Once upon a time, when I was a little child, there was to be held a splendid picnic on the last day of school.
The morning dawned bright and cloudless, a refreshing wind was blowing, but the outlook was not bright for me. Something had happened that prevented us from going. I shall never forget the feeling of disappointment that swept over me for that day was just made for picnics.
We children never gave up our hope of going until we saw the other children depart with pails and baskets. I don’t remember how we got through the day, except that we spent it almost entirely out of doors. There you have my secret for bearing disappointments, you grown-up folks as well as children! Get out of doors!
As farmer’s wives, something is always turning up in connection with weather or crops or livestock to interfere with our best-laid plans. It is well to have some alternative just to fill in with in case plans go awry. One day this summer I was all ready to go on a long anticipated excursion, when circumstances arose that prevented my going. The same old feeling of disappointment started to come over me but I put my second “preventive” into action: I tackled the hardest outside job I could find and worked off the unhappy mood. In addition, I read Nancy Byrd Turner’s cheery little verse:
“When things turn upside down And inside out and look dark brown.
I rush outdoors and gaze into
The top-less sky’s eternal blue–
So calm and cool, so still and deep
With soft contented clouds like sheep.
I shade my eyes and stare and stare,
Then go back in the house and there
Begin to wonder and to doubt
What I was in that stew about!”
It helps a bit to realize that mistake-making is universal. Only those who profit by the mistakes they make get to the point where they make few–a goal we all long for. And it helps a lot to know, not that all things are good, but that “all things work together for good–to them that love the Lord.”
We may have a hand in turning our mistakes to good. We may do as a great artist did who noticed after he had painted a picture that he had left some smudges in his beautiful clouds. They couldn’t be erased, so he made birds of the smudges.
If we are unduly cross to the children or to our John, we make birds of those ugly smudges by “fessing up” our wrong-doing and proving our repentance by sweet smiles and loving words. If we wrong a neighbor in word or deed we can find some lovely way to atone. All of which will “work together” for our soul’s good.
As housewives we all tire of the daily grind which sometimes seems so irksome, so futile. I have often been strengthened for a hard task by recalling Columbus’ motto, “Sail on!” You remember the story as told in Joaquin Miller’s poem, “Columbus.” On his first voyage of discovery his crew grew discouraged and mutinous and the mate would come to Columbus with such questions as this:
What shall I say, brave Admiral, say,
If we sight naught but seas at dawn!
Columbus’ invariable brave answer was:
Why, you shall say at break of day,
Sail on! Sail on! Sail on! And on!
There’s not enough singing in this world–of that I’m convinced. I don’t mean singing on the radio, in school or churches. I mean in the family.
Before our family grew up and married we were always singing. On Saturdays one sister and I might be upstairs making beds and dusting, another sister might be in the living room washing floors and Mother might be in the kitchen baking, but we were all singing, and, if working close enough together, we sang “parts” to make harmony.
Sunday was the only day Dad had much time to spend with us. We never left the Sunday table–dinner or supper–without him getting someone to play the piano and the rest of us to sing. Now that I’m married and away from home, I miss those good times. Some of the happiest memories of my dad and mother are of the times when they both joined us and our friends around the piano.
If there were more singing in family life, there would be fewer arguments and more joy. When your feelings are hurt, sing, and you will soon be happier. It is simple but it works.
The little neighbor boy who used to catch polywogs with me has suddenly grown up and married, and I’ve written him a letter.
It’s mostly congratulations, of course, with one tiny bit of advice–a formula for happiness, as thoroughly tried and tested as my most dog-eared recipe. It is a part of a Bible verse–”Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”
The bride’s days will be full with the fascinating job of making Jim’s home shining and lovely. She will be too busy and happy to admit there will come a morning when Jim will go out to the barn leaving the door vibrating from the force of his slam!
When Jim comes in for dinner that day, Helen is apt to be cool and distant. At supper time the tension is a little more noticeable. Jim fidgets and tries to be natural. Helen is fighting tears. She washes and dries the dishes and, after a futile attempt to read, climbs the stairs to bed. Jim follows,–not too soon because he, too, is hurt and he is proud.
And then in the still darkness, the two unhappy children find words to talk it all over. It’s so much easier to be honest and human in the dark! And in the morning, it is as if the quarrel had not been.
In our family we have paraphrased the Bible verse a little because, in a busy farm home, the business of getting down to fundamentals seems to require the quiet and peace of day’s end, darkness outside and love inside. I think this clause in our family’s “Constitution” that demands that no day’s “unfinished business” should remain to greet the next day’s sun, has done more than anything else to keep our home the happy place it is.–1936