Tuesday, July 29, 2014

No Betty Heroine Was Named 'Sabrina'

Although I do associate 'Tabitha' with 'Sabrina.'  Oh, I just realized why.

I watched the 1954 movie Sabrina quite recently, for the first time.  I of course adore Mr. Bogart, and Ms. Head, and the Watchacallit Estate setting was lovely.  However, as a romance, this story fell splat on its face for me.  Perhaps you have a different view.  If so, I'd love to read it.  Let me detail my confusions regarding how love came into the thing:

1)  Sabrina loves David, or thinks she does, and her friends in the servants' quarters seem to cheer her on.  Huh?  Everyone knows he's a worthless ne'er-do-well.  She rarely even talks to him, so her crush is based primarily on his looks and a rollerskating lesson ten years ago.  And then she heads off to Paris, spends two years meeting other people there, and her crush survives?  Why?  What?  How am I to sympathize with this woman?

She has friends, distractions, and he's a ninny.  Not getting over him isn't love, it's foolishness.

Lab rat, or possibly Laurens.
[Betty notes:  David is not even a registrar!  He is clearly Adam ter Brandt or Laurens van Amstel, and should be shipped to Pittsburgh, though the Larrabee family idea of Bozeman or Butte is worthwhile also. Further, Christina and Serena (Both rhyme with Sabrina.  Hmmm.) have psychologically-demonstrated reasons for maintaining their crushes with worthless n.d.w's long past the sensible expiration date.  If your w.n.d.w. is nearby, alternately criticizing and praising you, taking you to tea and standing you up, your crush may never die.  We get hooked harder by inconsistent reward than by reliable reward.  Try it with a rat and some food pellets and a little button sometime.]

2) David loves Sabrina, or claims he does.  This is based on seeing her in a seriously pencil-cut skirt suit with something perilously close to a turban on her head, and in an admittedly awesome ball gown, and dancing with her very briefly.  Even if he (thrice-married) acts on his infatuations in a manner detrimental to the marriage vow, she can't believe he loves her on the basis of two good outfits.  C'mon!

I think it actually is a turban.
Betty note:  I believe they don't ever actually kiss in the movie, though lots of stills where they seem to.

Prescribe Diazepam;
marry English girl;
finish Lancet article.
[Betty notes:  Sure, we sometimes fall in love at first sight, but if so we jot a reminder to marry her in our small leather notebook, or resolve to put him out of our minds unless that fiancée proves as poisonous as she looks.  We do not immediately announce our feelings to the object thereof and start planning an elopement, especially if one of us is engaged to be married already.  And yes, I know Betty believed in the power of a great outfit, but a true hero knows his beloved would look lovely in a potato sack.  This is worth bearing in mind.]

3)  Linus loves Sabrina, and she loves him.  This is based on his having been overworked for three decades, and her feeling cossetted by him as he deviously plots to detach her from his brother, and her mild pity for him, which is based on a complete lie he told as part of the devious plotting process.  I give them six weeks, tops.  Actually, since it's a little based on his being Humphrey Bogart, I give him six weeks, tops, while she moons around for years wondering what outfit will get him home earlier.


[Betty notes:  I do not see any helpful pointers in the oeuvre for this fantasy or incipient train wreck.  Or both.]

4)  The voiceover tells us the Larrabee parents married in 1906.  The movie was made in 1954.  So they've been married 48 years, and had two sons.  Assume it took them eight years to pop out the first; he's still forty.  The younger has been married three times, and single for several years, so I don't see how he can be much less than 35.  (William Holden was about 36 when they made the movie; Humphrey Bogart about 55.)  Sabrina is 20 when she returns from Paris.  ICK!!

Still rather swoony, actually, but I'm pushing 50.  Ms. Hepburn looks more doubtful.

[Betty notes:  Mary Jane and Fabian are 22 and 40 during their Winter of Change, and they are the ickiest couple in the canon.  Heroes are typically about 12 years older than their [future] wives.]

