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Little things

UNCLE Ed was just coming from his home farther along North Water Street when I came running down the porch steps of our house. My Dutch-cut hair, calico dress, and shoestrings were flying out behind -- I was in such a hurry to carry out the errand my mother had entrusted to me. ``Now don't linger,'' she had said. (I was to take a basket of hot muffins across the street to Judge McIlvaine for his breakfast.)

``Good morning, Dionis.''

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``Good morning, sir,'' I said, for Uncle Ed was a sea captain and had to be treated with respect.

``Wait a minute, child. You'll trip on those shoelaces and break your neck. Sit down. I'll show you how to tie them so they won't come out until you're ready to go to bed.''

I put the basket down and sat on the step beside it.

``You know how to tie a regular bow like the ribbon in your hair. You start the same way, but put the loop through another time. See? And when you want to untie it, you only have to pull both ends. See?''

The shoestrings flew apart. We both laughed.

``Now watch closely.'' He tied the shoelace another time.

I wanted to pull the two ends again, but he told me to tie the other shoe myself, and I did.

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``Now pull it out and try once more.''

But now I remembered Mother's command. ``I know how,'' I said. ``Judge McIlvaine needs these muffins for his breakfast.''

``Of course.'' Uncle Ed took my hand and escorted me across the street.

As we parted he patted my shoulder. ``Don't forget, dear, little things, like shoelaces, are important.''

I haven't forgotten.

Many years later my grandson came in from playing tennis, shoelaces flapping.

``Geof, let me show you how to tie your shoelaces.''

``I did tie them, Grandma, a hundred times. They're always coming loose.''

``Mine don't!'' I showed him why and told him about Uncle Ed.

And only yesterday when my daughter, who is a children's librarian, came home, she said, ``Guess what, Mother! Little Bea Whiting was coming down the stairs at the library with her shoestrings untied. I thought of you and your Uncle Ed, and showed her how to tie them.

``Her father was impressed. `Your mother's uncle? Capt. Edwin Coffin? He was captain of one of Anthony Fiala's ships on his search for the North Pole!' I had forgotten that, but I remembered he said to you, `Little things, like shoelaces, are important.' ''

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