50th Anniversary Special

3

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ arrival in America (7 February) and their first appearance on Ed Sullivan (9 February), I decided to share the entirety of Chapter 25, “Ernestine and Girl Are Beatlemaniacs,” from Little Ragdoll. I posted the Ed Sullivan section for Sweet Saturday Samples awhile ago, but not the whole chapter. That was also before I wrote in left-handedness for a number of the characters, so that original post was missing the children’s excited discovery that Paul is a lefty.

Ernestine, Girl, and Betsy are almost 12; Julie is almost 10; Boy is 9; Baby is almost 7; and Infant is almost 5.

***

“Wanna come over to my place and watch Ed Sullivan?” Betsy asks Ernestine as they’re playing Aggravation, which Betsy brought over for them to play this Sunday afternoon.

“You mean watch television?” Julie asks excitedly. “Sure, I’d watch anything on television, even if it was just a station pattern!”

“I’ve never watched television except for in store windows,” Ernestine says longingly. “Isn’t Ed Sullivan a variety show, from what I’ve heard?”

“He has on musical acts.  It’s on every Sunday at eight o’clock.  Tonight he’s having on a British group called The Beatles.  They have the number one record in America right now.  I have their single.  It’s called ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand,’ and it’s very good.  I can bring it over and play it on your record player now, unless you wanna wait for the show tonight.”

“We haven’t even thought about buying popular records yet,” Girl says. “We’ve been waiting to break even with our begging and odd job money before buying stuff we don’t need to get by.”

“I don’t wanna miss it.  I’ve been waiting to see this group in person since December.  All of you are welcome to come over tonight to watch it with me.  My parents will make us popcorn and egg creams.”

“It might be fun,” Ernestine concedes. “We do need a break from being miniature grownups sometimes.”

“What kinda music do they make?” Boy asks. “I hope it ain’t like this boring Pat Boone stuff the former owners left behind.”

“They do rock music,” Betsy says. “Like The Beach Boys or The Four Seasons.  You remember we’ve listened to some of those records when you’ve been over to my place, and you liked them.”

“I remember my oldest sister Gemma useta play Elvis records sometimes,” Ernestine says. “Our parents thought he sounded like a cat in heat, whatever that means.  Gemma’s ex-husband said he couldn’t sing or act his way out of a paper bag, which is a funny expression I don’t know the meaning of either.  She had some popular records by Negro singers too, even though our parents don’t approve of Negroes.”

“Oh, they don’t sound like Elvis.  I’m not such a big Elvis fan myself.  My favorites are still The Four Seasons.  Elvis seems like a nice guy, but his old records aren’t my style.  The records he cuts now are kinda boring, like he sold out to the people who useta complain he was too rough around the edges.”

“Your parents are pretty neat for letting you buy and listen to popular rock music,” Girl says. “I’ve heard a lot of parents don’t approve of modern popular music.”

“My parents don’t even care yous guys are squatting.  They’re very open-minded and progressive about almost everything.”

Infant reaches for a grape in the bowl of fruit on the coffeetable. “Will we really get to watch a real television tonight?”

“Yes, we’ll watch television for the first time in our lives,” Girl tells her smilingly. “We’re going to watch a popular music group from England.”

“Where’s England?” Baby asks.

“It’s across the ocean from us,” Ernestine says. “It’s an island that’s part of Europe.  There are two other countries on the same island, Scotland and Wales.  England is in the middle.  Together with Northern Ireland, they make up Great Britain.  Betsy, do you know where in England this group is from?”

“Liverpool.  It’s a sailing city on the coast and along the Mersey River.”

“I don’t remember if I’ve ever heard a British accent before,” Girl says. “I only remember that one of the grownups at the squat once said an English person can make a shopping list sound like Shakespeare.”

“What’s Shakespeare?” Infant asks.

“He was the greatest writer of all time, at least in the English language,” Ernestine says. “At least that’s what I’ve heard.  Emeline and Lucine had to read some of his sonnets and plays in their English classes, and they said it was almost impossible to understand what he was saying without a lot of footnotes.  He wrote in a form of English we don’t use anymore.  Emeline said his appeal over the centuries is more about how he was a writer for all time, with characters and stories that seem real in any era or place.”

