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all the years of her life summary

By Mahoor-Kh Oct 17, 2013 830 Words
"All the Years of Her Life" is a short story about the love a mother has for her son. The son does not appreciate his mother until the night his actions cause her emotional collapse, as he realizes the depth of her affection.

As the story begins, Sam Carr, the owner of a drugstore, asks his young employee, Alfred Higgins, if there might be some items in his coat pockets that he wants to leave on the counter before he goes home for the evening. Alfred immediately senses that something is wrong because Mr. Carr's soft tone has replaced his usual gruff manner. Mr. Carr contends that Alfred has taken two tubes of toothpaste, a compact and a lipstick, but Alfred denies stealing anything. Mr. Carr persists in his calm tone, and eventually Alfred produces the stolen items, laying them on the counter. Mr. Carr makes the assumption that this is not the first time that Alfred has stolen items, although Alfred denies any other thefts. Alfred feels the old fear rising in him since he always has trouble holding onto a job, and he suspects that he is about to lose this one too. Alfred lives with his parents, as the last child to remain at home, after the marriages of his two older brothers and the recent surprise wedding of his younger sister. Alfred knows that his parents would have an easier life if he could keep a job. Mr. Carr likes Alfred and wants to trust him, but this incident makes that impossible. Mr. Carr is conflicted about how to handle the situation. Not sure that Alfred should be arrested, Mr. Carr volunteers that he will call Alfred's father first instead of the police. Alfred says that his father works at night as a printer and will not be at home. The only other option is for Mr. Carr to call Alfred's mother, an idea to which Alfred objects. Mr. Carr places the call to Mrs. Higgins, explaining the unfortunate situation. Mr. Carr and Alfred wait in the uncomfortable, quiet darkness of the store for Alfred's mother to arrive. Finally, Mrs. Higgins arrives clutching her coat at her neck, her hair roughly shoved up under her hat. Mrs. Higgins bears an elegant composure in spite of the circumstances and acknowledges the charges from Mr. Carr. Alfred admits taking the items so that he can sell them for some extra spending money to go out with his friends. Mrs. Higgins takes in this information and places her hand on Mr. Carr's arm and asks what his intentions are. Mr. Carr had planned to phone the police, but Mrs. Higgins calmly requests that Mr. Carr pass along advice in lieu of punishment in this case. Alfred is amazed as he watches his mother interact with Mr. Carr, who relents and does not call the authorities. Mr. Carr can tell that Mrs. Higgins is a fine woman and is amenable to her suggestion to let Alfred go home with her now. Mr. Carr fires Alfred and Mrs. Higgins tells Mr. Carr that she will never forget his kindness in this matter and she and Mr. Carr part almost as if they had been good friends. Alfred has mixed emotions as he walks home at his mother's side, being relieved that he escaped severe punishment while also in awe of his mother's amazing performance in Mr. Carr's store on his behalf. Alfred at least has the good sense to keep quiet once he sees his mother's stern expression in profile. It is only when the noise of an overhead train breaks the bubble of silence that Alfred speaks and tells her that he will not get into trouble like that again. Mrs. Higgins snaps at Alfred that he has once again disgraced her, saying that he should have the decency to be quiet now. At home, Mrs. Higgins is more vocal and chastises Alfred for his continuing reprehensible behavior, and she sends him to bed with a warning not to mention the incident to his father. In his bedroom, Alfred can hear the sounds of his mother making tea in the kitchen and he walks quietly toward her and stops short by what he sees. Mrs. Higgins trembles as she tries to pour the hot water for tea, and she is so distressed that her hands can barely lift the cup to her mouth. Alfred can see his mother's face now which looks old and tired and so different from the brave countenance she displayed just a short while ago in Mr. Carr's store. Mrs. Higgins finally regains her composure and it occurs to Alfred that this same scenario must have been played out in the kitchen each time Alfred caused his mother trouble. Alfred now understands what his mother has endured and he sees all the years of her life reflected in her. trembling hands and realizes that this is the first time he has ever really seen his mother

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