|Choo-choo, Sam, it's your muthafuckin' birthday.1|
After the launch of the First Three Girls in 1986, the second sets of things and books came out in 1987--around the spring, setting the odd ways of releasing for a while where only half a collection came out to start and the second half came post holiday. Because reasons. So in early 1987, out came Happy Birthday, Samantha! Complete with exclamation point. Are you excite? You'd better be, every birthday book until Kaya has an exclamation point. Pleasant Company (well, Ms. Rowland), having gotten rid of Susan Alder post book two for all that subversive class discussion and capitalism hate and only using Maxine Rose Schur for Samantha's Surprise, needed to get a new author to cover the last three books. So they pulled in Valerie Tripp, who had written the Molly books, and had her do the last three books.
Valerie Tripp is probably the author who has written the most books for American Girl in, like, ever. She's going to come up over and over again on these book blathers, because she wrote a lot of the books. In fact, I'm not sure if she's written anything major other than AG books.3 Her AG series include all of the Central Series for Felicity, Josefina, Molly, Kit, Maryellen, and--as it's coming up now--the second end of Samantha. Plus all the Hopscotch Hill Books and the upcoming WellieWishers series. Her writing is hit and miss for me a lot--some of it tends to be very formulaic, which is likely due to AG requirements. And I've been known to harp on the way she writes for AG. She's not my fave of the AG authors by any means,4 but in ways she is a fairly decent author. I'll be nice. First internal illustrations by Nancy Niles, second by Dan Andreasen. In the Beforever Volumes, this is Chapters 1-5. I will continue using the old numbering system until I get to Ellie's books, whereupon I will still break them up into "books."5
Just like Samantha Learns a Lesson, this is one of those books that gets overhyped when people don't actually go back and read the books and instead are going off Childhood AG Nostalgia. Into the book, and I shall pop the childhood bubble you've been carrying around for some time. Cause AG was never as radical as you want to think it was.
Chapter One: Petticoats and Petit-Fours, or Getting the Double P(itt)
"SURPRISE HAPPY BIRTHDAY SAMANTHA" two excited voices spring out. Well, so much for any deception about what this book is about, we're just getting into the birthday starting two sentences in. Samantha wakes up wondering who the dickens is yelling at her and wondering if Nellie has somehow cloned herself or brought one of her sisters, but no Nellie is off in the Land of Silence and Not Appearing In This Book for talking too much about class issues and the Irish. Instead, she sits up to see two curly headed girls run into her room and get in her bed, shoving bouquets of roses into her arms. Samantha, your fantasies are getting weird--wait, no, they're actually here.
Folk, meet Agnes and Agatha Pitt, Samantha's friend-aunts who will here and there be called A&A to save my typing fingers. Aunt Cornelia isn't just a First Wave Feminist, she's the oldest of four girls and in the short story Samantha Saves the Wedding6 we are introduced to her twin younger sisters who are just about Sam's age. This offers up the question, before we get more into it: Cornelia is in her twenties or so. Agnes and Agatha are about ten or so, and their little sister Alice Not Appearing Right Now is three years old. Unless Mrs. Pitt was hella into family planning to the point of a ten year gap, that's a sizable span between the oldest and the youngest. New headcanon is that the kids between the Twins and Cornelia all died. All three to four of them. I'm chalking it up to measles, the spotty killer. Or mumps. Or rubella. Or diphtheria. Or whooping cough. The children died of diseases. Lots of them. Dropped like damn flies. Vaccinate your damn children.
Samantha stuffs her face into the roses, having never gotten flowers for her birthday before. They're even wrapped in lace. Lace that looks like they came off a petticoat. And has threads hanging from it. They came off a petticoat. A&A give it away giggling. "Didn't so much cut them up as find a rip already there and finish it off," Agnes says. Samantha is agog and amused by such blatant disregard for a lace petticoat; Grandmary would feed her beans and sell her to the Irish if she ruined a perfectly serviceable undergarment for mere flowers. But their mom's just going to have to put up with them and their Wild and Crazy Actions, and so is Grandmary who has had her house turned topsy-turvy by such popcorn-in-a-pot aligned shenanigans.
Agnes flumps on the bed. "Stop lounging around in your fancy Edwardian Nightgown and get dressed because the kitchen smells like delicious, and Mrs. Hawkins is likely making something absolutely scrumptious." I hope it has berries.
Sam scrambles out of bed. "I'll be dressed in a jiffy!" And then she pulls long underwear out of the drawer.
FASHION ERROR. A&A are from New York City and like everyone ever from New York City, is versed in the latest and greatest fashion.7 "Like, no one wears long underwear anymore, Samantha," Agnes says. "Ripping up petticoats is in, and long underwear is so out, Sam. It's like so 1898."
Sam huffs. "Grandmary Says. Long underwear from September til the End of June, lest I catch the consumption and die." Two whole months of the year without being covered in itchy underwear, thanks Grandmary, you're so damn generous.
"Jeepers and Creepers," Agatha says, "what old fashioned bullshit. You will become Roast Sam wearing that in frigging May."
"It is some dickens," Sam says.
"Then chuck that mess," Agnes says. "Do what you want cause a pirate is free."
|You are a pirate! A pirate of underwear.|
"He totes saw them already," Agatha says. "We swiped them from his bush."
Samantha freezes. "No one touches the rosebushes," she says, certain the twins will be turned into bonemeal for said roses.
"Psh, there were like millions of roses on the bush," Agnes says. "Hawkins won't even care we borrowed some." And they're right--Hawkins doesn't mind. That or he knows that if he complains about his roses being picked to Grandmary, he and his wife will be on the street looking for work. Power dynamics! They'll getcha. Anyways, Mrs. Hawkins has birthday surprise--blueberry muffins. Nomf. One has a candle stuck right in the middle, because this is a time where candles are like everywhere and one in a birthday muffin ain't no thang. Samantha blows out the candle and makes a wish that being Ten Whole Years Old will be completely different than Nine Mere Years Old. She has no idea.
