Good Morning, Mrs. Romaie!
GOOD morning, Mrs. Romaie, and the best to you! --Susan Romaie. Maurine, the second Mrs. Romaie, was straightening the bottom drawer of her husband's chiffonier to make room for his freshly ironed shirts when she read this greeting on the back of the framed picture of his first wife she found beneath the odds and ends hastily stored away for further sorting. At the sight of the beautiful face, she was surprised to feel little twinges of jealousy gnawing within her, twinges she thought she had conquered entirely before her marriage. She stopped short and told herself sternly, "Maurine Romaie, you must eradicate these small jealousies. You knew Robert loved Susan when you married him. That was one reason why you loved him, for deep in your soul you knew he would likewise love and cherish you. And you know the surest way to keep Robert close is to open your heart to Susan, as well as to her children, whom you love already. You cannot, being you, settle for anything less."
After a few long moments Maurine had herself in hand and emerged from her struggle triumphantly, saying, "You are far too lovely, Susan, to be tucked away. Robert, bless him, must have put you in the drawer thinking I would rather not have you looking as us."
She was smiling softly when a new thought paled her cheeks, "Suppose Robert, himself, did not want to be comparing us!" It was only a small struggle this time, for with calmness in her voice, she said aloud, "You shall not be hidden away, Susan. What matter if you are more beautiful than I? What if you were Robert's first love? He has love enough for us both. He is still yours, Susan, but he is mine now, too" A faint smile curved her lips as she continued, "Shall we call him ours?"
The greeting lured her to a second reading and a third. Then she looked long and earnestly into the face of the first Mrs. Romaie. A beautiful and strong face it was. In it she read love and laughter, warm friendliness and understanding. To think Robert had chosen her after such a lovely wife had passed away a year before, leaving him with a four-year-old daughter and a three-year-old son!
"Good morning to you, Susan. I do so want to be friends. Help me, will you?" Susan's serene smile reassured her as she placed the picture on the dresser. "But why did you write such a greeting? It must be your writing, for it isn't Robert's, and it does have your name signed to it."
That night after the children were asleep, Maurine asked, "Robert, why did Susan say good morning to herself?"
Robert's eyes had a startled expression, as he looked up from the book he was reading, "Did you say what I heard, Maurine?"
"Yes, exactly what you heard. Do you know why Susan said good morning and wished herself the best?"
At his uncomprehending expression she arose and said, "Come, I'll show you. But tiptoe past the children's room."
HEN the two stood in front of the dresser, Maurine spoke, and the twinges of jealousy were but tiny electric rivers running up her spine, "She is beautiful, Robert, and so lovely. But tell me why she wrote as she did on the back of her picture."
Robert turned the picture over and read the message. His eyes still retained their bewildered look as he answered, "That is Susan's writing. Strange I hadn't noticed it was there before. Guess I never looked at the back. And if Mrs. Moore, our housekeeper, ever did she said nothing. She seemed to think it best never to mention Susan. She never knew how I longed to talk about her. And she was not one to be a teller of tales outside the homes where she worked. I put the picture away the morning we were married out of consideration for you."
"Darling!" Maurine kissed his forehead, then spoke softly, her eyes glowing, "I think I know the reason. Perhaps it seemed a miracle to her, too, that you should choose her from all the women you knew. Perhaps she wrote what her heart was singing, that she was Mrs. Romaie. You see my heart sings the same way. It will always be a miracle, your choosing me to take her place beside you. Not her place, really, for always I want you to keep a special place in your heart just for her."
Robert kissed her gently. His voice held overtones of reverence as he spoke, "There is plenty of room left for you, my dear. I have watched you, Maurine, in these weeks since our marriage, watched your struggle to overcome yourself in truly taking Susan's place. I know it hasn't been easy, but you have managed it. Always you have been able to conquer your natural little jealousies or worries or imagined worries, and kept sweet and smiling. But don't try too hard, my dear, for I love you for your few frailties, if they can be called such. The children adore you. As I watch you caring for them tenderly, I choke up a bit. How did such a good thing happen to me, little Miracle Mother? That is the name I have chosen for you, darling."
"How lovely, Robert!" Her eyes filled, "And I didn't know you had noticed. I thought I had concealed my little discouragements and let only my thankfulness for our marriage, our good marriage, shine through. For my own sake, for my own happiness, I must conquer myself and be the wife and mother I desire to be, and make Susan a part of her children's lives."
"You are beautiful, Maurine, with your deep spirituality illuming your countenance. How blessed I am in having you! You give of yourself so freely. You seem to truly love little Mike and Francie."
