Kitchen Notes Warm the Heart

Dear Mrs. Burditt, I cleaned mealie bugs off the cactus. Dogs have been fed. Benjy took the car, will be home tonight. I don't empty the garbage. The bag is only half full.

Laura

FOR 20 years, Laura Wienter was my devoted housekeeper caring for house, dogs, cats, plants, visiting relatives, children, and as time went on, grandchildren. ``Mrs. Wienter,'' as we all called her, brought harmony into my hectic life as I jousted with my roles of corporate wife, mother of five, mistress of the ``manor,'' and owner of a small business.

Every morning, Monday through Friday, Laura's rusty Volkswagen brought her to my house. Since she usually arrived after I had left for work and departed at midday, we communicated over the years largely through kitchen counter notes.

Dear Mrs. Wienter,

Sorry the kitchen's such a mess, but I had to take Mr.B. to the airport at 5:45 a.m. The kitchen windows are great; what did you use?

Mrs.B.

Dear Mrs. Burditt

I use vinegar and water plus a little ammonia. Glad you like them. Today I wax all the dining-room furniture. Thanks for the $20 for the magic purse. I think orange juice is on sale at Waldbaum's. I get you a case.

Laura

The orange-juice sale is just one example of Laura's thriftiness, which must have saved us untold dollars over the years. It was she who named the worn wrinkled leather pouch kept in a kitchen drawer ``the magic purse.'' Laura polished, scrubbed, and vacuumed with a vengeance. By Friday, the place shone; I was constantly dismayed at how quickly a family weekend could corrode her efforts. Each Monday, the house cried out for her presence.

But our relationship went deeper than her care of house, children, and pets. Laura and I shared our love of nature - especially the birds. Each year we performed a ``ritual'' over what to do about the swallows that insisted on making their nest right over our front door. ``The swallows are back,'' Laura wrote. ``They make such a mess but they fly so far to get here.'' Once again her heart overruled my husband's head and we diverted everyone to the back door until the fledglings had flown off.

At times Laura would get down in the dumps; then it would be my turn to cheer her up.

Dear Mrs. Burditt

Everything seemed to go wrong this a.m. The washing machine wouldn't drain. I found a leak under kitchen sink. Cullen had the margarine dish in the hall.

Laura

Dear Mrs. Wienter,

Sorry yesterday was such a disaster for you. Guess it's that time of year. Why don't you take Friday off? You and Fred can take a nice drive.

Mrs.B.

Sometimes Laura would help me if I had company on a Sunday. In she would come straight from church wearing a simple but stylish dress adorned with plain costume jewelry. Thrift shops and rummage sales were her favorite dress ``salons.'' On Laura Wienter everything took on dignity. Pride never stopped her from wearing things that I gladly gave her. Yet it always startled me to see her in my mother's favorite tweed topcoat after Mother died.

When I first heard about Laura Wienter, all I knew was she had been born in Germany, had a husband, four children, and had cleaned and baby-sat for friends of mine. I needed help and Mrs. Wienter needed work; thus our relationship had begun.

One day about 15 years after she came to us, Laura left on top of her daily note a brittle, yellow clipping from a German newspaper. It showed a picture of a large country home, obviously taken many years ago.

Dear Mrs. Burditt

Please call the Library; ``Mr. Pudgens'' is in. My aunt in Germany sent me this picture of my childhood home. I thought you like to see it.

Laura

The next day I arrived home before Laura left and talked to her about the picture. Indeed, it had been her childhood home. Then the astonishing tale unfolded. Laura's father had been a prosperous architect in post-World War I Germany. Both sets of grandparents were wealthy. She had been brought up like a princess, with riding horses, greenhouses, and servants to wait on her. The drastic inflation of the '20s had ruined her father's practice, so in the early '30s he set out for America, leaving Laura, her sisters, and mother behind where they continued to be cared for by the grandparents.

During the week, Laura attended a private lyceum, but it was the Sundays she told me that she loved the most. Little did Laura realize then how different her life was going to be.

In the mid-'30s, Laura's father was convinced that there would be war in Germany. Though he was struggling financially, he sent for his family. Young Laura soon found herself in the midst of the Great Depression in this country. She took a job at $5 a week taking care of children during the day while ``making'' her high school diploma at night. Later, her mind set on being a dental technician, she worked in a restaurant nights to pay for this training. It was there she met Fred; they fell in love and were married, moving soon to our suburban town. Loyally, Laura will tell you ``so we lived happily ever after,'' never mentioning meager means necessitating her to work outside the home at night to help clothe and feed the four children that soon came along. Laura Wienter long ago put the past behind her.

I was stunned by these revelations, imagining Laura as a girl riding her pony, being waited upon. What had been the source of her strength through such dramatic changes in her life: scrubbing other people's floors, polishing their silver, wiping their children's runny noses, cleaning up after their dogs and cats? And how had she kept her own home, husband, and four children together on a shoestring with such style and grace?

Style is something we all assume, I guess. Laura's obviously stemmed from her early years. But ``grace'' is the more important attribute. I now realize that Laura's grace came from her lifetime love and unfaltering devotion to God. She had given, and she had received.

Laura and I exchanged our notes for another five years; then it came time for my husband and me to retire, sell our home, and move on. For Laura and me it was difficult. She helped me through as she had so many other times, never letting on how much she was hurting about the impending separation and loss of work.

Dear Mrs. Wienter,

For the Real Estate Open House all must be perfect. I washed the arm covers for library chairs last night, as you have so many other things to do. We are so grateful for all your help. Your spirit truly inhabits this home.

Mrs.B.

Dear Mrs. Burditt,

The Real Estate Open House went well. Lots of ladies came. I heard them oohing and ahing about the library especially. Don't worry. I think you sell the house soon. Will you please give me Terri and John's address. I bought a baby card for them. Hope I see you tomorrow.

Laura

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK