A Letter to My Sister

scs houseJune 15,1955

Dear Sis,

I promised to write as soon as we got to Michigan and even though I am ready to drop dead from exhaustion, I’m keeping my promise. Don’t ever say your little sister was not a person of her word! Pete barely stopped the car the whole trip, you know how he gets when he’s on a mission. The kids were crammed in the backseat and never stopped fighting. We had to eat at those roadside picnic tables where the cows stare at you over the fences with their fly-covered eyes. Pete made us do our business in the bushes to save time.

Now Pete and the kids are sleeping like angels on the living room floor because of course our beds aren’t here yet but I’m too excited to sleep – I just can’t believe we have our own home!

I am writing this letter from the floor of my very own kitchen. Sis, it’s got the most beautiful yellow linoleum floors without a single crack. The counter tops are made of yellow and black tiles. The whole design is just so sophisticated, so shiny and new! And all the cupboard drawers open easily, not like the ones in the old house where we had to bang into them with our hips to get them to pop out, especially in the Winter. I want to buy lots of new dishes and pots and pans to fill up every one of these cupboards. Pete says I should probably wait until he gets his first paycheck before I go spending it.

We need a new kitchen table. Nothing against the Marblehead set, we spent so many nights around that table, talking and laughing and eating those wonderful meals you cooked, Sis, it’s just that it wouldn’t fit in a new house like this, so modern, so shiny and new. Pete says he will build us a wooden table with a bench that the whole family can fit around.

We have three bedrooms, do you believe that? One for the boys, one for the girls and one just for Pete and me. The boys’ room has this secret panel in the closet that leads to the attic. It’s not an attic like Marblehead where you can walk up and poke around in the eaves through the old photos and smell that wonderful musty smell. But Pete says we can store all our Christmas stuff up there.

This used to be just wilderness, I suppose, but they mowed down all the trees and flattened down all the hills and built house after house, all made of red brick, not like the old town where everyone painted their house whatever color they liked. I think it might have looked a lot better if they had left a tree or two but Pete says we couldn’t have afforded to buy a house here if they had built around the natural stuff. Anyway Pete says we can plant some trees now that the homes and roads are in place. He says it will be hard though because the soil is made of clay that’s cracked and parched . I don’t know if rhododendrons will grow here. Pete says he will build me a raised garden with a brick wall so I can plant my flowers in good soil.

We live in a place called a suburb. It’s like an extension of the city, not a real town with a center like Marblehead. The roads are straight as an arrow, not all windy and crooked like in New England. Pete says I could learn to drive out here. I know you’re laughing now, Sis, at the thought of your goofy little sister driving a car. To be honest, the whole idea gives me the willies too. But Pete says I will probably need to drive the kids to school because they’re farther away, not like in Marblehead. They’re building schools as fast as they’re building houses out here so even the schools are shiny and new.

Sis, even though we have come over seven hundred miles I can still smell the ocean. Do you think the wind carries the salty air that far?

Please write back as soon as you get this. I miss you already and I need to hear all about Marblehead.




mblhead harbor adjJune 21, 1955

Dear Dot,

I hope you and Pete and the kids are settling in. Have you met any neighbors? Are you sure there’s not a single tree in the entire town? I’ve never seen such a thing.

I think I’ll like working for the Harpers. Mr. H picks me up each morning at 8 and drives me to their home on the Neck before driving to his job in Salem. Ginger and Peter are well-mannered kids. I think we’ll get along fine. Mr. H usually gets home from work about 5. About once a month, they host a dinner party. Mrs. H and I do the planning and I do the cooking. It gives me an opportunity to try my best recipes like my crescent roles and petit fours. I wish I were there to see how the guests like them. I would ask Mrs. H the next day but she is so busy writing her book about the history of Marblehead I don’t want to disturb her.

Our saintly brother has finished another year of teaching at the seminary and has moved back into the family home for the summer. Why couldn’t he have become a priest and stayed out there all year round? It’s not that I mind Ernest. It’s actually nice to have some company around here. But with Ernest home can that trail of freeloading priests be far behind? Why does he feel the need to invite them here every summer?

Marblehead is a beautiful place so I suppose they flatter him to get an invitation. They all love to play golf and then come back here, drink Manhattans and wax poetic about all manner of important stuff while I make the supper . They all love to eat – as long as it’s free. And not a word of appreciation from any of them. I can hear it now.

“And what would you like for dinner, Father Flynn?”

“Catherine, you are so kind. I would love to have lobster if it’s not too much trouble.”

“Of course you would. And of course it’s not. Anything for a humble priest, such as yourself.”

Dottie, with all the expensive seafood I have been feeding those clergymen over the years, I must be stockpiling indulgences. I am happy to share them with you, my dear sister, is you ever find yourself stuck in Purgatory.

They are starting an old folks club down at Star of the Sea. They will be planning trips to the beach and even to Boston for the symphony. Some of the people at 7:00 Mass asked me to join! I know I’m a spinster and no one has ever accused me of being pretty but I know I’m not old enough to join their shriveled ranks. Even if I were old enough, I wouldn’t join. There’s nothing more pathetic than a bunch of old people trying to get on a bus.

Our favorite neighbor, Stanley, is still riding his bicycle to work every day. Jean is a nervous wreck. She’s making leather buttons every day waiting for him get home One of these days they’ll find him splattered all over Atlantic Avenue. A heck of a lot of good all that gas money he saved will do Jean. She’ll have to use it to bury the old tightwad.

I almost forgot to mention I got a letter from Joannie, that friend of mine from Cooking School. She’s in Dallas working at a big four star hotel. She says they need cooks. I could move there and even live in her in her apartment. She gets to prepare fancy banquets for weddings and meals for VIPs. They give her large tips. I think it would be nice to have your meals appreciated like that. I’ll be waiting a good long time before any of those vestment-wearing moochers pay me any tips.

I better get into the kitchen now. Deedee is coming for supper. I picked up some nice mackerel at Doanes. Ernest is picking lettuce. It’s already up in the garden. I’ve made my French dressing. We’ll have coffee ice cream for dessert. Deedee and Ernest will have a Manhattan before.

Don’t worry, Dot. I told Joannie I wouldn’t come to Dallas. There’s something about this place that keeps me here. Besides, I know in my heart, the meals I serve those priests would pass muster at any four star hotel.

Please write back as soon as you can.



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