Ruth approaches Rusty as he enters the Little Cleveland.
“Hi Rusty, how are you doing?”
“Excuse me. I think you’ve mistaken me for someone else. My name is Randy.”
Ruth stares at this man. She knows it is Rusty. Rusty has befriended her. What is going on?
Randy continues “are you going in too? I’m picking up a movie for my girlfriend. She just loves Pride and Prejudice .”
Randy opens the door and motions for Ruth to enter.
Ruth is shocked to discover that the Little Cleveland is no more. She finds the library instead.
The librarian smiles at Ruth and asks if she needs anything. Ruth shakes her head and takes a seat in one of the wingback chairs. She puts her head in her hands and rests her elbows on her knees.
After a few minutes, Ruth approaches the librarian and asks if the library has undergone any changes recently.
“Not really. Oh, we finally got the chimney fixed. There was an unveiling a few weeks ago. But no, the library has been running the same as always.”
“OK” Ruth responds. She returns to the chair, and stares into the distance.
“I’m losing my mind” she thinks.
Something catches Ruth’s eye – a bird has flown past one of the windows, and she glances in that direction. Her gaze falls on a display titled “How Government Works”.
Ruth gets up and takes a look at the materials. She starts reading a pamphlet explaining how to teach civics at the high school level.
“This is perfect for our civics bee” she thinks.
Ruth discovers that the other materials are full of information about government structure, how to pass a bill, and how appropriations work. There are even testimonials from people who have held civics events for high school students.
The afternoon passes quickly, and the librarian announces that closing time is approaching. Ruth, who has forgotten about her disagreement and likely break-up with George, and the strange circumstances with the Little Cleveland/Wellesley Hills Branch Library, is brought back to a painful, confusing reality.
As she leaves, she asks if the library will be open tomorrow.
“From 10 until 8” the librarian responds.
Ruth thanks her, and decides she will be back tomorrow, equipped to gather ideas for the civics bee.
After leaving the building, Ruth walks down Washington St. towards Wellesley Hills Center. She thinks she hears her name being called, but keeps walking.
A moment later, someone is tapping her on the shoulder.
“Ruth, it’s me, George.”
Speechless, Ruth wheels around and finds George standing in front of her.
“Ruth, I’m so sorry about how I treated you the other night. I’ve never met anyone like you. I thought about what I said to you, and I realized that I would be a fool to lose someone who has so much integrity. I hope you forgive me.”
Stunned, Ruth looks at George. No man she has known has ever valued her priorities.
“Of course, George.”
“Oh, I’m so happy. Are you still free Saturday evening for a picnic at the South Natick dam?”
“Yes, that would be lovely.”
“You can tell me all about how planning is going for the civics bee, and I can tell you about the antique show. Why don’t we celebrate and get some ice cream? There’s a place not too far down the street.”
Ruth agrees, and they walk arm in arm down Washington St.
Joan cannot believe her ears as her father announces to the family: “When Jeanette comes to town tomorrow, I am going to take her, your Mother, Jack, Sue and Mary Beth to lunch. We’ll have a great time. Stouffer’s on the Square will be the perfect place for a fun time.”
Joanie thinks “What about us: her, Pete and Annie? Weren’t we invited, too?”
Her Dad seemed oblivious to the slight. He looks pleased with his plan to have a big, jolly lunch for his future daughter-in-law.
Luckily, Ann and Pete aren’t around to hear about the great time that they aren’t going to be part of.
After a few minutes, Joan’s protective instincts take over. She finds Ann, the youngest of the six, playing with their dog Zsa Zsa.
“Hey Annie, Dad is taking some of the family to lunch tomorrow when Jeanette visits. I’d like to take you and Pete to the Little Cleveland to eat. You could get the macaroni and cheese that you like so much. It will be my treat.”
Ann readily agrees. Pete is approached, but declines Joan’s offer. He is working on a model of the U.S.S. Enterprise that he wants to finish before the weekend.
The next day, Jeanette arrives from New York. Joan is glad to see her because she is so nice and calm. Older siblings can be tough to deal with. Not Jeanette. Joan will be glad to have her in the family.
