Saturday, March 5, 2011

Ruth Demarest Godfrey: Socks and Blocks

Ruth and Harrison at Randolph Center in the 1940s.

During my long, interesting marriage to Harrison, there were many episodes that now seem very funny to me and did at the time. Most of the time, they didn’t seem funny to Harrison, or he was able to conceal any feeling of humor  about the event. Perhaps the way that I viewed the situations was the fact that he was responsible for correcting the problem, while my only job was to watch and cheer. I suppose I felt that it was my job to supply the levity, and sometimes  it seemed a lot funnier to me than to Harrison.
   These little stories are about a couple of things that happened during our long life together, which was often characterized by one of the following feelings on my part: frustration, hilarity, madness (of the insane type) and helpless affection. There was always some sort of reaction on my part. I would be glad to have an opportunity to feel those things again. We always emerged on the other side still loving one another, and we did manage during those lean years to keep the bills paid and to produce three worthy sons. These happened during the years when I was a stay-at-home mom. Financial affairs eased up considerably when I decided to return to work.
   One morning, when Harrison was dressing to go to work, he found a hole in one of his socks. This infuriated him, and he reacted by flinging the sock out of the bedroom into the hall, with loud expressions of his disapproval of my homemaking attributes. In those days the wife was supposed to darn holes in her husband’s socks so he could continue to wear them. Now we know that darns may cause blisters on the feet and the socks should be thrown out. This act aroused my stubborn streak, and I made a silent vow that I would never pick up those socks if they stayed there forever. Day after day, the socks lay there on the hall floor, growing furrier by the day. I vacuumed around them. I stepped on them.  The kids ignored them. Harrison ignored them. Since I was at home all day, friends and neighbors frequently stopped in, and it would have been difficult to miss that pair of socks lying on the hall floor, so I would precede them into the living room and casually kick the socks into the bathroom. When they left, I would kick them back out into the hall. I would not give in! Never a word was exchanged between Harrison and me about the presence of a pair of dirty, dusty socks in the middle of the hallway. It began to seem so funny to me that I told my friends about it and they started checking on the socks as soon as they got to the house. “Are they still there?” they would ask. This went on for months. One day, as I passed through the hall, there seemed to be something different. What was wrong?  Suddenly it hit me.  The socks were gone! I never asked, and Harrison never told me, but apparently he decided to give in and tossed them into the laundry hamper. The saga of the socks had ended.

   The next episode is the one about the blocked drain in the kitchen sink. The whole thing was my fault, because I had rinsed off some muddy boots in the sink, and this had caused the blockage. One day I noticed that the water wasn’t going down fast enough, and I appealed to my ever-resourceful husband to unplug the drain.  We had employed plumbers to do this sort of thing at times in the past, mostly when I thought paying a plumber was preferable to the resulting rage if I asked my husband to do the job. We had found, however, that Harrison was a much better plumber than any we could hire, so we had given up on calling in the men who were supposed to know what they were doing. Harrison was having trouble getting the sink unclogged and things were escalating. I resorted to a tried-and-true method that I had for keeping things under control. I quietly called a friend of ours and suggested to him that it would be a good time for him to pay us an unexpected visit, which he did. He arrived shortly. Harrison did not like to display his truly impressive vocabulary for anyone outside his immediate family, so things quieted down considerably when our friend arrived. I went into the bedroom and made a tool I thought would have one of two effects. It would either cause Harrison to “lose it” completely, or it would make him laugh. Here I have to admit to an irresistible urge to exacerbate such things as a means of bearing them.  If they became ridiculous enough, they wouldn’t seem so bad. I straightened a wire hanger and attached a tampon to the end of it. “Back in the day,” the well-bred woman did not display such articles used for women’s functions, and did not talk about them. They were not advertised on television as they are today, with accompanying dialogue. Back in the kitchen, I said guilelessly (I hoped) to Harrison, “Here, dear, here’s something you may be able to use,” One look, and our friend started to laugh and Harrison soon joined him, but he refused to try to use my ingenious “tool.” Eventually, the job was successfully completed and all was quiet and peaceful again.

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