“English people also drop their Rs and use long As,” Betsy says. “They have some funny pronunciations of words too, my mother said, like how they say ‘aluminum’ with five syllables instead of four, and pronounce schedule ‘shedule.’”

“Do you know how old they are?” Julie asks.

“I’ve seen some pictures.  They’re pretty young.  Early twenties, I think.  They’re pretty cute too.”

“So they’re a little older than Allen,” Ernestine says.

“Your big brother is cute.  Do you have any other brothers where he came from?”

“My oldest brother Carlos is gonna be twenty-one this month.  He’s a cripple.  Then I have a little brother, Tommy, who turns eight this month.  He’s the spoilt brat of spoilt brats.  Allen’s the only one with a lick of sense or decency.”

“Isn’t Carlos a Spanish name?  What’s the story with giving him a name that doesn’t match with the rest of your names?”

“Who knows what my mother was thinking when she named him.  She doesn’t even like Spanish people, though apparently she doesn’t hate them enough to have refrained from using a Spanish name for her oldest son.”

“Why is he crippled?  Did he catch polio, or was he born crippled?”

“He was in an accident at work in July of ’62.  A car fell on top of him and crushed his spinal column.  He was going in and out of his senses for a long time and only regained his senses a couple of months ago.  I hear he’s going crazy now on account of realizing what happened to him and that he’ll be in a wheelchair the rest of his sorry life.”

“He’s not just any cripple, but paralyzed too,” Girl jumps in. “Paralyzed people can’t even move their legs or anything else below where they was paralyzed.  If you’re paralyzed at the very top of your spine, that means you can’t even move your arms and don’t feel nothing below the neck.”

“Carlos was supposed to be arrested for arson, petty theft, and drugs, but the cops can’t do anything when he’s a helpless hospital patient.  I feel bad for him for being crippled so young, but he was never gonna amount to anything anyway.  It’s not some huge loss to society that he’s a permanent cripple and invalid.  All he did was sell drugs and work low-paying jobs where he tried to get away with stealing.  He was fired from his first job for eating cereal off the conveyer belt, and at his second job, the one where he had the accident, he was found out for stealing stuff from people’s cars.”

“No wonder you don’t want anything to do with certain people in your family,” Betsy says. “I’d move out young too if I were you.”

“Is there enough room for all of us to watch television?” Baby asks. “A davenport only seats three or four people, and the rest of us would have to sit on the floor.  I don’t wanna sit on the floor my very first time watching television.”

“My dad sits in his recliner and my mom has her own cushioned chair.  Julie, Ernestine, and Girl can sit on the davenport with me, and we can find some soft cushions for Boy, Baby, and Infant to sit on.”

“I can’t wait!” Infant says excitedly.

***

A little before 8:00 that night, the six of them trot across the hall and into the van Niftriks’ apartment to watch Ed Sullivan.  Betsy shows Girl, Ernestine, and Julie some newspaper articles she cut out about the British group that’s going to be on the show tonight.  The girls think they kind of look similar, since they all have brown hair and the same haircut, but they agree with Betsy that they are pretty cute.  Betsy is a little surprised they have haircuts on the long side for a man, but Ernestine tells her there were a number of men with hair that long back in the West Village and Greenwich Village.  Mrs. Troy would probably lecture them about being interested in male singers with long hair, but thankfully she’s not here now to spoil their fun.  Someone who was born in 1923 doesn’t know jack about what’s popular nowadays, anyway.

“Here they are!” Betsy shouts as Mr. Sullivan is introducing them.

She and the other three girls on the davenport sit at rapt attention as the band begins their first song, “All My Loving.” Girl’s eyes light up when she realizes the bass player is a lefty, and she turns to Ernestine and her siblings with a huge smile.  Ernestine and the younger Ryans are thrilled to see one of their own in such a public venue, and to see some grownups who stayed true to their left-handedness instead of giving in to attempts to shame and bully them out of their natural inclination.

Ernestine thinks it’s pretty rude how the majority of the girls in the studio audience are screaming.  Even if you really like a band and are excited to see them perform, that’s no excuse for screaming nonstop.  They’re probably screaming over the entire performance and making it hard for the band to hear themselves play, and are missing the entire show because all they’re doing is screaming.