Joan approaches her Dad and asks if he can drop them off at the Little Cleveland before the others head over to Stouffer’s at Shaker Square.
Surprised by her request, he asks “Aren’t you coming to lunch with us?”
“We weren’t invited” Joan responds coolly.
Her Dad regards Joan for a moment before a look of recognition spreads slowly over his face. He appears wounded.
“Bob, are we about ready to go?” Joan’s mother calls out from the kitchen.
“It’ll be a few minutes, Elaine. There’s something I have to do first.”
Their Dad gathers his keys and wallet before ushering Joan and Ann into the car and driving them silently to The Little Cleveland.
Elaine’s red shoes are in an open box on the bar at the Little Cleveland.
“What can I get you?” Rusty asks the beautiful brunette with the disconsolate look on her face.
“A beer. Do you have any Carling Black Label?”
“I’m pretty sure we do. Let me get it for you.”
Rusty looks at the red shoes, and says “Did you just buy those? They are exquisite.”
“Yesterday. I’m returning them. They aren’t too practical.”
“Oh, I’d think twice about that. Sometimes, you just have to splurge on something beautiful. I’ll be right back with your beer.”
Elaine wipes a tear from her eye. The red shoes are the most gorgeous things she had ever seen, and they make her legs look really nice. There would be hell to pay at home if she didn’t take them back – she was sure of that.
“Here’s your beer. Can I get you anything to eat?”
“Actually, I shouldn’t; my Mother will keep dinner warm for me. Maybe I’ll take a look at the menu, though.”
Rusty returns a few minutes later, and Elaine orders a pierogi platter.
“My Mother makes delicious pierogis. I’ll see how these compare.”
“You a good cook?”
“Oh, no. I work full time, and my Mother always has dinner ready when I get home.”
“I’m sure you’ll be a fine cook one day.”
“I don’t think so.”
“I’ll go get your food; you can compare them to your Mother’s.”
A few minutes later Rusty places the food in front of Elaine and walks away. She eats them and finishes her beer.
“You look better than when you walked in. I guess the Little Cleveland’s pierogis must have hit the spot.”
“They were very good – different than my Mother’s – she puts confectioners’ sugar on hers, but very good.”
“Have you thought about keeping those shoes? Maybe your Mother would understand after all.”
Elaine’s face falls. She had forgotten all about her Mother’s dictate until Rusty mentioned the shoes.
“Oh no, I cannot keep them. I have no choice but to return them.”
“That’s too bad. You need anything else?”
“Just the check, please.”
Elaine pays her bill and slowly puts her coat on. As she walks through the door, she promises herself that after tonight, no one is ever going to tell her what to do again.
“Mary Beth does a great job” Rusty tells Joan. “Not only is she pleasant and professional, she is enthusiastic about everything. People really like her, and I think we are getting a lot or repeat business because she works here.”
“I couldn’t agree with you more, Rusty. I’m impressed about how she found Cleveland memorabilia to decorate here. She has good ideas, and she follows through.”
Rusty nods, and adds “She help me clean up, too. I didn’t even have to ask, she just grabbed a towel and started drying glasses.”
“I think she is happy, especially since her parents told her that they will make going to Fordham work for her.”
“I’m glad for her.” Rusty says. “Joan, I better get back to work. I have a customer who looks like he could use a little R & R.”
“The Little Cleveland has become our special place” George says to Ruth as they sip their wine.
“I know it isn’t fancy, but it feels so homey.” Ruth replies.
“This is our one month anniversary.” Ruth says shyly.
“Would you like to go to the antique show at Elm Bank on Saturday? I have some friends I was planning on seeing there, and I would like you to meet them.”
“Oh George, that sounds lovely. I wish I could go with you, but I have a meeting that I really have to attend. The League of Women Voters of Wellesley is holding a civics bee at the high school in a month, and there is so much that has to be done by then. Saturday is the only day we can all get together.”
“A civics bee! At the high school! Ruth, you don’t even have any children. Why do you care what a bunch of teenagers know about civics?”
Ruth gives George a perplexed look.
