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By Dot (Dorothy Kimball)
“Hey Franny! Wait up girl,” Dixie Fritz called to Franny as Franny was just about to walk into the Post Office one springy March morning.
Franny turned, almost dropping the handful of mail she was carrying into the Post Office to mail out. She was really surprised to see Miss Dixie, as everyone called her. Miss Dixie was usually not in town this time of the week but off at the county seat managing her papa’s businesses.
“Hey yourself! It’s mighty good seeing you on such a nice spring day,” Franny grinned at Miss Dixie. Franny always enjoyed talking to Miss Dixie. Miss Dixie was such a feisty full of life person. And besides, she was just so supportive of all Franny was trying to do with her life, not like so many of the women in the village. “We usually don’t see you here during this part of the week,” Franny’s smile was very warm as she gazed at Miss Dixie.
Franny really liked and admired Miss Dixie, as she had always been known, even when she was just knee high to a grasshopper. And Franny was one of the few women in the village that Miss Dixie enjoyed being around… especially now since Franny had started living on her own and had gone out and started working to support herself and her little boy! Miss Dixie said Franny had “Spunk” while most of the women everywhere were just so wishy washy and whinny to boot. Perhaps Miss Dixie recognized the “Spunk” in Franny as she had so much herself.
Dixie Spring Fritz was a long time residence of the little village and she was…well she was just different than anyone else. Her mama and papa had fought “The War” all the time they had lived together…in the bounds of matrimony of course. Dixie’s mama, Miss Evangeline Magnolia Spring was a well know Southern Bell, improvised by the time she had met the supremely handsome dashing, Gunner Adams Fritz, and lands sake him A Yankee to boot. Then she, Miss Evangeline Magnolia, had defied the outrageous demands of her papa, and ran off on a stormy night just so she could elope with the almost penniless Yankee stranger…supremely handsome and dashing though he was.
Some said it was only because her papa had forbade her to ever see the handsome stranger. Some even went as far as to say that Evangeline Magnolia was afraid, at the ripe old age of seventeen, that she was bound for spinsterhood and this was her only chance. Of course that was the catty remarks of the other young women who were constantly loosing their beaus to Evangeline. They just conveniently overlooked the fact that Evangeline could have had her pick of any of the young, and not so young men in the southern part of the state.
Some of the more “in the know” older women said it was to get away from her papa and his outrageous demands that she marry for money and restore their family to the grandeur they had once known…before “The War.” They also said it was because Evangeline Magnolia had a way of running the farm…it use to be called The Spring Oakes Plantation, too well and much better than her papa ever could, and he was deathly afraid of loosing her…as well as the farm. Besides, she could do it on less money and better than anyone in the state. They, the women, were probably closer to the truth than anyone.
What no one realized was that Evangeline Magnolia had a streak of wild daring in her. She was willing to jump into the unknown with both feet and eyes wide open. She lived for that special thrill. And that could very well be why she was such a success in all she did! She was more than willing to take drastic, but well thought out, chances.
Everyone always said it was due to the storm on the night of the elopement that caused the marriage to be an unusual stormy one. The gossipers just over looked the fact that Evangeline Magnolia was about as strong headed and determined than any woman had a right to be and her husband, The Yankee mind you, was even more strong minded and bound and determined to get ahead in life. Nothing was going to stop him from making a success of all his endeavors.
With all that the two determined young people quickly succeeded…oh not to the filthy rich state but they were mighty down right comfortable. And then SOMETHING happened. Now exactly what that something was no one ever found out. Oh there were a zillion guesses but no one ever knew for sure what it was all about.
The upshot of the falling out was that Evangeline took her young precocious daughter, Dixie Spring, who had the good sense to be born in the spring because her papa said they would not name her after her mama’s maiden name, and moved back home. Evangeline’s papa had passed away only months before and left everything to his daughter…even though everything was in a terrible state of neglect. That left her lawfully wedded but no longer living with her husband. The upshot of it was they never lived together again, and never divorced…perish the thought…but amicability shared the rearing of Miss Dixie.
