Sunday, August 4, 2013

Betsy Was a Junior, Group Read, Part 9 - Finishing Up

Julia’s Career – Although Julia was dropped by the Epsilon Iotas, the sorority relented and voted her in at the last minute. Her talent (she had a significant part in the U’s production of The Mikado) and personality had impressed alumnae as well as the young women who had been rushing her, and at the last minute Norma (from whom Julia had snagged the boyfriend) was persuaded to remove her opposition. Julia wound up pledging and come home to Deep Valley to tell the Rays. However, when Mr. Ray told Julia that he and her mother now understood her commitment to music and were willing for her to go to Germany to study music, rather than return to the U for her sophomore year, Julia did not hesitate: “You’ll never be sorry,” she said, turning a joyful face to her father. We have discussed many times the wonderful parenting of the Rays. Julia knows that her father would prefer she used her voice for lullabies and her mother would prefer she stay at the U and enjoy the social life there, but their love and understanding of her goals makes them support her desire to study in Germany despite the expense and distance.
Tar – As has been discussed, Joe had always had to work to support himself and has not had much time for Deep Valley extracurriculars apart from the Essay Contest. This year, the day after the Essay Contest results are announced, Betsy and her friends arrive at school to find that someone has painted PHILOMATHIAN in orange paint on the high school roof. A stripe of tar underneath the letters prevented angry Zets from removing it. Miss Bangeter inspects the shoes of all the Philomathian boys for tar and identifies Squirrelly, Tony and Joe as the culprits. The school and doubtless Miss Bangeter are surprised that model student Joe is involved in this prank, but it is a sign that Joe has gained in confidence and is ready to become a real part of the Class of ’10.

Cab’s Father – The Sibleys host a lovely graduation party for Carney where Betsy hopes to encounter Joe but he has already left to spend the summer making money in the harvest fields. But there is bad news: Cab’s father dies and Cab decides to give up his plan of becoming an engineer to help run the family furniture store. This is the “time to grow up” message that Betsy had not fully absorbed after the disbanding of the Okto Deltas. I don’t recall noticing previously that the funeral was held in the Edwards’ parlor but I know the wakes for my father’s mother and grandfather were held in his home around 1940, not in a funeral parlor (I am sure the actual funerals were held in St. Theresa’s Church in Boston). Do any of you remember funerals or wakes of family members held at home?

Growing Up – Betsy goes to her music lesson and says goodbye to Miss Cobb’s nephew Leonard, who is going to Colorado mountains for his health. When she comes home, she finds a postcard from Joe! It says, “Did anyone ever tell you that you’re a good dancer? Joe.” Perhaps is a sign that Betsy is starting to mature (and that she knows Joe is The One) by the fact that she doesn’t skip about and show it off to her mother or to Julia. Instead she starts thinking about her behavior this past year, about the milestones in her life, and how her friends, such as Cab and Carney, are growing up. She realizes that all their choices are shaping them into the adults they are going to be, and she knows she wants to be a better human being than she has been this year. Betsy starts making one of her famous lists with goals for the future and the book ends with Betsy putting Joe’s postcard carefully into the cherished Uncle Keith’s Trunk.

What a satisfying end to Betsy Ray's tumultuous junior year! The stress and build up to the romantic dance at the banquet, and then the postcard from Joe which is jaunty and casual but sends a message for the future.

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