Mary Ida sat erectly at her desk, in a high-necked black silk dress, her shoulders covered in a black shawl. Her fountain pen hovered as she gazed distractedly at a shower of golden dustmotes suspended in a beam of late afternoon sunshine. A fire hissed and popped in the hearth and outside the study window, an early snowfall glistened in a fading December dusk. Suddenly, the quiet tick-tock of the grandfather clock in the hallway gave way to 4:00 chimes and the reverie was broken. Mary Ida sighed and continued to write.
I know that after the terrible losses incurred by so many during the Great War, I can scarcely complain of the trials and tribulations the Youngs have weathered in the second decade of this century. Still, I wish Wilbur had lived to see the end of the war, and the marvelous way Junior has taken to the business.
Mary Ida set down the pen, closed the journal sharply and slid it into the desk drawer. That is enough of that, she thought. No sense in edging toward self-pity when there are always a thousand things that need doing around here.
She took up a ledger and moved to the sofa in front of the fireplace, where a pair of Borzois slumbered. For several minutes she pored over rows of figures, occasionally pausing to write a note in the margins or stroke one of the gently snoring hounds.
There was a rap at the doorway and Junior appeared, his cheeks rosy from the cold. He’d spent the whole day in the stables, a Sunday activity he cherished after a busy week in the laboratory office.
“Brrrrr. It’s cold out there and very cozy in here, Mother. I broght you some tea because I had a hankering for some hot chocolate, myself,” Junior declared, “even though it’s a little close to supper.” He set the tray on the desk and dropped into a seat beside the fire.
“Did you hear? Lady foaled this morning. All worked out ok, but she needed a little help. We had to turn the filly around.”
“Oh, how wonderful. Maybe I can sneak out for a peek before supper. Is she a pretty one?”
“Very. Looks just like her mama. How long have you been at it, then?” he asked, glancing at the ledger as he pulled off his riding boots. “Everything look ok?”
“Everything looks just as it should, dear. I thought I’d see where we were on ingredient inventory. If that order doesn’t go out first thing in the morning, we won’t see it fulfilled until the end of next week. Make sure Henry tells the new man to make it his first duty each Monday, will you?”
“I will, but Caswell’s so meticulous, he probably still puts the orders in himself. You know, Mother,” Junior continued after a pause, “I heard a rumor that the Brewer place may be going up for sale. Corrine has been in Florida most of the time since Edward died and it’s starting to look a little… I don’t know…decrepit? It needs some sprucing but maybe you ought to think of moving. A change of scenery might be good for you.”
“Why is everyone so eager to see change around here,” Mary Ida snapped. “Your father’s only been gone six months, the war has just ended, and you’re still getting your feet under you… Is more change really a good idea? ”
Junior went to the desk, put a few dainty butter cookies on the saucer rim and with his back to the room, poured a cup of tea for his mother. He thought the conversation might be easier if he didn’t have to look at Mary Ida.
“You know, Mother, you’re only 53. You’ve been through an awful lot in the last five years. Papa was in the sanitorium for almost three years — and at the scariest point for our company, when the government sequestered alcohol for the war effort. But look how that worked out! We made it through the shut down and came back stronger than ever. “
“Well,” Mary Ida pointed out, “it didn’t take Woodrow Wilson long to realize you can’t fight a war with a lame cavalry. Absorbine was crucial to the war effort.”
Junior set the teacup down near his mother and put a hand on her knee. “I’m not trying to rush you into anything, but I know you miss him. He’d want you to enjoy yourself. Why not think about the Brewer place? You could redo the gardens, restore them to their former grandeur! There’s loads of room for horses and ponies. Caswell and I can run the day-to-day of the company and check in with you weekly to make sure all the trains are still running on the right tracks…Why not relax a little, Mother? You’ve earned it — at least, promise me you’ll think about it, won’t you?”
Junior got up without waiting for an answer, drank his hot chocolate in three gulps and placed his empty cup on the desk. “I’m going to go back out and have a look at Lady. Just make sure the two of them are doing ok. I’ll see you in a bit for supper.”
When the hall door closed, Mary Ida put the ledger aside and added another log to the fire.
They’d survived the shuttering of the factory. The Great War. And the Spanish influenza — so far. And like it or not, she’d survived the loss of Wilbur. Maybe Junior was right. Perhaps it was time to live a little, keep a light hand on the reins and get back to spending more time in the garden and with the animals. After all, these were the other great passions that had guided her and sustained her throughout life.
Mary Ida went to the desk and made a note in her calendar to call about the Brewer house. Then she rang for Dolly to fetch her barn coat and boots. Why not go get a look at Lady and her new filly before the dinner guests arrived?
Read more about the history of Absorbine® here.
W.F. Young, Inc. is a marketer of many top equine brands, including ShowSheen® Hair Polish and Detangler, UltraShield® Insecticide and Repellant, Hooflex® and Horseman’s One Step® Leather Cleaner and Conditioner.