“Must you and Poppa go out tonight?” I whined as Momma tucked me into bed.
“Darling, you know it’s Poppa’s job to attend company functions. Tonight is a very special night for him and many important people will be there.”
I didn’t want Momma and Poppa going out to their New Year’s Eve dance at the Petroleum Club’s Magnolia Ballroom. Ice slicked the city streets. I always fell down on the ice. How could Poppa drive his brand new motorcar on the ice without sliding? Poppa was proud of his Buick automobile even though Momma complained when he drove too fast. Poppa laughed. He loved driving fast and even promised to teach me how to drive when I was old enough, older than the eleven years I was now.
Momma continued, her carmine lips curled in a smile and the slant of her green twinkling eyes crinkled at their corners. “Poppa and I can hardly stay home, as much as we’d rather. Alexander Jordan is in town for the premiere of his new movie…” She sighed, her eyes glazed and dreamy. “Just imagine, darling! River City’s Golden Boy and our own Hollywoodland success story! Shall I bring you Alexander’s photo and his autograph for our scrapbook? Would you like that?”
“We have a scrapbook full of his photographs, Momma,” I said continuing my whine.
“But we don’t have his newest photograph for our scrapbook. Movie premieres are special occasions, darling, and I seriously doubt Alexander will visit River City again anytime soon.”
Momma’s scrapbook. She had pasted her favorite matinee idols’ glossy photos and news clippings on every page. Valentino, Gloria Swanson, John Barrymore, Dietrich and Garbo, Tom Nix — Momma said she had even met them. How else could Momma have their autographs with her name on them if she hadn’t met them? Dearest Olivia. They even knew Momma’s name. She had tons of Alexander Jordan’s photos. I didn’t know why she wanted or needed any more photos of him.
She had more photos, magazine and newspaper clippings of Alexander Jordan in her scrapbook than any of the other radio personalities and movie stars! I think Poppa might’ve been a bit jealous, but Momma always teased him and said she loved him more and how there was no one more special to her. Poppa’s ears always turned red and sometimes he grumbled or laughed and danced around the living room with Momma in his arms, their eyes shining.
“I hope I don’t swoon!” Momma said, pressing her fingertips against the hollow of her throat.
I giggled. “Poppa will catch you, Momma.”
Momma laughed, her head tilted back on her shoulders, her neck long and graceful. Her special laugh always made strangers notice her and smile. Poppa always beamed with pride.
Momma was beautiful and tonight she looked like a movie star in her shimmering red evening gown with its hand-sewn crystal beads and her black hair piled in curls atop her head. She didn’t flash and drip diamonds like the glamorous lady stars in the photographs. Instead, she wore her special locket — a golden heart that held two pictures, my sister Mary Rose on one side and me on the other half of the heart.
Her two blessed angels she called us, even when we acted naughty and got into trouble or when we refused to eat the vegetables Mrs. LuElla Jones piled on our dinner plates, especially beets. I hated beets, but I ate them, especially when Momma made me feel guilty because children went to bed starving on the streets of River City.
LuElla always took Momma’s side. I hardly thought that was fair since Momma paid LuElla and I said as much. “None of your sass, Miss Agatha Grace Sabra Haisten!” LuElla always scolded me every time I messed up something she’d just cleaned, especially when I was hungry and decided to bake a cake and powdered flour all over the kitchen. Or when I told our neighbor, Mrs. Breeze, that she looked like a turkey. “I earned every coin your Momma pays me to teach you polite manners. Child, you seriously lack good manners. Now, shoulders back, head up. Stand straight!” Sometimes LuElla poked me between my shoulder blades and said, “Stand up straight, child!”
LuElla lived in a section of River City called the Deep Second and came in every day, except on Sundays, to help Momma, or to stay with Mary Rose and me — like tonight when Momma and Poppa were going out on the town. She’d stay over, no matter how late, and Poppa would drive her home to the Deep Second where she lived with her other family. I didn’t know why LuElla couldn’t live with us all the time.
“Go to sleep, darling.” Momma stroked her fingertip down my nose. When she kissed my cheek, I inhaled her sweetness as deep as I could. Ah, Chanel No. 5.
“I promise, darling, I will tell you all about the movie premier and our evening over breakfast.”
“Yes, darling, I promise.”
Momma always kept her promises.