Does this movie work as a romance for you?  Porquoi, as Sabrina would say?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Huge Roses: Chapter Six, part two

American nurse Tory Bird, visiting Amsterdam with her sister Jane, meets Dr. Maximilan van den Nie whilst giving first aid to an injured English tourist.  After a lovely weekend, Tory returns home to the United States, daydreaming of the handsome Dutchman.  To her surprise, Max arrives in Tory's New Hampshire village a few weeks later!

Installment One - Installment Two - Installment Three - Installment Four - Installment Five - Installment Six - Installment Seven - Installment Eight - Installment Nine - Installment Ten - Installment Eleven - Installment Twelve - Installment Thirteen - Installment Fourteen - Installment Fifteen - Installment Sixteen - Installment Seventeen - Installment Eighteen

THE HUGE ROSES (working title)
copyright 2014 by Betty van den Betsy; not for reprint or publication without permission

Tory arrived at the community center on Wednesday to find a blur of activity; some of it work, some of it purely social.  Neil and Emma were there – they’d been able to ‘sneak away,’ as Neil put it, earlier than expected.  Emma buried herself in family, hissing to Jane that one of her high-school boyfriends was there, and recently divorced, and ready to make a pest of himself.  Neil flirted outrageously with every woman over high school age until Mr. Abood, who had a beautiful daughter back for the weekend from her sophomore year of college, sent him off to buy a few more rolls of tape.  Jane, collared by a local councilman, earnestly gave advice on how best to evaluate the town’s investment advisors.  Rob Tucker came over to haul Tory away from the boxing area to the several tables where volunteers were building sandwiches.  “I’m sure we’re not doing it very efficiently,” he reported.  “You come organize things, will you?”  Tory rolled up her sleeves and got the job done, with tact and flair.  That she was entirely ignorant of her flair was part of her tact, her parents agreed.
By mid-afternoon the work was completed, the Abood’s van so thoroughly filled that Mrs. Abood was in her seat holding one large bag of sandwiches on her lap, with another at her feet.  Gradually people drifted away, and family groups re-formed.  The Bird contingent headed out to its various vehicles, and convened again at the farmhouse.  Emma built up the fire in the living room, Neil insisted on making toast over the fire, and their father presented, with a flourish, a handsome plate of brownies he’d bought in Cambridge.  “Harvard Squares, they call them,” he announced.  “Right there in Harvard Square.  And there are chocolate-dipped fruits for you health-food types.”
Neil and Emma had to hear the menu and job assignments then, and Neil grimaced at the head count.  “One more,” he said.  “Sorry.  But while I was getting that tape for Mr. Abood, I ran into Mrs. Tambor, and she was talking to some newcomer, Florrie someone.  So she introduced us, and the Florrie mentioned she was having Thanksgiving alone – she’s divorced, I guess, and no kids – and I think she was hinting for an invitation.  But Mrs. Tambor wasn’t getting it, so I offered her a place at our table.  She was really grateful – kept stroking my arm.”
“Fleurie Gold, I bet,” Tory clarified.  “Blonde?  Short but high-heeled?  Runs an antique shop?”
“Sounds like,” said Neil, not knowing his sister’s generous heart shrank a bit at the confirmation.  But it was impossible to begrudge hospitality to anyone when she herself was so happy.  Her loneliness of a few weeks earlier seemed distant indeed, and she thought that by Monday, she might be yearning for solitude.

