Thursday, June 10, 2010

Wedding Bells for Beatrice--Discussion Thread

Beatrice's job title is 'administrator' (which I think translates into facilities manager or housemother or, as she puts it "caretaker with a bit of bookkeeping thrown in"). With this grand sounding job she gets a flatlet on the top floor, which she fills with pot plants and bright cushions. Really, though the job sounds thankless and common, she's much better off than the nurses over in the nurse's cell block...er...home. [Betty Debbie] Gosh, except for the flatlet, that sounds like my life.

At one point, Gijs goes down the stairs two at a time in what she considered to be a highly dangerous manner. In the original home (not the trailer on the Indian reservation--much before my time and I. am. not. kidding.) of The Founding Bettys, Dad (the industrial arts teacher) had constructed a wrought iron spiral staircase with green shag carpet treads (that you could pull up and put valuables in, if you had any). When the dinner whistle rang out we would careen down that thing with frightening haste--taking short cuts by squeezing through the spindles and dropping to the ground below. Taking steps two at a time? Please. Imperfectly ground iron weld joints? They could take a limb off. When Dr. van der Stevejinck and I were newlyweds, we lived one block from BYU. To get up to campus we had two very long flights of stairs. They were a pain to walk up, but coming down was fun - I taught Dr. van der Stevejinck how to effectively slide down the railings. Our feet only touched down on the landing - where there was no railing.

Gijs tells Beatrice that she has 'no need to titivate yourself...' which, right out of the gate, makes her sound like a fussy old woman. Or, no, maybe it sounds more like he's an indulgent uncle with no patience for a much younger woman's airs. Clearly he's a genius, choosing his vocabulary with the right kind of care to create a particular impression. Now, if he'd told her not to tart herself up...

While getting tea from the local greasy spoon, the waitress is amazed to see an actual professor...'I never seen one before'. What did she expect, I wonder. A prissy figure, holding his skirts aloft from the muck of everyday living? Our RDDs love their not-from-a-tin artichoke heart soup but they're never too proud to patronize a fish and chip shop if that's all that's going.

Every hospital in Britain and Holland seem to share certain characteristics.--paneled walls with pictures of dead and gone benefactors, plinths with stern-visaged gentlemen atop. It reminds me of that poem:
And on the pedestal these words appear: “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away.
But, of course, our learned men have left draughty mid-Victorian hospitals with endless corridors and broken lifts. In a month or two a burst gas line or terrorist bomb will level the surgical wing and a new one will rise from the ashes--presumably with no stern-visaged benefactors.

At one point, Gijs leaves a box of food..."beautifully packed"--I take it we're not talking Ziploc baggies. When I leave food for someone (because they had a baby or are ill), I pull out my Glad-ware plastic boxes (that way they won't be scrambling to get them back to me) and put the main course (almost always inoffensive chicken enchiladas (no onions, no unusual ingredients)) in aluminum pans that once held Costco lasagna (reduce, reuse, etc...). All this is carried in a Winco grocery sack (reduce, reuse...ahem). What do you take and what do you use to wrap it up? I found myself intrigued by the 'beautifully packed' box of food also. I was imagining fancy containers - the non-recyclable kind. The kind that need to be washed and then returned. I save a few food containers for just that kind of emergency (cookies fit perfectly in used frosting containers, big Cool Whip containers are fine for salad - and soup, if you're really careful). The trick is to have enough for maybe two meals...any more than that and my cupboards start to take on a very trashy appearance.

Gijs and Beatrice go and pick out a car for her. She picks one made by Rover...when Gijs asks her why she picked that particular one...pause briefly for a cringe...she picked it because it was blue! One of my sister's-in-law picks cars for their color. But I cannot throw stones as I am the kind of girl that tells my husband, when he goes car shopping, to make sure the mini-van has easily removable seats but to otherwise bring back whatever he wants to. I guess I can't throw stones either. I hate car shopping with a passion...my ONLY criteria for a car be that it is completely dependable. Dr. van der Stevejinck tries to make the process not too painful - he'll take an older teenager with him...but there's problems with that too. Teenage boys want to drive Mustangs...not minivans.