During the next song, a cover of what Mrs. van Niftrik says is a Broadway tune, “Till There Was You,” there are close-ups of each member of the band, providing each one’s name.  Ernestine rolls her eyes when a caption appears under John’s name, saying, “Sorry girls, he’s married.” As though any of the girls in the audience or watching at home stand a chance of marrying someone that much older and that famous.  She and Girl both think he’s the handsomest, besides, married man or not.  The others are cute, but John seems to have a more mature face, like a handsome adult man, not a man still carrying the look of a cute, soft-faced boy into early adulthood.  Girl also feels a special energy coming from him, an aura she has a very good feeling about.

After the third song, “She Loves You,” there’s a commercial break, and then a magician named Fred Kaps performs some tricks.  Infant and Baby are more interested in the magic tricks than in The Beatles.  Boy seems more interested in the tricks too, feeling the musical stars of the evening are more for girls.

Performing next are some of the members of the play Oliver!  After the opening musical act, Ernestine and her friends can’t help but feel bored and anxious for The Beatles to return.  A day ago, they never would’ve been so picky about what they did or didn’t watch on television, never having watched it before, but now everything seems somehow different, like a special kind of magic has been worked upon them by these cute visitors from across the ocean.

Finally The Beatles return and sing “I Saw Her Standing There.” Julie decides she thinks Paul is the cutest one during this song.  Their final song of the evening is the one Betsy told them about, “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” Ernestine, Julie, and Girl think it does sound fantastic, and hope they can buy their own copy if they can hustle up enough money after they’ve bought some food for the week.

The final performers of the night are Wells and The Four Fays, who do some kind of comedy routine.  The four girls on the davenport barely care about them at this point.  All they can think about are the four cute young British musicians who just stole their hearts and did something to them they can’t find words to explain.  All they know is they feel really different now.

“I don’t feel sad anymore,” Ernestine announces. “There’s been such a black cloud hanging over everyone since we lost President Kennedy, but now it’s like the bad spell has been broken.”

“I think I feel the same way,” Betsy agrees.

“Do they have a full LP do you know?” Girl asks. “After tonight, I could listen to those fellows singing the phonebook!”

“They have an album called Meet The Beatles.  I’ve been saving up my money so I can buy it.  LPs are about three bucks, two bucks more than a single, but I like them so much I don’t care how much I have to pay.”

“When can we see them again?” Julie begs.

“I think they’re going to be on again next week.”

“Can we come over again next Sunday night, Mr. and Mrs. van Niftrik?” Girl asks.

“You girls are welcome anytime you like,” Mrs. van Niftrik tells them.

“Do you have a favorite yet, Betsy?” Ernestine asks. “I like John.”

“So do I!” Girl says. “We haven’t been best friends for almost two years for nothing!  It’s like we’re sharing a brain at this point!”

“I don’t know who my favorite is yet,” Betsy says. “I think I’ll have to see them again and read a little more about them before I make my decision.”

“Paul is cute,” Julie says. “He has pretty eyes.”

“I didn’t know you was into that girly stuff,” Boy says.

“What, just because we don’t do other girly stuff doesn’t mean we can’t do one girly thing in our lives?” Girl challenges him. “Why can’t we fawn over cute guys in a band?”

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you looking this happy, Julie,” Ernestine says. “I guess the special magic these guys brought over the ocean with them healed even you.”

“Maybe we can even see them in concert!” Betsy says. “I’m sure they’ll be playing here in New York.  After all, they’re right here in the city as we speak, right in the CBS studio.”

“Maybe if they’re here over the summer, you can go to a show as a summer vacation present,” Mr. van Niftrik says. “You do deserve something nice as a reward for your upcoming sixth grade graduation.”

“That would be the best present ever, Dad!”

“We’ll start stepping up our begging and odd jobs to earn money for our own concert tickets!” Girl says with bright eyes.

She, Ernestine, Julie, and Betsy look around at one another with happy expressions and the same special feeling in their souls.  They have no idea exactly what just happened, but they do know they’re never going to be the same again after tonight.