“Ruth, you need to give yourself a break, enjoy yourself. I think you should come to the antique show with me. The weather is supposed to be spectacular – we could have a picnic dinner at the park of the South Natick dam. Doesn’t that sound nice?”
“George, the civics bee is really important to me. Of course spending the day with you sounds lovely. But this is the bee’s first year, and we have to get it right. Do you know they don’t teach civics in the high school anymore? Half of those kids don’t even know what a primary is. At the last town election, we had a 12% turnout. Something has to be done!”
“OK, I get it Ruth. I had no idea you were so passionate about civics.”
Ruth thinks “There’s a lot you don’t know about me.”
Ruth and George have a disagreement
“I’m sorry George. I made a commitment to the civics bee. Please re-consider the picnic – that would be a great time to catch up on our day. I’d love to hear about what treasures you found at Elm Bank. You know, I make a really good bread and tomato salad.”
“Let me think about it. I don’t believe I have ever met a woman like you before. I’m going to get the check. I have to be at work early tomorrow morning. We’re going to have to call it an early night.”
Mary Beth walks into the Little Cleveland. She approaches the hostess station and taps her foot with nervous excitement. It’s nice in here. The barrel vaulted ceiling, tall leaded glass windows, stone fireplace, and walls lined with bookshelves, seems welcoming.
“Funny place for a pub; it looks more like a library.” Mary Beth thinks to herself.
A woman approaches and smiles at Mary Beth. “May I help you?”
“Yes. I’m here about the hostess job. Is it still available?”
“Why yes it is. My name is Joan, and I manage the Little Cleveland. Please come with me.”
Mary Beth follows Joan to a small room behind the bar.
“Can I get you something to drink? Some lemonade perhaps? It is getting hot outside.”
“Sure, I’d love some.”
Before Joan gets the lemonade, she hands Mary Beth some forms to fill out.
“Have you ever worked in a restaurant before?”
“No, I have not. I’ve done lots of babysitting. And, I like to cook. My Mom has told me that I taught her to cook!”
“Plus, I really like people. I cannot see myself working as an accountant; no, I like to work with people, so I think I would do a great job as your hostess.”
“Well, you’ve answered some of the questions that I was going to ask you. Are you thinking about going to college?”
“That’s good, especially if you can get away. I think moving from home helps a person grow up.”
Mary Beth looks down at her hands for a moment, than says : “I was accepted at Fordham. I really want to go there, but I may not be able to afford it.”
“That’s a shame. Fordham is a wonderful school. Half of my family went there.”
“My brother is there. I visited him last year. He has really great friends, and he is the editor of the year book. I would just love to work on the year book. “
“Do you have one at your high school?”
“We do. I don’t work on it because I am pretty busy with the school paper. I’m the editor.”
“That’s impressive. It’s a lot of responsibility.”
“It is, but I love pulling the whole thing together every month. I like working with the writers and the photographers.”
“Well, Mary Beth, if you would like the job, I would be happy to offer it to you. When can you start?”
Mary Beth’s walk home from Beaumont school for Girls should have been pleasant on this beautiful spring day. It was not.
“Mary Beth, I don’t think we can afford to send you to Fordham. You can go to John Carroll and live at home.”
Those words spoken by her father last night struck Mary Beth speechless. She knew that things were tight at home. The foundry had been closed for a while and companies were not hiring. Still, the situation was not fair.
If Mary Beth stayed in Cleveland, she would miss out on all of the fun of living in New York City. She had visited her brother Jack at Fordham last year, and knew that the Jesuit College in the Bronx was the place for her. There would be no such fun if she lived at home.
Not five minutes from her house, she sees a sign in front of the Little Cleveland that reads “Now Hiring – Cook and Hostess positions available.”
“Hmm. Maybe if I get a job I can save up enough money to pay for housing at Fordham. I think I’ll give it a shot.”
Mary Beth decides to ask about the job before she walks the rest of the way home.
Joanie hears Grandma in the kitchen. “Joanie, help me bring the food in. Are you hungry? I made cookies last night. They are in a paper bag on the counter.”
Joanie hadn’t been hungry until her Grandma mentioned the cookies. Just the thought of reaching into the paper bag spotted with butter stains for one of Grandma’s chocolate chip cookies made Joanie’s mouth water.
