COMPANY FOR THE WEEKEND
They arrived from
about Thursday, July
1. I had just tucked my four little
girls in bed and settled down with the evening paper, when I heard the car ease
into our attached garage. I opened the
door, and there was my kid brother, carrying his sleepy eight-month-old son.
“Hi!” I kissed Bud and took the baby from him. “The girls wanted to wait up to see you, but it was getting so late.”
My sister-in-law Phyllis trailed in, carrying a picture hat and outsized purse. I brushed a kiss near her wide painted smile. She draped her long legs across the couch. “I never thought we’d get here,” she sighed. “Bud, light me a cigarette.” He was half-way through the door, on his way to bring in their luggage, but he paused, lit a cigarette, and handed it to her.
“Chipper is getting so big.” The baby sat quietly on my lap as I unfastened his little yellow sweater and matching jockey cap. His black hair was cut boy-style, and as I took off the hat, a vagrant lock fell across his high broad forehead. Silky lack lashes shaded his dark solemn eyes against the sudden light of the living room. He looked up at me, timid as a soft-nosed puppy, considering the new face and unfamiliar surroundings.
“Da Da, Da Da,” he cried.
“He can’t let Bud out of his sight for a minute,” Phyllis said. “Buddy,” she called. “Your son wants you.”
Bud staggered through the doorway, carrying two dress bags and a large suitcase. “Just a minute, Chipper,” he said. “I have to get your bed out of the car.” He carried the bags up the stairs to the guest room.
“What’s the matter, Chipper,” I singsonged to the baby, “don’t you recognize a mother when you see one?” He answered, “Da Da, Da Da,” and tried to wriggle off my lap.
“Here, Phyllis,” I handed him to his mother. “Your son seems to need a change. I’ll get you a diaper. You can change him right here.” I spread my newspaper on the coffee table and she laid him on the papers and started to remove the layers of underpinnings. I brought her a clean diaper, towel, and soapy washcloth.
“Bud,” she called, “bring Chipper’s pajamas. They’re in the bottom of the suitcase.” Bud was upstairs, setting up Chip’s bed. He found the pajamas and brought them to Phyllis. He took a nursing bottle from a carryall, went to the kitchen to fill it with milk, and put it in a pan of hot water.
“Bud, clean up this mess.” Phyllis indicated the soiled diaper on the floor. He picked it up gingerly, rinsed it in the bathroom and put it in our diaper can. He folded up the newspapers and put them out in the trashcan in the garage. He went back to the kitchen to test the bottle. The baby watched intently, his eyes following Bud’s movements from door to door.
“All right, Chipper, come and get it.” The little doll went eagerly to his father’s arms and nuzzled at the bottle.
“You’ll have to put him to bed, Bud,” Phyllis said. He won’t go to bed for me. Where did you put his clothes?”
Bud said the suitcase was upstairs.
“Didn’t you unpack them?” she asked. I offered to put the clothes in a dresser I’d cleared out for the purpose. Our son was away at camp. Chip would sleep in his room. The four of us went upstairs together, Bud carrying Chip and the bottle. Phyllis had brought enough changes for Chip to fill the entire dresser. They were only planning to stay for the three-day holiday.
The baby pushed away the half-emptied bottle. Bud held him against his shoulder and patted his back gently. Then he put the little fellow in the traveling crib and covered him with a light blanket. “You are going to sleep here with your bear tonight,” Bud said. Chip pulled himself up by the bars of the bed. “Da Da, Da Da!” he looked imploringly at his daddy.
“He won’t go to sleep unless Bud stays in the room with him,” Phyllis explained.
“Chipper, go to sleep,” Bud said firmly, shaking his finger at the baby. Chip grabbed the finger in his chubby little hand. Bud put him down again. The dark puppy eyes watched unblinking.
“He won’t go to sleep,” Phyllis said.
A rustle of nighties came through the bedroom door. My little girls wanted to see their cousin. They peeked through the bars of the bed and spoke to the baby in grandmother-voices. Chipper looked at them with his great solemn eyes. I beckoned Bud to come help me set up the borrowed rollaway in the guest room across the hall. Our regular guest bed was twin-size and would only take care of one guest. Phyllis followed us. She took her dresses out of the hanging bag. She hung several party-type dresses in the guest closet. One was an elegant strapless formal.
“We won’t be going to the Fourth of July dance,” I said, tucking sheets on the rollaway. “Our regular sitter is sick. I didn’t suppose you’d want to leave the baby with a stranger.”
“Oh, Chipper would stay with anyone,” she said, reluctantly patting the beruffled dance dress.
“But,” I added, “we did invite some of our friends to stop by for a drink before the dance. So you can dress up anyhow, if you want.”
“Where do I sleep?” she asked, looking at the skimpy rollaway.
“You take the bed, and I’ll sleep on the rollaway,” Bud said.
“I’ll need an extra pillow and blanket,” she said.
“This is a pretty warm room,” I said, “and we’ve been sleeping just under sheets most nights.”
“I always use two blankets and two pillows,” Phyllis said. I brought the extra blanket and pillow, and the towels, and showed them which bathroom to use. I told Phyllis to put her cosmetics on a high shelf in the linen closet, so the little girls wouldn’t get into them.
My daughters flocked into the guest room. “Chip has gone to sleep,” the oldest announced.
“Then you’d better get back to sleep, too,” I told them. They kissed their aunt and uncle goodnight in turn, and scurried back to their beds.
“If you’re through unpacking,” I said, “let’s turn off the lights here and go down stairs to the children can sleep. Earl should be home from work pretty soon. We can have a cold beer while we’re waiting for him.”
“Phyllis doesn’t drink beer,” Bud said. “I’ll fix her a scotch and soda.” We started down the stairs. Phyllis turned back to the bathroom. “Aren’t you coming, Phyllis?”
“Fix the drink,” she said. “I’ll be down a soon as I put up my hair.”