"That was practice for this afternoon, when you'll have ten candles to tackle on one big cake," Mrs. Hawkins says.
"BETTER IDEA," Agatha says."What you should do is make ten tiny cakes with one candle each, instead of one big cake with ten candles."
Mrs. Hawkins sounds doubtful, because ten cakes instead of one big one sounds like more work and she's probably already figured out the cooking. Now her plans are getting shot just like they were for Giftmas. She's already having flashbacks to fresh quince jam.
"They're tiny cakes, and they're called petit-fours, and they are so in," Agatha says. "All the Fancy Ladies of New York are into them."
"Petit-fours," Samantha says, and gets a sparkle in her eye. "They sound so elegant and in."
Shit, thinks Mrs. Hawkins. "I don't know, I've never done that. That's different," she says, still trying to hang on to one cake because one cake is much easier to frost and stick candles in.
"But that's what makes it so wonderful," Sam pleads. "No one's had ten cakes at their birthday in Mount Bedford before."
Shit and dickens, Mrs. Hawkins thinks, and then masks her thoughts with a smile. "If you want ten cakes, then you'll get ten cakes. I'll try something new." Ten cakes. Damn it.
"OmiDickens," Agnes adds."You should also mold the ice cream into ice cream molds, like they do at the fancy New York Parlors. Ice Cream Molds are so in."
Samantha gets crap your bloomers excited at the idea of molded ice cream. "Hawkins, we should do it! Still peppermint flavored cause that's my favorite. "
Hawkins mentally debates if he can toss A&A out of a window somewhere and make it look like an accident, then laughs at the picture of them falling to their doom, passing it off as amusement at the idea of molded ice cream changing flavors. Once the ice cream freezer is clean, the girls can help him make it. And be useful for five seconds.
"Now get," Mrs. Hawkins says, rolling up her sleeves, "because you've now got me making ten cakes and if you get in my way you will become part of the cake."
The three finish breakfast and head outside, where the leaves are back on the trees all shiny and green. Samantha starts telling A&A about how ice cream is made when a voice goes "hey, carrot heads."
Damn it, it's Eddie Ryland, Neighbor and Jerkass Boy.
"Hay is for horses," Agnes says, bringing out the old school sick burns.
"You should know cause you eat like one," Eddie says. How dare girls that are growing eat food! Next they'll want to vote and work for their own money and regulate their own reproduction and marry when they want instead of putting up with male shit. The girls roll their eyes while Eddie laughs art his own joke, proving how bad it is. "What are you ninnies doing?" he adds on, continuing his pattern of mad negging.
"Piss off, Eddie," all three say, but then Hawkins comes out and ruins everything by carrying the ice cream freezer they swiped from Addy.9
"Let me in on this sweet work, I know all about ice cream," Eddie says. Someone's about to mansplain that shit, because it's not like girls know anything about ice cream or cooking.
"Piss off, Eddie," all three say in unison again.
"Seriously, leave. You are not what's in," Agatha orders.
"Who's gonna make me?" Eddie says. Agatha, who does not subscribe to Grandmary's Book of Lady's Don't Fight, makes a fist and is about to feed Eddie his own teeth, because when she's mad she gives Zero Fucks and the problem of Eddie can be solved with a proper application of violence. Samantha intervenes, wimping out and saying Eddie can help if he's not a pest. Rule Number One of Being a Feminist, Sam. Don't let boys pester their way into anything ever. Cornelia's got some learning to give you. She whispers to the twins that if they ignore him, he'll go away. Rule Number Two: Ignoring only works some of the time, but it's a useful tool.
Hawkins loads up the ice cream freezer with ice chips, and Sam adds the rock salt, with Hawkins warning her to add just enough to keep the ice melted and Eddie nosing in to say to keep it away from the lid because if salt gets in the ice cream it'll be ruined.
"I said piss off, Eddie," Agatha says, pushing Eddie back with her shoulder and blocking his view completely, giving epic bitchface in the 86 illustrations and letting Sam handle the bitchface in the 98 ones. Okay, I take back my years of despising Agatha. She clearly grows up to be an awesome 1920s lesbian who wears mens's clothes and takes none of their bullshit.
|Epic Bitchface, Agatha Style.|
Chapter Two: The Party, or Boys Ruin Everything
Samantha is getting ready for her birthday party by tying a huge Edwardian Bow in the back of her pinafore when Grandmary comes in. "Happy Birthday, Samantha," she says. "I have something special for you; turn and face the mirror." Samantha hopes it's not a set of spankings, as she has forgone her long underwear as extra padding. But no--it's a old-fashioned circlet of silk rosebuds. It's absolutely lovely, and Samantha is now a girl with a Flower Crown.
"Your mother wore this circlet at her tenth birthday," Grandmary says, "and I'm sure she would be happy to see it passed on to you, as you look as pretty as she did." Okay, that is sweet and adorable, Grandmary. "Now it's time to go downstairs and wait on your guests."
Samantha is all a flutter as they stand in front of the house to await her guests and see what her friends think of the lovely surprises. One by one the girls--Ruth, Ida Dean, and even Edith Eddleton who has been downgraded from Bitch--come up in their best party dresses, carrying their favorite dolls in one arm and a brightly wrapped present in the other, and curtsy properly to her and Grandmary.10 Everyone is slightly shy, especially when they see A&A are there in blue party dresses that are the Latest Style from New York. Super Fancy.
The girls all take seats in a circle of wicker chairs on the side lawn, sitting up straight with their legs crossed at the ankles and their dolls sitting up most proper in their laps. Since Samantha is Ten Whole Years Old today, she tries to make grown up conversation. "It certainly is a nice day."
