Archives for : May1955

The End Is the Beginning

When the doorbell rang, I was the only one who knew exactly who would be there to meet me. Edie. I had asked her into coming by a few minutes into the card party in order to be properly introduced. She waltzed in past me with a lot of confidence and when she saw the number of women staring at her, I thought I noticed a little telltale wrinkle in her right eye that signaled some fear. She countered by saying “shala shala” to herself and started to introduce herself. I’d already been perplexed by the use of those magic words yesterday but eventually discovered that it was what Edie said whenever she needed a filler or needed to express something for which there were no words. I was definitely jealous of her because I didn’t have the forethought to think up my own distinctive saying. After the ladies calmed a little, they let Edie sit and brought her a drink. And then we all stared at her. It wasn’t uncomfortable for any of us, but it might not have been the greatest moment of Edie’s life. But she held her own, and stared back moving her gaze from woman to woman. I broke the tension by announcing that I had asked Edie to join us (duh) so that we could all get acquainted faster. Edie wasn’t aware that I had already told the story about how she had met her husband to be, so in reality we all knew more about her than she did about us. But Edie was gracious and started to explain the basics of her life – husband, Artie, moved to Monterey Park due to his job, loved the house as soon as they saw it and thought the neighborhood looked like the kind of place they belonged. Everyone immediately felt better about her after that last line since it reflected well on them. Smart Edie.

Needless to say, we didn’t play cards. We talked. And ended a another great year of card parties. But at least at this end, we have a new beginning.

One Last Time For The First Time

The final card party of the school year. With the children home all summer, we don’t get to play cards because they take up much of our time and attention. I wanted to make it a special party and had decided to have a beach theme. I covered the table with a large beach towel, brought out the picnic basket supplies and leaned a pretty parasol on the side table with the drinks. I was serving gin and tonics – my summer staple. We were going to feast on cold fried chicken, chips and dips, macaroni salad and skewers of tomatoes, salami and cheese cubes. I dug out the red gingham napkins with some plastic ware. Everyone was ordered to wear their sunglasses, beach clothes and hats.

I had plenty to share since I had spent some time with our Edie. She was bright and shiny to us all. Everyone else had received the same quick thank you that Mags and I experienced before I semi-rudely pushed open the front door and waltzed in. Edie had handled my bold move graciously and our talk was informative and entertaining. Moving to the suburbs was new experience for Edie and the constant intrusions of welcome shocked her; she wasn’t up on our social norms and didn’t meet our group expectations. Not her fault and we needn’t have taken offense; but we did.

After everyone arrived and grabbed their first drinks, I asked if everyone wanted to start playing. I had two brand new sets of playing cards set up on the table. No one got up from their seats in the living room, so I sat down. Mags instructed me to spill my story. I had been seen going into Edie’s and not coming out for a few hours. They knew I had the scoop.

Edie was the wife of an airline pilot stationed at the nearest airport. Artie had been a glider pilot in the war. I vaguely remembered hearing about this small brave group of pilots who served our nation in what sounded like very experimental equipment. Edie met Artie while serving donuts at a local event for soldiers held at her high school. There must have been something about the way she wore her bobby socks because Artie couldn’t take his eyes off of her and returned to her table for donut after donut. He waited until she took a break to visit the ladies room to approach her. She was a little taken back when he started to talk to her as she exited the restroom and in his nervousness, stuttered a little. He introduced himself and asked if she could maybe sit with him. Edie was a little shy and had never had a conversation with an older man in uniform who wasn’t related to her. Edie wasn’t good at small talk and mostly joined Artie in staring straight out at everyone eating donuts.

Edie and Artie sat quietly for a few minutes. Edie bravely asked when Artie first discovered his love for donuts. Artie looked a little perplexed and then realized that her impression was formed by his reappearance at her table five times for donuts. Artie felt his extended stomach and gulped and hesitated a second before letting Edie know that he returned to her station so many times to see her. Edie blushed when she realized what Artie meant. At that very moment, Edie turned herself toward Artie and quietly started to ask him questions to get to know him. They sat in conversation, oblivious to the other volunteers who were cleaning up. When they realized how long they had been talking, Artie asked Edie if he could write to her and Edie gladly wrote down her address on a napkin. When she told me this story, Edie stopped at this point and told me she had saved that napkin later when she found it among Artie’s things. She was trying to figure out a method to preserve it for her memory.

I stopped my story for a moment to look at the faces of my friends. They sat on the edge of the davenport, leaning toward me in rapt attention. They wanted me to continue but I proclaimed a break for visits to my little girls’ room and drink refills. I was trying to bide my time for a big surprise.

