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THE 13th RESOLUTION
By CHARLES M. SHELDON
David C. CookCopyright © 2012 David C Cook
All rights reserved.
Framing the Resolutions
James Blaisdell and his family sat around the breakfast table Saturday morning, January 1, 1929. James was an average citizen of Topeka, Kansas, with a pretty good business downtown. He was born in Kansas, and so were his pretty wife and his four children—two boys and two girls, Robert and Richard, Ruth and Rachel. "The four Rs we are," Robert the oldest had said when he noticed the fact. "Readin', 'ritin', 'rithmetic, and—" as he paused for another R, Richard had suggested "rheumatism," because the boy had, strange to say, been afflicted with a slight attack of that multiple disease. Neither James nor Mary, his wife, had intended to have such an alliterative family. They just happened to choose those names, and after the selecting was done, it could not very well be changed.
The Blaisdell family all belonged to a church, the name of which you could pronounce if you saw it in print. Robert was studying law at Washburn College, Richard was taking a course in music at the college, and Ruth and Rachel were in high school. The Blaisdells lived in a very comfortable dwelling, they had nice clothes, and they had every appearance of being healthy. There was a good car out in the garage at the back of the lot, a fairly good account down at the bank, and James Blaisdell on the occasion of this breakfast meeting on the first day of the new year had reason to feel decently proud of his wife, his children, and his life in general. James looked at each member of his family, then began a little "head of the table" talk before the family would scatter for the day.
"Now then, folks," said Mr. Blaisdell as was his habit when addressing the family circle and speaking as the meal was finished, "I am going to make some resolutions for the new year, and I am going to read 'em to you."
In order to understand all that follows, a little more ought to be said about this Blaisdell family. The father was one of a very few men, perhaps, who had a habit of taking every member of the household into his confidence and discussing freely matters of interest to all. He had a habit also of encouraging free questions and answer talk around the table, a habit which sometimes led to embarrassing moments, especially when the children interrupted or told their own experiences. He gave them much liberty and restrained them only when he thought they might be going too far with it. His reading of New Year's resolutions, therefore, on this first day of the year, was simply characteristic of a general habit known by all the members of the family.
A word about Mrs. Blaisdell. She had been a farmer's daughter; James and she had been classmates at Washburn College, where they began falling in love. Two years after graduating they had married and kept on falling for twenty-five years and were falling yet. Mary Blaisdell was not only in love with her husband, but she also had a real respect for him mingled with a continual amusement at his habits, among which were absentmindedness and a vein of left-handed humor that was continually surprising her. She looked at him now across the table with a gleam in her eyes that indicated a mixture of genuine affection and honest amusement.
Mr. Blaisdell paused a moment before beginning to read his resolutions. He was thinking, I wonder what that woman does to keep so good looking. She isn't any older than when I was courting her on the campus.
A word about the four Rs. Robert was finishing his course in law school. He was twenty- two, tall, not especially good looking, but he had an honest face and a dignified manner. He rather took advantage of his age to overlord the rest of the family, but not in any way to provoke anything but good-natured protest.
Richard was studying music with a fixed purpose to teach. He played several instruments, not any too well, it must be said, and not always with the cheerful consent of his sisters, who complained that he interfered with their quiet moments. He retorted by saying they never had any, but it was nothing more than a pleasant retort. Richard was the storyteller of the family and had a knack of remembering anecdotes with which he regaled the family at the table, sometimes to his father's annoyance.
Ruth was the genius of the family and was sometimes addressed as the intelligencer. She was very much interested in her studies and was one of the editors of the high-school paper. She had an ambition to become a newspaper reporter and an author of romantic fiction.
Rachel was the exact opposite of her sister, a lover of social life and already marked as a beauty. She was much sought after for parties, and Richard was beginning to tease her about the beaux who had begun to call to take her to various entertainments.
Let it be understood that all four were for the most part in the family circle, loyal to the home as they understood it, and in their hearts proud of their father and mother, although their doings did not always seem to express that fact.
"Now then, folks," repeated Mr. Blaisdell, "I have put my resolutions down in the order I thought of them. The first one is rather personal, but I guess I will give it. I am going to kiss your mother good-bye every morning before I leave the house for the store."
"I wish, James, that you would get your mustache trimmed. I have spoken to you about it several times," said Mrs. Blaisdell with a twinkle. "Can't you stop into the barber's on your way back from the store? Have it done the way I want it."
Richard broke in. "Mother, did you see the list of quotations of the national proverbs in the Atlantic last month? I thought that one of the Spanish quotations was good."
"What does that have to do with this resolution?" asked his father suspiciously.