Grandma put on an apron as soon as the food was put away. She started peeling and slicing peaches. Soon there was enough fruit for a pie.
“Get me the sugar. I need eight tablespoons of sugar.”
As soon as the sugar was procured, Grandma started measuring it into a small bowl.
“Grandma, can I ask you a question?”
“Joanie, I’ve lost count of how much sugar I’ve measured out. Keep quiet until I’m done, then you can ask me your question.”
After the sugar was measured in silence, Grandma said “What is your question?”
“Can I miss school tomorrow?”
“No. Why do you want to miss school anyway?”
“I need an extra day to finish my poster project. I forgot all about it, and I haven’t started it yet.”
“You cannot miss school because you were irresponsible. Do as much work on it tonight as you can. Tomorrow, tell your teacher that you did not finish, and you will be done by Tuesday. You have to take responsibility for your mistakes.”
Joanie could not believe that her Grandma was going to make her go to school tomorrow. What if her teacher yelled at her? There was nothing to say. She would never have argued with her grandmother, or her parents, for that matter, either.
She finally uttered “OK”. At least she knew where she stood and what she had to do.
Grandma did not dwell on the subject of the poster project. As she rolled out the pie dough, she started to speak.
“This is the same recipe I used when I first got married. My friend Mrs. Grabowski gave it to me. I made lots of pies that first year. I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. If I didn’t bake, I’d just cry.
Your grandpa was very jealous and didn’t want me to leave the house. I used to watch the people outside, walking with their babies, or talking to their neighbors. I wanted to be outside with them, but I couldn’t. “
The idea of Grandma being kept from doing anything was unfathomable. She was the one who had, as a girl, dealt with the bullies who had been tormenting her younger brother.
As a young mother, she had saved up her money and invested in several new companies, including Standard Oil and American Greetings. She had made a fortune on these investments.
During World War II she had worked in a bullet factory, and had single-handedly doubled production on her run. Her supervisor and co-worker tried to make more bullets than my grandma; they succeeded by working extra hours, but her co-worker had lost a finger in the process. In telling this story, Grandma had cackled gleefully when she got to the part about the woman losing a finger. Grandma rarely laughed, so this backfired effort to beat her must have delighted her endlessly.
“How could this woman be kept inside by anyone?” Joanie wondered. Clearly, she had found a way to her independence.
It was a perfect day for a ride in the country. Grandma was taking Joanie to a fruitstand to buy peaches and corn-on-the-cob for tonight’s dinner. The sky was clear, and the temperature was perfect. Best of all, you could glimpse Lake Erie through the houses and trees. Nothing was better for Joanie than being around the lake on a summer day.
Grandma pulled her Pontiac Ventura into a gravelly parking space under the shade of a big old oak tree. The pair left the car and walked over to the fruitstand.
The peaches had to be inspected carefully. Grandma picked up a container of the fruit and smelled it, then lightly touched the peaches to make sure they weren’t too hard or soft.
“Joanie, look at these peaches for any signs of bruising. I don’t want to buy any mushy fruit.”
Grandma moved on to another table.
“Would you like a cookie? They have chocolate chip and peanut butter.”
“Can I have a chocolate chip cookie, please?”
“Add that to my bill. And where is the corn?” Grandma asked the teenager who was working the stand.
Green beans caught Grandma’s eye after she had picked several ears of corn. “I can make three bean salad with those. Let me have a pound of beans.”
Joanie loved three bean salad. Sweet and tangy, it was a sure sign of summer.
“Time to get home. I have to make a pie for dessert. I’m glad I prepared pie dough this morning. We have to get you home so you can finish your homework.”
“Uh oh” Joanie thought.
Although the day was summery, school was not yet out, and Joanie had not even started a poster assignment that had been handed out a week ago.
The ride to Grandma’s was less enjoyable than the ride to the fruitstand. All she could think about was her yet to be started project. She did not know what she was going to do.
Despite the fact that Grandma was the slowest drive on the road, they soon arrived at the big house that her grandparents had built after her mother had been born.