When Dixie lived with her mama she was drowned in all the rites of the Southern Bell. She dressed in ruffles, lace and female finery, as she was drilled in all the attributes of Southern Woman Hood. Then she was sent to her papa for a long visit. Her papa did not believe in all the gee gaughs she was forced to wear. He wanted someone who could take over his prosperous business holdings and function in the business world with all the sharpness he had acquired. He wasn’t so sure about all the wiles of the so-called Southern Woman hood, but quickly found it worked perfectly in his business world so he never interfered with those teachings. He was mighty proud of how Miss Dixie could combine both and outsmart and outdo any of the good ole boys, who quickly realized they had a mighty adversary in their midst. But, off came all the lace and ruffles. On went the severe tailored suits, with ties no less. But worse of all, off came the long curls. A no nonsense modern bob was the order of the day.
Dixie loved the freedom of the short hair. She was one of these people who had enough hair for two women. In the summer it was pure misery to go around with all that hair. It always had to be washed twice a day to keep it fresh. She ended up telling her mama that it had just gotten too long and thick and it smelled. She was not going to go around with smelly hair and had gone to the best beauty shop in Houston and had it cut. She, Dixie, was adamant about keeping it short. When Dixie told her mama it smelled, then, and only then, did her mama give up and let her keep it short. And because Dixie had naturally curly hair it wasn’t too bad…if truth be known it was downright pretty…even though it was just slightly longer than a boys cut!
“Hey girl” Miss Dixie continued coming up to Franny. “I’ve got a lot to talk over with you. Can you spare a minute?”
Franny greatly admired the trim gray flannel slack paired with the lacy trimmed blouse topped with a velvet trimmed gray and white checked jacket Miss Fanny wore. Since the death of her parents Miss Dixie combined the dress that both parents wanted her to wear and had developed the stunning style she now wore. Pearl earrings peaked out from beneath her curly red hair; they matched the pearl necklace showing at the neckline of her blouse.
“Sure can. What can I do for you?” Franny smiled.
“Are you lined up for any work soon as you finish at the Doctor’s office?” Miss Dixie inquired.
“Not yet. But I am sure something will turn up.” Franny smiled
“How would you like to ride up to the county seat with me on Saturday and let me explain some of the things I would like to hire you to do for me. That is the business part. I sure need someone helping me as it has all just become too much for one person. What with handling all of Mama’s businesses and now Papa’s businesses I just don’t have enough time to even blow smoke rings if I wanted to. I would want you to do the regular office work for me.” Miss Dixie smiled her most beguiling smile at Franny.
With a big grin she continued, “Then the other thing is I want to plan a March dinner party for the Hunters and Custards and of course you and Willy and all the other kids. Sort of a combination Saint Pats Day bash and also a Spring Madness deal. I thought we could do that on Saturday and have the kids over early and blow bubbles and maybe fly kites that sort of Spring Silliness thing. We could do it when we get back. And we can talk more about the business on the trip to and from Bellville. I hope you will go with me.”
Miss Dixie loved to have company in the old, sprawling and rambling house her great grandpa had built and that her mama had lived in almost all of her life. She especially enjoyed having the Hunters and the Custards, as well as Franny and Willy over. She was a fabulous hostess and those who really knew her thoroughly enjoyed being around her. Unfortunately not too many people knew her…or maybe that wasn’t unfortunate!
Miss Dixie was very out spoken as well as feisty, so most everyone sort of tippy toes around her. And if there was one thing Miss Dixie couldn’t abide it was whiney people, especially women, who would not take charge of their lives! She knew that Maudie Hunter as well as Ruby Custard, even though they were married and had families, could face any problem life had to offer and meet it victorious head on. Not only that they were the epitome of womanhood…kindness radiating from every inch of them, always lending a hand to those who sincerely needed it. They never hesitated to jump right in to correct any wrongs they came across whether it was helping the mistreated and beaten down women reverse their position in life, or, to starting the campaign in their little village to get a lending library going.