Door Number Three

I could feel that I was being watched as I slowly approached the Johnson’s old house. I knew that Edie was in there because the race car hadn’t left the driveway in two days. When I got to the door, I took a deep breath, knocked and waited. Edie came to the door and asked “Yes” when she saw it was me. I started to stammer a little and realized that I should have planned my opening words more carefully. I know I said something about wanting to check to see if she needed anything. When she declined, something in me snapped a little and I asked to come in while simultaneously pushing the door open. Edie graciously moved aside and told me that I was welcome. I looked around at the lovely changes that had been made, the beautiful wall colors and Edie’s beautiful furniture made the rooms look like a magazine layout. My mood softened and I looked back at Edie with new respect. I complimented her on her home as we walked around the main rooms. I mentally made a note about the fresh flowers for everyday occasions instead of just waiting on Steve to bring them home out of guilt.

Edie was a gracious hostess and we enjoyed a couple of cups of coffee at the kitchenette. I learned a few things about Edie that afternoon as well as myself. Her short history didn’t have any children, so it was all about her and the airline pilot husband she had found along the way.

Everyone has a different life, different fears, different cultural habits. Our neighborhood may have become too complacent lately; maybe we needed to change our expectations about those who moved onto our turf.

I was glad that it was card party day the next day. I had some good stories to tell and ideas for us to talk over. I was going to work on a way to make sure we included more women in our little circle, starting with Edie.

Mystery Men

A second car showed up last night. A two door shiny Plymouth Belvedere. Shortly after breakfast, I caught a quick look at a man in a uniform as he left in the Plymouth. It didn’t look like a military uniform and he was a younger, handsome man. It would be odd to have two men living in a home in our neighborhood; but we’re progressive. At least one had a good job of some type. And they had great cars so the other guys on the block would be able to talk to them.

There were other deliveries today – flowers from the BudMan, Friel’s delivered some cases of pop and beer, the letter carrier brought some large packages and the Sassy Sisters dropped off samples. I’m not sure what kind of samples they had for men, but I had never asked before when they dropped in on me. There might have been more deliveries but I was pretty busy in the kitchen baking up something for our new men, Bourbon Laced Apple Pie. I was hoping that Steve didn’t mind that I borrowed the bourbon. The small shot I had on the side was completely medicinal. These new neighbors were hard to figure out and I didn’t know quite to do to welcome them. The bourbon was my liquid courage.

Welcome Neighbor

I had finally prepared my welcome basket to bring to our new neighbor. Nobody in my group had spoken to whomever had moved in, so I volunteered to check in first.

When I rang the door, there was a little pause before the door opened. Looking back on it, I hoped my mouth didn’t stay open in surprise too long. My expected racing car driver was a petite red-haired beauty with jade green eyes. She was neatly dressed and after I came to my senses and began to introduce myself, she politely smiled. A smattering of freckles showed on her cheekbones. I held out my basket and my new neighbor gladly took the offering. I almost let her close the door but realized that I didn’t get her name. “Edie” was the reply when I quickly asked and she thanked me again as she closed the door.

I stood staring at the door for a minute before I started walking home. I was a little puzzled by what had just happened. I stopped at Mag’s house on the way home and told her the story over a couple of short drinks. She volunteered to make the next visit and let me know what she could learn about our mysterious “Edie.”

The following morning, after a quick knock, my back door opened and Mags sailed in. She had been to “Edie’s” with a platter of muffins. Edie thanked Mags for the muffins but never invited her in. Mags! Out trophy woman of the block. Well, at least it wasn’t just me. Mags wanted to put together a plan on who to send in next.

It turns out that the plan included me again. Mags believed that since I already had been self-introduced, I was the perfect subject. Really? I had already had one door closed in my face. How could I chance another?

Bourbon Apple Pie Recipe

2 1/2 lbs. apples
1 cup sugar
1 tblsp. sugar
3 tblsp. flour
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. ground ginger
6 tblsp. butter
1/2 cup Bourbon
2 (9 inch) pie crusts
1 orange, zest of large orange
1 egg

1.Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel and core the apples. In a large bowl mix sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and apples. Toss to coat evenly.
2.In a wok or large skillet over medium heat, melt butter and add apple mixture. Cook until apples start to soften and brown slightly, about 7-10 minutes. Reduce heat to low and add bourbon (you can use brandy instead). Simmer down to a light syrup, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add the orange zest.
3.Put one pie crust into a 9″ deep pie dish. Add filling. Slice the second pie crust into 1/2″ strips. Lattice the top using the strips and using a basting brush coat lattice with egg wash (beaten egg plus 1 tablespoon of water). Sprinkle evenly with tablespoon of sugar.
4.Bake at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for 50 more minutes. Keep a cookie sheet on the oven rack below to catch any spillage from the pie.