Sweet Saturday Samples—1965 Blackout Continued

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I’m continuing in Sweet Saturday Samples this week with more of the Great Northeast Blackout of 1965. This time the spotlight is on 13-year-old Ernestine in the Meatpacking District. Ernestine reaches a milestone at the mother of all inconvenient times.

***

Ernestine is fumbling around for some matches or a flashlight when she feels as though she’s wet herself.  Hoping against hope it’s not what she dreads it is, and at this worst of all possible times, she dashes out to the fire escape and looks around for people standing on nearby fire escapes or down on the street.  When the coast is clear, she pulls down her skirt and underwear.  In the bright light of the full moon, she sees what looks like a colored stain and lets out an angry shout.

Girl comes running out onto the fire escape after her. “Ernestine, what in the world are you doing with the bottom half of your clothes down where everyone could see you?  Even I ain’t so into the mystical and unexplained that I’d believe people go nuts with a full moon.”

“Look at this,” Ernestine whispers in mortification. “I’m having my first period.  Damn, I wish I could just hang out on this fire escape all night and bleed onto it.  At least then no one would know what I was doing.”

Girl puts her arm around her. “I know it stinks.  Pull your clothes back up and we’ll go across the hall to Mrs. van Niftrik.  She helped me when I got mine back in June.”

“Can’t I just spend all night sitting on the toilet?” Ernestine begs in mortification. “I don’t like the idea of anyone else knowing.”

“What if someone else needed to use it?  They’d wonder what you was doing in there so long.  And you know Boy would be embarrassed beyond belief if he was told you was in there all night ‘cause you were menstruating.  I don’t envy him, the only guy in a household full of girls.”

“Then I can sit on onea the buckets we use for washing windshields in the warmer months, and just switch buckets if I fill one up all the way.”

“Even I think that’s gross.  Come on, Mrs. van Niftrik was a girl once.  She knows how to handle this.  I keep the cloth sanitary napkins I made in a purple laundry bag in the bathroom closet.  Yours are in a smaller blue laundry bag within the big laundry bag, ‘cause it ain’t healthy to share something as personal as that.  We’ll just take ‘em over to Mrs. van Niftrik and let her do the rest.”

Ernestine feels herself blushing in the dark as Girl leads her over to the bathroom and pulls out the blue laundry bag, then takes her by the hand and slowly makes her way over to the van Niftriks’ apartment.  The other four residents assume they’re just going to borrow a flashlight or something and don’t question why they’re leaving.

“We’re glad to see you, girls,” Mrs. van Niftrik smiles at them when she opens the door. “We were just wondering how you all were making out with the power outage.  You can all come over and keep us company if you want.  Mr. van Niftrik isn’t home yet.  I assume he’s trapped in the subway with all those other poor people.”

“Ernestine needs your help the same way I needed your help in June,” Girl says. “She just started to menstruate.”

Ernestine hangs her head in shame.

“There’s nothing to be embarrassed about, dear,” Mrs. van Niftrik tries to reassure her. “All normal girls have that happen at about your age.  It’s a normal part of growing up, and it means everything is working just as it should.  I know it’s inconvenient and that you don’t always feel your best during this time, but just think, this is your body’s way of preparing for having a baby when you’re a grownup.”

“But normal girls don’t have babies as teenagers anymore,” Ernestine protests as Mrs. van Niftrik ushers them inside. “Why couldn’t our bodies evolve to do that when we’re eighteen or twenty-one instead of twelve or thirteen?  I don’t want all those years of menstruation when I’m not even old enough to get married or have a baby.  My ten-greats-grandma probably got married and had her first kid at my age!”

“I’m not looking forward to my first one either,” Betsy admits. “That filmstrip we saw in sixth grade just made me even more confused and scared about what’s gonna happen, and so did that silly booklet.  Why am I supposed to look forward to something so annoying and cherish it as some magical, special part of becoming a young lady?  Those dumb booklets were written by people who think all girls in junior high are wearing their first makeup and going on dates.  I’m not even allowed to wear makeup till I’m sixteen, and I can’t go on a date till I’m in high school.”

