The Gold Locket

The Gold Locket

From Chicken Soup for the Grandparent's Soul

The Gold Locket

There is no duty so much underrated as the duty of being happy.

Robert Louis Stevenson

It was a time of the Great Depression in the early 1930s. I was a boy of eleven years living on a small farm in northwest Missouri. That summer, it was decided that I would be sent to live with my grandfather, who had a farm some distance away. There were six of us children at home. My leaving would make one less mouth to feed, and besides, Grandfather could use the help on his farm. I tearfully packed my meager belongings and said good-bye to my mother and Beggar, my collie dog.

Things weren’t so bad at Grandfather’s. I had my own room, and there was lots of good food, which I relished. I did my best to help Grandfather that summer. I harnessed the horses, mowed and raked, and worked in the garden. Stacking hay was a big job for an eleven-year-old boy, and I worked from sunup until sundown. In those days, hard work was a virtue, and very quickly I earned my grandfather’s respect and admiration.

Grandmother had passed away quietly in her sleep three years earlier. I could tell that Grandfather missed her terribly. At times he would get moody and quiet. At other times, he would sit for hours, oblivious to all things in the living room, except for the picture of Grandmother that sat on the buffet. Grandfather was getting careless about wearing the same overalls too long between washings, and not shaving or getting his hair cut.

One morning while we were in the garden hoeing weeds, a car drove in the driveway. It was my Aunt Lucille, my grandmother’s favorite sister. She had another lady in the car with her. They both got out, and Lucille greeted Grandfather with a warm hug, and said, “Joseph, you know that your dear, departed wife would not have wanted you and this house to be so untidy so I brought my friend Mary Ann to help you once a week.” Grandfather reluctantly nodded his head, but I could see that the idea of someone else coming into the house to clean up did not set well with him.

I liked Mary Ann. She was light-hearted and gave a new spirit to what had been a drab setting. Grandfather seemed not to notice her and would arrange to be away from the house while she was there. Despite Mary Ann’s best efforts, Grandfather never complimented her good cooking or the fact that she kept the house sparkling. He kept any conversation with Mary Ann to a bare minimum, but I could still see the longing way that she looked at my grandfather. I knew that she wished for more attention from him.

One afternoon Mary Ann seemed unusually quiet. After lunch, she called me back into the kitchen. “I don’t know why your grandfather doesn’t like me, but he just doesn’t seem to. I will be going to another job after next week.” I watched as a tear spilled down her cheek. “What did I do wrong?” she whispered as she regained her composure.

“It’s not what you did; it’s what you didn’t do,” I replied. I told Mary Ann that I had known Grandfather all of my life. Number one: Never wash his pipe in the dishpan, no matter how bad it smells. Number two: A good mincemeat pie will turn him into putty in her hands. Number three: Grandfather liked Grandmother’s hair best when she wore it down. And number four: Grandfather would make friends with a cactus if it would sit on a log with him on a moonlit night and listen to the hounds run. Grandfather always said that the sound of those dogs running at night was the sweetest music this side of heaven. I would listen and listen, but in all honesty, it just sounded like dogs yapping to me.

You might have guessed that the very next time Mary Ann came to the house, she brought the most scrumptious mincemeat pie that I had ever tasted. Her chestnut hair was flowing down her back. But the most amazing thing was the conversation that evolved across the kitchen table when Mary Ann talked to us about “Old Bugler,” a silver-throated hound that she had raised as a pup.

I knew changes were in the making when Grandfather would dress up a little and always be clean-shaven on the day Mary Ann would be there. If I had any doubt, it all faded away when I looked out my open window at two in the morning, to see the two of them, hand in hand, walking back from a hunt with the dogs.

After that night, Grandfather found more and more excuses for Mary Ann to come to the farm. What had started as one day a week became nearly every day that they spent together. It also became apparent to me that my grandfather did not know the finer points of courting a girl. A date with Mary Ann consisted of taking her to the livestock auction in Maryville, but she never complained. I think she even liked it.

The days of summer were fast fading into fall when Grandfather took me with him to Maryville. I had no idea what the trip was for, until we went to the jewelry counter at Holtz. I watched intently as Grandfather selected a beautiful, gold locket with a gold chain. This would seal a relationship between Grandfather and Mary Ann for the rest of their years. They were married at Thanksgiving time, and happily lived out their years on the farm where they had met.

Today I treasure that gold locket and chain. When I look at it, it reminds me of a time long ago, when I played a small part in bringing two lonely people together to share life and love, and to rediscover the gold in their golden years.

Bruce Carmichael, D.C.

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners