and keep him at their home. I saw Mags walk down the street and talk to him for a minute and then follow him inside. Another few minutes later, Mags and Carl walked down the block and entered Mags’ house. I couldn’t read her face but they were talking back and forth along the walk.

The lights in Mags’ house were brightly lit that night and I checked from time to time to see if there was anything happening. I knew that Mags would call when she was able to let me know what was going on. Before going to bed, I saw Mags walking down the street with Sally and Carl. I waited a few minutes but didn’t see her return home, so I finally went to bed.

Sadly, there was no need to rush the news. Todd had passed away at the hospital, apparently from a bad heart. Carl had found him when he came home from school and called the ambulance and Sally. Sally had rushed home in time to join Todd on his trip to the hospital. Poor Sally, poor Carl. Of course, there were a lot of women who lost their loved ones in the war, but our neighborhood seemed to have not lost anyone since. There was a lovely service and memorial since Todd was a veteran.

Sometimes even when we don’t worry, the bad thing happens anyway. I know that I hugged Steve a little tighter this week. I don’t know how I would live without him by my side. Life in the suburbs sometimes has a sad side.

I finished my cigarette when I heard little Stevie calling out for me in the kitchen. He wanted some breakfast; our lives continued on.