January 1st



“Good morning, Mordochka! It’s time to get up, up, up! It’s a wonderful new year. Come on. You can do it. That’s a boy. BIG stretch. Shake off that warm, fuzzy blanket.”
     “It’s cold outside.”
     “Don’t worry. We’ll just open the door and look out. You don’t have to go farther than the fence—even though there’s a wonder- ful world on the other side of it. Did you know that, Mordochka?” 
     “I’d rather think about it . . . in bed,” he said.

     “Up you go. That’s a good boy. Put one foot in front of the other. Now we’ll just open the door . . . and . . . good boy . . . I’ll tell you a story that’s sure to wake you up.”
     “It’s dark out there. It’s cold. Who knows what might happen to you out there?”
     “That’s exactly right, Mordochka! Just wait until you hear all the wonderful things happening on the other side of the fence. . . .”


Photo courtesy Susan Stark

THIS story is from England, Mordochka. It’s a true story, too. That makes it even better because it could happen to you. It’s about a housekeeper named Mary.

     Mary walked to work each day and walked home again the same way. She never once visited Stowmarket or even Clacton-on-the-sea. She never saw Little Blankenham, even though it has such a nice name. It sounds like someone put a little blanket over a pig, doesn’t it?  (No, Mordochka, you don’t need your blanket.) 

     Mary lived her whole life in one village. She fell in love with a boy from her village and married him. They lived down the road from where Mary grew up and were very happy.  She couldn’t imagine a place like Egypt with huge pyramids and sand all around. She couldn’t imagine a place like Siberia with snow everywhere. Mary’s world was no bigger than where her feet had taken her. 

     Every day but Sunday, Mary walked to Chelsworth to a house called Lower Common Farmhouse. People in England give their houses names.  But there was nothing common about Lower Common Farmhouse.  

     Mary worked for a man named Michael. He lived all alone after his wife passed away.
Mary cooked his meals, cleaned the house, did the laundry and found all kinds of ways to
be helpful. Most of all, she cooked especially special meals, Mordochka, when Michael had guests. 

     He had many friends and they were all very interesting. Mary tried not to listen to their conversations, but it’s hard not to listen when people talk about wonderful, far-away places. (Mordochka, are you still listening? Good boy.)  
     Michael and his friends talked about far-away places because they loved to travel. When Mary went home each night, she told her husband all she heard. But her husband always answered, “Mary, there’s no good reason for people to travel. Don’t fill your head with such silly ideas. You have a house, your family, and good friends. What more do you need?”  But Mary dreamed of far-away places.

     The day came when Michael told Mary he was going to marry again. Mary looked very worried, but Michael said, “You don’t need to worry. I will always need your help my faithful friend.” And so it was. Michael never let go of a good friend. Mary worked in Michael’s house like before.
     One night, when Mary was serving dinner, she heard Michael and his new wife talking about Egypt. She didn’t know where Egypt was, but she heard them talking about pyramids and camels, and great kings and jewels. “What a wonderful place that must be!” thought Mary. “What fun it would be to ride on a camel!” 

     Then one day Michael came into the kitchen and said, “Mary we won’t need your help for the next two weeks because my wife and I are going to Egypt.”

     Mary was happy for Michael because she loved him like a grandfather. But she was sorry not to have work for two weeks. Maybe she could find small jobs in her village, she thought, while Michael was gone. But before she could say, “Yes, sir, I understand,” Michael said to her, “And we will need your help on the trip. I’ve already talked to your husband. He said you can go with us.”  Mary was so happy she couldn’t even answer.   

     Michael never told Mary that they didn’t really need her help. Michael just loved to make people happy. Mary rode down the great Nile River on a big boat, she rode on a camel, and saw the great pyramids. 

     Mary never again traveled farther than she could walk—but once, she did, and that made all the difference.

—Told to us by Michael Chase

 ©InterestEng. July 2013 - April 2022 §  The stories in the magazine portion of the site are written by English language learners. Stories are corrected by a native English speaker.  § Photos are staff photos or used with permission.  §  To contact us:  go.gently.on@gmail.com