Speed Demon

A car was parked in the Johnson’s driveway when I looked out the window this morning. A red car. I thought only racing car drivers had bright red cars. This guy who was moving in must like to drive fast. We’ll have to watch the children in the street more. I checked from time to time to see if anyone could be seen around the house but there was no movement. The new neighbor must have arrived last night and be working in the house.

That afternoon, a large moving truck pulled up and furniture was unloaded. I still didn’t see the gentleman that was moving in but the furniture was very on trend. Our new neighbor had good taste like Mags. I looked forward to seeing this chic new neighbor.

Usually, I would bring over some welcome food for a new neighbor but I felt at quite a loss on what to bring to a single guy. I’m going to think this over tonight. Some fast food was in order.

By The Sweat Of His Brow

I walked Stevie over to Zettie Louise’s to start his new job. Like any youngster, he growled a little about having to go but I reminded him that he had made a deal and he would have to give her the excuse for why he wouldn’t be over today if he changed his mind. He agreed to go after thinking about that. After I knocked, I handed a happier Stevie over to Zettie Louise and left. She said that he would be done in time to return home for lunch. I planned to take Daisy shoe shopping since Steve would be around the house working on the lawn. Steve was quite surprised at the whole situation but agreed to the trial to encourage Junior to learn more responsibility. I knew that Zettie Louise would pay Junior too, so maybe it would be good for everyone.

At lunch time, Stevie ran in the back door and headed to his room. He reappeared in a couple of minutes and asked about lunch. I asked him to wash up while I put his sandwich and milk on the table next to Daisy. Steve came in to join us and Stevie told us how much fun he had “at work.” Between bites, he told us about his first assignment.

Zettie Louise always volunteers to make these elaborate plaster cast objects that the children purchase to paint at the Memorial Day picnic held in Monterey Park. Zettie Louise had set up three rows of sawhorses with planks in her side yard and laid the molds out on the boards. The molds were in many designs – boats, animal heads, clowns, etc. Stevie’s job was to fill the molds with the liquid plaster. While they were drying, Stevie inserted a bent paperclip into the molds to act as a picture hanger. The timing of the paperclip insertion had to be about perfect so it would not disappear into the wet plaster but stand still while the mold dried completely. It was a messy job. That’s probably why he liked it so much. The combination of Stevie and wet plaster would never be something I would let him attempt. And he got paid.

Stevie said that when it was time for him to return home, Zettie Louise told him to wash up at the outside faucet. His pants must have served as a towel because they were speckled and damp. After his hands were somewhat cleaned, Zettie Louise pulled a slightly damp man’s sock out of the top of her bra and told Stevie to open it and take out two $1 bills, which he did. Steve and I exchanged looks at the sight of this scenario. So many questions came to my mind at the same time that I couldn’t focus on which to ask first. Junior said he handed the sock back to Zettie Louise and she returned it to her bra. He thanked her for the pay and let her know that he was ready for his next job anytime. Smart kid. It was a lot of money for him to earn to have fun. I couldn’t imagine what that story was going to sound like when he told his pals. Just the mention of underwear usually throws him into barely stifled giggles.

Stevie asked to be excused so he could ride his bike with his friends. I was glad that I didn’t get to ask about the pay procedure after all. But thinking about it, maybe I should buy Zettie Louise a wallet for Christmas this year.

Airing Out The Clean Laundry

With all of the questions about our mysterious new neighbor, I was reminded of the importance of paying attention to my existing ones. Just two doors down from our home lives one Zettie Louise Taylor. Judy Anne, my expert on all things southern, described Zettie Louise as “a little extra.” I never really knew what that meant, but Zettie Louise stopped by this morning to see me, so I had some time to give it some thought.

Zettie Louise was definitely southern. She peppered her conversations with honey, sweetie and bless your heart a lot. A colorful dresser, she prefered dresses with large printed flowers and topped them with aprons with contrasting colors. I’ve seen her hanging wash to dry on her rotary drying line in the backyard. This is how I found out about the boxers. Yes, she wears them. I was puzzled when I first saw them on the line along with brightly colored ladies’ panties and thought that Zettie Louise was taking in laundry to wash, but they were up there every Monday and there were no other men’s clothes out to dry. The boxers are probably very comfortable. I never thought about trying out Steve’s undies but it was an interesting idea. I stopped wondering and got used to seeing them. And then there were the boots.