Oh gods, Sam, don't talk about the weather.
|No one wants to talk about the weather. Ever. Unless it's a superstorm or a hurricane.11|
"And you should open your presents now," Agnes says, cutting her off because seriously, Samantha Mary Parkington, the weather is the worst topic. Everyone else murmurs agreement, and the present opening commences. Ida Dean gifts colored pencils, Edith gives a book of piano music which is the second most boring present, and Ruth Adams gives a fan which is the most boring present. A&A go last and giggle as they hand Sam a big square box. Sam opens it and holds up a stout, cheerful looking stuffed bear. That gets everyone excited, and Samantha is like "Holy dickens a teddy bear!" as she hugs it.
Seeing as teddy bears had just been invented two years before in 1903, this was the new hotness. This would be like getting a Cabbage Patch in '84, the Tickle-Me-Elmo in the mid 90s, or the brand new GotY for a kid, or an iPad. Fancy as shit. Go A&A. Agnes lets Samantha know that Teddy Bears are In in the NYC, hence them getting her one. Everyone hugs on the bear, and then the party gets too quiet yet again because everyone is trying to be extra grown up. Seriously kids, stop trying to be so adult, you have like six years left before your parents make you wear your hair up and start trying to find you a good husband. Talk about dolls and ponies and cookies.
The silence is broken by the sound of Uncle Gard's motorcar, bringing Aunt Cornelia and her brand new nipple piercings she got on their honeymoon with him, because they're so into the weird stuff.12 Sam bounces out of her seat and her guests follow her to the car. "Happy Samday, Bertha!" Gard says, lifting Sam up and pretending to be confused before getting it right and kissing her again, all without removing his driving goggles.
"Oh, Gard," Cornelia said, teasing him before giving Samantha a kiss all her own. "There's someone I'd like you to meet," she adds, reaching into the car. You two have only been married a few months how did you hide a pregnancy --oh it's a brown and white puppy named Jip. Right, the White Couple Tradition of Raising Dogs before they have children. Jip is the newest member of Family Edwards, and he gets in on the Mouth on Sam's Face thing by licking her chin. Agatha has Sam put him down so he can do his tricks, because she already knew about the dog. Cornelia warns to keep an eye on Jip because he's frisky and likes to run before she heads inside to have a moment of tea and not let Grandmary know she's sporting fancy new jewelry under her shirtwaist.
Samantha sets him down and Agatha tells him to sit. Jip doesn't sit. Agatha tries again, saying that he doesn't always listen. Jip takes "sit" to mean "run around everyone's feet and bark at their shoes." Agnes says he likes shoes, so the girls stop being stiff and adultlike and dance up and down in front of Jip, getting him all bounced up. Then Agatha knocks over the box, the bear tumbles out, and Jip growls at it. Agatha teases that he's acting like a lion, picks up the bear, and taunts him with it right in his face.
Jip leaps, grabs the bear, and runs off with the bear in his mouth. Fucked that one right up, Agatha, now the bear's a dog toy. Samantha calls for him to stop, and Jip hears "stop" as "run even more." The girls start to chase Jip--Agnes kicks over her chair as she gets up--and Jip gets them to chase him to the back of the house, around the oak tree in circles, across the drive, through Nellie's Lilac Tunnel of Secrets, and into the Rylands' yard where he is caught by the birdbath but doesn't drop Ye Bear. Agatha tries to leap at him and Sam uses the lump three feet above her butt to hatch a better plan. She takes off her shoe and dangles it. "Here, Jip. Have some delicious girl shoe. Tasty tasty girl shoe." Jip drops the bear and trots right over, taking the shoe. Sam picks him up, letting him mud up all over her pinafore. Someone's going to have to wash that and it's not you, Sam.
Who's got the bear?--oh fuck. It's Eddie, and he's got it by the nose. "Gimme my damn bear," Sam says.
"Nope," Eddie says, "unless you let me play with that dog and get ice cream too."
"Okay, first of all the dog is Aunt Cornelia's so no, and second of all it's my birthday and the ice cream is for my party, so how about another no," Sam says.
"And you are not invited," Agatha says, "because this party is for girls and you are not. No Boys Allowed." Everyone agrees. Agatha is so going to be a lesbian.
"Then I'm keeping the bear," Eddie says, thinking that Sam won't go straight to her grandmother and have her remind Mrs. Ryland that her son's too stupid and ill-trained to go to a private school so he has to go to the public like some sort of Irish.
"You are a nincompoop, Eddie," Agnes says, and everyone teases him with a word that sounds like poop. While Eddie's distracted, Agatha goes in for the kill, tackles him around the knees, and knocks him to the ground, ripping the bear out of his hands and taking off, the girls cheering for her.
Agatha, Best 1920s Lesbian.
The stampedes stops at the circle of chairs, where Grandmary is waiting. "Good heavens, what the dickens have you been up to?"
"Um," Sam stumbles, "Jip ran off with my new teddy bear and we had to chase him." She pointedly leaves out the whole Agatha teaching Eddie that his shit won't fly round her, thank you, because Grandmary won't understand the significance of Agatha's Lack of Fucks for Boys.
"I hope you didn't make a spectacle of yourself," Grandmary says, giving them all the once over. Agnes has an untied sash, Agatha has grass stains on her stockings, Sam's circlet is tilted over one ear like a halo hooked to horns, and Ida Dean has fed her hair bow to a goat somewhere because it is gone. They been having the good kinda fun that messes up the clothes. Much better than the weather. Grandmary looks for a hot second that she might smile and then remembers she's got to keep up the Victorian thing. "If you are all hetted up from your exercise, then it is a good time for cooling lemonade." She leads the girls up the stairs of the porch to the birthday table, set with a lace cloth and the best gold spoons. Sam, you can't even be born with a silver spoon in your mouth, you gotta go for gold. There's also pink lemonade, a nosegay of pink roses at each plate, and every one gets a lace fan as a party favor. See, Ruth your present was the worst. Next time buy candy.
The girls try for being proper ladies again, fluttering their fans and nibbling on tea sandwiches and sipping from their fancy goblets. Mrs. Hawkins then appears with ten tiny cakes, ruing the day she listened to A&A even if all the girls are delighted. They sing Happy Birthday13 ever so well, and Sam gets all the candles in a single whoosh.