“Well, complaining about it won’t make it go away, will it?” Mrs. van Niftrik asks. “I’ll help fix Ernestine up, and then we’ll all have some roasted marshmallows and chocolate bars.”

Sweet Saturday Samples—Wedding Day

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In this week’s excerpt for Sweet Saturday Samples, Adicia and Ricky are at the courthouse for their marriage, with the van Niftriks and Adicia’s old friend Marjani as witnesses. Earlier in the day, Adicia went to Macy’s with Betsy, Mrs. van Niftrik, and Marjani to pick out a nice formal dress for her wedding, household supplies, tableware, kitchen appliances, and wedding rings. Now her moment is rapidly approaching, and she makes an unusual request of the judge.

***

“Is it okay if we don’t kiss at the end of the ceremony?” Adicia asks, blushing. “I’m too shy to do something so personal with an audience.”

“Well, that’s certainly a request I’ve never had before.”

“My bride is very shy and old-fashioned,” Ricky says, putting his arm around Adicia. “She believes in saving personal stuff for private, keeping it only between the two of us.”

“I had a Jewish nanny when I was a little girl, Sarah, and she told me and my sisters about the traditional Jewish wedding once.  The bride and groom go to a room alone after the ceremony and kiss or touch there.  They don’t do something so personal and intimate in front of everyone, since that cheapens intimacy.  I think it’s more special when it’s something only the two of you share instead of displaying it for everyone and letting them be privy to such personal moments.  I usually look away when I see people kissing or groping each other in public.”

“You really are an old-fashioned bride.  Not at all like those crazy women’s libbers who think marriage is slavery and sleeping around is liberating.  I’ll be glad to perform your marriage for you.”

“Can we take pictures?” Betsy asks.

“Sure, go ahead.” The justice of the peace picks up the license to remind himself of their names. “Warrick Grover Carson and Adicia Éloïse Troy?”

“My fiancé goes by Ricky,” Adicia says. “I thought it was short for Richard or Eric when I first met him.”

“Wasn’t Adicia the Greek goddess of injustice?”

“My mother thought it was an injustice to have a fifth daughter, particularly since I was the fourth of four girls in a row.”

The justice of the peace shakes his head. “Very well then.  Let’s begin.  We are gathered here today to celebrate the marriage of Adicia Éloïse Troy and Warrick Grover Carson.  Marriage is a covenant between a man and a woman to love and support one another for all their days, for better or for worse, till only death can part them.  If anyone here has just reason for why they should not be joined in matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace.”

Betsy takes a picture of them standing up by the desk.

“Adicia, will you take Warrick to be your lawfully-wedded husband, to love, comfort, honor, and protect him, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, and forsaking all others be faithful to him till death do you part?”

“I will,” Adicia nods, even though she feels horribly guilty for how she’s been reduced to marrying a man she doesn’t love and entering into such a serious bond as matrimony.  Then again, she doesn’t have to feel romantic or sexual love for Ricky to be true to the words of her vows.

“Warrick, will you take Adicia to be your lawfully wedded wife, to love, comfort, honor, and protect her, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse, and forsaking all others be faithful to her till death do you part?”

“Yes, I will.”

After they repeat the vows after the justice of the peace, they’re asked to repeat the ring vows, “This ring I give you, as a symbol of my vow, as a token and pledge of our love, with all that I am and all that I have.” Adicia’s hands are shaking as she puts the ring on Ricky’s finger, hoping she doesn’t drop it and that it doesn’t get stuck on his finger.  She feels her throat tightening as Ricky puts the pretty plumeria ring on her finger, knowing that now there can be no backing out of this agreement.

For better or for worse, this boy from up the street, whom she’s only known for six months, is now joined to her legally.  They will have to live together as husband and wife after they leave the courthouse.  She hopes there’s truth in the words that say arranged marriages are often better than contemporary Western love matches, since they’re based on something more than fleeting physical attraction and lust.

“By your consent, both written and spoken, through the exchange of rings, and by the power invested in me by the State of New York, I now pronounce you man and wife.  Ladies and gentleman, I now present to you Mr. and Mrs. Warrick Grover Carson.”