"Well, the Spanish proverb is: 'A kiss without a mustache is like an egg without salt.' If you get your mustache—"
"Wait till you get a mustache, Son," said his father, while the girls giggled and Robert roared. Without waiting for another interruption, Mr. Blaisdell proceeded.
"Second, I am going to do more walking. I need exercise. I am getting fat. I shall begin by walking down to the store this morning."
"You don't mean it, Father, do you?" said Ruth. "If you do, that will give us the use of the car a little more."
"I don't see how you could have use of it any more than you do now," retorted her father. "The last time I took it downtown, I had to park it in front of the First Presbyterian Church on the west side of the state house square, and when I went to get it, it was gone. You and Rachel took it when you left school. Talk about using it a little more! That must be some of that fiction you are getting ready to compose. You don't need to study that subject. You are an expert on it already."
"But, James," broke in Mrs. Blaisdell, "you don't really mean that you will start to walk clear downtown. Why, it's over two miles, and you are not a very good walker."
"I know I'm not, and that's the reason I have made this resolution. I will forget how to walk if I ride all the time. If car riding becomes a world habit, after a while a race of beings will be born without any feet."
"How will they step on the gas?" asked Richard.
His father ignored him and went on to resolution three. "I have come to the conclusion that we are hurrying too much. It is just rush, rush, rush, all day long. Everything is in a whirl. I am going to take things easier, walk slower, talk slower, eat slower."
"You finished your breakfast this morning before any of us," put in his wife.
"Well, of course, I have not fairly begun to put these resolutions into practice. 'Give a fellow time, won't you,' as the man said who was about to be hung."
"That was a good story in the Ladies' Home Journal about New Year's resolutions, Father, did you notice?" asked Richard.
"Well, no. Let us have it so we can go on," replied Mr. Blaisdell good-naturedly.
"A man was writing a letter to an old chum, and he said in the letter: 'I tell you, George, I have come to the conclusion that we are hurrying too much. It is just rush, rush, rush, all day long. I have determined to take things easier. I am going to walk slower, talk slower, and eat slower and do everything slower. Yours in haste, Bill.'"
"You made that up," broke in Mr. Blaisdell.
"No, Father, I believe I heard one of—"
"Never mind how you explain it. I must hurry on. Fourth: next Sunday this whole family is going to start to go to church and keep it up every Sunday."
Dead silence reigned around the table, caused by the fact that the children, although members of the church, had not been going to the morning service. They all went to Sunday school but did not stay for the preaching service. This is a universal habit, by the way, of most families in the church to which the Blaisdells belong.
The silence was broken by Robert saying with some stiffness, the nearest symptom he ever expressed to any opposition to his father's wishes, "I thought, Dad, these were your New Year's resolutions, but you seem to be making them for the whole family."
"We won't discuss it here," replied his father quietly. "I want you all to think it over carefully. I have come to the conclusion that inasmuch as we are members of the church, we ought to support its services. It is time we reformed our habits in this respect. Thresh it out in your mutual council," he said, referring to a habit the children had of discussing together any matters of dispute. Mr. Blaisdell went on with a cheerful attitude, although a shade of anxiety had crossed his wife's face after hearing resolution number four.
"Fifth, I am going to stop swearing."
The four Rs stared, and Mrs. Blaisdell exclaimed, "Why, James Blaisdell, you never swore in your life! What do you mean?"
"Yes, I do. I swear a good many times when I lose my temper. I say, 'By thunder,' and 'Confound it!'"
Robert grinned at his father. "Do you call that swearing? You ought to hear some of our fellows."
"I call it swearing because I mean more than I say!" maintained the head of the house stoutly. "And I am going to quit it. I think it is a poor habit and shows a great lack of self- control."
"What will you use in the place of these words when you are excited?" asked Mrs. Blaisdell, as her eyes twinkled with amusement.
"Well, I don't know yet, but I'll find something. Number six: I am going to spend so much for luxuries, and whenever I do, I am going to put as much money into the church contribution box as I spend."
Mr. Blaisdell looked around the table, and his eye stopped at Richard. "By the way, Richard, how much do you spend foolishly every month?"
"What has that to do with your resolutions, Father?"
"It has more than you think, as you will find out pretty soon when we come to another resolution. But how much do you spend out of your allowance?"
Richard hesitated. "Oh, I don't know exactly."
"Do you mean that you do not keep any account of your expenditures?" asked his father with unaccustomed sternness. "Do you spend two or three dollars a week?"
Rachel snickered. "Two or three dollars? It's nearer five."
Richard did not deny it and looked very much embarrassed.
"And how much do you give to the church budget?" asked his father.
"Twenty-five cents a week."
"Doesn't look very good to me," replied his father thoughtfully. "Looks like robbing Peter to pay Judas Iscariot, but we shall take that up later.
