There was a light wind in the air that signaled the beginning of spring. I opened the back door, propped it, and took a few more drags from my cigarette. The kids were up and dressing, Steve was still shaving, and I took a moment to enjoy the air. It has been a long winter, and I was ready for a little sunshine, warm air, and color on my cheeks and legs. I am so pasty at this point every year that none of my makeup looks right. The wide gashes of color on my pale cheeks remind me of a silent film star trying hard to look young. Maybe this spring I’ll work on updating my look so that I project a more youthful style. My girlfriends are all about the same age as I am and they are starting to act stodgy. I might have to call the Sassy Sisters, Marylou and Marysue, to choose some flattering colors to use when making up my face. I’m still hooked on that red lipstick they sold me on their last visit, and I should buy a backup tube anyway.
After breakfast, everyone left and I was able to get down to my daily chores. I noticed that my nail color had chipped and made a mental note to reapply a pretty shade this afternoon. I chatted with Sarah during my second cup of coffee. She was supposed to host the next card party, and we were discussing a possible theme. Sarah has a lovely home, but she has bouts of shyness, and does not show off for anyone. She is my role model on how to treat others but my mind just can’t think as nicely as hers about others. I’ll continue striving but I’m not sure it’s in my personality. She is never catty; I like to add my sarcastic two cents from time to time. Maybe more than two cents. Sarah decided on a flowery theme to welcome spring. It would be easy to carry out and had lots of choices. I suggested that we all wear a hand-made Easter bonnet. Mind you, I’m not particularly crafty. The occasional popsicle raft made with the kids or pot holder made on a loom were my specialties. Sarah liked the idea about the hats.
The day before the card party, Sarah called Mags to discuss whether Sarah should move forward with her planned card party the following day. Sarah said that Roger was taking the day off to oversee the new in ground pool that he was having dug in the backyard. Sarah told Mags that there would be heavy equipment noises that would certainly disturb them while they played cards and talked. Mags offered to let Sarah use her house and called everyone to let them know about the change in plans.
On card party day I went across the street to help set up a little early. My hat was mildly disturbing in its ugliness. The kids had helped me by gluing extra buttons, glitter, and small pieces of felt to an old hat base. I couldn’t manage to stop them from their tacky creative ways without sounding like a mean old mommy and knew that the other mothers probably had the same dilemma when they made their bonnets. Mags gasped and then laughed when she saw it and asked if she could trade hers for mine so that she could wear the monstrosity. I sensed that she knew that the ugliest hat would probably get the most attention, and gladly accepted her offer. Mags had secured a few lines of “ric rac” to the top of a previously lovely cloche which fit my head perfectly. The ugly hat was a size too small for Mags and it sat off one side of her head. Sarah had made a lovely bonnet with delicate flowers ringing the edge. This was going to be one weird party. Judy Anne arrived with a dainty spray of flowers on one side of her head and Gail created a masterpiece of embellished roses on top of a hat she may have worn about five years ago. My older hats were always sent to the attic or the dress-up box for the kids. We giggled and laughed at Mags wearing the worst hat and sat down to play cards.
Since Sarah was technically the hostess, she didn’t get in on every game and spent her time keeping up the drinks and food. She had masterfully set a beautiful table using some of her own silver and matched it with some from Mags. I looked up and saw her watching something intently out the window. Her gaze followed a moving vehicle and thought maybe she was looking at the equipment heading to her house. Without moving her eyes off the window, she asked Mags if she was expecting a visitor. Mags laughed and replied that she wouldn’t be wearing this particular hat if she were expecting visitors other than us. The doorbell rang, we all stopped playing, and Mags rose to open the front door. When the door swung completely open it was difficult to see exactly who it was, but I guessed based on the silhouette in the sunshine and the strangled sound from Mags that announced the name, Brooke. Baby sister had arrived!
Topped with a stunningly wide brimmed hat for 1954, Brooke stood in the doorway. Her elegant suit must have been custom-made since it fit every curve perfectly. She had a lovely stole wrapped over her shoulders, and dark glasses shaded her eyes. The pumps were dyed the same lovely shade as the suit. There was no expression on her face when she saw Mags, but Mags sure looked shocked. While Mags regained her composure, Sarah invited Brooke in and we all stared at the scene that was playing out right in front of us. There we sat, in our homemade hats, playing cards, eating sugary treats, and drinking. We probably epitomized the essence of the suburbs. I got up and greeted Brooke, letting her know that Mags had spoken about her life and career in LA. Mags seemed to be recovering from the shock and asked Brooke to come in and sit down. Sarah ran to get a drink for Brooke, stopped in her tracks, turned back around, and asked Brooke if she would like a cocktail. A sultry yes was the only response. I guess baby sister was going to drink what we were having that afternoon, Stingers. The coincidence seemed ironic. Brooke glided over to the sofa and floated down to her seat. I was trying to guess what shade of pink her suit was when she looked straight at me and said “cowboy.” The name fit the color perfectly since the color wasn’t girly at all and was really quite dangerous-looking. We all sat down around Brooke and left a place for Mags. Sarah brought in the cocktail and handed it to Brooke. She took a sip and removed her dark glasses. Yep, Mags was right, she was stunning. Gorgeous large pearl earrings rested on her lobes and there was a multi-strand at her neck. She gracefully put down her drink and opened her bag to take out a gleaming cigarette case. I wondered if I should be taking notes on her moves so I could steal them later.
Mags grabbed her own drink glass, sat down next to Brooke, removed a cigarette from the coffee table case, and lit it with the antique lighter that she displays next to it. Brooke pulled out a long cigarette holder, placed the cigarette in the holder, and lit it with the same lighter. We all continued to stare. Mags had not yet given us the green light to start asking questions. The awful hat was still on Mags’ head, and Brooke glanced up at it. Mags asked Brooke if Brooke liked her new hat. There was a stifled giggle from Gail and Mags shot her a quiet look that kept her from giggling again. Mags and Brooke sat side by side on the sofa smoking and watching each other. It seemed a long time until Brooke broke the silence by asking what game we were playing. I understood from her facial response that it wasn’t her chosen card game. Brooke asked if we were up to a game of poker. Mags answered that she was in and looked at me. I had been practicing with Steve each week and thought perhaps I could do okay. Really, how much of card shark could little Brooke be? Gail and Judy Anne answered that they would watch and Sarah strangely answered a little loudly that she would deal first. My head whipped back to look at Sarah. Sarah knows how to play poker? Quiet, sweet Sarah? What was our world coming to?
Brooke kept on her hat, as did Mags, but Brooke removed the stole. We sat down at the card table, and Sarah shuffled the cards and started dealing. The afternoon flew by, hand after hand. Mags unboxed match sticks for us to use for betting and there were varying sizes of piles of sticks in front of each of us. Sarah had the largest since she had somehow won most of the hands. Gail and Judy Anne kept the Stingers coming and the afternoon sun signaled the need for most of us to return home. Generally, at the end of each card party we lounge around from the after effects of the booze. I noticed that everyone still sat up and used their good manners with Brooke in our midst. Gail finally asked Brooke if she was staying for a visit, and Brooke looked directly at Mags. Mags answered for Brooke and told us that she could stay “as long as she chose.”
We all left Sarah, Mags, and Brooke so Mags and Sarah could clean up. Mags told me that she would call me in the morning. As I left, I saw Brooke’s car parked in front of the house. It was a shiny red convertible. This was going to be a good visit.