"They are yours, you know, yours and Susan's." Impulsively she turned to the picture and said, "I love your babies, Susan, and your Robert very, very much. You don't mind, do you?'
HE next night after Maurine had tucked the children in and was telling them a bedtime story, Francie's eyes sparkled and she exclaimed, "Why, there's Mommy!" "You mean Mother," Michael said gravely, indicating Maurine.
"No, I mean Mommy! There, on our dresser! Her picture! That is Mommy, Mike, but you don't remember her very well." She spoke soothingly to her little brother, then burst into tears, jumped out of bed, and ran to the dresser where she cried, "Oh, Mommy, I miss you!"
Quietly, Maurine gathered her in her arms, and little Michael, too, and explained gently, "I put the picture on your dresser to make you happy and to keep you remembering your beautiful first mother. You will always remember her, Francie, and we must help Michael to know her. She is still loving you, even though she is with Heavenly Father. And she would want you to keep on loving her."
Maurine rocked them until Michael fell asleep, then whispered to Francie, "We better put him in his little bed now."
"Let me look once more at Mommy," Francie whispered, then said sleepily, "Mother, I'm glad you brought Mommy to our room. I won't feel alone now with her smiling at me. See, she's smiling at you, too. That means she likes you. I won't miss her too much any more. You are our mother now and I love you."
"I love you, too, Francie, very much. The picture can always be yours. I'm glad I have a little daughter and a son."
year sped swiftly, a year filled to the brim with joys and little sorrows; with laughter and a few tears; with welcoming a new little son and building a family held together by the cords of love and unselfishness. How precious to have three children and Robert to love! And Susan also! For through the trying hours, her sweet understanding face came more and more to give her healing; and her cheerful, "Good morning, Mrs. Romaie, and the best to you," often gave the lift she needed to go happily through the days that did not have enough hours to accomplish all the tasks to be done.
"Francie is such a help, and little Mike, too," she said gently to Susan one day. "And I'm keeping them near to you. Francie is going to look like you, beautiful and gracious, and Mike is so like our Robert. And I hope you like my little Bobbie."
There were tears in Maurine's eyes on the late August morning when she stood before Susan's picture, after finishing tidying up the room which belonged entirely to Francie now; tears bright as diamonds, as she said, "Susan, your little girl started school today. I wish you could have seen her with her hair in ringlets and her eyes shining. She loved her pretty new dress. I made her four new ones. You should have seen her eyes as she watched me sewing them. No, it wasn't too much extra work, for she took care of Bobbie like a regular little mother.
"Shall I let you in on a secret, Susan? When Michael gets old enough, I shall make him four new shirts. His eyes were so wistfully expectant as he asked, 'Mother, in one more year will you make me four new, pretty dresses like Francie's to start school with?' that I smiled and answered, 'Yes, Michael, if you want me to then, I will.' "
T was two years and another little son later when Maurine, after making Mike's bed, entered Francie's room to find the bed made and the room in perfect order. She looked earnestly in the face of Susan and said happily, "You are still very much a part of us. This morning as he left for his first day at school, Michael said, 'I wish Mommy could see me now. She would think I have a pretty new shirt.' No, Susan, I did not need to talk him out of having me make him new little dresses, for this summer he confided, 'I guess I'll have you make me four new shirts. Boys don't wear dresses.' Such a charming little man he is, Susan! And baby Niel is adorable and has Robert's eyes and firm chin. Think of it, a daughter and three sons already! Was ever a woman so blessed!"
Time ceaselessly rolled on, and the years wrought their miracles and brought their problems. There was the time Michael boasted to his two brothers that he was wearing a suit bought in a store, while theirs were homemade. Mother-wise, Maurine had let the matter drop when Niel had smiled angelically and answered, "But Mother made ours!" and soon the three were the best of pals again. The time Maurine found a sobbing Francie kissing her Mommy's picture and saying, "Mother is too busy to hold me on her lap and kiss me any more."
Maurine had tiptoed away and solved her problem by giving increased affection and attention. When Robert brought friends home to dinner and found the house untidy and the meal not prepared, she had despaired of ever measuring up to Susan's efficiency, but her husband's laughter and his help had taken the tragedy from the experience. His siege of pneumonia brought her near the breaking point, but it gave her a clearer perspective of how dear he was to her and his family. It was then that Susan's compassionate face had assured her all would be well and the love between them deepened.