The next day, Thanksgiving, Jane took the dogs for a big morning walk, leaving Tory to sleep in a bit, dozing to the distant sounds of her parents preparing the stuffing and wrestling the turkey into its roasting pan.  Even better, she got to smell the aromas of sage and sautéeing onions.  Emma padded into her room from across the hall, where she was sharing with Jane, and asked for help studying for her advanced anatomy test.  The two of them wound up under the covers, giggling in flannel over the musculoskeletal lever system.
By mid-morning they were all enjoying a sumptuous feast of scrambled eggs, bagels and melon, with mimosas.  “As if this motley group needed additional holiday cheer,” their father mock-grumbled.  The plates cleared and kitchen cleaned, they set to work messing everything up again.
At 2:00pm, the clarion clanging of the front-door knocker, strongly plied, broke through the family babble.  Mr. Bird opened the door to Max and Jaap, welcoming them with his friendly warmth.  Tory, whisking her cheese sauce, heard their progress through the living room, to meet Aunt Lindy and Emma, writing place-cards, into the dining room, where her mother was setting the table, and thence to the kitchen.  Where, she thought a bit savagely, Jane and Neil were peeling potatoes, and she was encrusted with roux and flushed with steam from the various pots bubbling on the stove.
She contented herself with a smile for the guests, refusing to let go of her whisk, while Neil took a large wooden bowl from Jaap.  “Look at this,” he exclaimed, bringing it over to Tory.  “If every salad were like this, I’d eat a lot more of it.”  Jaap beamed, and Tory concurred with Neil.  The dish was loaded with deep greens of spinach, spiky herbs, peas and beans, the tender greens of cucumber and sprouts, rich purple cabbage, bright red pepper strips and lively orange carrot shreds.  The whole thing was decorated with cubes of hard-cooked eggs and peanuts.  “That is gorgeous,” she complimented Jaap.  “Thank you so much.”
Neil declared that he would put it in the pantry to keep cool, on a high shelf, “so these useless mutts don’t get at it.”  Jaap then presented, with a flourish, a glass bottle of peanut-based dressing.  “There is maple syrup in it, from New Hampshire, for just a little sweetness.”  Jane, brandishing a chef’s knife, oohed appreciatively; Tory murmured, “Yum,” and moved to the table to punch down her rolls.  Max stood by a wall, quietly watching the constantly shifting scene.  In the midst of the friendly holiday chaos, why was she so aware of him?
The onions safely be-cheesed, Tory kneaded her scissor-roll dough, conscious of Max watching.  She was relieved when her mother came in and collared him:  “Max, perfect.  I need someone tall to get the water glasses.  Are you at all familiar with the Batavi people?”  They left the kitchen, her mother quizzing Max on ancient tribes of northern Europe.
Rolls and onions in the oven, pies standing by, Tory reached a resting point.  She wandered into the living room, where her mother was still grilling Max, now apparently about the history of anesthetics.  Her movement caught her mother’s eye, however, and recalled her to her surroundings.  “I must baste,” Mrs. Bird announced.  “Tory, come and talk to Max.”
A bit shy, Tory took the few steps to the couch, but Max had already risen at her mother’s departure.  “Your mother has a deep knowledge of medical history,” he remarked.  “Medical anthropologist,” Tory explained apologetically.  “That cabinet,” she gestured toward an imposing piece of furniture at the front of the room, “used to display several primitive surgical implements.  Dad put his foot down at about the eighth one, and said he got enough of that sort of thing at the office.  He’s a doctor – family medicine, with a subspecialty in tropical disease, in case I haven’t mentioned that.  Even though they were all archaic, he said it was enough that he knew what they were meant to do.  They had a very silly mock-argument about it, and now they’re in a cabinet at her office at the university.”
