In memory of my mother, Goldie Cundiff Hawn (1922-1999)
by Martha VanCise. Published in Standard 1993
In the Midwestern farm community where my parents retired, the big event of each day was the arrival of the local paper. The daily didn’t even make a solid thud when it landed, but it contained all the vital area news and social gossip. In spite of constant changes in delivery personnel, the paper was always tossed in front of my parents’ door or handed through the screen door to Mom, who often sat on the enclosed porch awaiting its arrival.
One afternoon, the paper didn’t arrive. The next day it was two hours late. “We must have a new carrier,” Dad said. “I’ll watch tomorrow evening and see who it is.”
Both Dad and Mom were sitting on the porch swing when a girl came pedaling down the street, flinging papers without regard to where they landed. Mom opened the door as the girl approached and held out her hand for the paper. The girl, not quite a teenager, ignored the extended hand and flung the paper at the house.
The next day, Mom made sure she was at the door, smiling, when the paper came. Without looking Mom’s way, the girl hurled the paper at the house and continued down the street.
“She seems to be an unhappy little girl,” Mom said.
“She’s tough,” Dad replied. “I saw her this morning and she was screaming all kinds of bad names at a little boy. She has a chip on her shoulder.”
“She just needs a friend,” Mom insisted. From that day on, she made a special effort to greet the girl. But there was no response.
One evening, at paper time, Mom stood in the drive talking to a neighbor. “I’ve been trying to get our papergirl to smile or speak, but she just ignores me.”
“From what I hear,” the neighbor said, “she treats everyone that way. She doesn’t even get along with the kids. Always fighting and cursing them. Some say that she has a bad home life, but that’s no excuse to be so nasty.”
Mom continued greeting the girl with a smile and an occasional compliment. The girl never acknowledged the greetings, but did start handing the paper to Mom at the door.
Late one day, a spring shower came just as the girl arrived. “Come in on the porch and sit until the rain ends,” Dad said. Turning to Mom, he said quietly, “I think she would like some of those cookies you just baked, and a glass of milk.”
The girl ate the snack then set down the empty plate and glass. She left without giving any expression of thanks.
The next day, Mom was again standing in the drive talking to the neighbor at paper time. “I don’t understand that little girl. I’ve done my best to be her friend, but she won’t even give me a smile.”
“Some kids are hopeless,” the neighbor said. “They don’t want to be liked.”
As the women saw the girl approaching with the evening papers, Mom said with a hint on stubbornness in her voice, “I’m not going to quit trying to be her friend. Someday I’ll get through to that little girl.”
The papergirl dragged her bike to a stop with the toes of her sneakers and handed the women their papers.
“That’s a pretty shirt,” Mom commented. “Is it new?”
Abruptly, the girl backed the bike away, and took off spurting gravel as she went. The neighbor turned and walked away, shaking her head.
“I’m still going to keep trying,” Mom said as she turned and walked toward the house. “She isn’t hopeless. She just needs a friend.”
On the porch, Mom sat down on the swing, and unfolded the paper. Inside the paper lay a fistful of violets.
Martha VanCise ©1993 Published: The Standard