Oh yes indeed she did so admire them. She especially admired the way they went about doing all those good works…why you hardly knew they had a thing to do with them so adapt they were in working things out. In her eyes and way of thinking a Christian woman could not do any better.
“We will leave early on Saturday morning. That won’t be a problem with you will it Franny?” Miss Dixie continued. “We will have lunch at the big hotel there in Bellville. It serves really good food. We can go over all the stuff I will be wanting you to do. Then once we get all caught up on it we can come on back in plenty of time for the Spring Sillies at my house. Yes, I think we can fit it all in just fine that afternoon and evening. You will only have to find someone to watch Willy and Andy in the morning. We will be home shortly after lunch and I’ll treat the kids to the movies. We can pick up the kids after the movies.” Miss Dixie smiled.
“That sounds wonderful. You do know that I have to work a couple more weeks for the Doctor don’t you?” Franny questioned.
“Oh yes. But we can start you out on Saturday afternoon work dealing with things about the farm here, and then when you finish at the Doctor’s you can start going to Bellville with me several times a week. We will be sure we are back in time for you to pick up the kids after school during weekdays. Even if something should come up and we had to stay late we can call and I am sure Maudie will watch the kids that long. And with spring coming they can play out side for an hour or so.” Miss Dixie hadn’t figured out exactly what they would do come summer but she was thinking that perhaps Franny could bring the boys with her when she had to go out of town and she could leave them at her papa’s cottage under the watchful eyes of old Dicey and Leroy, who had been working for her papa forever. Why she could bring the girls too and they could go to the library. She knew the kids would spend the day there and love every minute of it. Then Dicey’s youngest girl could go along to keep an eye on them while she was studying. Dicey’s girl was studying so she could go on to college to become a nurse. She wanted to go to a school back East. Whatever… she was sure they could work things out.
Miss Dixie smiled at the other big surprise she had in store for Franny.
“Now you be sure and wear you Sunday Go To Meeting dress as the folks sure dress up to have lunch in the hotel on Saturdays.” Miss Dixie instructed Franny. “And I will pick you up at eight sharp!”
“I’ll be ready. Have you let the Hunters and the Custards know about the dinner or is it supper?” Franny wanted to know.
“I wanted to talk to you first and soon as I get the mail I am going home to call them. Thank goodness our Udellia is such a good cook. She is all in a tizzy about cooking for more folks than just me. She is planning all sorts of good food, even a fancy snack for the kids after they go to the movies and before supper. She wants to try her hand at a stack cake as she calls them. You know her little sister is going to get married soon and she wants to make her a multi-layered cake. I told her to go ahead, and then when the time comes she could make that wedding cake right in our kitchen and that would be part of my gift to her little sister. She is happier than a kitten in cream.”
When Saturday morning rolled around, Franny was all dressed up in her new Easter dress, coat and hat and ready to go. She thought it would be OK to wear her Easter finery early. She would change it as soon as she got back home and before they went to supper at Miss Dixie’s. Little did she know the surprise Miss Dixie had in store not only for her, but for the Hunters and Custards as well.
When Miss Dixie and Franny came back home they stopped at the movie theater. They had to wait about fifteen minutes before the kids came out. People saw the two of them sitting in Miss Dixie’s car talking away a mile a minute, but most of them were too scared of Miss Dixie to do more than smile and wave…which just suited Miss Dixie to a “T.” Everyone noticed that Miss Dixie looked sort of flushed and was laughing a lot. She’s just got more property from some deal, all those passing by thought. If they only knew what sort of property and what sort of deal she had acquired that day…but thank goodness they didn’t have any idea!!!
