Chapter 11, Mrs. Poppy’s Party
Preparing for Christmas is big in the Ray household and there are many secrets in the mix. Everyone is waiting to see Margaret’s face when she gets a talking doll on Christmas morning. In addition to her new English bob, she has big eyes in a serious face. The long black lashes seemed not so much to shade them as to make them bigger and brighter (foreshadowing!). The Rays trim the tree on Christmas Eve just like my family. Betsy hangs her new red ball. They add strings of popcorn and cranberries. Finally, the candles are lighted. Bits of live flame danced all over the tree, and it’s a Christmas miracle that the house doesn’t burn down. They read Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
The next day there are stockings and gifts and the first appearance of joke presents. Betsy got one of her own much-chewed pencils “With Sympathy from William Shakespeare.” Betsy receives a copy of Little Men. It is a happy day, and there is no post-Christmas letdown because the following day is Mrs. Poppy’s party.
Although Mrs. Ray still seemed to have reservations about Mrs. Poppy and told Betsy she was sure they have nothing in common, the trio and Winona are allowed to go. Betsy shows off her knowledge of the Melborn Hotel as they pass through the lobby. Surprisingly, their mothers send them off empty handed and Mrs. Poppy has gifts for them. She bought the perfume they tried on during their ornament expedition – the drug store salesman told Mrs. Poppy that was what they would like. Then they play the gramophone and perform. Betsy and Tacy do the Cat Duet. Winona sings a sad song called The Baggage Car Ahead. And Tib does the Baby Dance, which Mrs. Poppy admires. Tib says she wishes she knew something else to dance and Mrs. Poppy offers to teach her. Soon it is time for tea with ice cream and cakes and more hot chocolate and whipped cream! The girls tell Mrs. Poppy about their shopping expedition.
When Tacy, Tib, and Winona go to ride the elevator, Mrs. Poppy tells Betsy she is looking for Uncle Keith but not to tell her mother in case she is unsuccessful. Betsy wishes she could say her mother wanted to get acquainted with Mrs. Poppy but knows she cannot. Instead, she talks about Julia’s singing and Mrs. Poppy expresses interest in meeting Julia. She says to Betsy that if she could help girls like Tib with her dancing and Julia with her singing, she would feel she really belonged in Deep Valley. Betsy doesn’t know what to say but she gives Mrs. Poppy a big hug and a kiss.
Mrs. Poppy hugged her back. Betsy felt a wet cheek touching her own.
“Betsy!” cried Mrs. Poppy. “Betsy! Why, you’ve given me a Christmas present.”
And that was the very thing Betsy had wanted to do.
If you celebrate Christmas, do you have an ornament tradition?
Does your family do joke presents?
Would you like to live in a hotel like Mrs. Poppy? Wouldn't it be nice to have someone else make the beds and to be able to eat in the hotel dining room all the time? But would there be enough room for your books?
The December streets of Deep Valley are full of sleighs and cutters. A cutter is a lightweight, open, horse-drawn sleigh, introduced in the United States in about 1800. It usually had a single seat that held two people, but some contained a second one, which could be removed or jumped out of the way when not in use, for two additional passengers, and some had a child’s seat that folded out when needed. For the differences between sleighs and cutters, click here.
Many people know that the Cat Duet really exists but have you ever seen Kiri Te Kanawa sing it? “The ‘Duetto Buffo di Due Gatti’ (in English: ‘Humorous Duet of Two Cats’) is unique among pretty much all Western music, classical and otherwise, for the bizarre style in which it is notated to be sung. There are no real lyrics, instead each vocal utterance in the piece is sung as a “meow,” to imitate the sounds of a cat. Though normally attributed to composer Gioachino Rossini, the actual authorship of the piece is slightly more complicated,” as this individual observes.
Winona sings a sad song about The Baggage Car Ahead. MHL is probably referring to In the Baggage-Coach Ahead (1898) and it is somewhat melancholy. Not what I would have expected from Winona!
We know from Betsy-Tacy Go Over the Big Hill that Tib’s Baby Dance is quite difficult, with five different steps and a special Russian kick from a squatting position that sounds like the “prisiadka” from the Nutcracker.
The Mississippi – Back in Chapter 8, Mrs. Poppy got Betsy interested in the Mississippi River’s flow:
“I like to look out and see it moving.” After a moment, Mrs. Poppy explained. “You see, I know that it’s moving towards St. Paul, and that it joins the Mississippi there and keeps on going down to St. Louis and Memphis and New Orleans.
Betsy was surprised to hear that. Their own river! In which, beyond the town, they fished and bathed in the summer and on which they skated in the winter. She had never thought of it going traveling.
This made a big impression on Betsy, who is developing an awareness of the Great World outside Deep Valley, as is reflected in Flossie’s story.