Adicia feels numb as she shakes hands with the justice of the peace and Marjani and the van Niftriks hug her.  The justice of the peace, Marjani, and Mr. van Niftrik sign the license, and then Adicia and Ricky sign.  While the justice of the peace is mimeographing it, Betsy takes pictures of the newlyweds, and Mrs. van Niftrik takes pictures of Adicia with Betsy and Marjani.  When the justice of the peace comes back, he obliges them and takes a picture of the six of them together.

“Congratulations,” he says as they file out of the room.

As Betsy takes another picture of the newlyweds standing on the steps of the courthouse, Adicia feels like she’s just been robbed of her dream wedding day.  These are not the wedding pictures of a happy couple that she wanted to display in beautiful frames on the mantelpiece or wall.  These are pictures of a couple of nervous misfit kids who have no idea what they’re doing, people who haven’t even known one another for a whole year who’ve been joined together in the most serious commitment possible.  She doesn’t even have a bouquet to toss, and none of her family members are here.  Allen will probably hit the roof when he finds out Adicia actually married Ricky, the guy he dislikes so much.  But she’ll have to think about all those things tomorrow.  Right now she has bigger fish to fry than the long-term implications of this impulsive convenience marriage she’s just entered into.

Sweet Saturday Samples

9

This week’s excerpt for Sweet Saturday Samples comes from Chapter 47 of Little Ragdoll, “Adicia’s New Identity.” While Adicia and Ricky are waiting for their marriage license to become valid, they’re going to stay with Adicia’s old family friends the van Niftriks in the Meatpacking District. Her friend Betsy is shocked to find out a modern woman is voluntarily entering an arranged marriage of sorts, but Adicia and Mrs. van Niftrik try to convince her of the merits of such marriages.

***

“That’s a huge elevator,” Ricky marvels.

“Well, this place did useta be a factory.  They must’ve used it for transporting huge bales of grain or lots of dead cows or something from floor to floor.”

Adicia knocks on the door after the short ride up to the fourth floor.  She knows the van Niftriks go away on vacation during the summer, so she’s not entirely sure anyone will be at home during this particular week.  After about half a minute, she finally hears approaching footsteps.

“Adicia!  We didn’t know you were coming to visit us!” Betsy says. “I’m home on summer vacation from Vassar.  Are you in the area, or did you just drop by to visit?  And who’s this, your boyfriend?  I never even knew you’d gotten yourself a fellow!”

Betsy is dressed in an ankle-length pink dress with white flowers and a lace-trimmed neckline, turquoise beads hanging down to her waist, a lot of golden and silver bangle bracelets on both of her wrists, a mood ring on her right hand, and open-toed white plastic sandals.  Her long brown hair is hanging loose, with a crown of daisies wound around it.  She wears no makeup except for an image of two fish painted on her right cheek.

“It’s not permanent,” she says when she notices Adicia staring at it. “I just had it done in the Village.  Some woman was painting astrological signs on people for a buck.  I’m Pisces, the fish who are chained to each other for all of eternity, no matter how hard they’re trying to swim away.  You’re Cancer, the crab.  We’re both water signs.”

“This is Ricky Carson, my fiancé. We’re getting married at the courthouse tomorrow.  We know this is a really huge imposition and favor to ask, but is it okay to stay here overnight while we’re waiting for our marriage license to become valid?  I guess you can come to our ceremony if you want, since we do need witnesses.  I would’ve gone up to Marjani’s place, but I didn’t wanna leave our moving van with all our stuff sitting out in Hell’s Kitchen overnight.  Someone would probably break into it.”

“You’re engaged?” Betsy shouts excitedly. “Of course I’ll come to your wedding!  Are yous guys eloping?”

“I guess we are.”

Betsy leads them into the apartment. “Mom, Dad, is it okay for Adicia and her boyfriend to stay here overnight?  They’re getting married tomorrow at the courthouse and just need somewhere to stay till their marriage license becomes valid.  They’re eloping.”

Mrs. van Niftrik rushes over to them. “How nice to see you again, Adicia!  Of course you and your young man can stay here for a little while.  We have a guest bed for the two of you, and we can put up a spare wooden panel to give you some privacy.”