“Come on kids. Udellia is going to make you sundaes soon as we get home. We bought you some bubble pipes and kites when we were in Bellville and soon as you eat you can play. If you can’t fly kites we picked up some paper doll books for the girls and some model airplanes for you boys as well as a couple of books for you.” Miss Dixie smiled at the kids as she and Franny helped them get in the car. Franny giggled.
“Where’s mama?” Billie Jean asked.
“They will be over in about two hours. We wanted to have some fun with just us before they all came over.”
“And I just bet that Udellia saved some of the frosting from the cake for you to try.” Miss Dixie grinned at the kids. She remembered when she was young and how she loved scraping the bowls of frostings that Udellia concocted whenever she made cakes.
“Oh yummy!” The kids all answered as they patted their stomachs.
They had all eaten good thick bar-b-que from Leon’s at noon. Maudie had made the sandwiches and cut them up so they could handle them, and then she had put them on plates with plenty of her good potato salad and fresh little green onions and a big handful of radishes right from the garden. She even let them have root beer with dinner. She did restrict them to only two sugar cookies each. “You know you are going to have more to eat at Miss Dixie’s tonight so you have to save room,” she reminded them. They all smiled dreaming of all the good things Miss Dixie was bound to have for them.
And now here they were in Udellia’s kitchen, and her laughing and singing and showing off her stack cake to the kids and Miss Dixie and Miss Franny. It was indeed a sight to behold. It looked just like a bride’s cake. The thick and rich frosting was worked into intricate designs of roses and leaves and little violet flowers. There were a multitude of shamrocks scattered all over the cake.
“I done put colors on this one ‘cause it sure ‘nuff not a bride's cake,” Udellia laughed as she grinned at Miss Dixie. “I done gone and made some of my home made ice cream to go along with this too, for supper tonight. Everything will be ready in about two to three hours. Um, um, um, that roast and all the other things sure am smelling good.” With more laughter Udellia turned to Miss Franny and added, “I’ll just whip up a small sundae to tide these chillens over until it is time for supper. I got some chocolate sauce and some caramel sauce to put on the ice cream.”
“Well, I think the kids can force them down,” Miss Dixie laughed. “I think Franny and I will put some roses in the living room and on the table in the dining room,” Miss Dixie grinned at Udellia.
“Yesum. I done knowed you would and I had ole Micah cut you a big pot full when he was here working in the yard. Theys out on the porch keeping fresh 'till you get to them. Now here younguns…here is some of that frosting I put back for you. You just lick aways at it while I’m fixing your ice cream,” Udellia laughed again. She started singing hymns as she started working with the ice cream. Without asking she put both the chocolate and the caramel sauce on the ice cream.
“We is all gonna live a little today!” She announced to the four children gathered around the table. “Yes’um we sure is!” With that said she added big spoons full of whipped cream on top of the ice cream and then sprinkled on slivers of chocolate candy with several cherries on top. “Yes sir re bob we sure nough is!”
The excited voices of Franny and Miss Dixie could be heard as they arranged large vases of the roses with ferns and small flowers and set them around the living room and the dinning room. Then they arranged a lower bowl of the roses for the table. The table was already set and Udellia had put out the best linens and china and crystal with the family silver. It was a sight to behold. Franny knew she would have to caution the kids to be on their best behavior and mind their manners.
After eating, the four children ran out to play. They were only able to fly their kites for a short period of time before the wind picked up and blew the kites away. After consoling the kids with they thought they might see their kites in trees miles away later that summer and reminding them there were still things to play with in the house did the kids settle down some. The boys quickly put together their gliders while the girls started on their new paper doll books.
Miss Dixie went into her room and freshened up before the meal. Miss Dixie had worn a beautiful creamy colored suit with a gossamer lacy blouse that day. Her grandmother’s pearls gleamed from her ears and around her neck. Her deep red hair had never looked so shiny or so curly. Why, she looked down right beautiful! Franny looked lovely in her Easter finery. She also redid her hair and face. They both looked lovely.