Max chuckled, and directed Tory’s attention to a cluster of photos on a shelf.  “I’ve been wondering about the lady in the turban,” he said.  “I can’t decide whether she looks wistful or determined.”
“Oh, you’ve spotted our romantic debate.  That’s mother’s Aunt Lauren, on her wedding day,” Tory told him.  “Family legend has it she was desperately in love with her sister Joan’s fiancé, and Joan ran off to New York with a Broadway producer, and Lauren and Great Uncle Ilya – that’s the fiancé – got married instead.  He was a foreigner, and had the first modern optician’s shop in Grafton County, and I can remember him saying how he loved how warm it is in New Hampshire.  Compared to St. Petersburg, you see.
“Anyway, Great Aunt Lauren married him instead of Great Aunt Joan, and they were either happy or stoic, depending on who’s telling the story.  And that all happened in the mid-50s, but that’s no excuse for wearing a turban to get married.  Jane thinks it’s chic, but Emma and I hate it.  Neil doesn’t like hats unless they’re knit and cover your ears; Mother loves it and threatens to get one, and Dad just shakes his head.  And maybe the whole story’s made up; Great Aunt Joan died before I was born, in Connecticut, and she was certainly never a star on Broadway.  She was a smoker, though – lung cancer.  You know how it was back then; according to Aunt Lauren everyone had to pretend she had bronchitis, but of course she knew bronchitis didn’t hurt that much.  But they all kept pretending Great Aunt Joan would get better, and Mum’s Great Uncle Arnold used to say it was the worst thing he ever did.  Anyway, that’s the closest I know to a family scandal.”
“The scandal is that turban,” Emma said, strolling over to join them.  She repeated her comment, louder to make sure Jane heard.  “I refuse to rise to that bait,” Jane called from the kitchen.  “She’ll get me for it later,” Emma commented philosophically.  “She’s a grudge-bearer.  Mother looks silly in this dashiki thing, doesn’t she?”  She had picked up another of the family photos.
“I think she looks happy,” Tory said.  Max’s eyes gleamed briefly, before his eyelids dropped.  Emma looked at him, then at her sister.  She ambled back toward the kitchen while Tory introduced other relatives and friends to Max via the photos.  “Europeans don’t usually display family photos, do they?” she asked.  “I remember English people being surprised by our pictures when we lived in Northumberland one year.”
“Perhaps they – we – are simply more formal about family portraits, as we are about many other things,” Max noted.  “I’ve often visited English friends who prominently display paintings of family members, in an entrance hall or over the drawing room fireplace.  People with large enough homes once kept portrait galleries stocked with ancestors, dressed and posed to impress visitors and future generations, and inspiring arguments about the suitability of lace jabots and leghorn hats.  I like your friendly celebration of family here.  And I like this one – you, correct?”  He pulled forward a small print of Tory, aged about seventeen, smiling at her father’s camera while the wind blew leaves and her hair around.
She mumbled confirmation, “Yup, me.”
“You’re lovely,” Max said.  Well, she was in the picture, Tory supposed – certainly happy – and she didn’t feel up to exploring his use of the present tense.  He broke the silence by cheerfully noting, “I see you polished the door knocker.”
“Umm... yes.  Yes, I did,” was as much of a reply as Tory could managed.  By good luck, Bob and Ilona were beating a tattoo on that door knocker, and the hubbub that accompanied their arrival allowed her to slip back to the oven.


