IT IS ONLY fitting as we celebrate Mother's Day that we honor those women who sit at home and wait. Some of them wait for the plumber - others wait for the electrician. There are women, as I write this, who are still waiting for rug cleaners. United Parcel, J. C. Penney, a tree surgeon, or the appliance repairman.
These are brave women, unsung, afraid to leave their houses for even a half hour because the person they are waiting for might show up the moment they are gone.
Mrs. Katherine Davenport has been chosen this year to represent all the mothers of America who sit in a lonely vigil waiting for a repairman or a delivery driver who never comes.
I visited her home in Bethesda, Md., the other day to talk to her. She answered the door excitedly, but when I told her I was a journalist, her face dropped. "I was hoping that you were the linoleum man," she said. "I've been waiting for him for three weeks."
"That's not a long time."
"It seems like an eternity," she said. "He promised me he'd be here to lay the lunoleum in the kitchen on April 23rd at nine o'clock."
"Have you heard from him since?"
"No, but I received a post card from the Red Cross a week ago telling me he was well and that he was thinking of me." She showed me the card which she apparently had read many times.
"Every morning I call the linoleum store and they say he's coming that day. I'm going out of my mind with worry. They get your spirits up and then by the end of the day they've sunk. Why do they say he's coming when they know he isn't?"
"I guess they don't want you to despair," I suggested. "We all need hope."
Mrs. Davenport twisted a handkerchief. "You don't know what it's like to just sit here waiting for the doorbell to ring. I don't sleep at night because I have these nightmares that he took another job in Rockville. I keep wondering if he's getting enough to eat or whether his truck has broken down, or even worse that the linoleum I ordered never arrived. If he would just call and tell me he was all right, I could get through the days. But the uncertainty of it is driving me crazy."
"I'm sure he's all right or you would have heard from the Retail Linoleum Layers of America. Three weeks is not a long time to wait for a tradesman who promised to come on a certain day."
"But when he measured the kitchen floor he said he'd be back in a week. Why would he say that if he didn't mean it?"
"They all say that," I told her. "We once called a sewer man who said he would be there in two hours. He showed up alive and well six months later. When he finally came my wife asked what had happened, and all he said was: "I got here as fast as I could." Just when you give up all hope they do arrive.
"You're just saying that to make me feel better. Many of my friends have called repairmen who said they would come, and they've never been heard from again," she said as tears clouded her eyes.
"Have you thought about getting another linoleum man?" I asked.
"Every woman thinks about it," she said. "But what guarantee do I have that the second linoleum man won't do the same thing to me as the first one did?"
I didn't have an answer for her. I got up to leave.
She took me to the door. "Would you like to see the tape measure he left behind?" I said I would. She pulled open a drawer and with loving hands showed it to me.
It's a beautiful tape measure," I said. "You were lucky to even have those few hours with him."