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The Notebook
by Pam Carlson-Hetland
Not For Sale
Author requests article critique


Ruth struggled to open the dresser drawer in her nursing home room. The exertion left her breathless. Beneath layers of clothing, she finally located the item sought. Holding it close, she painfully shuffled to the small table next to her bed. With a familiar gesture, Ruth motioned her daughter to join her. Susan pulled over a chair and sat down.

“I have something for you.” Ruth began. Fragile fingers twisted with arthritis stroked the cover of a worn notebook. She was silent for a few moments as if contemplating what to say.

“I don’t have room for this here anymore. You probably won’t want this...it’s nothing really. It’s just the little ditties that I’ve written over the years and other things I’ve collected. You can throw it away, if you want.” Ruth’s eyes met her daughter’s seeking how her gift may be received.

“I would never throw away anything you’ve written, Mom.” Susan answered incredulously. “If I remember right, you brought many people to tears or laughter with what you wrote.”

“Oh, sometimes. But that was many years ago. My brain can’t make two words rhyme anymore. I get so mad at myself!” Ruth poked her temple with a sore finger.

“Show me what you have, Mom.” Susan prompted.

Slowly, Ruth opened the cover to reveal the first page of neatly written lines. She read the verse to Susan. Pausing briefly to collect her thoughts, she retold the purpose of that poem. It was written to help her memorize Israel’s kings for her adult Bible Study class. She likened the good kings to the healthy vegetables in her garden; but the weeds were given the names of the wicked kings as she uprooted them. She had composed it in her head while doing daily chores. There were poems of anniversary tributes, birthday wishes, pesky neighbors, and an especially funny one relating the mishaps following surgery. Page by page, mother and daughter went through the frayed and yellowed notebook. They laughed--they cried. The hours passed.

As the pages turned, Susan learned of the child growing up during the Great Depression. She heard stories of the patients in the hospital where a spunky young woman worked. Copies of love letters postmarked from Italy and Africa told the story of Susan’s parents as they waited four years to start a life together at the end of WWII. There were writings of difficulties in marriage, of the birth of children, of fears and failures, trials and triumphs. Susan laughed as she recognized copies of poems where Ruth had coached a tearful teenaged daughter through a semester of creative writing class.

“Mom, are you sure you want to give this up? This is a wonderful collection of your writings.” Susan asked softly. “I would love to have this notebook. But why do you want to give this to me now? I can have it...eventually.”

Ruth gazed lovingly at her grown daughter. “You have always been your Daddy’s Girl; but you are still your Mama’s student. I have taught you to cook and sew. I taught you to take care of the people you love. And I taught you to love the Lord. Now, I want you to learn to take care of yourself and the talent that God has given you. The love you have for writing, Susan...you need to put it to use. Don’t just hide your talent in a notebook. Invest it into the lives of others.”

Later that day, Susan left the nursing home. In her arms was an ordinary looking notebook that contained an extraordinary endowment. Susan understood the precious legacy she had just received and embraced it.

copyright Pam Hetland 2007

If you died today, are you absolutely certain that you would go to heaven? You can be! TRUST JESUS NOW

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Member Comments
Member Date
Edy T Johnson  02 Nov 2007
Pam, where are you with the kleenex, like you handed out at our MN Nice Full Moon FaithWriters Mini'Treat? This is just exquisite writing for our "Ordinary Treasures" anthology. I found only one word I would change, honestly. An idea hit me, while I was reading. I just wonder if you couldn't "join" FW for your Mom. Find a favorite photo of her to post on her member profile page, and let us all read those wonderful poems and insights. Then, she wouldn't have kept all her writings to herself---she was just saving them for the right time!
Joanney Uthe 02 Nov 2007
I forgot to keep the klenexes close! I loved this story, Pam. I like how Ruth encourages her daughter to take care of herself by not hiding the gift God gave her. (I hope you listened) ;)


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