Maurine felt Susan's eyes had an added glow of understanding the morning she sat before her in Francie's room with her third child, a baby daughter, in her arms, and spoke reverently, "Oh, Susan, you should see her! How near to heaven she has brought us. Our Robert called me 'Little Miracle Mother' again after we returned home from Sunday School and fast meeting yesterday. I hope you know the joy we experienced. Why? Because in Priesthood meeting, Robert ordained Michael a deacon and he passed the sacrament in Sunday School and in sacrament meeting. (He has a new Scout uniform all ready and waiting.)
"And, Susan, Robert blessed our baby. We named her after you. You don't mind, do you?"
HE baby was asleep in her arms, so Maurine laid her on Francie's bed, then again sat before Susan and mused thoughtfully: "She is a clean, sweet, and beautiful girl, Susan, your little Francie. Fourteen! Imagine! And bubbling over with joy and laughter and charm. She was yours before she was mine, so help me keep her always as sweet as she is now."
Susan's eyes and her smile seemed to say serenely, "And she was God's before she belonged to me. the three of us, along with Robert, should do all right."
Maurine picked up the portrait and dusted it with her apron. When a fleck or two of dust refused to yield, she slipped the picture from its frame to dust the inside of the glass. As she did so a letter dropped in her lap.
"One of Robert's I imagine," she said as she picked it up. To her surprise it was addressed: To the Second Mrs. Romaie. She stared incredulously then spoke, "Why, the letter is for me!" Quickly she opened the envelope, removed the sheets and read rapidly, her eyes fairly racing over the words. Pale with emotion, she spoke in an awed whisper, "Susan, you wrote this ten years ago, less than a month before your death." Robert had told Maurine they had both known her days were numbered for almost a year before leukemia finally claimed her life.
"How brave you were, Susan!" Maurine's voice was gentle, "And how unselfish! No wonder you seemed to leave the sweetness of your spirit here in this home." Tears of joy were flowing as Maurine reread the letter, slowly savoring every word:
O you, the second Mrs. Romaie, I am writing this. I leave in your keeping my greatest treasures, my husband and my children. They will love you. How do I know? Because my Robert will choose the best possible person to take my place in the home and be a mother to our Francie and little Michael. And be assured he will love you.
You will have a more difficult task than I have known, for you will have to weld two families into one. How I shall love you! If you should get discouraged, remember I, too, have known discouragement. Perhaps at times you will experience fleeting small jealousies because of me, as I did because of Robert's mother, wondering if I could ever measure up to her. But they will pass, for Robert's love is deep and tender and abiding.
Now, dear future mother of this home, I say this to you in love and humility and gratitude:
Here is my little Francie. Take her, mold the pliant clay of her soul into a lovely woman. Keep her as pure as the lilies in canyon streams and guide her into the temple, where she will be married to a man likewise pure.
And here is little Michael. Tenderly lead him to see the beauties of creation. As he grows, teach him to know God and to love the gospel and all people.
Finish the task I have begun. Robert will help you, and Father will assist you both.
My Robert I leave you also. Enjoy all of him, his deep voice, his laugh that is music; explore the depths of his soul and know the meaning of companionship.
I bequeath these treasures to you; and someday may you and Robert, together, return to me with our children.
May my greeting to you on the back of this picture help you to accept each day's challenge with a song in your heart.
I have a picture of you in my mind. During the long months of knowing, I have created an image of you. Shall I tell you that you are beautiful, that the beauty of your soul shines through your features, and that I know you are lovely? Shall I tell you your name? I am very sure if it, for it is Mother.
So good morning, Mrs. Romaie, and the best to you! -- Susan.
AURINE sat forgetful of time, letting her being fill with peace. Then she spoke softly and her words were like a prayer: "Dear, dear Susan: Morning sings in my heart. I will continue to love and cherish your treasures ... our treasures. ... And when the time comes, I hope to send back to you, a daughter, a mature woman innocent in wisdom; a son who is a man, clean and purposeful; and our Robert who will be the Robert you knew, only magnified.
"To think you thought of me, the second Mrs. Romaie, even before you left us! Thank you, Susan! Thank you!"
She put the picture back in its frame and in its place on the dresser and the precious letter in her pocket to share with Robert later.
"Nearly time to prepare lunch," she said softly as she looked at sleeping little Susie. "I'll lie down and rest just five minutes."
USH, Daddy!" It was Francie who held her finger to her lips as her father came in at noon. "When I came from school, I found Mother and Susie asleep in my room. I'm getting lunch on for us. Mike, Bobbie, and little Niel will be coming soon."
Robert kissed her tenderly as he said, "My little girl is growing into a beautiful and thoughtful young woman."
Quietly he entered the bedroom and stood for a long moment looking down at the two loved sleepers. Gently he touched his small daughter's cheek and kissed Maurine lightly as he whispered, "Little Miracle Mother!"