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Summer Wedding (2014 Edition)

College sweethearts, they nipped away and got married this winter, after about eight years of living in poky bedsits in Brighton, fresh flowers always on the marquetry drum table so the various places looked bright and homey.  They decided to gather the clans to celebrate at grandma's New England pond-side summer house, and gosh can the young folks throw a party.
The gift table, with its own little marquee in case the partly-cloudy sky got obstreperous.

The bride is a horticulturalist and artist; this wildflower arrangement is hers.

She also did the centerpieces, with help from friends.  The table runners are paper, decorated with the bride and groom's initials handwritten by anyone who was around to write them.  They made a great graphic design; I feel very smart that I managed to figure out they were letters.

The view from the buffet.
And we walked by the marriage vows to get to that buffet.

May there always be a shared adventure rich with moments of serenity, as well as excitement; vital with problems that test as well as successes that lift...

The feast included charcuterie and cheese plates, mezze and salads and sandwiches and really great breads.

On the groom's side, we got to meet Mum and a cousin or something.  On the bride's side, there were Mum and Dad, one and a half sisters, three aunts, two uncles, just one of several cousins, Mum's second ex-husband (effectively bride's stepfather for much of her childhood and adolescence), stepdad's mother, sister and wife and someone who may have been his mother's boyfriend, Dad's mother, sister, wife, two cousins and Dad's daughter by current marriage so that's another half-sister.  There may have been more.  The photo of the bride's mother, father's wife and stepfather's wife together is... let's call it interesting.

Dress varied widely.  One of the wedding gifts was the bride's gorgeous tiara of fresh roses.

Where do I come in?  Through the kitchen door, natch.  I made Mum and Dad's wedding cake more than thirty years ago, and the bride wanted someone to bring dessert.  They hadn't specified a wedding cake, but wedding cakes are fun!  And since they had way fewer than 150 guests, I didn't need to construct a three-tier cake, which I can only vaguely recall how to do.  So I decided to go with two tiers and a cheesecake on the side that would make her dad happy.

Cheesecake o' love.

So having made that first cake, 30-some years ago, I got called on twice more in the ensuing fifteen years.  That, for those of you challenged by the maths-totting, means I haven't made a tiered cake for more than fifteen years.  How hard could it be, I reasoned, and left everything to the last minute.  My wedding cakes have all been chocolate, with fruit filling between the layers and buttercream overall.  The two marriages celebrated with chocolate and raspberry ended in divorce; the one celebrated with chocolate and cherry filling is still going fairly strong.  So there you go.  One of the bride's friends whipped a gallon or two of cream to go with a few gallons of fresh strawberries, plus there were sorbets, so everyone got well-desserted.

Sugaring a cherry is akin to gilding a lily, but sometimes 'fancy' is the right way to go.

They both seem very down-to-earth, reasonably smart, and centered.  I'm betting on happy ever after.

Guests did a little swimming as the sun drew in.

Then there were lanterns.  The groom and bride took theirs out on the pond, lit it...

let it go...

and watched it fly.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Huge Roses: Chapter Six, part one

American nurse Tory Bird, visiting Amsterdam with her sister Jane, meets Dr. Maximilan van den Nie whilst giving first aid to an injured English tourist.  After a lovely weekend, Tory returns home to the United States, daydreaming of the handsome Dutchman.  To her surprise, Max arrives in Tory's New Hampshire village a few weeks later!
Installment One - Installment Two - Installment Three - Installment Four - Installment Five - Installment Six - Installment Seven - Installment Eight - Installment Nine - Installment Ten - Installment Eleven - Installment Twelve - Installment Thirteen - Installment Fourteen - Installment Fifteen - Installment Sixteen - Installment Seventeen

THE HUGE ROSES (working title)
copyright 2014 by Betty van den Betsy; not for reprint or publication without permission