Zettie Louise sometimes wears army boots. It’s usually when she is working outside. She maintains a great lawn with a push mower so she is out there a fair amount. In fact, her yard looks better than some of the ones kept by younger men in the neighborhood. I am personally jealous of her hydrangeas because the bushes are huge and she manipulates their color with some magic powder she puts on the soil underneath them.

Zettie Louise was a WAC in the war and is a little older than my group of girls. She is sometimes referred to as a spinster but it’s Mrs. Taylor to those who know she lost the love of her life in the war. Oh, she also drives an army surplus motorcycle-thing. She tinkers on it in the driveway and has a basket attached to the back and straps her purchases to it when she shops. There are rumors, of course, that she was a spy for our side during the war and she sprinkles her language with Italian, German and mild profanity when she speaks.

When I answered the knock on the door this morning, Zettie Louise asked me if I had time to talk. I invited her in and we sat at the kitchenette since she led the way and sat down there to talk. I offered her a cup of coffee but she requested a glass into which she poured something from the canteen she wore cross-body style. To each their own. Zettie Louise asked about the family and commented on how tall “Steven” was getting. She always called my baby son by his formal name. Zettie Louise wanted to know if “Steven” was ready to start doing some small odd jobs for a little cash. I hadn’t thought about Stevie Junior getting a job; I thought maybe he could get out of grade school first. I drew out a cigarette and offered Zettie Louise one but she declined and pulled a pack of “Camels” out of her cleavage. This would involve a question of trust. I didn’t want to ask Zettie Louise what kind of odd jobs she thought Stevie could actually do, so I offered a solution. I called “Steven” into the kitchen.

I never thought much about what kind of relationships my children had with the neighbors. Everyone watched everybody so closely in this neighborhood that nothing seemed to go unseen. I knew that if Stevie fell off his bike in front of a house down the street, he would be returned with proper first aid already applied. Stevie Junior came into the room and Zettie Louise made her offer. He embarrassed me by asking how much he would be paid. Zettie Louise quieted my discomfort by remarking on his good sense for asking. She told him that they could negotiate by the job; I wasn’t sure that he understood the word negotiate, but he agreed.

Just like that, Stevie, or “Steven,” was employed.

I’ve Looked At Clouds From Both Sides

I was annoyed. Steve had allowed Junior to create an art project about clouds on the dining room table without putting anything underneath the work area. Glue had seeped into the crack of the extension and dried. The offending project, blue construction paper drawn to represent mostly sky and water, had fluffy puffs of cotton balls randomly stuck around the top. It was proudly taped to the icebox. Every time I looked at the picture, I thought about the dried glue. I wasn’t holding little Stevie responsible, because a grown man should be able to babysit his own children for an hour without ruining furniture.

After cleaning up from lunch, I decided to tackle the glue. I went to check on what the children were doing to anticipate how long it would be until they interrupted my work. I found both of them laying on their backs on the front lawn staring up and pointing. They looked cute. Stevie was leaning over towards Daisy, pointing up at a group of clouds. They both giggled. They were good friends and playmates sometimes. I remember cloud watching when I was young. My imagination was better then and I could pick out the trunks of elephants, profiles of witches, and designs that I would later try to draw. I used to really like drawing, especially buildings and bridges. I can’t remember the last time I drew anything or looked at a cloud.

I hesitated for just a moment and then walked out to the children and asked them if I could join them. Stevie laughed at the thought of his grown-up mommy laying in the grass. So, I plopped myself down, being careful to smooth down my dress at my sides. We stayed there for a little while pointing out different shapes and giggling at the more absurd ones. I felt a shadow on my face and looked up to see Mags towering over me. I invited her to join us. More giggles from the kids. Mags gently sat down next to Daisy and laid back. Then she asked what we were doing. Stevie filled her in and she told us her version of how she watched clouds as a child. It was great to hear her tell the kids the story; without her own children, she was sometimes mystified with their actions. Mags pointed out a big fish being followed by a smaller fish and we all giggled. A few minutes later, we were joined by more neighborhood children until the grass was in danger of being permanently flattened by the number of bodies laying side by side on it.

The day was beautiful and the number of clouds dwindled to spotty groups. The children left to enjoy other games but each stopped politely to thank Mags and me for the cloud watching. Mags and I finally both got up and went inside to get a drink. The children ran through the kitchen at one point, grabbed a quick drink and ran out the back door to the yard to play.

Mags noticed the picture on the icebox. I looked at it and paused. I wasn’t so annoyed now. I am sure cleaning up a little glue won’t be so hard since I have enjoyed clouds from another side. I’m glad that I didn’t pick a fight with Steve about letting Stevie work on the dining room table either. Stopping to wait kept me from making a mountain out of a molehill.