“What Can You Do?” Friend, June 1990, 2
Sally had a problem. Her sister, Meg, a high school junior, recently placed second in the state gymnastic tournament. Meg looked like a butterfly as she flew through her routine. And fourth-grade, freckle-faced Timmy, Sally’s younger brother, could make a violin sing. His teacher said that Timmy had a great future.
Meg and Timmy had special talents, and Sally didn’t have any. That was her problem.
One day Sally overheard a new neighbor say, “I understand that you have two talented children—one a violinist, the other a gymnast. What does your other child do?”
“I couldn’t get along without Sally,” Mom replied. “She’s a great organizer and my responsible helper.”
Though no one saw her, Sally felt her face burn. So I’m only an organizer, she thought. That’s no special talent. Grandma would often say, “Sally will find herself one of these days. You’ll see.” But Sally didn’t want to wait to see.
However, now that Mom was working, Sally didn’t have much time to worry about being talented. Every day after school she did some of the housework and started dinner. Tim and Meg had either lessons or practice. Sometimes when Sally felt annoyed at them, Mom would say, “I don’t know what I’d do without you,” and some of the hurt would go away. Anyway, Meg and Timmy did have to do the dinner dishes.
At first, Sally had problems with her cooking. Underdone, lumpy potatoes and burned carrots were only two of several disasters. But Mom helped her learn a little each time she cooked dinner.
Now when Dad came home, he said, “What’s cookin’, good lookin’,” and gave Sally a hug. Then she felt loved and happy.
One day toward the end of May, Meg called Sally and Timmy to her room and said, “Father’s Day is next week. Let’s have a party for him. What can we give for a present?”
Sally suggested that they each do something special … maybe have a program. Timmy looked at Sally and asked, “What would you do?”
Sally slumped down and fussed with her fingernails. Then she had an idea—but she wouldn’t tell. She’d surprise everybody. So she shrugged and said, “I’ll think of something.”
“I’ll bet,” Timmy teased.
“Timmy, that’s not nice,” Meg told him. “Just be sure that your violin’s in tune.”
To change the subject, Sally suggested that they invite Grandpa and Grandma.
The next afternoon Sally hurried home and told Mom her plan and asked for her help. Mom thought that Sally’s idea was terrific, and Sally suggested that they get Mrs. Jensen, their next-door neighbor, to help.
For several days Sally spent extra time after school at Mrs. Jensen’s, working on her project. Then, on Father’s Day, she hurried home from church to work on dinner. Meg and Timmy had assumed that the special dinner was Sally’s part of the program, and she just let them think so. It would be fun to surprise them too.
Mom came home from choir practice in time to help with the last-minute preparations. “Dad will be so pleased,” she said.
Dad was indeed pleased as well as surprised. Everything tasted delicious.
When fruit gelatin with whipped cream was served for dessert, Timmy asked, puzzled, “No cake for the party?”
Dad said, “This gelatin is my favorite.”
Grandpa said, “Young lady, I didn’t know that you’d learned how to cook like this.”
“We’ll have to invite you over more often,” Dad told him.
After dinner Meg and Timmy presented their program. Since they had no gymnastic bars, Meg did a floor exercise to music played on the tape recorder.
As soon as Timmy started to play the first of his two violin solos, Sally slipped out and hurried next door. Then Mrs. Jensen walked her home so that Sally wouldn’t stumble with her precious project. Sally re-entered the living room while the family were noisily applauding Timmy’s performance. Sally nodded to Mom, who announced, “Now we would like you to come back into the dining room for Sally’s special treat for Dad and Grandpa.”
“You mean there’s more?” everyone asked.
Indeed there was more! In the middle of the table sat a five-layer cake. Thick chocolate frosting dripped down the sides. Ruffled chocolate edging circled three yellow frosting roses with green leaves on the cream-colored top. Chocolate frosting spelled out, “Happy Father’s Day.”
The family oohed and ahhed as they examined the masterpiece. Then everyone talked at once. Mother stood with her arm around Sally, who grinned so hard that her face hurt.
Timmy asked suspiciously, “Where’d you get that?”
Before Sally could answer, Mom said, “She made it.”
“Mrs. Jensen is a cake decorator,” Sally explained, “and she taught me how.”
Meg said, “Oh, Sally, teach me. Would you, please?”
Grandma said, “If you’re giving classes, may I come too? Your cake is beautiful.”
“Do we get to eat it,” Grandpa asked, “or is it just to look at?”
“I hope not,” Timmy said. “It looks yummy to me!”
Dad looked at Timmy. “I was hoping that you wouldn’t want any. That would leave more pieces for me and Grandpa.”
Meg sighed. “Sally, that’s the most beautiful cake I’ve ever seen!”
Sally, so happy that she couldn’t speak, handed Dad the cake knife.
He laid it on the table, cupped his hands around his mouth and called in a loud voice, “Look out, chefs of the world! Someone is coming to give you a run for your money.”
Grandma smiled and winked at Sally while taking a piece of cake.