"This party is so elegant and in," Agnes says, as Mrs. Hawkins sets one of the cakes on her plate.
"And shall we have the ice cream?" Samantha says, as Hawkins serves the molded ice bombs.
"Oooo," Ruth chirps, "it's fancy!"
Everyone takes a big pink spoonful--and then makes a big pink face. Coughing and choking, they spit the ice cream out and try to wash the taste out of their mouths and gag and put on a production.
The ice cream is full of salt.
|Salt is so not in.|
Gods damn it, Hawkins. Eddie salted the whole batch. Agatha leaps to her feet, ready to knock Eddie's head in like it was a particularly soft soufflé, and runs into Cornelia.
"What's wrong, baby sis," Cornelia asks, "and why does everyone look like they just ate salt?"
"Because we did," Samantha says, "Eddie Ryland ruined my ice cream."
Aunt Cornelia takes a small taste and is like "omg you are right. You can't eat that!" Well you can't in this era where olive oil or caramel isn't easily obtained to balance this out. At least they still have the petit-fours and the lemonade, and the ice cream is to just be ignored as the girls eat their cakes in silence. But Sam can't just ignore this, and can barely swallow. Her party got ruined, because Eddie is a little shit who needs a good solid spanking. A&A eat quickly and hurry away from the table. They talk to Cornelia, then head back to Sam.
"Best idea ever!" Agnes says. "You shall come with us to the NYC!" All the girls are impressed. NYC is like, the city in this Year of Our Merf Nineteen-Aught-Five.
"If it's all right with Grandmary," Agatha says, "you can come stay at Cornelia's new house."
"Next week," Agnes says, "And we'll be there too and can get ice cream at Tyson's Ice Cream Parlor with no Eddie Ryland to ruin it." She gets a gleam in her eyes.
Samantha says she'll like that, and the disappointment melts away like so much salted ice cream. "May I go, Grandmary?"
"Of course," Grandmary says, "and I with you, because I wanted some peppermint ice cream too." Aw, Grandmary.
Interlude of Wish Fulfillment, or Revenge is a Dish Best Served Lukewarm and Salty14
It is after the party. Hawkins and Mrs. Hawkins are doing the many, many dishes. Grandmary is having tea with Gardner, and Agnes has talked her new brother in law into taking her and Samantha on a motorcar ride. No one is there to stop Agatha Pitt, who remembers the taste of salt in her mouth and the look of salty tears on her friend-niece's face. She is waiting in the bushes, dish in hand, until Eddie walks by, whistling and getting his time tables wrong. "Hello, Edward," she says, softly and menacingly.
"Hello, carrot top," Eddie says, smirking like the ass he is and not realizing that he has brought the hell. "Did you enjoy your ice cream?" He then looks closer. Agatha is holding a dish of ice cream, melted and sticky, with a single spoon.
Agatha's eyes narrow ever so slightly. "Hawkins said that you said it tasted fine when you had some. Would you like to check again, Master Eddie?"
Eddie stiffens, and tries to bolt. He gets exactly nowhere before Agatha grabs the back of his shirt with one hand, and hold out the bowl with the other. "Taste it, Edward Ryland. Take a good big taste."
He does, lips trembling. The salty taste makes him gag, and he almost spits it out before Agatha sets a hand over his mouth. "Oh, is it ruined?" she says, coldly.
"I'm not sure," she hisses. ""Perhaps you should eat the whole dish. To make sure. After all, you just couldn't wait to eat it."
"And if I don't?" he says, trying to be tough and failing like the punk ass he is.
"You don't want if, Edward Ryland."
Eddie looks like he might get mouthy, until he turns.
Cornelia Pitt-Edwards is standing on the porch, and she has a look that wants him to test what if could be. And he can tell, in a glance, that if is worse than the salty, melted ice cream.
Agatha and Cornelia with her stand there for several minutes, watching him eat goopy, salty-minty mouthful after mouthful. Watch him swallowing and gagging slightly on each part. Agatha watches him eat the whole damn bowl, until there are only thin dredges in the bottom of the glass dish. Then she takes the dish, and the spoon, and makes a slight curtsy. "Thank you, Eddie," she says, smiling in that most pleased way, and turns her back to head back to the house. She does not turn around as she hears him be sick in the lilac bushes, as she hands the bowl to her older sister.
Cornelia pats her back, before they head inside to let Mrs. Hawkins know the misplaced bowl has been located.
Eddie Ryland learns a most sharp, salty lesson that May day in 1905, with the sick feeling of pink salty regurgitated ice cream around his mouth:
That one does not fuck with the family and friends of one Miss Agnes Pitt of New York City.15
Chapter Three: New York City, Or The Fanciest of Fancy Places
New York, New York, a helluva town, the Bronx is up, but the Battery's down! Sam leans forward to lean out of the horse-drawn cab, as they ride down the busy streets from the train station to Gard and Cornelia's new house. Sam holds on to her hat and tries to see all the tops of the buildings and the the Big Everything. There's so many people and everything is a buzzy. So fancy!
"Can't wait to see A&A," she says to Grandmary.
"You do have a good time with them, don't you?" Grandmary says, biting her words back in the Victorian way.
"They are so in," Samantha says, "and so much fun."
"They are lively, but they get a bit carried away with their ideas sometimes," Grandmary said, biting more of her words back.
Sam understands the words that aren't being said. "They think up new ways to do things."
"Yes, but they don't always think very carefully, and realize that the old ways are still the best ways."
This is not getting resolved in a cab ride, Samantha. You'll have to try later.
The cab comes to a stop. Are they at the house? Nope. The park nearby is full of people and the sidewalk is crowded. Women are hanging large banners across the entrance: WOMEN, FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE, and NOW IS THE TIME FOR CHANGE. First Wave Feminism ahoy! Votes for Women! But not for Blacks if they could stop it. They've stopped that with poll taxes and literacy tests, Fifteenth Amendment be damned. A lot of first wave feminism was focused on the legal rights and privileges for white middle and upper class women, and in some ways that shit ain't changed.
