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For This I Have Yearned

"T HERE now, Michael John Terrance, Junior, I think you look handsome enough to please Michael John, Senior, when he comes home, don't you? You know I believe you and I together will make a rather pleasing picture to greet your father on this very special occasion."

Margaret Terrance, who ten minutes before had been hoping and even praying that the children would stay asleep until after Michael came, so she could be looking her very prettiest to greet him, held her small son at arm's length as she continued, "Yes, you will do nicely with your hair combed and your face shining. In fact, you are adorable, Michael John, Junior."

"I'm Mickey, Mother. Don't you know?"

"Yes, darling, you are Mickey; but you are also Michael John Terrance, Junior." She gave him an impulsive hug and continued, "And at three-going-on-four, you are a small replica of your father."

"What does plica mean, Mother?"

"It means that you and Daddy are alike as two peas, though one is small and one is large."

Before another question was forthcoming, Margaret held little Michael close and said, "Grow up to be just like Daddy, won't you darling? Just like him in every little way."

"I will. I love Daddy, too, Mother."

"Now let's finish our preparations. Everything must be perfect for Daddy tonight. If only Tommy and the twins will stay asleep. You see I must get fixed up pretty, too."

"You are always pretty, Mother."

"Thank you, Mickey; but even you must admit I'm prettier sometimes than others. And this must be one of the times when I'm prettiest. Now you sit in the big rocker and look at your picture book while I make myself beautiful. Daddy mustn't miss too much not getting a gift this year."

At that moment a cry from the bedroom told her that the baby had awakened sooner than usual from his afternoon sleep.

"Oh, dear, just when I needed time more than anything else! Mickey, can you be Mother's big man and rock the cradle? Perhaps Tommy will go back to sleep and not waken the twins."

"Sure, Mother. I know how to rock the cradle."

Soon Margaret heard the gentle rhythmic creak of the loved old cradle that had soothed all her mother's babies, and the cries ceased.

She took one last inspection of the table, set in the dining room for the occasion, and decided it was perfect. She smiled, knowing Michael would exclaim, "My, my, the prettiest cake ever!" when he saw the white-frosted creation with "Happy Anniversary" done in tiny pink flowers, with five pink candles in the center.

Then she slipped quickly into her prettiest afternoon frock, patted her curls in place, and she was ready with about ten minutes to spare before Michael would arrive.

She was congratulating herself on the luxury of these moments when Mickey called from the bedroom, "Mother, Tommy won't go to sleep, but he's good as can be, and the twins are awake, too, so may I quit rocking the cradle?"

There goes my luck! thought Margaret. Oh, well, every cloud has a sparkling lining, if we but look for it. Who knows, perhaps a diamond one this time? Her thoughts were racing ahead as she called cheerfully, "Yes, dear, you may stop now."

She went into the crib-filled room, kissed Mickey as she thanked him, then lifted Mary and Katherine, plump little cherubs of two, from their cribs, took up wee Tommy, and smiling at the dew-sweet wonder in three pair of eyes, said happily, "I'll tell you what! Let's all be waiting at the gate for Daddy tonight. All his family. That can be his gift, his smiling family to welcome him home. Come, only a few minutes to brush curls and put on fresh dresses. Daddy will be starting home by now."

M ICHAEL, walking home, was taking great strides that spoke his eagerness. Under his arm was a long slim parcel. "Not much of a gift," he mused rather ruefully "but even pennies have to be counted these days." Then a smile illuminated his features as his thoughts raced on, "Four little Terrances and only five years married! I just hope Margaret never regrets taking me instead of Robert Barker. Now he would be bringing her five dozen instead of just one read rose." He sobered at the thought.

He was half a block away when he saw them: Margaret holding up two-months-old little Tommy for him to see, and Mickey holding the hands of the twin girls. His face broke into smiles again and he held out his arms. The three children ran to meet him squealing their delight. With a twin in each arm, his parcel still under one, and Mickey hugging one of his legs, he came to Margaret, and in a way known only to fathers whose love is all-embracing, he included her and baby Tommy in his already overflowing arms.

"Tiss me! Tiss me!" chorused the twins as he kissed his wife.

"You little imps! I've already kissed you, but here's another, and now Mother must have one more, too."

"Better kiss Mickey again, too, darling," whispered Margaret as lips pressed her cheek.

"Now you three girls can walk to the house. I want to carry my two sons." He put down the twins, picked up a laughing and dancing little Mickey, kissing him as he did so, set him on one shoulder, gave him the parcel to hold, and held out his free arm, saying, "Mother, put my wee son in this arm, will you? There that's fine."

Margaret took a hand of each of the little girls, and with laughing voices, tripping feet, and singing hearts, the happy group entered the house.

"My, my, the prettiest cake ever!" Michael caught the implication in Margaret's twinkling eyes and defended himself by saying, "It really is the prettiest. You see it's the only one that has had five candles to light. Imagine, Mrs. Terrance! Five long years! Think you can manage another five?"

"With flying colors, my dear. I long to be ten years married to a certain Michael Terrance. No fifty years married! Sounds so matronly and serene and secure."

In almost no time baby Tommy was in his buggy near the table, the twins were in their highchairs, and Mickey on his special chair his father had made just the right height for him.

"F IVE years married! Where's that box? Oh, here, Margaret," Michael handed the long, slim parcel to her as he spoke. "Open your fifth anniversary gift."

"But Michael, You shouldn't have! You know we decided together." But her fingers flew and her face glowed her pleasure.

"I know, dearest, but I couldn't resist just one."

"One perfect rose! On, Michael, you couldn't have given a nicer gift.

"It should have been five at least, if not five dozen."

"No, Michael, one is even more beautiful. One perfect rose ... in my crystal vase! I love perfection, and you have given it to me." As she placed the rose in water in the sparkling vase, she repeated softly, " 'If eyes were meant for seeing, then beauty is its own excuse for being,' thank you, darling." And she drew him down to her to place a kiss on his forehead.

The anniversary dinner was a joyous affair, with Daddy helping to feed Mary and Katherine. Before he lit the candles, Michael had  little Tommy in his arms. And how four pairs of wee bright eyes danced, and two mature pairs glowed as the candles burned!

"Sure there are no regrets, Mrs. Terrance?" Michael's voice was music so low Margaret could barely hear.

Regrets? ... thought Margaret. Then time spun backward. Again Robert Barker was saying, "And Margaret, there won't be any children for at least five years. Just you and I loving each other. Why life will be one long, delightful holiday for us, with one or two children perhaps."

"Regrets?" Margaret said it aloud this time and looked into four perfect little faces, thinking, for these and more I have yearned all my life. For this was I born. Then, lifting her eyes, clear and shining, to her husband's she answered, "No regrets. Happy anniversary, darling!"

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