“Just one guest bed?” Adicia asks, blushing. “One of us will have to sleep on the sofa bed.”

“You’re not sleeping together yet?” Betsy asks. “I thought all couples nowadays took the car for a test drive before getting married.  If I had a serious boyfriend, I’d be trying him out beforehand, and my parents would be cool with that.  Is it because of what happened with that Ethan punk?  But surely if you’re enough recovered from that rotten thing to be getting married, you’d be okay with doing that by now.”

“This is not a love match, at least not for me,” Adicia admits as she sits down on the davenport. “It’s a marriage of convenience, kinda like an arranged marriage.  We’re both running away, Ricky from his snobby, out of touch, rich parents, and me from my own parents, who were forcing me to marry some grotesque creature forty years older than me.  This prize they picked for me was in prison for fifteen years for beating his first wife to death.”

“We won’t be consummating our marriage right away,” Ricky agrees. “I hope Adicia grows to love me over time, just like my feelings of being in love with her will change into a more mature love after enough time has passed.”

“You’re marrying someone you don’t even love?” Betsy asks. “And you’re okay with this decision?  Gee, I didn’t think anyone still had arranged marriages outside of really religious folks.  Even if you’re compatible in other ways, what’s going to keep you married if you’re not in love?”

“I like him as a friend,” Adicia says. “Part of me really wishes I could’ve had a husband I fell madly in love with and felt butterflies in my stomach for, the kind of love at first sight Allen and Lenore had, but maybe it really is true that a strong bond of love can come from growing instead of falling in love.”

“You can tell us more about this over supper,” Mrs. van Niftrik says. “I’ll make it early tonight for you two.  I suppose you’re right on some level.  Maybe more hasty marriages and painful divorces could be avoided if people weren’t only thinking with their hearts when they got married.  Being blindly, passionately in love with someone today doesn’t mean you’ll still get along and be able to run a household and live together in the long run, after the fireworks have died down and it’s time to get down to more serious, grownup matters like raising kids, paying bills, and dealing with medical emergencies.”

Sweet Saturday Samples

5

This week’s installment for Sweet Saturday Samples is the opening of Chapter 31 of Adicia’s story, “A New Year Full of Hope.” This is one of the shortest chapters, and it was really cute and fun to write.

***

“You are not,” Julie insists. “You are not going to call up the radio station with the van Niftriks’ phone and ask them to play a Beatles’ song with your name in it.  The disc jockey would either think you were joking or wonder where your parents are and try to get them arrested for not giving you a proper name.”

It’s the first day of 1966, a Saturday, and Adicia, Justine, Ernestine and her friends, and Betsy are sitting around in Betsy’s apartment, having snacks, and playing records while Mr. and Mrs. van Niftrik are out visiting friends for the New Year’s celebration.  Girl has been beside herself with excitement since they all got their own copies of Rubber Soul for Christmas and found a song called “Girl” on side two, sung by John, her favorite Beatle.

“It’s my name, ain’t it?  I’m proud of my name.  I know it might not be my name forever, since I’ll be a woman eventually and it’d seem silly for a woman to go by Girl, but it’s my name now.  Why can’t I ask that my special song be played on the radio just for me, as a cool treat for the New Year?”

“I like the song and all, but it’s not exactly about the nicest girl in the world,” Ernestine says. “The girl in the song is really mean to him.”

“Why don’t you lie and say your name is Michelle, if you really want the disc jockey to play a new Beatles’ song with a girl’s name in it?” Julie asks.

Girl laughs. “How many Michelles have you ever known?  It might be more common in France, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard it on a girl here.  If it does ever get more common, you can bet it’ll be onea those names that gets really popular all of a sudden and then probably seems old hat in another generation or two.  Take your mother’s name.  Didn’t you say it was Susan?  That name’s so popular among girls our age right now that you can’t throw a stick without hitting five of ‘em.”

“My mommy’s name was Suzanne.”

“I like that name,” Justine says. “Our next door neighbor Mrs. Doyle told us her real name is Suzanne.  I think it has more personality than Susan, even if it does sound almost the same.”

“You got your neighbor to tell you her real name?” Baby asks in surprise. “I thought it was supposed to be rude to ask a grownup her real name.”

