Another Irene chapter, early version – see? we didn’t abandon her altogether…
Harriet had married twice. Her first marriage had been a happy one, and her husband had died tragically young. She’d been lonely. Her second marriage wasn’t such a success. Her second husband’s children didn’t like her and her husband wanted to control every aspect of her life, told her how much she could spend, where she was allowed to go. She didn’t always listen, but it wasn’t many years till she decided she’d made a mistake in remarrying. She’d been afraid of ending up alone, but being alone had to be better than this.
She was too old to fuss about getting a divorce.
Not that her life was so awful, really. It was merely annoying. Cynthia she could pretty much ignore. Once Harriet figured out that there was no pleasing her, that she could never make Cynthia happy, she stopped trying. She was pleasant when family gatherings occurred, the occasional dinner, but she just didn’t care anymore what Cynthia thought. She certainly wasn’t trying to take anyone’s mother’s place. Wouldn’t have minded being friends, but that wasn’t going to happen, was it?
Her stepson Andrew wasn’t so bad. A bit distant. Didn’t laugh at her jokes. Didn’t compliment her cooking. She didn’t see either of them often. She wasn’t losing sleep over it.
Though sometimes she thought what it would be like if her new family liked her, if they treated her like she was a grandmother to the children (they made pains to point out to them that she wasn’t). The fun they could’ve had. The love wasted. But, oh well, no use dwelling on it. She had tried till she was blue in the face, they weren’t interested.
Ross was a different matter. Subtly and not so subtly, he undermined her life. Sometimes she could just laugh him off. Other times there was nothing funny about it. She tried not to spend too much time regretting the way things had turned out. Life was too short for that, and she wasn’t getting any younger.
She enjoyed his car club and the road trips and the other old car enthusiasts. He puttered around in the garage, people came to him with car troubles and he figured out ways to fix them, rigged together substitutes where there were no parts. She didn’t mind any of this. She didn’t know why he objected to so many things she wanted to do.
She liked people and she liked being involved in things. She was active in her church and several clubs. Had been in more before Ross came along. He didn’t like this person’s whiney voice. That person gossiped too much. Was boring. Was silly. Or he just didn’t like them for no reason. They made him feel uncomfortable. Like that meant anything. Like Ross was a great judge of character.
He approved of the doll club. Thought it was harmless, she guessed. A bunch of old women, all of them, apparently, meeting his standards.
But he never let her go to any of the regional/national doll club events. He didn’t forbid her, just always had reasons why she couldn’t go to that particular event, a family thing, a car club excursion. Car club always took precedence over anything else – not that she minded car club, and she enjoyed the trips, dressing up in vintage clothes, driving down highways in a long line of old cars, people gawking and waving at them – she just wanted to be able to make her own decisions. Sometimes she would choose things other than car club, if she were able to choose. He could go alone, or take his daughter. They could spend time together. Cynthia was always going on about him not being there for her anymore.
Every year she received brochures about upcoming conventions. They were held in different cities across the US: Philadelphia, Denver, New Orleans, Las Vegas. There were seminars, workshops, exhibits, banquets. People who went to convention were wildly enthusiastic about them. It was expensive to go, but it wasn’t as though she couldn’t afford it. She longed to go, but she supposed she never would. It would have been something to see, though.
When Emmy died unexpectedly in her sleep, Harriet’s doll club was thrown into turmoil. Emmy had been 86 years old, so her death hadn’t been out of the realm of possibility, but she had been such an energetic, vital force, had never been sick a day in her life, people assumed she’d last forever. Emmy had been outspoken, friendly, curious, bossy. She had steamrollered the club along for nigh on to 30 years. It didn’t matter who was in charge, officially. They all deferred to Emmy’s guidance. And Emmy had led them through many years of prosperity. There were little things that stuck in your craw, true, but no one else had particularly cared how things were done, and definitely no one cared to go up against Emmy. She had been a force to be reckoned with.
She had also been a generous, caring, intelligent soul. She had gone to conventions faithfully every year, knew everyone there was to know, had worked with the President of the whole UFDC, volunteering to do office work at convention.
After her death, however, the club was left scrambling to try to proceed without her. The doll club all knew she’d been having trouble finding a judge for their doll show next May. She’d called everyone she could think of and hadn’t found anyone, or if she had, she hadn’t told anyone. She hadn’t kept notes, and she’d been the entire committee for so long that the club was at a loss. They divided her jobs among other members, and it fell on Harriet to find out if Emmy’d found a judge, and to find one herself if she hadn’t.
It was a mess.
It was late to begin with. This sort of thing should’ve been settled months ago. Advance publicity had already gone out with a vague promise that an “official UFDC judge” would be present. Harriet made phone call after phone call to everyone she could think of whom Emmy might have called, starting with all the judges they’d used in the recent past. Most didn’t know about Emmy’s death and she had to explain and hear their shocked reactions (no one seemed to think it possible Emmy could die) and condolences before she could finally get to the business at hand.
It was rather awkward, she thought, as she explained the situation over and over again. People were warm, understanding. They’d all met Emmy. They could picture how managing she was, if they hadn’t seen her in action. Could picture the turmoil the club was in. Felt sorry for Harriet, having to clean up the mess she’d left (though it was only one of the messes). Harriet actually made quite a few friends in those phone calls. One of the people she’d talked to called in a favor from a friend and found her a judge. It was quite a relief when the ordeal was over.
The show could now go on, for this year, anyways.
To tell the truth, Harriet didn’t know how the club would get along without Emmy. They didn’t have any real leadership personalities (truthfully, Emmy had ended up driving away anyone that might have qualified, by obstinately opposing any suggestion that might change things in any way), the club had just drifted along in Emmy’s wake for so many years. It really wasn’t healthy for the club as a whole to have one person be such a strong presence. Emmy ended up telling anyone who was an officer how she wanted things run and no one else had cared enough to do battle to defend any non-Emmy opinions.
And club members were getting so old! Harriet didn’t suppose she herself would be around in another 5, 10 years. Only a handful of members were under 70 years old. A few members were members in name only, hardly ever came to meetings due to poor health. The one member who came every month from her nursing home slept through meetings and was too confused to know what was going on (though, to tell the truth, Beatrice had always been confused). They were lucky to have 8 people show up for meetings. Sometimes it was only 6. In years past, there had been a big crowd. 15 or 20. And one of the 8 had always faithfully been Emmy.
Harriet sighed. No use dwelling on it. Might as well hope for the best. The club had lasted for 25 years now, it could well last another 25.
But it wouldn’t be the same without Emmy.
As I grow older, my days
are filled more and more by
ghosts from my past,
memories like cobwebs
obscure my view.
As I grow wounded and feeble
as I grow wary, forgotten, unloved,
as I am pushed to the back of the shelf
where the world’s view of me is
obscured by young lives
new faces, new voices
my sorrow cushioned, enhanced by
my memories more clear than
this world of now.