and they’ve rusted and most ruined the skirt
The next morning Marjorie overslept and came hurrying down to breakfast. “How much time have I got?” she demanded. “Why, what’s the matter with that clock! It’s stopped, mother.”
“Yes,” agreed the little mother serenely, “I didn’t wind it, you know. I was afraid that was puttering.”
In which Mother agrees to stop “puttering,” as an experiment.
Ruth Cameron was the pen name of Persis Dwight Hannah (1886-1965)
see Janet Hutchins, “#WHM – Persis Dwight Hannah, Alpha Xi Delta and Reporter,” posted March 27, 2016 at Fraternity History & More, a blog in which “Fraternity/Sorority Historian Fran Becque, Ph.D., shares stories connecting the past to the present and the future” — here
Something about Cameron (and class, and condescension... and philanthropy and tuberculosis) in Lynn Downey, her Arequipa Sanatorium : Life in California’s Lung Resort for Women (2019) : 68
Full transcription of “Puttering” follows.
- “Tired, mother?"
- “Rather, dear.”
- “But why, mother — with only four of us and this small house and all the washing and ironing put out, and a woman to do the cleaning — there surely can’t be such a great deal to do.”
- “I seem to keep pretty busy.”
- “Now, mother, do you know what I think? I think you putter. I’ve been watching you and it seems to me that you do lots of little things you don’t really need to. Now, for the next few days I wish you’d just try to let those little things go. Just do the regular routine of the things that positively have to be done, such as getting the meals, clearing them away, and doing the chamber work, and let the rest go. Every time you start to do any one of those things that isn’t really necessary, just stop and make up your mind to let it slide. I’m sure you wouldn’t get half so tired if you’d do that sometimes.”
- The little mother listened to her daughter’s harangue at first indignant, then quizzical.
- Then an idea seemed to come to her.
- “Would you really like to have me try it, Marjorie?” she asked.
- “Of course, will you?”
- “I think I will,” said the little mother slowly.
- “Good, I'm sure that means that when I come home from work I’ll find you much less tired. I’m sure you could be just as well as not if you didn’t putter so.”
- The new order began the next day.
- The first recognition of its presence was by Marjorie that night.
- “Mother, what does ail Duke? He keeps coming in here and teasing for something.”
- “Perhaps he wants his supper, Marjorie. I thought that was outside of the regular routine that you outlined, so I didn’t do it.”
- “Oh,” from Marjorie, as she followed Duke out into the kitchen and picked up his pan.
- “Perhaps you’d better tend to the bird, too,” called the little mother. “Of course, I didn’t touch him and his cage is awfully dirty.”
- The next morning Marjorie overslept and came hurrying down to breakfast. “How much time have I got?” she demanded. “Why, what’s the matter with that clock! It’s stopped, mother.”
- “Yes,” agreed the little mother serenely, “I didn’t wind it, you know. I was afraid that was puttering.”
- “Mother,” this from big brother that evening, "I can't find a match in a single match box in the whole house.”
- “Mother,” this was from Marjorie the following morning, “I can't find my clean chemise. What did you say? You didn’t think you ought to put away the clothes ? Oh!”
- “Mother,” this was from father next day, "there hasn’t been any soap in this bathroom for three days. What’s the matter?”
- “I can’t find my clean collars, mother,” this was from big brother. “You didn’t send the laundry ? Why not?"
- “Mother,” this was from Marjorie again, “what do you think has happened! The buttons weren’t taken out of my white skirt and the washerwoman did it up with them in, and they’ve rusted and most ruined the skirt. Puttering? Oh, mother, that isn’t fair. No, I’ll take it all back if you’ll just help me get the iron rust out of this skirt so it will be fit to wear canoeing tomorrow.”
- And then little mother, being one of that wonderful sisterhood of almost superhuman forgivers that all good mothers belong to, suppressed a desire to tell her daughter that getting the rust out of a white skirt was out of the prescribed routine, and patiently worked away at the stains until she had gotten them out and then pressed the skirt neatly.
- That was the end of the experiment.
- And Marjorie doesn’t use the word "puttering" now.
- I wonder if there is any suggestion in that little tale for any other Marjorie who can’t see what her mother finds to keep her so busy all day.