California and life with a smile. Three roommates and college only a few years behind. Well, the university campus more exciting but more work, too. Too many term papers and half the classes such a bore.
But finished. A job at the library and a hope for a better one. But all right now, endless books to borrow and some to buy when they have a book sale. A spot in the back yard for a planter filled with flowers and the beach down the street.
San Francisco more exciting but no. Used to one place and not wanting to change. Enough changes already and only one place to be in San Francisco and that with a lot of stairs. Everything one could afford two flights up. Better somewhere without much excitement but no stairs.
All right all week. Enough saved up for a ticket to something every other month and the occasional drink. Tons of gentlemen and a date with a new one every other weekend. What else could a girl want? Well, a husband and children, yes, but that for later.
Church on Sundays at the parish on the corner and dinner at Grandmother’s with all the little cousins cantering around the palm trees in the back. Everything saved. Old the house is from the beginning of the city and no one having moved since. Fun to look through, it is. Far more fun than moving what with having to throw things out.
The little cousins getting tired and a bit of time to sit on the glider and poke through the old photographs from the last shelf in the library. Pot luck they are, with no one bothering to write much of anything on the back.
But a nice one at the bottom of the pile. The hospital that great grandfather ran, it must be. Cars that have that carriage look form when cars were new and the thing as bright as a new penny without a ripped awning or smudge mark anywhere.
Not like that for long . . .no . . .down in one of the earthquakes and Grandmother ending up marrying and moving away . . . .but no one knew that then . . .no . . . .a new job, a new hospital, and a new beginning . . . if you knew how it all ended up, you’d never start.
Somewhere on the edge of Boston as the leaves fall off the trees and the fathers build mounds of them in the driveways with the biggest heaps of all in the park to be turned into bonfires for Halloween.
Twigs to kick at on the way home from school and races to the corner. Homework in the kitchen but with the table pulled over the trapdoor in the floor.
The railroad not hiring but not mattering much. No, a special carpenter from somewhere in South Boston that knows not to tell. A special wall in the cellar with cases from that cousin up in Canada reaching up to the little windows that you have to be barely able to walk to peek into.
Bottles to unpack and straw that makes you sneeze. Sheets draped over Sunday clothes when a Saturday night shipment comes in. Having to be ready to be delivered Monday and Mass to go to. No one to really ask but a need to be careful. The priest getting three fifths a month but still.
Little sister sworn to silence and the nuns at the school not asking. But the straw burned. Too much to be put in the rubbish can and lugged out into the street.
Only an hour in the beginning but Mother at it for five years and two more babies needing to be fed. No, up before dawn now and everyone helping.
A few raids but nothing more. The wall with its coal dust blended in across the bead and board done perfectly. Cost a fortune but no matter. Twenty police and no one could tell.
New customers down past the hospital and things likely to chink. Bottom of the baby carriage underneath the baby. Two blankets so they don’t roll around and mother with the little ones starting out. But oh no . . . . . .someone having told . . . .the police coming out like honey bees out of a hive . . . . .
This is not my story though it happened in my neighborhood. A co- worker I had where I worked in my twenties had a grandmother, a mother of nine, who rode out Prohibition in fine form by starting up a whiskey distribution business out of her house after her husband lost her job. . . . did very well but was forever bored once Prohibition ended. . .. in her later years she was given to denial, but her children remembered all too clearly when Mother got raided . . . .
The dean’s office at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts on a winter Saturday afternoon in 1928.
Tea and lots of it. All the caffeine in the world to stay up late. Old dorm dresses and overcoats over one’s evening dress and the Valentine’s Day Dance at Amherst College in two hours.
Another lecture but what can one do. An orchestra brought in from Boston and only a game of hearts otherwise. Not as fun as whoever Winifred’s cousin says is big in New York but almost.
No. Bad to tell lies Father says but needed. Impossible. Princeton last winter and all the boys to oneself but nothing now but New England and snow. Boys but all having to be shared. Shared in Greenwich Village, too, but so many more interesting ones to choose from. None here but dull ones to smoke in snowdrifts with though even that makes the dean mad.
But the dean looking tired and getting less cranky as she smells her dinner from down the hall. Almost freedom.
Out in the hall and flying back up for one’s evening coat as the woman goes through the last door towards her sitting room. A bribe to the maid and a little something extra in her beef stew to make her sleep.
Back one will be at three in the morning but no one to complain or here. Perhaps even a last turkey trot around the foyer and a kiss against the door before he leaves.
Maybe yes or maybe no. Depends on what he looks like. A cute one the last time who could Charleston but another this time perhaps.
But a new frock from Bonwit Teller in Manhattan and satin shoes to dazzle them all out. No one else as chic not even in Boston. With any luck a jazz club someplace better soon.
In memory of my grandmother Helen Mulford Washburn Harden who was eventually expelled by the dean of Smith College for smoking in snowbanks with Amherst boys and no doubt for drinking one hip flask of bootleg gin too many. Going back to Greenwich Village she attended what became F.I.T. and was fashion editor of McCalls in the 1920’s when it was the leading fashion magazine. Smith just wasn’t her kind of school.