Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Short Stories on Wednesdays - Home for the Day by Rosamunde Pilcher

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I tried to find a live version of this song, but there wasn't one where the words were as clear as this.



You might wonder why on earth I would begin a posting on a Rosamunde Pilcher short story with the song, I'm A Woman sung by the great Maria Muldaur. Well, it's because I was reading along in the story, and came upon the line:
James tried his hand at hanging out a sock or two, but it was dull and fiddly work, so he abandoned it and went back to work at his makeshift desk.
and the words to this song came to mind.
I can wash out 44 pairs of socks, and have 'em hanging out on the line.
I started laughing and thought I've got to find the song and put it up on the blog.

The story begins as James is returning from a business trip with the beginnings of a cold. His boss tells him to go home and do his work from there.
He realised, with some surprise, that he could not remember when he had ever taken a day off during the week. Revelling in idleness, he felt youthful, like a schoolboy with an unexpected holiday.
He does work on his report, but more often he spends his time noticing things. He has never known what home life was like during the day.
Sometimes it occurred to James that Louisa's life, when compared to his own, must be very dull. "What have you been doing today?" he would ask when he got home, but "Nothing much" was all she ever told him.
On this day off, James learns the millions of things that women at home do every day. He marvels that the Saturday housekeeper isn't there, and Louisa tells him the several days a week she doesn't come. He doesn't even know why the children aren't home until she reminds him they'd gone to stay with someone.
"You knew they were going."
He had known. He had simply forgotten.
The room where he wants to work is cold, and his wife tells him she doesn't light the fire until five o'clock. He happily smells cooking, and is surprised when a huge meal isn't for his lunch. She's making it for a dinner some days ahead and will freeze it. The phone rings off the hook all day long. She paints, she helps the man who cuts up a downed tree, she irons.

James isn't made out to be an unkind man. Until this day at home, he really and truly did not understand what Louisa did in the hours when he was away. When he is on his way home from work the next day, he stops and gets her flowers. She is delighted and asks, "But why?"
Because you are my life. The mother of my children, the heart of my house. You are the fruit loaf in the tin, the clean shirts in the drawer, the logs in the basket, the roses in the garden. You are the flowers in the church, and the smell of paint in the bathroom, ... And I love you.
This is the sort of story that makes one breathe a sigh of pleasure at the end. What a lovely writer Rosamunde Pilcher is. Her people are so often like James, not unkindly, just unknowing, and what a joy when he finally does understand.

Home for the Day
22 pages long
first published in Good Housekeeping magazine, as "Louisa" - February 1979
included in The Blue Bedroom & Other Stories, 1985

15 comments:

  1. Oh how sweet! I do love Rosamunde Pilcher, and this sounds typical of her.

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  2. It's a dear, dear story, Sophia.

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  3. What a jazzy, happy song! By an artist totally new to me! See, I have to do this meme because I'm so woefully 'ignorant' of musical artists. Love the book on the line, too, although Nan? I'd rather read than wash out 40-something pairs of socks. ;)

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  4. That sounds beautiful. He's one of the good men, who notices, appreciates, and demonstrates the appreciation.

    Thanks for sharing the recording too; I enjoyed it. I like Peggy Lee's way of singing it as well. There's one version of hers on Youtube where Johnny Cash introduces her with his appreciation of a woman's work:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rfz-aSyPIBo

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  5. Rosamunde Pilcher is an absolute favorite of mine. And her short stories are just as wonderful as her novels.

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  6. What a lovely thought. I am yet to read Rosamunde Pilcher but I'm really enjoying your posts on her stories.

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  7. I agree, Sophia! This does sound like her and I think it is just great. A little love story!

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  8. Nan,
    I LOVE Rosamunde Pilcher.
    Also, on Kay's blog, that nice lady from Texas, is it Random Acts of Reading... you mentioned the book, Time And Again by Jack Finney. I LOVE that book. I didn't know anyone else loved it like I do. I was so excited to see that you love it too! See, I have read fiction in my life!

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  9. That final quote is so marvelous, so simple, so elegantly precise. "The heart of my house..." -- wonderful.

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  10. I remember this story, validation for so many women.
    Loving the new header, very impressed with the tidy bookshelves.
    Carole

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  11. Bellezza, I couldn't resist putting the book up there. :<) And oh, Maria! You will love her, I am quite sure.

    HKatz, yes he is a good man. I imagine Rosamunde's late husband to have been much the same.
    I did see the Peggy Lee/Johnny Cash video but chose this because as I said, I thought it was clearer, and also Maria's version is the first I ever heard. I really love her.

    Pam, I just recently bought this collection and am happy to have both books of her stories now. I can read them over and over.

    CHE, I'm glad you're enjoying the monthly RP story posts. I sure love reading them!

    Deirdre, it absolutely is a love story.

    Kay, I hope to read Time and Again this year. It is a book I think about very often.

    Jenclair, I thought so, too. Really wonderful.

    Carole, yes. Validation. And affirmation and appreciation. She's just wonderful.
    A few people have made note of the tidy, organized etc. shelves. I just put in the books. :<)

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  12. I love the way you told us about this story. I can totally relate to it, although even in the 60s and 70s I never washed that many socks - certainly never by hand unless they were wool.

    I really must get this book. I miss Pilcher and her writing,

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  13. Margot, this one and Flowers in the Rain!! Such great stories.

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  14. Because you are my life. The mother of my children, the heart of my house. You are the fruit loaf in the tin, the clean shirts in the drawer, the logs in the basket, the roses in the garden. You are the flowers in the church, and the smell of paint in the bathroom, ... And I love you.

    I love this! And I love your photo and the music. You are such a great blogger, Miss Nan!

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  15. Oh, Les, I know you would love this story. And thank you, thank you for those nice words!!

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Now that I am a grandmother, it seems that I am often late in replying to your most-appreciated comments. But I read them as soon as they come in, and I will write as soon as I can. Please do come back and check. I love these blogging conversations. A little addendum - I've just spent quite a long time catching up with dear notes you left me months ago!! I do hope you can get back to read them. And I'm trying to be much more prompt now!

Also, you may comment on any post, no matter how old, and I will see it.