The Hunters and the Custards both came together with much laughter and gladness. They all commented on how beautiful Miss Dixie looked and how lovely all the flowers were. Just as they settled down in the gracious living room a knock was heard at the door. Udellia’s granddaughter, who was helping out that evening, went to the door and ushered in Marshall Cooper, who was the long time beau of Miss Dixie’s. He had a most distinguished older gentleman with him. Introductions were quickly made. The older man was a judge and long time friend and mentor of Marshall’s. Marshall had his own law offices in Bellville.
No one was surprised at seeing Marshall as he had been around for years. Miss Dixie’s mama had been adamant about Miss Dixie not getting married to Marshall, as he was another Yankee, Heaven forbid!!! Miss Dixie wasn’t ready for marriage so it had been easy to follow her mama’s request! The older man was Charles Winegartden and well known in the surrounding country. It was easy to see, after the first few minutes that Judge Winegartden was thoroughly taken with Franny.
The evening was off to a flying start! And what an evening it was. They were soon called in to dinner. The table gleamed with the china, crystal and old silver. The roses were still in bud but their sweet smell was just light enough not to interfere with the scrumptious meal. The candle light bathed the whole in a wonderful golden glow.
“It’s just like in the movies!” Billie Jean whispered to Dolly Anne. Billie’s eyes sparkled in the candlelight.
“Aren’t you glad Franny cleaned us up so nice before we had supper?” Dolly asked Billie. She was worried that their school dresses somehow clashed with all the loveliness around them. She didn’t realize that their fresh childhood beauty more than made up for the fact they weren’t dressed real fancy at all.
“Wow! Look at that roast. It’s so big I bet we can have seconds,” Willy whispered to Andy.
“Maybe even thirds,” Andy whispered back. “And don’t forget that cake in the kitchen. Man alive we can even have fourths on that it’s so big,” Andy sighed. This was going to be a really good supper even if they did have to mind their manners!
Miss Dixie turned a most charming rosy color when she asked Marshall to please take the end chair…the host’s chair…and carve the roast. With an endearing smile at her he complied. Soon all the plates were served and the visiting and eating began.
No one noticed that Miss Dixie was barely eating. The food made several trips around the table before it was time for dessert.
“Will you excuse me for just a moment while I tell Udellia it is time for dessert?” She quickly rose from the table and went to the kitchen. Marshall, without a word followed her.
Maudie looked at Ruby. Eyebrows were lifted. Something was going on. Just what they didn’t know, but something was! Judge Winegartden quickly started talking about some events in the county and everyone quickly forgot about Marshall and Miss Dixie for a few minutes.
All at once the kitchen door was opened and the large tiered cake was brought in. Behind the cake came Miss Dixie and Marshall and they were holding hands and grinning from ear to ear. They held their hands just so…and the candlelight glowed on their golden wedding bands!
Udellia’s granddaughter came in carrying a silver tray with a large bottle and a rather smaller one on it and glasses for everyone.
Franny quickly ran into the hallway and put a record on. The regal and solemn strains of The Wedding March quickly filled the dining room.
Everyone sat in stunned silence. The Wedding March was turned off. The silence filled the air with a vibration that all could feel. It simply made the hair on everyone’s arms stand straight up.
And then… into this complete silence came the crystal sounds of each syllable of Billie Jean’s voice as she uttered…
“Great Quivering Globs of Goose Fat!”
The words hung in the air like prisms dancing and turning, filling the air with rainbows!
Stunned silence followed…but only briefly.
“Great heavenly days!” Maudie uttered. Her voice was filled with love and delight and only added to the glory in the room.
So this was it. This was what was going on.
“You actually did it! Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful!” Ruby’s voice joyfully raced round the room.
And then everyone was talking at once.