Titus was sensibly docile when introduced to his new home, and housemates.  As a result, Fiona didn’t object to his presence, and Hal and Jennet accepted him peaceably.  Tory decided to thaw a block of the pesto she’d made toward the end of summer, and had just set a pot of water to boil for the linguine when she was surprised to hear the chiming that signaled an incoming Skype call.  Usually it was only her parents who Skyped, and sure enough, there was Mother when she clicked to accept the call.  Tory, startled, was doing some muzzy calculations of flight schedules and time zones as her mother caroled, “Hello, darling.”
“Hey, Mum.  Where are you?  What time is it?”
“We’re in Boston, Victoria, at your sister’s.  The weather forecast was a bit uncertain and there’ve been protests – well, you know that.  So we thought it safest to take an earlier flight.  Anyway, the jet lag hasn’t caught up yet, so I thought I’d give a call tonight and see whether we should pick anything up in the city.  We’re going to leave about mid-day tomorrow, so we should be with you in time for tea.  You have that early start on Tuesdays, don’t you?”
“Oh, yes.  Funny about teatime; I just had a proper tea party at a friend’s house the other day.  Oh, I’m so glad you didn’t get held up over there.  Let’s see... groceries.  There’s nothing essential you need to bring.  We can get the turkey from the Musgroves again; I reserved one already.  And there’s plenty of all the veg and things here.  Max is bringing wine, and it should be excellent – that’s this Dutch doctor the twins know.  He’s coming to dinner, and his housekeeper.  But if you want to bring some fancy, big-city treats for hors d’oeuvres or chocolates or something, that would be great.”
“I’ve got an amazing pepper spread from Konya that we can snack on while we’re cooking, and some – well, slightly peculiar, really, but so interesting – little pickles.  Maybe I’ll sprint over to Formaggio’s in the morning and pick out some cheeses and trimmings for a lovely cheese tray.  And I can send your dad off to Burdick’s for chocolates.  Now, don’t fuss about beds and dusting, sweetheart, we’ll have plenty of time to take care of that for ourselves.  Here’s your father,” she said as his pleasantly rounded, spectacled face joined hers on the screen.
“’Lo, Tory.”  Her dad sounded like he was on a very different sleep cycle than her mother.  “All set for the invasion?”
“Welcome home, Daddy,” she smiled.  “I’m ready, but there’s a new boarder who may freak out a bit.”  She lifted the screen to point the camera toward Titus, sitting up in his bed.  “I found him by the road, hurt.  He seems pretty sanguine about the new environment so far, though.”
Putting the screen back on the table, she could see her father’s gently resigned expression.  “I suppose we couldn’t expect to come home to the same number of animals we’d left,” he said.  “I hope he’s a more active mouser than Fiona, that’s all.  Have you taken care of all the logistics with your mother?  You know we’re bringing Aunt Lindy?”
“Yes, all set,” Tory assured him as her mother came back on screen, looking unexpectedly dazed.
“Jane’s calling us for dinner, Peter,” she said.  “And I’m suddenly so sleepy.  We’d better hang up now.  Oh, and Tory, Neil and Emma have each told me a bit about their friend Max, so don’t, please dear, indulge in further prevarication.  We’ll see you tomorrow.  Night-night!”
“G’night, Mother, g’night, Dad.  See you soon.”  Tory clicked to hang up, then uttered a groan as she turned back to her merrily bubbling sauce pan.  Why would they tell?  What did they tell?  Oh, brother.  And sister.  And mother, the last living American to say ‘prevarication.’  What does she think she’s talking about?”
After washing her dinner dishes, Tory whisked through the living, dining and sitting rooms, with a final flick of the duster, and swept away the various litter the animals had managed to spread since her big clean on Monday evening.  Then she made up the beds in three rooms, dusted, and set out clean towels.  She closed the bedroom doors carefully to ensure pet hair wouldn’t be part of the family’s welcome the following day.
