Tag Archives: Elizabeth Mansfield

The Gardener

All through the fertile spring,
While the weeds proliferated among the tame shrubs
And the once-manicured rosebushes,
She kept other promises.
Now on a hot midsummer noon
She came with spade and spray and gloves and energy
And knelt before the overgrowth.
The bees circled her head and arms
And then returned to their pollen-work
As if she were not a stranger,
So she put down her spade,
Sat back on her heels
And breathing deep the sun-pregnated air,
Became part of the family.

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Terminal

Too late, too late for weeping or regret,
Too late to set my sail for distant lands,
Too late to kiss the loves I haven’t met–
My liquid days have trickled through my hands.
Too late, too late to shape a future’s plan, Too late to lie adrift and at my ease-­
Tomorrow has a limit to its span;
The future’s lost its possibilities.
Too late, new love I’ve just begun to know,
To ever feel again its sweeet surprise;
Too late to see again that special glow
Of timid expectation in your eyes.
So say goodbye, my last, best love, adieu:
The end is here–today I marry you.

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Truth In Labelling

Recently, my gas dryer stopped working. I called a repair service. I waited two days before the ‘repairman’ came. He checked the dryer for a few minutes and then told me that I needed a new motor at a cost of $78.00. Since this expense would have completely wrecked my budget, I gave him a polite refusal and handed him $7.50 for his ‘house call.’  My husband removed the motor that night, discovered that it was choked rlth lint, cleaned it out, and within haft an hour had the dryer vorking again.

Some time before that we had had a similar experience with an air-vcnditioning unit. At that time, we were more naive and more desperate for the use of the air-conditioner, so we paid tor a new motor. We insisted on keeping the old motor however, and later on, a friend who knows about air-conditioners showed us what was wrong with the motor and how easily it could be repaired. He did it in less than five minutes.

I am infuriated with repair-service men who come out to ‘repair’ something but only know how to ‘replace’ it. Of course it is much easier to replace a broken part than repair it — it takes more skill to be able to fix something than to screw in a replacement — but it a repair-service doesn’t have men who can fix things, the men who come to service our appliances should have a more appropriate title. After all, consumers have won a truth-in-labeling law. Repair-service men should be truthfully labeled too. How about calling them replacemen?

Lady M writes: This is another anecdote from the 1970’s. I wish appliance repairs were under 100 dollars, and that the base service call rate was still less than $10.

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Don’t Panic

Gerri’s two children were only toddlers, her husband was out of town on business, and her back went out. She couldn’t move without help, and the doctor insisted that she go to the hospital to be placed in traction.
I offered to take the children, but since I have a couple of toddlers my­self, Gerri was reluctant to agree. Besides, she felt that if her children remained in their own home, they would weather her absence better. The best solution, she felt, was to ask her parents, both in their seventies, to stay with the children. The loving grandparents of course agreed.

One evening, two days after Gerri entered the hospital, when I was feeling utterly exhausted from dealing with my children all day, I thought of Gerri’s parents and wondered how they were coping. I picked up the phone to offer sympathy and whatever help I could.

“Hello-o-o,” came the soft voice of Gerri’s mother, a voice that had not lost its trace of old-country accent.

“Hello, Mrs. Hoffman, it’s Paula. I called to find out how you and Mr. Hoffman are managing with the little ones.”

There was a small sigh. “Vell,” she said, “ve don’t panic.”

Mrs. Hcffman’s brave reply has since become our family motto. Many times, when we are faced with an emotional crisis, when an unexpected repair bill knocks our budget for a loop, when sickness or disappointment or the day’s news threatens to overwhelm us, my husband and I look at each other–

“Well,” we say in unison, “we don’t panic.”

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This One Is Personal

My father is an avid chess player, so it didn’t surprise me to
see him start to teach his grand-daughter the game when she was just a tot. He taught her to recognize the different chess pieces before she was four years old. It wasn’t long before our little Wendy knew that the piece with the horse’s head was called a knight, the one with the crown was the queen and the one with the crown and a cross on top was the king.

Shortly afterward, we were all out for a Sunday walk when we
passed an old, crowded cemetery. The scene was new to little Wendy, and she stopped and stared with widened eyes. Rows of tombstones filled the landscape as far as her eyes could see,

“Look, Grandpa,” she cried in amazement, “it’s a big chess set with millions of kings!”

Lady M writes: This was a favorite story that my mother would tell. I still have that “look at the chess pieces” feeling when I drive past a cemetary.

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