"Number seven: I am going to double my church pledge on the annual budget this year. The rest of you can think it over.
"Number eight: I am going to close the store every Saturday afternoon."
Mrs. Blaisdell stared. "Why, Jim Blaisdell, how can you do that? None of the other stores downtown do that. Saturday is your best day."
"The banks close Saturday afternoon and the Santa Fe Offices, and the court house, and a number of other places. I am going to try it anyway. I believe that our clerks will be willing to try it also."
"Will you pay them the same wages?" asked Robert who seemed to be very much interested in the resolution.
"Why of course I will."
"How about Randall? What will he say?" Randall was Mr. Blaisdell's partner in the store.
"Well, I'll have to go over it with him, of course; but I think we can make it go all right. We are making money, and I believe in shorter hours.
"Number nine: I am going to read less trash and take up some intensive books this year. We take too may cheap magazines. They are full of silly love stories and nonsense. I have already bought the History of Philosophy, and the time I am going to stay at home I will have for improving my mind. No more trashy novels of modern stuff for me. By the way, Rachel, what was that book I saw in your room the other day? It looked to me that the picture on the cover ought to be arrested. I hope you don't read much of that."
Rachel blushed and then turned pale. She stammered and faltered, "It's a book we use in our Dramatic Club. It has a plot in it for our next high-school entertainment." Her father looked quietly at her, and Mrs. Blaisdell looked anxiously at her husband.
"Of course, Jim, the girls nowadays read some books that we never thought of when we were younger."
"Maybe they do, Mary, but don't you think it will make them older before they ought to be? We shall take that up in a minute.
"Number ten: I am going to write to some of my old friends whom I have neglected for years."
"And while you are making that resolution, I will match it, James. I don't know when I have felt so bad as I did the other day when that letter came saying that our old classmate June Beverley had died out there in Oregon. You remember all she did for me when I was so sick that winter and had to leave the dormitory and go to the hospital? And I might have helped her." A tear stood in Mrs. Blaisdell's blue eye, and Mr. Blaisdell glanced sympathetically at it. "And think of the time we have wasted over parties, receptions, and banquets, and then excused ourselves for not writing letters to old friends, some of them right here in Topeka."
"Yes, which reminds me of resolution number eleven. I am going to go to see some of the shut-ins this year. There's Professor Albert right down the street. He's been an invalid for three years, and he used to be one of our best teachers at Washburn. I feel ashamed of myself for not going in to call, and then I complain because I don't have time. I belong to too many organizations. I'm going to quit some of them this year.
"Well, folks, here's number twelve. Well, I am resolving that this year I want to know my family a little better."
The four Rs eyed one another in a circle. They were used to a good many surprises in their father and that was one of the characteristics that made him refreshingly interesting to them; but just what he was up to now, they could not guess.
"You can't guess what I mean by this resolution, so I had better tell you. I feel that you folks have been going the gait pretty well independently. I haven't pried into your personal affairs and I give you fair warning I am not going to spy on you or enter in on anything that is none of my business; but I am your father and the only one you have and I have a notion that I have a right to know some of the interests that belong to us all. I haven't asked you where you are nights and other times because I have trusted you, but I don't know what you are studying in college or school, I don't know who your teachers are or your companions. You all have liberal allowances and I have seldom asked you how you spend them; but I give you fair notice. I am going to ask you to let me know about a number of things this year. I want you to tell me without my asking very often. Take the matter of books and amusements. Seems to me Mother and I have some right to say something about them, without interfering with our own liberty. In the matter of your associates, I—"
Richard spoke up, glancing over at Rachel. "Rachel has so many beaux that they form a line clear across the lawn on Friday nights."
Rachel looked indignantly at her brother. "It's not true, Father. It is one of his stories."
"Did you see that story in the Saturday Evening Blade, Mother? One of the high-school fellows who took Rachel out to the class party last week made me think of it."
"Does this story illustrate what we are discussing?" asked Richard's father.
"Yes, sir, it sure does. It seems a young man was calling on a girl, and he was waiting in the parlor for the girl to come down. He had been there for what seemed to him like three or four hours when the young lady's little brother came into the parlor holding out his hand closed over something and said to the anxious young man, 'You don't know what is in my hand.' 'Of course I don't,' says the young man, 'unless I can see what you have.' The little brother opened his hand, and the young man looked over and said, 'Why, those are beans.' 'You do know beans, don't you?' said the little brother. 'I heard my father say you didn't.'"
Excerpted from THE 13th RESOLUTION by CHARLES M. SHELDON. Copyright © 2012 David C Cook. Excerpted by permission of David C. Cook.
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