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Monday, July 17, 2017

(5) RUTH SANG OUT, "A RED LIGHT, ERNESTINE. BETTER STOP."


     The letters Mother wrote me about Aunt Ruth amused me so much that I kept them. It was undoubtedly her influence that led me to use my own letters as a form of therapy.  In February of 1959, Mom wrote from Winter Park:
Dear Babs,
     Every day I thank my stars I'm not living with Ruth.  She is more "sot in her ways" than ever.  And she tries earnestly to keep tabs on me.  It is really ludicrous.  Imagine!   One morning when I came home from breakfast—I’d gone out for once, though I usually just make coffee from the tap—Mrs. Chubb said:  "I have a message from Mrs. Storer.  She wants you to call her every day and tell her what you're going to do, and when you'll be back."  I could scarcely believe she had gotten it straight, but when I phoned Ruth, sure enough, that's just what she wanted of me. 
     "Call me every day before you go out, and let me know where you're going and when you'll get home."  "Why?" I asked.  "Because sometimes when I phone you, you aren't in," she said.  Of course, I’ll do nothing of the sort.  She'll just have to phone again, as she does with all her friends.  Alice told me that when she took a room with Ruth, this year, for the short while preceding the buying of her house, she made an agreement, hard and fast, that she was not to check up on her or be worried if she didn't come in early nights, etc.  She was with Ruth twenty‑two days.  Every single morning Ruth suggested to her that she try her  egg‑ coddler.  Every day for twenty‑two mornings, Alice said agreeably:  "I'm glad you like it and get so much pleasure from your coddler.  But I like to do my egg this way."
     "I never saw anyone with such an iron determination to make people do  things her way," Alice told me.  "If she doesn't put it over the first time, she will try again and again, perhaps changing her method of approach just a little—but never giving up."
     It seems that Ruth likes to read to people.  This drives everyone distracted, myself included, for I so dislike her voice.   She wanted to read aloud, but Alice told her she didn't enjoy it, and couldn't follow the material unless she read it to herself.   Yet many times Ruth tried it.  Ruth told me with a long sour face that she couldn't understand why Alice didn't like to be read to.   "I like to be read to," she said, as if she were the criterion for all.  I told her how I had offered just once to read a paragraph to you, and how you had said you wouldn't follow it, and didn't enjoy being read aloud to. 
     "I wasn't offended," I told Ruth.  "Why should I have been?  Some people hear better  with their eyes.  We are all different."  Passing the house of a friend, Ruth made the remark:  "Miss Geddess always has her blinds drawn.  I don't like to live in a cave. I never have."  I told her there had been cave dwellers in the past, and that some people liked sunlight and others did not.  It's funny how she uses herself as a measuring stick, and anyone that isn’t like her is peculiar.  Alice, the gentlest of people and the least critical, said yesterday:  "Ruth would like a world full of Ruths . . . and she, managing every one of them."
     I got started on this letter early today, because Ruth phoned me at 7:30 a. m.  I was so sound asleep that I had to be called several times.  I staggered to the phone, and Ruth asked me if I had been up.  When I said no, she said:  "Well, I had to call you early because the other day when I phoned you, you were out."   The courtesy rule is not to phone before 9:00,  but to save herself trouble, she risked waking me, which she did.  She had phoned to tell me to be sure to stop in and pick up some fruit for Dick and Dixie as I'm going to St. Pete to see them tomorrow.  It was a kindly idea, ill carried out, poor thing.
     Alice's house is a dream and I shall love living there for a little while.  We are together as much as possible.  I sold long ago my Civic Concert tickets, but an acquaintance gave me one for the remainder of the series.  I went the other night with Peggy Cone and several others in Peg's car.  Peg told me that Ruth had made arrangements to go with her best friend, Mabel, and that she and Mabel had yearly tickets on the bus which takes them to the concert hall door.  I met Ruth during the concert intermission, and she seemed surprised to see me.  The next day she questioned me sharply about it. 
     "You told me you had sold your tickets!" she said.  "Why didn't you tell me you were going last night?"   "I didn't know it before that time," I replied.  "I was given the tickets shortly before the concert."
     "How did you get to the hall?" she asked.
     "Peg took me in her car."
     There was a long silence.  Then: "Peg was my friend long before she became yours.  I think she owes me something.  Why didn't she ask me to go with her?"
     "Why," I answered in honest amazement, "she told me you always went with Mabel and that you both had season tickets on the bus."
     "The reason I go on the bus is because I've been advised not to drive at night," she said coldly.  "I think it is time that people began to think of me, and see that I get places.  I am going to the Florida Orchestra concert tonight, and I suppose I'll have to taxi there."
     That put me in a box.  She knew I was going, so of course I had to offer to take her with Alice and Letty and a Miss Ferguson, all of us being so happy and congenial.  I shall have to take Ruth from now on...There is no getting out of it.  Well, I took her—but I seated her at the end of the row, myself next to her.  Mercifully Alice and Miss Ferguson and Letty had me between Ruth and them.  I talked to Ruth so that the others could enjoy themselves, and Ruth would not feel neglected.  She certainly does commandeer things in a highhanded way, though.
     Coming home in the dark, Alice sat beside me and the rest were in the rear of the car.  I asked Ruth for directions, and she said:  "Why, you ought to know your way around."
     Alice spoke up in my defense.  "She hasn't been here for two years—and Winter Park is greatly built up and changed."
     "If she just goes in the right direction she will eventually come out on Mill St," said Ruth.  "She ought to know that."
     All this wasn't helpful to my driving.  When we came to a red light Ruth sang out, "A red light, Ernestine.  Better stop."   Alice became so still that I knew she was praying!  The next morning, when we met for Chapel, she said:  "You were an angel, last night.  I should have thought Ruth would have driven you crazy.  I would have pulled up at the curb and said: `What I want is directions I can follow.  Who can give them to me?’”
       I told her that Ruth's behavior had had a slow motion reaction.  I couldn't go to sleep, getting madder and madder as I lay waiting for Morpheus.  I recalled that Ruth, taking me to Alice's house in daylight, had gotten confused, and had wandered all over, getting more and more mixed up and making us late for tea.  "Don't tell Alice I didn't find her house easily," she begged as we finally got there.  And I had not done so.  But as we entered the Chapel, I told her at last, because that was what had been the last straw—recalling that incident at midnight, I had to get up and take a hot bath in order to calm down.  Fancy Ruth, who got lost in daylight when she has lived in Winter Park for twenty years, getting impatient with me for not finding my way downtown in heavy traffic, at night—when I had never driven there before.  I'd always been taken!
     This letter sputters like an ailing motor‑boat.  But now it's off my chest and I can see the funny side of it.  Only it isn't funny enough to make me want to spend much time with Ruth, laughing!
                                                           Loads of love to all, Mother                 

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