By ‘teatime,’ without a moment to recover from a busy work day, she had put chrysanthemums in a few vases for the bedrooms, stirred up a batch of apple muffins and put them in to bake, set plates and cups on the coffee table, and put the kettle to boil.  She was putting the remaining groceries she’d collected on a hurried lunch break into the pantry when she heard a car pull up, and the dogs began to bark excitedly.  She left the sweet potatoes and onions in the bag and ran to the front door, flew through it and into her mother’s arms.
“It is so good to see you,” she cried, luxuriating in her mother’s solid hug as the two of them rocked lightly from side to side.  Then it was Dad’s turn, and by the time they were done, Jane had assisted their father’s Aunt Lindy to emerge from the car.  Great Aunt Lindy was spry and alert at 87, but warranted a gentler hug than what she called ‘the young folk’ had shared.  After greeting her warmly, Tory gave her an arm to assist her into the house, and installed her in a well-upholstered armchair by the living room’s huge open fireplace.  Then she dashed back outside to assist with the luggage, winning an armload of bags from specialty food shops.  She dumped those on the kitchen counter and pulled the singing kettle from the stove, and had the tea nicely steeped by the time Jane and their parents had settled the various suitcases and parcels and gathered in the main room.
They spent a lovely hour or two chatting, interrupting, repeating stories and fussing over the dogs, who were elated to have so many hands available for patting.  At one point, Mother and Dad had competing slide shows going on their separate tablets, but there would be time to get caught up with all the photos, so no one objected.  Eventually the calm induced by hot tea and carbohydrates settled over the group, and Jane had a chance to ask, “Tory, what needs to be done ahead of Thanksgiving?”
Tory, being Tory, was ready with the plan.  “I’ve got all the groceries, I think, except the turkey.  So someone will need to pick him up from the Musgrove’s tomorrow morning.  I’m working until noon, and then I’ll go to the community center to make sandwiches and help pack donation boxes.  We gave homemade applesauce and cranberry sauce, by the way, and you’re welcome to come help.  Mr. and Mrs. Aboud are going to drive the boxes down to Concord.  Of course you can do whatever flower-arranging, centerpiece-making, dusting and table-setting you like. This is Liberty Hall.”
The others were all eager to participate in the food drive work, and turkey-pick-up was soon settled.  Jane asked about the regional high school’s senior play, and their mother mentioned, somewhat vaguely, that ‘the children’ might like to get a lacrosse game going.  Jane and Tory grinned at that – mother was the gentlest of souls until she saw an incorrect citation in an academic paper, or got a lacrosse stick in her hands.  “How many for dinner, total, Tory?” her father asked.
“Twelve in all.  Six Birds, Aunt Lindy, cousin Bob with Ilona and the baby, and Jaap and Max from Amsterdam.  No known food allergies in the group; Baby Paul may eat some potatoes but they’ll bring mushy food in jars to warm in the microwave.”
“And who’s to make what?” inquired Great Aunt Lindy.
“You’re on cranberry sauce as always, Aunt Lindy,” Tory said.  “Emma and I will make pies tomorrow night.  Mum and Dad have turkey duty, Jane and Neil peel and chop.  Our Dutch guests are bringing salad and wine.  Ilona and Bob aren’t bringing anything because Paul had another ear infection and so they took him in for surgery last week and when Ilona told me she couldn’t stop crying.  Neil is doing something with Brussels sprouts; Emma wants green beans; I’m making cheesy onions and scissor rolls.  My friend Debbie sent me the recipe, and they look delicious, so I don’t care what Miss Manners says about no rolls with dinner.  Dad mashes potatoes, Jane glazes sweet potatoes.  Isn’t that everything?” she gazed around her, and noticed her audience looked slightly stupefied.
“It is an awfully large meal, isn’t it?” Aunt Lindy pointed out after a brief pause.  “But such a lovely one.  It will be delightful to see the baby, though I suppose he’s really a toddler now, isn’t he?”
“And that much better at getting in the way, but we can stick him in the mud room with the dogs if we need to.”  Jane was almost entirely kidding, but Tory figured she’d keep a discreet eye on the one child in their group, just in case.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Huge Roses: Chapter Five, part four

