Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Another Helper's Birthday

Another Helper’s Birthday
By Katie A
For Linda O.
Arthur watched as his human friends wandered off in search of food, and decided, finding himself forgotten except as the subject of a story, to go off and find his own supper.  

He wandered into the Mousehole, and found, much to his joy, that Mouse had filled up his food dish and his water goblet before he came out and met his friends in the tunnel.  He was very happy, for he had worked up quite an appetite.

Mouse’s bed looked so much more comfy than his place in the corner, so, since Mouse wasn’t going to be using it for awhile, Arthur made himself comfy on Mouse’s bed, and drifted off to sleep.

In the dining chamber, meanwhile, a visiting helper was hearing all about the story of Arthur’s adventure to get Narcissa to sign a birthday card for their helper Anna.  She was intrigued, because she knew the birthday of another helper, a very important one, was coming up soon.  Mary had just commented that it really was nice that the children had made cards again for the helpers who had birthdays soon.  This prompted the visiting helper to speak up.

“Mary, speaking of the upcoming birthdays, I am in need of some help with a gift I am making for Linda, our helper who is a nurse.”

“Oh, yes, Linda is so very dear, and such a great help to all of us,” Mary answered.  “How can I help you?”

“Well, I want to make a special tote bag for Linda, in her favorite color, which is purple.  I found that I have enough fabric for the pieces in my stash of fabrics, but it has been ages since I did much sewing, and I have never sewn anything that wasn’t from a printed sewing pattern before.  This project is in a book I have, and it is all measured and cut like quilt pieces, and then assembled according to the written instructions.  I need help because I’m out of practice, but also because my eyesight still isn’t the greatest.”

“Oh, dear, that’s right you had glaucoma and cataract surgery last summer, didn’t you?”

“Yes, and Linda was a great help to me and my husband, always there to listen and answer questions, and offer advice and moral support.  I wanted to do something special for her birthday.” 

“Well then, let’s work out a time to meet at your apartment, and we’ll get you started.” Mary said.
Samantha, who had been listening because she was sitting at the same table, piped up “Katie “, she said to the helper, “would you mind if I came with Mary and helped you, too?  I need practice sewing, and I’d like to help make a special gift for Linda.  She sat with me several times when I had that awful infection in my throat, and she brought me Popsicles, and other cold things to help it feel better.”

“Sure, Sammy, I’d love to have your help, too.  You can even learn to use my sewing machine and do part of the assembly, if you want. 

“Thanks, Katie!”Samantha said. “This is going to be fun!”

“Yes, I find that doing something nice for others is often the best fun there is.” Katie answered with a smile.

A few days later, Mary and Samantha made their way to Katie’s apartment. 

“Hello!  Come in, come in!  Thanks for coming!”  Katie greeted them.  “There’s tea, and I made some shortbread cookies to sustain us in our labors.”

Mary laughed, “Now, now, it isn’t going to be quite that strenuous!  I must go and see another of our helpers who is expecting a baby.  I want to check on her to make sure she isn’t doing too much.  Peter suspects she might be. She’s one of his free clinic patients, and has older children to care for.  I’m going to leave Samantha with you, and once I get you started, you should be fine!”

“I already have all the pieces cut, and have started assembling the parts of the bag,” Katie said.  “I hope Peter’s patient will be all right.  I’m sure Sam and I will be ok, right Sam?”

“Sure!  We can read and follow directions, and sometimes all you need is someone to double check you, right?”  Samantha said.

“That’s right!” Mary replied, “Now, let’s see where you are…”

Things went pretty well until the gusset had to be sewn onto the bag.  Katie did the first side, and it came out fine, but when she sewed the other side on wrong way around, she took out those stitches, and turned it over to Samantha, who she had trained on using the sewing machine.
Suddenly, there was a loud CLUNK!  Samantha said “Oh, no!”  She was nearly in tears.

Katie came over and said, what’s wrong, Samantha, did you hurt yourself?”

“No!  I think I broke your sewing machine!” she wailed.
“You did no such thing.  The bobbin thread gets fouled up sometimes on this machine, and overstresses the needle, especially when sewing over thick seams like this.  All you did was break the needle, and that’s easily replaced.  See?”  She took the old needle out, and fitted a new one in very easily.  Samantha was greatly relieved.  

“This is one reason I have this big box of replacement needles.  I’ve had to do this several times over the years.  Here, Sweetie, finish your seam.”

Samantha sat back down at the machine and finished the seam.  When she turned the bag right side out to check on it, though, she notice that there were raw edges showing.

“I’m afraid I’ve ruined the project!” Samantha said “Look at this seam!  All the raw edges showing, and we don’t have the material, or the time, to fix it!”  

Katie came over and looked at the seam.  “Well, it isn’t pretty, but it isn’t a disaster, either.  We can trim this down and zigzag over it so it won’t ravel, and it’ll be fine, even if it shows a bit.  This IS a hand -made, home-made, from the heart project after all, Linda won’t be expecting absolute perfection, you know.  The reason you had trouble with those is that I didn’t get the fabric cut exactly right.  It’s hard to do without a paper pattern to follow, and well, I guess I didn’t trim them up as well as I thought.  It’ll be fine.  You’ll see.”

“You’re SURE?”  Samantha asked.

