Thursday, August 03, 2006

The House Party

What does the intelligent, bedridden woman do to pass the time when bored? Take characters from one’s own life and invite them over, in one’s imagination, for a party. Add a few memories, shake well, and enjoy:

“I applaud Ruth for the way she corralled us all. We got together and sang songs. It has been so much fun. I think we should plan to do that again some time. Don’t you, Martin? …”

I stick my head in the door. I do not know whether the party is over or just beginning, but I fetch my pad anyway and begin to record Bea’s words:

“I take my nap on the second floor. Other people are to take naps when they feel like it. Then it will be time to get together again.

Oh! Looks like Helen and her fiancé have arrived. She does have a fiancé, you know. It’s so lovely.

We will start with the piano, and I think Ruth will decide what else we should have tonight.

No, Ruth. No, Ruth. No, Ruth …. Ruth darling ….”

There is a long silence while the differences between Ruth and Bea are resolved. Bea has both her old Vassar friend Ruth Berrits Fox – with husband Henry – and Wellfleet friend Ruth Clapp – with husband Martin – at this party. It is different from the bridge game and the garden party (see earlier blogs) in that there are no visitors, just Bea's very active mind at work.

“I am so glad we were able to get more ice cream. Ruth and Henry brought it. Wasn’t that nice of Henry? Thank you for planning it so well, Ruth. You planned it beautifully. We will all have ice cream.

What a good idea to give away wedding clothes! Now we will all be able to go through our things and get rid of whatever we don’t need.

Well, look who's here! I want you all to meet Miggits Campbell ... But darling! That’s my brother’s hat you’ve got on. Do come and give me a kiss.”

To the others: “Everybody says she’s the best teacher in the United States.”

“Margaret, please explain to me what it was you played with your very nice husband?”

Bea’s mind must be considering the fact that Miggit’s husband did not turn out to be such a prize, because she pauses.

“We should all be able to find someone to care about if we just care properly …”

But reflection does not last long. There are too many guests to tend to:

“How did you like the soup, Ruth? She says she liked the ice cream much better. I did, too. One, two, three, four. I know a secret: those people are going to have another baby. Okay, Ruth. It’s half past 2, and don’t forget Martin. Martin is one of the most important people here. There he is, sitting on the couch. We only invited people that you like. I want to tell you about Martin and how lovely his life is. He has a beautiful family. It was so very nice of Ruth and Martin to get us dessert. They found these delicious desserts and brought them.

Aunt Estelle? She’ll go soon. We can still be carrying on this way.

Now, what do you people want to eat? I think the favorite is always ice cream. So let’s have that.

What I want most – and I hope other people do, too – is the beginning of the spring season ...”

Bea’s mind drifts into a discussion of her desire for sleep. She stops talking in mid-sentence.


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