The cab driver says they'll have to go another way, as the ladies about are blocking traffic all around Madison Square Park. Grandmary says he should do what he thinks is best, sitting back and not wanting to look. Sam does, and asks what's going on. Grandmary lets her know that there are women meeting in the park: suffragists. "They think women should be able to vote, and they get together and make a ruckus about changing the laws. It's all just new-fangled notions." Back in her day, women shut up and did what the menfolk voted, and that was just that. Grandmary would complain that a Black Lives Matter protests is getting in the way of her holiday shopping.16
The cabby turns down another street; Samantha, still curious about the park meeting but knowing from the look on Grandmary's face that she's having nothing doing with talking about that and asking will likely cause several issues. They pull up to the brownstone and Sam barely gets out of the cab and feet to dirty sidewalk when she hears her name being called. A&A are in a high window, waving, and they've got Jip with them who gets his paw waved. "We'll be right down!" Agatha yells, and they pop out of the window. Cornelia makes her way down the front steps, and barely gets her proper greeting out before Sam's aunt-friends and Jip burst out, and the twins hug her up.
As they get in the house, Gard is just inside the doorway. "Sam my man," he says, "can't find a thing in this new place." Cornelia asks if Gardner can find lunch and of course he can. A&A pull Sam to the dining room, make her sit, and start shooting questions at her rapid fire. How was the train ride? Should we go to the park after lunch? Have you seen Eddie and has he remembered what Agatha did to him when you weren't about--
Cornelia cuts Agatha off before she spoils that bit of sister secrecy. "You'll mix Sam all up with your chatter! Food now, and I'll ask Grandmary where she plans to do shopping."
"O'Neill's," Grandmary says. "I never go anywhere else.
"There's a fine new shop on Fifth that is that's closer--what's the name of that store?" Gard says. It's not Saks. They didn't open on Fifth until 1924. I learned something!
Grandmary dismisses her son. "I've been shopping at O'Neill's for over thirty years, and I'm too old to change my ways." Psh, Grandmary, the other place probably has the finest of hatpins and petticoats. Mix it up, old lady.
"O'Neill's is near Madison Square Park," Cornelia says, slowly and not at all a bit suspiciously. "Might be a bit crowded. Meetings and such. You should shop elsewhere. Yes, elsewhere."
"I know about the meeting, we saw it on the way." Grandmary says. Cornelia sweats most femininely. "Those suffragists were already blocking traffic. In my opinion, women should not gather in public places. Especially not about all this voting nonsense." Yep. Grandmary would complain that protesting is no longer the American way, because she doesn't like it.
"Nonsense?!" Cornelia says with a slightly raised voice, forgetting all her sweating to get angry.
"Nonsense!" Grandmary repeats. "Voting isn't for ladies and never has been, no need to change things, the women are making spectacles of themselves and should stay home where they belong with their knitting and babies and tea and leave all this to the men." Protests: They never change anything unless it's something that the people in power want, hmm? Also? Women got voting rights in the US in the Wyoming Territory in 1869. By 1905, several places had women voting: Colorado in 1893, Utah in 1870 as a territory, Washington Territory in 1883, Montana 1887, and Idaho in 1896. That's a lot of places that she claims aren't voting, except they are and I know New York State is far away and news doesn't travel fast but c'mon. Sit there in your petticoats and long underwear and be wrong, Grandmary.
Sam sees A&A raise their eyebrows and look into their soup. They already know. Cornelia is about to tell Grandmary all about herself and nipple piercings when she shuts her mouth again, and before Sam can ask why like the inquisitive little Gemini she is, Gard cuts her off.
"Okay so there I was walking home from work when a man comes up to me as is the way in the NYC, and asks me if I know any little girls that just turned Ten Whole Years Old, as is the way in NYC, and when I said yes he gave me this Large Fancy Box and said that something inside would make her so happy, because things like that happen to me all the time here like you would just not believe. We should look in that box. Yes, let's do that, off to the box in the hall, no more talking about where my darling wife is going this afternoon when no one is looking."
Samantha, easily distracted by the prospect of a box that contains things, stops asking questions and heads straight for the box that contains--a pram! Fancy and perfect for the perambulating of the dollies and such, all red with brass wheels and perfect for teaching Sam how to push the baby about. "Thank you, Uncle Gard!" she says, knowing damn well the story was more to stop the table argument than anything else.
"To Gramercy Park with Sam's new toy!" Agnes says. Sam agrees, and asks if they may go. And take Jip, Agatha adds, because he loves the park. Cornelia thinks that Jip should stay home, because he got away from them at the party.
"Psh, like that'll happen here in NYC, the park has a fence and it's not like he'll get out," Agatha says, as if the plot won't change that quickly. The twins beg and plead, and they'll only be across the street, and they won't go any further than the park, and they'll keep Jip on the leash and and and--
|Cornelia is not sure of your listening.|
Whatever could this meeting be? Mysteries that aren't mysterious at all.
Grandmary chides them to be young ladies, and Cornelia pleads with them again to keep Jip on the leash, and Gardner says to have a good time.
They're going to not do any of this. Because reasons.
Chapter Four: Follow that Dog! Or You Had One Job, Agatha Pitt
The group of three girls, one doll on loan, and a dog head down the sidewalk to Gramercy Park: Jip on his leash pulling, Agnes and Agatha behind him, and Samantha pushing the pram. The park is two acres and right across the street from the brownstone, fenced in all around with black iron railings and has two locked gates, only accessible to those living around it.17
Agnes unlocks the gate to let them in and they head in. Jip starts doing puppy things like sniffing about and zigzagging, finally leading them to a large fountain where tin swans are swimming about, because fancy. Sam finds the swans pretty. Jip tries to get in the water with them. Agatha scolds Jip and tries to pull him back, and he tugs the other way, barking up a storm because he's a puppy and puppy don't give a fuck. Agatha complains that he's pulling her arm out, and Sam suggests she carry him. Jip keeps barking as he's carried and being a general shit as they walk away from the fountain, and when Agatha puts him down he tries to run back to the swans. So she picks him up again, and he squirms.