American nurse Tory Bird, visiting Amsterdam with her sister Jane, meets Dr. Maximilan van den Nie whilst giving first aid to an injured English tourist.  After a lovely weekend, Tory returns home to the United States, daydreaming of the handsome Dutchman.  To her surprise, Max arrives in Tory's New Hampshire village a few weeks later!

Installment One - Installment Two - Installment Three - Installment Four - Installment Five - Installment Six - Installment Seven - Installment Eight - Installment Nine - Installment Ten - Installment Eleven - Installment Twelve - Installment Thirteen - Installment Fourteen - Installment Fifteen - Installment Sixteen

THE HUGE ROSES (working title)
copyright 2014 by Betty van den Betsy; not for reprint or publication without permission

The next day, she kept her appointment to pick up Titus, driving up the hill to Josh and Sheila’s with a freshly-washed cat bed on the passenger seat.  It was just 6:00, since she guessed the household would stick to later, more European mealtimes.  It seemed she was right; Jaap answered the doorbell wearing a clean white apron and welcomed her in, explaining that he’d just put a cauliflower to braise for dinner.  “Well, then,” Tory offered, “I’ll just grab Titus and go.”
“A drink first?” Jaap suggested.  “That might give the beast a chance to accustom himself to his new bed.  I thought you might be interested in the kitchen here, and could perhaps advise me as to one or two things that are unfamiliar.”
“Oh, of course,” she agreed, and walked with him to the kitchen.  Given a choice of cocktail or mocktail, she picked the non-alcoholic one, and was rewarded with a tall, iced elderflower concoction that was light and delicious.  Jaap told her he’d brought the cordial syrup with him from the Netherlands, wisely not trusting to find it in rural New Hampshire.  “Although I think it’s quite popular in restaurants, now, so you’d probably be able to get it in Boston, and maybe someplace like Walpole,” Tory mused.
Jaap mentioned Thanksgiving, and Tory suggested he might like to arrive an hour or two before the 4:00pm dinner time.  She got the impression he would enjoy being part of the preparations for the big meal.  Jaap agreed with pleasure, and asked whether he might bring anything to add to the table.  They went through the various traditional menu items, and settled on salad as his contribution.  It wasn’t an essential element of the meal, Tory reflected, but it was nice to add some color to the largely-beige dinner, plus salad traveled well and no one at her house ever seemed to remember it or have time to throw one together.
“Mr. Max is a great one for vegetables,” Jaap informed her.  “He’s not particular at mealtimes, but he does prefer to emphasize nutrition over trends and luxuries.  Now Mrs. Winton, who cared for the children when they were little, she seemed to think bread and butter, porridge and potatoes were all children needed to grow strong.”
“Very English of her,” Tory commented.
“Rather Dutch, as well,” her companion said mournfully.  “But we had Bep in the kitchen, and she watching cookery shows, and took courses at the – you might say town center, I think – and taught her niece, Sitska, who’s the cook now, that we ought to have greens and citrus and spices and all the rest, not just this stodge and fat.  So we eat very well indeed at home.”
“I love the Indonesian spices,” Tory said, remembering the rijsttafel.  Jaap beamed.
“Mr. Max, also,” he said.  “You know he goes to that area every year or two, as part of Mediciens Sans Frontieres.  You know that company?  He has always been a great donor to charity.  His mother the same, and his father in his day as well.”
“I didn’t know about that,” Tory informed him, impressed.  “We call it Doctors Without Borders, and my sister spent two years with them, in Uganda, when she finished med school.  Medical school.”
“He has a program for club feet,” Jaap elaborated.  “He is very generous.  He was since he was a little boy, taking care of his sisters, and standing up for the scholarship children at school.  I remember he came home once with his shirt torn, and a cut lip, and asked me to help him tidy himself before he went in to his mother.  ‘Fighting is not the right way, Jaap,’ he said to me, ‘but when I saw them bullying Rafik, I had to help him.  Another time, I shall be there in time to be sure no one starts anything.’  He was twelve, maybe eleven.”
Jaap paused to contemplate the memory of a young Mr. Max, and Tory tried to imagine him as he’d been then.  Even allowing for Jaap’s prejudice, she could believe he’d been special from an early age.
“There have always been rescue dogs, cats, once a donkey at the house in Friesland,” Jaap spoke again.  Tory checked the time, suddenly guilty.  “Speaking of dogs,” she said, “I’ve really got to get home to mine.  Titus seems content in his bed, so I’ll just carry him out that way.”
Of course, Jaap insisted on seeing her to her car, holding doors and closing them again, and assuring her he looked forward to seeing Titus and her, and meeting the rest of the clan, in three days.  She smiled and waved and drove away, glancing down to ensure the cat was still settled.  He was.  “I love donkeys,” she remarked to him.  The handsome calico readied himself for a snooze, and evinced no opinion.