photo by Paul Mayer
BY KIMBERLY MAYER
The year was 2018, and regardless of the fact that every one of these three well- heeled Republican women in their day had passed away, they insisted on another matinee movie date. It isn’t every day Penelope Fitzgerald’s novel The Book Shop is made into a film. Now they’ve moved into a restaurant to talk about the film.
White linen tablecloths touch the floor and they were led to a table with a view. Barbara is in a wheelchair, my mother, Lois, on a walker, and my Aunt Marcia walked, pushing Barbara. Compared to the others, Marcia was eternally young. A born redhead, she stayed a redhead. Whereas both Barbara and Lois had been brunettes in their day, they were both a light–almost white–silver today. One might say iridescent.
Barbara had climbed out of one of her velvet workout outfits to put on a blue skirt, blouse, and tweed jacket. I don’t need to tell you she wore pearls. Kenneth Jay Lane faux pearls, as she was always proud to say. Lois wore a heathered gray cashmere sweater over black knit pants, a pair of comfortable pumps, and a sterling silver choker. Talbots was the word for her. Marcia, it seemed, was born knowing what to wear. Outfits hung in her closet with their tags still on, waiting for the right occasion. Today she was dressed in heels and a black and white St. John Knits. A trio of Chanel inspired chains draped around her neck, pooling upon her lap. Marcia looked glamorous, much like Violet, the grand dame in the film.
You might say Barbara is a Lincoln, my mother, a Subaru, and Marcia, more of a car than she could ever afford.
Barbara introduced her friends to the waiter as “Mar” and “Lo,” and herself as “Bar.” The waiter raised one of his eyebrows and Barbara put her hand up to stop his thoughts.
“Now don’t go making any comparisons to Mar-a-Lago,” she said disdainfully. “Because there are none. These were our names long before he ever laid his beady little eyes on Merriweather Post’s gaudy place in Palm Beach.” Her friends smiled.
Lo wants to tell her friends that she has asked her daughter—the writer daughter–to take her to the next women’s march in D.C. “… even if you have to push me in a wheelchair,” she had said. But Lo can’t figure out how to say it without hurting Bar’s feelings. She was still wrestling with that when Bar raised the topic of the march herself and blurted out, “I’d be there myself if it wouldn’t cause such a ruckus with the Secret Service.”
The waiter came with appetizers and poured a bottle of Pellegrino into large wine goblets. They were all on mineral waters now, with a twist of lime.
“I want to say something about that line, a town without a book shop is no town at all,” says Mar. Bar, who had lived in more places around the globe, smiled like it had been her line.
But Lo said, “We lived in such a town, not Hardborough, not that quaint, but Suffield, Connecticut. Except for the library, the kids had no resources for books. Now I don’t know how we did it.”
“Well that was one well used library, that’s how,” suggested Mar. “I know, I was forever in and out of mine in Cheshire, checking out and returning on the way to and fro every other errand and event.” Remembering for a moment the busyness of those years, she added, “The remarkable thing is that I got so much read.”
“We were all remarkable,” suggested Bar.
And she told them about the towering wall of books behind their headboard in Kennebunkport, both of them reading into the wee hours of the night and sometimes, until the first sign of light over the water.
“George was always putting it in his prayers every summer that coastal Maine be spared any little earthquakes,” she added.
Her friends love her little stories about George. All three had husbands that anyone would characterize as kind. Republican men. None of them ever thought to demean women, or bully other men for that matter. It was another time.
“To the Landline Ladies,” cried Bar, and they all raised their mineral waters before anyone could get too lost in thought.
“One good life and one good line, and you will live forever!” she proclaimed. “Here’s mine,” she added in case anyone forgot: “I don’t see how any self-respecting woman could vote for Trump”.
No one would ever forget that line. It’s just a shame not every woman listened. Mar would spend the night going over some of her own lines, searching for the best. Lo was sure she must have misplaced hers somehow. But Bar was confident in hers.
“I think I can say, truthfully,” she continued, “that not one person in the Bush family voted for Trump.”
It took a second for that to sink in. A Republican dynasty like that. One had to mull it over.
“I just hope everybody voted,” Bar added, almost under her breath.
“Well you can say that about our clan too,” Mar added, although she wondered, can any of us ever really know about our husbands?
When heads turned to Lo, wanting so to join in, she began to choke. Lightly, slightly, on a cracker. There’s some in every family, she told herself.