Next time leave the dog at home.
Agatha whines she's tired of carrying Jip and Agnes should carry him. "Oh hell no," Agnes says, "he'll get paw prints on my dress and I shan't be a mess like you are." What she really means is that they should have left the dog at home. "Ladies to do not make spectacles of themselves," she taunts, sounding all hoity and toity, like Grandmary. Sam laughs. Sam is so over Grandmary's Victorian Bullshit.
"It's not fair," Agatha complains, "I've carried him enough and it was your idea to bring him." I turned back five pages and you asked to bring the dog, Agatha. Agnes pleaded but you asked. A&A get into a Didtoo-Didnot bicker before Sam says she'll just carry the dog and Agatha can push the pram.
"IDEA~" Agatha says, eyeing the doll pram. "Let's put Jip in the pram, then no one will have to carry him!"
"Good idea!" Agnes says.
Bad idea, Agatha, I says.
Sam agrees with the black woman from the future. "We promised we wouldn't take Jip off the leash."
"But we won't take him off the leash," Agatha says, "just me." She takes the leash off her wrist, puts Jip in the pram, and loops the leash over the handle. "Perfectly safe."
Bad idea, Agatha, I says.
Sam feels the tingle of black woman from the future again. "I don't think--"
Agnes cuts her off. "Dogs in doll prams are in. Don't be a worrybutt, and he looks cute."
Jip looks cute for all of a second. Then he yanks the leash with his mouth, pulls it off the handle, and dashes off before the girls can grab the leash.
I said it was a bad idea.
Sam hollers for Jip to stop, which of course he does not, and tries to grab the leash which of course she does not do, and Agatha tries to holler at Jip which is completely ineffective. Jip wiggles through the bars around the fence.
Dog is out.
Jip turns to look at them like he has their number and a half, and Agnes groans that Cornelia will have their curls for pillow stuffin'. Agatha says they should climb over the fence and tries to shimmy up, hollering that they should call the firemen and the police and split up. Agnes just holds her face and moans. Both of you are utterly useless in a crisis.18
Sam realizes she's going to have to run this rodeo. "We have to catch him!" she says, dragging the twins to the gate and pushing it open. Jip is halfway down the block, tail a wagging without a single fuck in the world. The gate swings shut and Agnes cries about the pram. "Leave it!" Sam says, thinking the pram got them into this shit in the first place.
They take off after Jip as he starts running towards a big hotel on the corner--not Gramercy Park Hotel, that wasn't open til 1925--and Samantha hollers for people to stop that dog which no one is able to as he jumps over a trunk and gets around the corner. As they chase him there's a rumble overhead and Sam is startled; soot falls down, and a train overhead rumbles. They really should put that underground. By the time she looks around again, Jip is gone.
|Follow that Bird! I mean, Dog!|
"The dickens he is!" Sam says, walking up to a man pushing a strawberry cart. "Have you seen our dog?"
"That-a-way," the man says, pointing up the street. And there he is, ahead of a flower cart. The chase continues, and chasing a tiny puppy in The NYC is not like chasing a dog in the backyard at Mount Bedford.
CLANG CLANG CLANG went the streetcar, rolling right up to the curb and the horses a snorting. Sam takes one look at the hooves and imagines Jip crushed under them. Pretty morbid, kid. Her distraction has them lose sight again, and Agatha then spots him on the other side of the street which, by the way, is full of dirt and horse shit. The girls run across the street, dodging milk cans and an automobile that honks at them. Jip is slithering through the crowd, being a shit, and the girls wiggle past all the ladies in their fancy hats and newsies and workmen carrying workmen's stuffs with only a scuse me here and there--then Agatha catches a loose brick in the sidewalk and falls. "Go on without me!" she wails, as if they are being chased by bears and she'll stay back as bait. Sam helps her to her feet and dusts her off, cause she's fine and they need her on this chase, she's the best at spotting Jip.
Who they don't see again until they get to the corner of Fifth Avenue, the widest and busiest street in The NYC. Agatha points him out, and Sam is abut to jump in the street after him when the pavement rattles and she gets yanked back up to the sidewalk and squished in a the crowd--oh because of course, there's a fire engine a running, horses, and all. Sam tries to holler for Jip but the fire engine's bells drown her and everyone else out and the horses kick up lots of dust.
Jip The Dog, he is gone, and Sam thinks about his little body being squished against the road by horses.
Really kid, you're being morbid.
Chapter Five: Changes, or Cornelia the Suffragette
The fire engine gets the dickens out of the way, and the dust settles back down. Sam stands on the curb, trying to get back up the courage to look for Jip who she is sure is squished under horse hooves or people feet.
A&A run up to her, and Agnes asks where Jip is. Samantha is about to tell them they'll have to tell Cornelia the dog got squish-killed until he was dead when Agatha spots him going into the park. And that's why we didn't just leave you, girl.
The girls run across the street to the park, Jip trotting like he knows exactly where he is headed and he can't be stopped. The darts through a crowd of women, all headed towards a platform draped with signs and flags.
He knows where he's going and so do we.
Oh noes, Agnes says. This is Madison Square Park and they're surrounded by the suffragists! Gasp shock and awe. Agatha says they should get out of here. You've got to work a little harder on this budding lesbian thing, Agatha.
"Grandmary is not going to care that we were surrounded by feminism to get a dog," Samantha says.
"No it's not Grandmary," Agnes says, "It's Cornelia!" In a move surprising exactly no one, Cornelia is at the suffragette meeting, and if she sees them she'll have their curls for pillow stuffin' because they are supposed to be back at Gramercy Park with both Jip and the pram. A&A overheard her tell Gard that she was going, and when he said Grandmary wouldn't like it Cornelia said she could think for herself, do what you want cause a pirate is free.