“Yes, I’m sure.  Let’s get the rest of this work done, and we’ll make a card for Linda, and say it’s from both of us, because you worked hard on this, too, Sweetie.” Katie answered.

“OK!  Thanks for being so nice about this, Katie.”

“Oh, Sam, I’ve made my share of mistakes in this life, too, and some of them on this very project!  Don’t worry about it.  Mistakes are how we learn.” Katie replied.

“I keep forgetting you used to be a teacher.” Samantha said.  “You sounded like Vincent just then.  He always says stuff like that.”

“Well, he’s right, you know.  Besides, Vincent is a wonderful teacher.  I was never in his league!”

“Still, “Samantha said, “I bet your students enjoyed your classes.”

“Thank you, Sam.  Well, MOST of them did.  I had my share of little troublemakers who probably wished they had a teacher who didn’t demand their best behavior, but most of my students were good, and eager to learn.”

Samantha got all the loose and extra tail-ends of threads off the finished bag, and Katie got out some blank greeting cards and art supplies so they could make a card for Linda.  

They got everything all made, and were just finished cleaning up when Mary came by to take Samantha home.  

“Oh, the bag is lovely!” Mary said.  “Linda will really appreciate this, I’m sure.  We’re going to have a little surprise party for her, you know.  She will be coming down to bring Father some medicine that Peter is sending down, and it just so happens she’s going to be there on Wednesday, which is her birthday!”

“That will be fun!” said Samantha.  “Will there be cake?”

“I think William is working on that.  Just a small one, only a few of us will be available at the time she’ll be down, so it will be easier to keep it a surprise!”

“That sounds like a lot of fun.  Wednesday afternoon?” Katie asked

“Yes, at about 3:30 or so.  I hope you can be there.” Mary replied

“I can, but Matt will be at work.  I get off from the library at 3 on Wednesdays.” Katie replied.

“I’m sorry Matt can’t be there, but I’m glad you’ll be able to join us!”  I can’t wait to see Linda’s reaction to her surprises!

Samantha and Mary went home to the tunnels, and Katie got dinner started for Matt, who would be home soon.  Mondays were her day off from the library, and that’s why she had the whole day to spend with Samantha and their sewing.

Finally Wednesday arrived, and Katie came to the tunnels straight from the library.  (Of course there is an entrance near the library!)  She brought the bag, wrapped in a box, and a small box of her chocolate chip shortbread. 

One of the tunnel residents had wrapped up some favorite types of tea for Linda to try, and Catherine, who managed to get away from work for the occasion, brought some buttons she had ordered that featured one of Linda’s favorite actors.  

It was three thirty, and Vincent was leading Linda into the study.  

“Surprise!” yelled several people.  

“Oh, my!, Oh, you didn’t have to do this!” said Linda, clearly overcome with emotion.

Vincent, who was standing next to her, put his arm around her and said “Yes, we did, Linda, for you are greatly loved here.” 

She turned to him and pulled him into one of her trademark “squish hugs”, which wasn’t easy with someone as big as Vincent, but lucky for her, Vincent likes hugs, so he hugged her back.

“Come, Linda, I believe William has a small surprise for you, and a few others have things waiting for you.” Father said.

Linda left Vincent’s side and walked over to Father’s table.  She then handed him the bag she had brought from Peter’s house.  “Here is the medicine Peter sent.  He said he put the Physician’s information in with it, but to let him know if you had questions.”

“Thank you Linda, now come have some tea and, oh, look! Birthday cake!”

“Oh, William, that is absolutely lovely!”  Linda said, looking at the cake.

“Only the best for you, Linda Lou!” William said.  “I made bigger ones for the whole crowd after dinner tonight, but this decorated one is just for you and our little party here.

Linda helped serve the cake, and she oohed and ahed over her gifts, even the bag that Samantha was sure would be a disappointment.  She hugged Catherine, Vincent again, Katie, Samantha, Father, and even caught Mouse long enough to give him a hug, too.

“OK good.  Birthdays are a good reason to hug” Mouse allowed.

Samantha sat next to Linda while she was visiting with Katie.  

“Did you really like the bag?” she asked

“Yes, Sam, it is beautiful!”  Linda answered.  “Katie told me how much help you were to her, and how hard you worked on it.  You should be proud; it isn’t easy to do something like that with no paper pattern to follow, and only a few pictures.  You know, Katie’s eyes get tired more easily right now, and so I am sure she really appreciated you reading and re-reading directions for her, and doing some of the sewing when she was getting tired.”

“You bet I did!” Katie answered.  “If I had tried to do that by myself, I think I probably would have had to spend several days at it, and I probably would have used some language I shouldn’t a few times! You really saved my disposition, and you saved me a lot of time, Samantha.”

“I’m glad I could help” Samantha said. “You were right, helping others is probably the most fun there is!  You learn new things, too!”

Samantha then excused herself to go help with the dinner set up, and Katie went to wait for Matt, who was coming down after work.  William had invited them to dinner, because he wanted to pick Matt’s brain about barbecue sauce, and especially about the diabetic friendly one Matt had come up with and had given William a sample of.

Linda sat and visited with Father, Catherine, and Vincent for awhile, and when dinner was served, the whole community sang Linda Happy Birthday at dessert time.  

And so, another special helper was treated to a special birthday by her tunnel family.  

Arthur even scampered in to say hello, and beg a bite of cake from Mouse.

The End

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