Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste

Prologue

Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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Mending Holes

September 2, 2016

 

 

 

My mother went to work in the Almadén bottling plant in Los Gatos, California, when I was eleven. This occurred at a time when my grandmother’s life was slowing down and she had little to do. I don’t know all the details, but Mom and Grandma made an arrangement for Grandma to do our laundry. I doubt Mom paid for this service; Grandma probably did it out of love and was happy to have something to keep her busy.

           

Whatever the arrangement, it worked well for a few years. Grandma lived nearby and Mom or Dad would pick up our laundry once a week after work. This might have been Grandma’s real payoff because she loved company and always had coffee and freshly baked treats ready for whoever picked up our laundry. Sometimes Dad would be late coming home for dinner because he’d been drinking coffee with her and forgot the time.

           

One laundry incident has stuck in my mind all these years. This time Mom had picked up the laundry after work. Back home, she was removing the freshly washed and ironed clothes from the laundry basket when she found something that made her cry. Seeing a parent cry is always traumatic and I couldn’t help sliding up to her to find out what was wrong.

           

She held up a pair of Dad’s old briefs, which I managed to recognize as the rag Dad used to wipe his hands on when he worked on our car. The briefs had been little more than a collection of holes and had been demoted to the status of garage rag. How they ended up in our laundry basket remains a mystery.

           

As it turned out, Mom’s tears were tears of love—Grandma hadn’t known these briefs were a rag and had given them the Betsy Ross treatment. Although my mother couldn’t thread a needle and didn’t sew, my grandmother was an excellent seamstress and sold embroidery during the Depression to help put food on the table. Dad’s old underwear had been restored and preserved like the Shroud of Turin. Some of the holes had been carefully darned and fragments of other fabrics had been stitched over holes creating a patchwork quilt effect, just the thing for a Biblical Joseph to wear beneath his Coat of Many Colors. It must have taken hours to repair the damage to that old rag.

 

Dad’s restored underwear won a reprieve from being used as a garage rag although he never again wore them. They remained neatly folded in his top drawer until the day he died.    

        

 

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Comments

25 Comments
That was sweet of her. I never bother trying to repair my underwear. I don't use them as rags either. I just toss them when they get too holy.
By: PT Dilloway on September 2, 2016
I think I remember this post, or did you write something else about Grandma and the laundry? Whatever the case, it's a beautiful story. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on September 2, 2016
She didn't believe in waste. Nice of her to do that.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on September 2, 2016
What a beautiful story.
By: Lisa on September 2, 2016
Noting that she lived through the depression. She knew the importance of being resourceful. Doing what she did for family is born out of love.
By: Daniel LaFrance on September 2, 2016
I love this story. I watched it u fold as you told it. R
By: Rick Watson on September 2, 2016
This was the most heartwarming underwear story I ever read!!
By: fishducky on September 2, 2016
Wonderful, sweet story Stephen. I am enjoying some smiley tears here.
By: Arkansas Patti on September 2, 2016
awesome Grandmother! a very sweet story!
By: Kathe W. on September 2, 2016
Great story, and nice to hear you tell a softer side of your mom.
By: cranky on September 2, 2016
You had a very special grandmother.
By: messymimi on September 2, 2016
Wow. What a special lady and a great story. Always leave your blog with a smile on my face. Thanks Stephen.
By: Mr. Shife on September 2, 2016
I could use a grandmother like that! Laundry is a big chore - how nice of your grandmother to help out like that.
By: Pixel Peeper on September 2, 2016
I'd say that went above and beyond the call of duty.
By: Kline on September 2, 2016
Good thing there's no such saying as: "Don't cry over patched underwear." Because I just did.
By: Val on September 2, 2016
This brought tears to my eyes. Your grandmother was very much like my mother. She was a wonderful seamstress and mended all my clothes when they became worn because she know I couldn't afford to buy more. Your story is beautiful.
By: Marcia @ Menopausal Mother on September 2, 2016
What a kind Grandma you had. Growing up in the Depression will teach you to be very frugal. That's when my mom grew up too. I wish people nowadays had more respect for used items and didn't throw so much away. It's a shame.
By: Lexa Cain on September 2, 2016
so sweet. that she did that and that he kept them.
By: Ellen Abbott on September 3, 2016
that's precious...
By: TexWisGirl on September 3, 2016
Nice story. What made her cry, gave me a knowing and sympathetic laugh.
By: Tom Sightings on September 3, 2016
What a lovely story!
By: The Bug on September 3, 2016
Awww....what a nice story. :)
By: scott park on September 4, 2016
That is sweet! Frugal too! What a wonderful memory.
By: Tom Cochrun on September 4, 2016
oh Stephen, i have tears.
By: Fran on September 6, 2016
Ack, Steve - your story is squeezing the tears out of me! Oh, my heart!
By: jenny_o on September 6, 2016

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