In a move surprising exactly no one.
Sam doesn't know what to think. Grandmary says it's nonsense? But Cornelia thinks it's worthy? What even is this era? So confusions. She has almost no time to think on the philosophical ramification of first wave feminism and her aunt verses her grandmother before Agnes grabs her arm and says they gotta get Jip and get the dickens out.
Jip runs towards a fountain. We know what's coming. He looks at the girls, and edges away--then like the defiant little shit he is he jumps right in.
"In after you!" Agatha says, taking off her shoe.
"Wait no!" Samantha says, grabbing the shoe. "Hey Jip! Look! Delicious shoe. Nom nom come get the shoe."
Jip starts to paddle towards the shoe, and the crowd around them is getting quiet, before a woman's voice speaks. Jip stops mid doggy paddle, his ears perk up, and as the speaker continues he yelps, springs out of the pool, splashes the girls with water, and doggy-lines straight for the platform, yipping his damn fool head off and tattling on the three girls in Doggy.
He knows where he's going and so do we.
He runs up to the woman on the platform--Cornelia! In a move surprising exactly no one but them, Cornelia is the one on the platform, talking.
|Who'd have thunk it?|
"Jeepers and shit," Agnes whispers, "she's looking for us!"
"She's got Jip, let's ditch this feminist bandstand!" Agatha says.
"No," Sam says, "we lost the dog and I'm down a pram. We're going to face her and tell her what we did." The twins share the uncomfortable look and then think that maybe Sam has been right most of this afternoon.
The girls wait nervously through several suffragist speeches and then, as the crowd wanders away, Cornelia comes down from the platform. "What are you and Jip doing here?" she says, without a lick of smiling.
She's going to shave them all bald and have a pillow fight with Gardner.
Everyone looks at their shoes. "We did something stupid," Samantha says.
"Worst idea ever," Agnes adds.
"We put Jip in the pram," Sam says, covering Agatha's entire ass for her, "and didn't hold on to the leash so he ran away."
"But we didn't think--" Agatha bursts out.
"I can see that," Cornelia says, getting the final burn in. "You went right ahead with your own ideas and didn't do what I said for you to do and keep Jip on the leash. That is an important rule and you agreed. You can't just do what you want and change things when you feel like it!"
"But aren't you trying to change things getting women the right to vote?" Agatha says, in a terrible example.
"Oh hell to the no," Cornelia says, "A dog who has no concept of personal safety and self control and women being able to have a voice in how their lives are run are two separate things. Don't even try that. We've thought long and hard and deeply about changing the laws for women to vote. When you want to change things, you'd better think first if it's for the better."
Oh, snap. The girls are all quiet, and then Samantha says they're sorry.
"You certainly are. You even look sorry. Like a sorry mess." She's laughing, Cornelia, but that's some sweet snark, Madame Edwards. She checks her watch, and it's almost three-thirty. There's no time for changing their clothes. Everyone will just have to go to Tyson's looking like a bunch of ragamuffins. The girls are rumpled and wrinkled and Cornelia is covered in muddy paw prints, so they all look completely unclassy and unladylike as they go to Tyson's. As they get there, Grandmary is already at a corner table near the soda fountain and her face is rather red.
Shit. The Matriarch is angry and all of us will have our petticoats about our ears and spanked soundly.
|See, what had happened was--|
So Cornelia outs herself. "Where I was on the platform." She waits for Grandmary to demand she make up for it by staying home and having four children, straight away.19
"I know. I was there at the meeting. I saw you." In a move surprising exactly no--wait, what?
Grandmary continues. "There I was, having done my shopping at O'Neill's without changing routine and headed to Tyson's--and there were so many people around the park I couldn't get by. And then bam! Cornelia, up on the platform. And seeing that, I decided to stay and listen." And what do you know? All that protesting and speeches have poked a hole in Grandmary's wall of Victorianism. She had a bit of a surprise. She's said for years that she's too old to change her ways, but today, she's changed her mind. Grandmary pats her face with her handkerchief, and Sam notices her hat was tipped back, as if she'd made a sudden turn. "Cornelia and the other ladies were simply saying women should stand up for what think is right, and that's what I believe. And if voting will give women a chance to show what they feel is right, then women should vote and the time for change has come."
All that protesting and talk led to a revelation. Ain't that some good shit right there? That's some good shit. Cornelia smiles back at Grandmary and agrees that it's time to change the rules and that's what makes this a wonderful time for their young ladies to be growing up." Which is what they've come to celebrate anyways. Time for ice cream! Will Sam have peppermint, or try something new?
Nope, Sam's going to stick with peppermint. Some things are just too good to change.
Looking Back, or Maturing in the Age of Motorcars
Back in the days when I was young I'm not a kid anymore but somedays I sit and wish I was a kid again~
Back then, most babies were born at home. A doctor--or frequently, a midwife--would help the mother while fathers and other family waited in another room. New babies for the wealthy were generally pampered and families that could afford it hired nurses and nannies who had the job of the day to day things--diapering, feeding, dressing, entertaining, and the general care. Rich mothers didn't just take care of the baby themselves like some sort of Irish. The room for said small human was the nursery, which later became a playroom and dining room--again, parents didn't just eat with the children if they didn't have to. They learned their manners and had their tea in the playroom, with their own sized tables, chairs, and dishes.
Around the Aughties, several adults were starting to invest in the idea that maybe children were not just tiny adults in the making who couldn't have idle time lest they get bedeviled with their dolls and tops, and that play and childhood was a time of growth and learning. Parks got playgrounds, toys became a lot more of a business, and laws said that children shouldn't work in factories as much. Enforcing them was another thing. Children still did what the family needed and if that meant they lied about their age then they lied and they worked.
