Guest post by Jaime Brooks
Birthday parties are a way of life for us all. I cannot tell you how many parties I have attended, but I do remember how much fun they were. Try stepping into Laura’s world, she had only been to a few parties by the time she was 15. Her first birthday party was not a joyful experience. I wonder if this is why Laura was so worried about attending.
The chapter opens with Laura being indecisive about going to the party. She had only been to Nellie’s party years before, but she knows this party will be different. At school she learns that the party is for Ben Woodworth’s birthday, but the crowd does not talk much about it due to the fact that Nellie is not invited. On the night of the party Laura cannot sit still, she is waiting for Mary Power to arrive as they are to walk to the depot together. Reading her favorite poem “Maud” does not even settle her. She takes one last look in the mirror. Her dress is blue cashmere, trimmed in red, green plaid. The skirt is full, gathered in the back and falls to the tops of her high button shoes. At her throat is a bit of white lace secured with Ma’s mother of pearl bar pin. She wishes that her figure was not round like a tree and that her arms and face was not round and curvy. Laura wishes she was tall and slender like Nellie Olsen. Laura thought that her eyes even though they are blue were too far apart, and they did not sparkle like Pa’s. Her hair is long and the weight of the coils of braids make her feel grown up, even if it is not golden. As she is admiring her hair she stops and realizes she is almost being vain about the hair. Laura goes to the window one last time to look out, just as Ma is telling her to sit down, Mary arrives. The girls walk to the depot on the cold January night. At the door they are not sure wither to just walk in or knock, Mary knocks but no one comes, so Laura decides to walk in. Just as she turns the knob, Ben answers the door; Laura is so upset she cannot even answer his hello. He leads the girls up stairs to where his mother is waiting. Mrs. Woodworth is described as being as small as Laura only plumper. She was so friendly at once that Laura was at ease. Mrs. Woodworth shows the girls to the bed room to lay aside their wraps and take a look in the mirror, she then shows them into the parlor where Minnie, Arthur, Ida, Cap, and Ben are waiting. After some small talk, Mrs. Woodworth excuses herself to finish dinner, while waiting for older brother Jim Woodworth. Jim works downstairs at the depot. The crowd grows silent; Laura suddenly becomes very self conscious of her feet, while deciding she must speak up to keep the conversation going. She did not want it to be as uncomfortable as the social. But then there were footsteps on the stairs, the door opens, and Jim walks in. He looks around and asks “are you all playing Quaker Meeting?” after that the silence was broken and everyone laughed, and started talking. Jim was so much at ease that he asked “Supper ready, Mother?” “Yes it is” she said from the door way “Won’t you all come into the dining room?” Eight places were set at the table, and at each place was a steaming soup plate full of oyster soup. Mrs. Woodworth tells them all where to sit, Laura is so glad that her feet are under the table, and she has something to do with her hands she is no longer bashful. The table is set so beautiful; at the center is the silver castor holding cut glass bottles of condiments. The plate at each place was of white china with a wreath of tiny multi colored flowers around the edge. The napkins were folded to resemble a flower. The most marvelous thing was at each place setting was an orange, with its peel cut down, and curled like a flower. Not only did they have delicious oyster soup with tiny oyster crackers, but they had fried potato cakes, hot creamy cod fish balls, and small biscuits with butter. Mrs. Woodworth urged generous helpings, and then she brought out coffee, with cream and sugar. She cleared the table one more time, brought out little plates, and Ben served his white frosted birthday cake. Laura was wondering about the orange before her. If they were meant to be eaten or taken home, she then tells us that she had a part of an orange once, and knows how good they taste. She thought perhaps she could take the orange home to share with Ma, Pa, Carrie, and Grace. Then everyone saw Ben take his orange, he peeled it then ate a section of orange with his slice of cake. Laura and everyone else then did the same thing with the orange.
Once the dinner was complete, Ben said that they would all go downstairs to play games. While they got up from the table Laura said in a low voice to Mary “Oughtn’t we to help with the dishes?” Ida asks right out to Mrs. Woodworth, but she tells them to go enjoy themselves. They play in the downstairs waiting room, for it is warm and brightly lit by the lamps. Drop the handkerchief and blind man’s-bluff are played till they are out of breath and find benches to sit on. Jim then says that he knows of a game no one has played before. They are all eager to find out what it is, when Jim asks them to come into his office. In the small office there was barely room for all of them to stand in a half circle. Jim told them to join hands and stand still. Suddenly a burning tingle flashed through Laura, all of the clasped hands jerked, the girls screamed, the boys yelled, but Laura. She was frightfully startled. The others begin to ask Jim what that was, how did the electricity do that, but Jim only laughed and asked Laura why she did not yell. Laura told him “what was the use of yelling”, Jim could not tell her. Finally the party was over and Pa had arrived to escort Laura and Mary home. Ma was waiting up for them, she could tell Laura had a good time, but it was time for bed. Laura would tell them in the morning about everything, but she did tell Ma about eating an orange that night.
This chapter shows how Laura overcame her fears, and her being shy to enjoy such a wonderful party. I wonder if Laura had not gone how she would have felt, she would not have ate a whole orange, or the other wonderful treats, or playing fun games. She would not have had the pleasure of belonging to a crowd of people her own age. She would not have shared this memory to the rest of the world.