“We were looking at her engagement ring in the candlelight during the blackout, and it was inscribed on the inside with her and her husband’s initials and the date they got engaged,” Adicia says. “So we asked what they stood for.”

“What are your parents’ real names, Betsy?” Julie asks. “I guess grownups really do have their own names they use when they’re with other grownups.  I know in some places, all grownups call each other Mr. and Mrs. even when there are no kids around, but I don’t think we live in a place like that.”

“My mom’s name is Gloria Ruth, and my dad’s name is Arthur Lawrence.  My mom’s maiden name was Reinders.  That’s a Dutch name too.”

“Is your real name Betsy?” Infant asks. “I mean, is it short for Elizabeth?”

“Just Betsy.  My parents must’ve liked how it sounded on its own.  Not all nicknames work by themselves or sound grownup when you get older.  Did you ever think of what name you might like for yourself when you get older and might need a true name?”

“I never thought about that.  I’m only going on seven.  I won’t need a grownup name for a long time.”

“I think I can get away with being called Baby forever,” Baby says. “At least that sounds like a respectful nickname for someone.  And your mother once said there’s a French name that sounds like Baby, some name a couple of actresses from the olden days had.”

“Bebe,” Girl supplies as she inches closer to the phone. “I remember one of the women at the squat saying there was an actress named Bebe Daniels that she really liked.  She said she also got the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Truman for her war efforts.  I’d assume she and those other famous Bebes were going by nicknames, though, since it just means ‘baby’ in French.” She raises the receiver from the hook.

“You’re not really doing it,” Ernestine protests.

“I have the number memorized from how many times they announce it on the air for folks who wanna make requests,” Girl brags as she begins dialing.

“What if Betsy’s parents get mad at an extra charge on their phone bill?” Boy asks.

“I’m so glad we don’t need to talk to an operator and ask to be connected anymore when we place phonecalls,” Girl says as she waits for the disc jockey to pick up. “No more middlewoman.”

The other children sit back in suspense as they hear someone responding on the other end of the line.  She surely can’t be so stupid as to publicly admit on the air that her name is actually Girl, and thus invite a lot of questions about her parents and maybe even birth.  None of the Ryans have birth certificates, not having been born in the hospital or even attended by a midwife. Their parents knew they could never get away with it if they put down the names Girl, Boy, Baby, and Infant, and admitted they hadn’t been born with any qualified birth attendants in sight.

“Hi.  My name is Colleen Ryan, and I’m calling to request my new favorite Beatles’ song, ‘Girl.’  I like it so much ‘cause it’s sung by John, my favorite, and my name means ‘Girl’ in English.  I like to pretend he’s singing to me when I hear it, even though I know the girl in the song isn’t so nice.”

“Your wish is my command, Miss Ryan,” the disc jockey tells her.

Girl smiles at them after she hangs up. “See?  I told yous guys I could pull it off.  You just have to know how to say the right things, use proper English, make up a convincing story.”

“Where’d you dig up the name Colleen?” Julie asks. “Does it really mean ‘girl’?”

“Yup.  No one in Ireland would use it, of course, but Irish-Americans who don’t know jack about our language or heritage don’t balk at using it.”

“Maybe you should really pick an Irish name when you have to get a legit name,” Adicia suggests as they hear the disc jockey starting to announce the request on the air. “It’s nice to have a name that shows off where your ancestors came from.”

Girl sits back with her eyes closed dreamily as the radio plays “Girl.” Julie, Ernestine, Betsy, and Adicia like the song too, but still wonder why in the world she’d enjoy having her name in it so much when the lyrics describe a girl who makes her boyfriend feel so poorly and uses guilt to keep him around every time he tries to break up.  None of them would ever dare treat a man who loved them so meanly.  They’d be too happy just to find a guy to like them and treat them special that they’d never mistreat him or take him for granted, unless of course he were some abusive creep like Francesco.  Adicia hopes there are more than a few guys in the world like her big brother Allen or Mr. Doyle and Mr. van Niftrik, and that not all men are as grotesque as Francesco, Carlos, Jacob, Julie or Lenore’s fathers, or her own father.