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Archives for : December1954

Going Out With a Bang

The year ended with a bang, literally. After wrangling a babysitter and getting the kids settled, we quickly dressed and headed across the street to Mags and Harolds’ to greet 1955. I was wearing one of my beautiful new blue dresses. It had tiny bows attached to the shoulders. It was feminine and fun and part of my decision to take a daily detour whenever possible. My life was little boring from time to time. Not that I don’t appreciate every moment of being a housewife. My family was healthy, my husband was good to me and a hard worker, my friends were close and important to me. But there was a little sameness to some days. I had decided to try to take a detour every day in some way. Maybe change up breakfast, do laundry on a Tuesday, shop at that new market that was opening, buy and cook some exotic food, or even surprise Steve some way. My decision to make a daily detour could apply to anything I wanted and didn’t tie me down.

Anyway, back to the party. All of the usual crowd was there and we greeted each other gaily, admiring ourselves in our finery. Men always look so much more handsome in suits or formal wear. The cocktails were flowing with Harold acting as bartender. Some of his bank partners were in attendance and Mags was a little nervous about mixing the money lenders with our crowd. There didn’t seem to be too much crossover between the two groups and the bankers were all smoking cigars while their wives clustered on the divan. Mags, Gail and I talked in the kitchen while we finished creating a few platters of food. It was a great spread with multiple colors of Jello in more than one mold. I knew that Mags had holed herself up in the house for a few days while she prepared the dishes. There were little weinies wrapped in dough, rolled meats and cheeses, olives and baby pickles and deviled eggs.

The music and voices increased in volume as the clock approached midnight. Champagne was being passed around for the toast. I saw Harold slip away to prepare himself. As host, he would kick off the toast that would culminate in the kisses and singing of Auld Lang Syne. In this crowd, there would be a lot of kissing, since most of us were well acquainted with each other and this holiday gave the men permission to kiss all of the other mens’ wives. I wondered if the bankers group would do the same.

Harold lightly clinked his glass and most of the crowd quieted down. He eloquently thanked everyone for coming and listed the big events for last year, including the great successes of the neighborhood and the bank. As the applause for Harold started to decrease, there were multiple shots heard from outside of the house. Some of the men automatically flinched or ducked; a little postwar habit that might never subside. A couple men quickly moved toward the front door to check out the noise. The crowd followed and spilled out of the house. Standing out on the sidewalk was Ken Burns, account historian, from the bank. Mr. Burns was wobbling and shuffling with a pistol hanging from his hand. He slowly started to aim the gun up to the sky but was stopped when three men in suits all tackled him simultaneously. I wasn’t able to see who the heroes were due to the crowd, until it parted. My Steve, Harold and one of the bankers were a little disheveled from the tackle. Mr. Burns was now passed out on the front lawn and his wife and a friend were slapping his face to wake him up. I grabbed Steve and hugged him tightly from a scared but proud part of me.

When most of the party had returned to the house, the party continued on a different level. There was no kissing in the new year, but we certainly were reminded to be grateful. Shortly after, Steve and I went home to find the babysitter asleep on the davenport with the kids wrapped around her. They must have slept through the gunshots. Steve woke her and took her home while I helped the children into their beds. When Steve returned, we sat at the kitchenette to talk about the new year. His reaction to the gunshot reminded Steve of memories from his military service. The rest of us were probably shocked by the fact that there was a gun shot off right outside of our homes.

I told Steve about my daily detour idea. He nodded and agreed that it might be good to change things up sometimes. He also pointed out that there can be comfort in knowing what was going to happen. Maybe those ingrained reactions in him surprised him into some new year thinking too.

The Christmas Blues

I love Christmas. It’s always been a fun holiday with good food, presents and now parties with the neighbors. It is a great excuse to shop for a new dress and try on different heels to match the new frocks. I had been working out with soup cans in the kitchen for the last few weeks and I knew there was a glimmer of tone in my arms. It’s never too early to start on general upkeep and I regularly have my hair done and nails polished. I still didn’t have a signature nail color but was sure that the lipstick I was wearing was right for my skin color and trendy enough to meet the social demands of my group.

Shopping for a holiday dress required a trip to Howlands department store. I need to be in the right frame of mind for a campaign like this since it means changing in and out of my clothes while trying on different dresses. The mirrors always seem to make me look more pale than I usually am, even for winter. On the morning I planned for my shopping trip, I felt slim enough to consider judging myself in a brightly lit dressing room. What I didn’t anticipate was how many divine dresses there would be to choose from. I really wanted one that would show off those toned arms and also wanted something that had a lower scoop to allow my shoulders to show. I knew how to use that creamy white skin to its advantage at times. I was skimming the racks with the help of a salesgirl, Antoinette, who kept bringing dresses to place in front of me for my opinion. Antoinette spoke with a French accent and made “tut tut” noises when she did not care for a selection. The dresses that Antoinette brought to me were all in shades of blue. Pale, bright, teal, sky; there seemed to be no other dress color in contention. I noted her behavior but was afraid to ask why she was only showing me blue dresses. Finally, she helped me carry a selection into the dressing room for the final event. Many were lovely, but were abandoned for multiple reasons. I don’t like my clothing too tight or too loose. It’s my Goldilocks theory. Clothes should feel “just right.” I narrowed the selection down to three. I twirled and turned to check out the dresses from each direction in the wall of mirrors. I couldn’t decide between the last two. And they were both blue, that showed off my shoulders and arms. What was I to do? I turned to my helpful salesgirl, who had been gradually taking away the dresses that didn’t make the cut. She placed both dresses on high hooks on the wall for the final deliberation. We stood side by side staring at them while I made remarks about each to rationalize why they should be the final selection. It was tough because I really liked them both. I turned to ask her which she would choose. I knew that she was going to say that she couldn’t possibly make the final selection for me. But she did offer a better decision. “If it were me, madame, I would take them both,” she said boldly. I started to open my mouth to explain that I would never buy two expensive dresses at one time; it seemed so extravagant! But, somehow, my mouth couldn’t find the right words and I realized that I could afford them both. Why shouldn’t I have them both? I always purchase whatever clothes the children and Steve need with no trepidation. I looked back at the very helpful Antoinette and thanked her profusely for her wisdom. I boldly told her that I would take them both. Christmas is going to be fun this year and I won’t even need to find ways to change up the same dress to wear to parties. I suddenly felt very chic. What could possibly be happening to me? I would have to discuss this change in my character with Mags tomorrow morning over coffee. I wonder if I could find the recipe for cafe au lait and serve that instead; I felt so French!