The final story came out in bits and pieces. Miss Dixie and Marshall had been in love for years. Marshall had taken care of his family for years. Finally the oldest boys were out of college and were able to help. Miss Dixie just didn’t want Marshall's mama to feel she was holding up “the works,” so Miss Dixie had told her that her mama didn’t want her to get married, which was true. Finally things worked out and Marshall and Miss Dixie knew the time had come. They knew they didn’t want to go through all the hassle of a big church wedding, and Marshall wanted his friend and mentor Judge Winegartden to perform the ceremony. To be sure their courthouse marriage didn’t turn into a three-ring circus they only told Judge Winegartden when they wanted the ceremony. He had made sure his office was clean and flowers were in it. Since he did this often his secretary didn’t think anything of it.
Miss Dixie didn’t want word leaking out, so she hadn’t even told Franny, whom she wanted to stand up with her, a word about it until they were almost there. Another old friend, who had know both Miss Dixie’s mama and papa, was called in from one of his offices down the hall from Judge Winegartden’s office as the second witness. The secretary was sent out to buy the gifts for the kids during the short service.
Of course Miss Dixie had told Udellia right away and sworn her to the strictest of secrecy. Of course Udellia wasn’t about to tell anybody her baby, she still thought of Miss Dixie as that, was off getting married. She just went right ahead and fixed the best wedding supper she was capable of.
Billie Jean was feeling sort of left out during this entire story. Miss Dixie had seen the woe begone look on her face. She knew how Billie Jean loved to be right in the big middle of all events. Miss Dixie smiled at Marshall, and turning whispered to Billie Jean, “I knew it was time when I saw you a couple of days ago and you told me, 'a woman needs to be in charge of her destiny at any age.' And I followed your excellent advice. I am sorry I wasn’t able to ask your help in the rest of it but I knew we really didn’t want to exhaust you with any elaborate wedding plans. We are thinking of having an enormous reception later on, and if it is fine with you I will call and you can give me your ideas on that.”
“Oh yes! I would love to be a part of that. I will starting thinking about it right away.” Billie Jean perked up like a wilted flower in a soft summer shower. Now that is more like it. I can see one in a summer afternoon and evening setting with flowers and candles everywhere. And Dolly Anne and I will have long dresses with big sashes and will each carry a little Tussie Mussie and be in charge of the guest book. There will be a really large wedding cake maybe with six or more parts to it, and three different kinds of punch and little cakes and finger sandwiches…at least six different kinds. And then there will be…"
Oh yes indeed! Billie Jean knew it would be a screaming success, especially since she would have a hand in it. She could just see it all! And most important she and Dolly Anne would have a very large part in the whole thing!
Dolly Anne was just thrilled at the lovely life ahead for Miss Dixie and Mr. Marshall. She hoped they would always be as happy as now, if not happier, and leaning over toward Miss Dixie she whispered and told her so!!! Miss Dixie had tears on her long eyelashes as Dolly Anne whispered to her and answered, “I know we will even be happier in all the years to come. My fondest wish is to some day have a little girl as wonderful and sweet as you are, Dolly!”
Dolly was rosy with delight.
Andy and Willy had heard the part about the coming reception and looking at each other had whispered, “Food!” Andy whispered, “And no grown-ups to keep count.”
Willy whispered,” Wonder how many slices of wedding cake we can eat now and then too. Let’s find out!”
Maudie and Ruby smiled at each other. They knew that they would act as mothers to Miss Dixie in the future. Why this was almost like having a daughter of their own get married. Oh what a blessing this was! And just think what help they would be able to give her in all the years ahead!
The judge smiled at Franny. He was thinking he might be older than Franny, but she sure was some woman…yes indeedy…a mighty fine specimen of womanhood! He had a special twinkle in his eyes. You just could never tell where this would lead.
Thoughts swirled around the room…all of them happy thoughts. Then Udellia cleared her throat and in her deep rich contralto voice, which graced the choir at the Free African First Southern Methodist Church each Sunday, started singing, "Happy Wedding Day to You!!!"
Everyone joined in.
Happy Wedding Day to all of you!!!
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