The rich children would pretend to jobs with miniature toys like play stoves, sewing machines, and carpet sweepers to keep house. They also pretended to be mothers with baby dolls--most dolls were focused towards being babies, not aspirational figures or companions and friends. Books like Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of Oz were also good for fantasy, as well as fairy tales and the like.
Clothing? Finally, children returned back to not being dressed like mini adults. However, before a certain age, children of all genders wore the same styles--dresses, ruffles, and long curls. Boys weren't breeched--or put in short pants--until they had figured out how not to mess in them. Girls were improper in pants or shorts. Doesn't mean they didn't in some places doe.
While children of the upper classes were given play time, they were also expected to act like ladies and gentlemen. Girls took dancing, painting, and did fancy sewing--all delicate arts. They ate meals with the adults and were expected to behave themselves, and learned proper etiquette when they went calling on friends.
By the time a girl hit fifteen, she was starting to be an adult. Hair went up, skirts went down to the floor, and corsets became more adult. (The books will tell you that corsets came about at teenage years. These books are wrong. Corsets of training and dress styles could be on very young children. They just weren't laced for figure like other ones.) They headed to finishing school to learn how to be fine young ladies and manage a fancy household. By age eighteen, a girl had a debutante ball, got out in proper society, and went on various paths. Some had a chance at college, some got jobs, some got ideals--but most got married and started in on the next set of fancy life.
As for the poor? Stop asking Jesus and Dickens we only care about the fancy.
This, like Samantha Learns a Lesson, is the other book of Sam's that gets smeared all over with the nostalgia Feminism brush. The "whoops we ran off to a suffragette rally, and didn't even want to be here but Cornelia caught us, shit" gets hyperinflated to "And Cornelia took Samantha to her first feminist meeting and taught her all about the feminism and she learned how to fight for herself." Which, she didn't. Sam doesn't listen to any speech but Cornelia's, and spends the rest of the meeting waiting to get properly lashed for what she and the twins did wrong. At the end of the book, she doesn't even embrace first wave feminism--all she does is have Cornelia and Grandmary come to an agreement and Grandmary realize an old dog can learn new tricks. This book is less about Sam learning super feminism out of nowhere and more about Grandmary starting to be less Victorian and more Edwardian. And how we don't just let the dog off the leash, Jesus just listen once in a while, A&A. Not every rule is to just be modified on a whim. Y'all causing lots of problems where we ain't need none. I do love Cornelia saying that change has to come from long thoughtfulness, not just flipping the script because there's a script to flip. That won't work.
Sam I think is the only one so far I've read who has her birthday close to the start of her book, not near the middle or end. (Felicity is about the second closest.) Her party does have a good realistic depiction of what happens when girls try to be too grown up at a party too soon, and have nothing to talk about. And the whole ice cream wrecking part is one of the worst. The fact there is no seen follow up and he just gets away with it because he's a "pest" is disgusting and I hate it.
The Pitt twins are good characters in their own right somewhat--that epic takedown by Agatha in the book to get Sam's bear back was sweet--but they don't replace Nellie and very well they shouldn't. Nellie not being in this book--or even mentioned--is a problem in and of itself, relegating her to not seen so that she and her class issues don't fuss up the need for fancy parties and dog chase scenes in The NYC. I don't think it's realistic one bit that Sam wouldn't invite Nellie to her birthday party unless she wasn't allowed to by Grandmary, who was still holding on that "we don't play with the help" thing. That's the only backstory I'll accept. There is nothing radical about Nellie getting kicked out of the series for practically three books because she was being written as too enlightening about how shit wasn't just all fancy pants and lace pinafores. Sigh. One more book before she comes back and gets everything magically fixulated in part.
Also, I write good fix it fic. Eddie gonna learn today.
PS: Sam's Birthday Pram: 1905-1905. Unless Gard went in the park and got it.
1 Almost put this link in the caption but nah. So here the clip is.
2 I have two actual sets and two small dolls.
3 She did write for a reading program and a series called Boys Camp Books, but most of her work is American Girl.
4 I reserve that for Connie Porter and Denise Patrick. I never said I ain't biased.
5 This is slightly harder for DeeDee. Her books flow a lot more as a volume. I will probably break it into six- or seven-chapter chunks.
6 I'll do the short stories later.
7 Insert Stacy McGill Reference Here.
8 *wicked grin*
9 The ice cream freezer was released for Addy's collection first, in 1994. Sam didn't get it added to hers until 1998.
10 You will notice that there is no Nellie, and there is no Lydia the Doll. You thought I was kidding about Miss Nellie Not Appearing In This Book. She got shafted by the change of friends imposed by Pleasant Company.
11 In both sets of illustrations Samantha has bare legs visible. Was Grandmary just going to make her wear long underwear for breakfast? Did she ignore the lack of them? I got nothing.
12 You think I'm just snarking but no, that was really a thing in Victorian (and Edwardian) history. There was trend of both women and men getting their nipples pierced. There's records of it. People have been piercing things since they figured out needles could go in them, and they didn't stop just because a stuffy British Monarch or two were in charge. So new headcanon is that Cornelia has nipple piercings, Gard thinks it's hot and super radical, stop me.
13 Song was published in 1893. History checks out.
14 All me, this part.
15 Don't I write the best fix-it fic?
16 I had a acquaintance complain about that publicly online. Literally, in those words, people shouldn't protest police brutality because they got in the way of her "need" to go holiday shopping. I decided I was 500% done with her at that moment.
17 Gramercy Park has been hella private since 1844, has specific keys to get in that are hard to copy, and is basically Privileged And Just For The Haves, the Park. But we can peek in! Because a guy, Shaun Christopher, went in on a AirB&B Rental and took a 360 shot of it in 2014, not knowing this was disallowed. The president of the Gramercy Park Block Association was pretty much like "whatever, pics stay up, let people look inside." Bless you, dude. It's a park, not Fort Frigging Knox.
18 This will be seen in Book Five.
19 Not yet, Grandmary.