Like The Queen
Whatever happens to strike my fancy, but surely some sort of fiber content.


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Monday, October 20, 2003  

Yep, yep, autumn is that nostalgic time of year. Every fall I like to re-read the 4 high school books in the Betsy-Tacy series. Any secret BT fans out there? Nobody can capture the crisp crackle of fall the way Maude Hart Lovelace does. I’ve read all her books, but I still like her children’s books best and of them, I like the high school series the most.

My mother found these books for me. She would pick Daddy up from the bus at the branch of the Richmond PL that was the end of the city bus line. Back before 2-car families were the norm, Daddies who lived in the probing fingers of 50’s suburban development would be driven in to some terminal station and whisked to their down town aeries. 9 hours later they were welcomed back by smiling womenfolk and kiddies. I loved it when I got to go in with mama because it not only meant scoping out the biography section of the library but also, if there was enough time, a dash into the Ten Cent Store.

That store was so magical. The two old ladies who ran it were so soft and friendly. They unpacked doll dresses and shoes so that you could take your doll in and have her try on clothes, just like your mama did with you. They also sold candy in bins that you bought by the pound, or wax lips and mustaches and buck teeth, though those, only at Halloween. And they sold Red Heart Wintuck Yarn with little metal foil red hearts folded tight around the end of the skein.

But I didn't regularly ride in with mama. Often she went alone. I would assume a woman with 4 kids probably savored the opportunity to have an adult conversation with her partner. The Betsy-Tacy books were a surprise treat from her. She always looked for books whose characters had our names. Since my baptismal name is Betsy (after Betsy Bobbin in the Oz books) that’s what I went by as a school girl. She didn’t see, or perhaps the library didn’t have, the 4 earlier books, which were actually more suited to my age. But I knew about the mysteries of high school. I even had a sister who went to High School. She brought home Heaven to Betsy and my expectations of adolescence were permanently colored by this idealized blissful representation of turn-of-the-century (the last century), midwestern life in the world’s most un-dysfunctional family.

I never met anybody else who read these books till I was grown and working in the library. Even then, though, only one patron, a fellow Richmonder, knew and loved them. I scrounged used book stores for them till the library had copies of the 10 Betsy books, but I had to wait till they were republished in the late 1990’s before I could pick up the others. After the library hooked up to the Internet I discovered there was a Betsy-Tacy society and for a while I subscribed. It is a little too sweet, though, even for this avowed sugarholic, but I discovered there, the title of a tediously written, but extremely detailed book, obviously someone’s Masters Thesis, that has pretty much every tidbit you’d ever want to know about Mrs. Lovelace and her real family - with “contrasts and comparisons” drawn. That's in our library now, too. I even found out there were male fans of MHL, which surprised me, since I think of these as essentially girl stories. Beware, though, the sprigged muslin background of the home page makes reading the text extremely difficult.

I’m not sure if it is good or bad to have such a rosy picture of family life as a standard. Bad in the way some people think it’s bad to tell kids about Santa, since in the end you have to disappoint them. And remember how much complaining there was the Leave it to Beaver family. I certainly wished to have Betsy’s high school experience. I often enough compared mine to hers, sometimes sort of squinting my eyes, so reality’s edges fuzzed enough to pretend I was having it. I sure did love the clothes - especially those magical hats - the chopping bowl hat, the red sailor, Merry Widows. And balls! Oh those dances and balls. Sigh. We still had them. I was never invited to any, either. I went to a sister school two blocks way from a boy’s Catholic Military school and there were three big dances every year. That’s a lot of dances to not get invited to. But even at that tender age, I knew that doing the frug, the wahhhh wah-ah-ah-tusi, and the boogaloo, were not the romantic experiences that Betsy had waltzing around to Dreeeeeeaming. And I tried going out with a boy I didn’t care for just to go out - and was bored beyond endurance. Fantasy adolescence was much better than reality and I had my fun in college anyway. And even more fun later as an adult. Anyway, I was neither crushed nor embittered by the golden glow of perfect family life.

Still, when the nip of frost is in the air, I get to wandering down the L aisle in the children’s section and spending a bit of time visiting with old friends.

Huh. Well. Not much knitting in this post - barring the mention of the red foil hearts. I did some though, working on my color workshop project. Not ready to talk about it yet. It’s gestating, and besides, it ought to be something of a surprise. Teaching myself some new techniques as well. BD promised to help with is draftsmanship skills.

LD called last night too. We had a long chatty conversation about his hunting trip in North Dakota. He’s had the experience he dreamed of - met people all over the place, made friends, eaten more tender game birds than anybody ought - and has 5 more days left to tramp the prairies and enjoy the vast farmlands of the upper mid-west. He said he’d be home the first week in November. We told him we’d walked over to John Allen’s (where he’ll live when he returns) and planned out his entire future, complete with 6 kids!

And it is now Monday - and my first full work week this month. hrm.

posted by Bess | 7:41 AM