Congratulations to my dear friend and editor,
Lil’ Pools Jennifer Pooley…
…and the gem of an author whose book she “discovered” at a writers’ conference in San Diego in January of 2006. Since then, the author, Marjorie Hart, and her charming little slice of Americana, Summer at Tiffany…
…have gone on to critical acclaim and is now in its NINTH PRINTING!!!
What made this story even more special is that Marjorie was over 80 years old when she met Jennifer, but she had a story and she had a dream. Now 83 years old, that dream has been realized with a flourish. Both women epitomize the spirit of hope and pressing forward, even in the face of daunting adversity. And because of the success of Summer at Tiffany, Marjorie brings the gift of one more adventure at Tiffany during the end of 1945/beginning of 1946 in a special holiday essay, featured below.
Have a blessed season, everyone. Enjoy the story, and always remember…
On a wintry early December night in 1945 I stood before my sorority house at the University of Iowa opening the letter that had just arrived from Jim. New York City—New Year’s Eve—those dazzling words! When I added: Boyfriend—Fifth Avenue—Tiffany—it evoked such a stunning combination of images, I shrieked loud enough for the Pi Phi’s to hear from the Kappa House. In a heartbeat I was at Towner’s Ready to Wear for Women on the main street of Iowa City to add extra hours to my schedule to save for a train ticket. Towner’s. What a come-down from working last summer as a page on the sales floor of Tiffany—Judy Garland would certainly not be walking through their door.
By Christmas, I was home from college with my family in Story City, though I have to say, my mind was on the big city—and what to wear. It was my mother who made the difference, she transformed my camel hair’s coat with furs from the cedar chest, creating a wide collared shawl that draped to my waist and an enormous matching muff with a secret pocket in the satin-lining. The furs were dark brown, silky and gorgeous—they carried a whiff of mothballs, but no matter. Posing in the mirror, I let the muff dangle nonchalantly like Lauren Bacall, feeling incredibly chic, elegant, and sophisticated.
My father drove me to the Des Moines train station. Inside the muff, the size of my suitcase, I hid my train ticket, money, comb, and lipstick. I promised, “Don’t worry—I’ll be writing soon from New York City.”
Morning Side Drive, December 27, 1945
Arrived safely at the Shuttleworth’s. Even slept on the train—thanks to the muff! Jim doesn’t arrive til this weekend—so it’s Tiffany’s tomorrow. Will look for a silver spoon for Katherine and Dick’s baby. Mrs. Shuttleworth says that I have to go to the opera—the tickets are $1.25—and guess what? Janos Sholz is giving a cello recital at Town Hall—remember when I took lessons from him? I won’t forget to find a gift for the Shuttleworth’s. Let me know if the baby is early—hope it’s a boy!
Before I entered Tiffany’s, I lingered by the decorated show windows. To tell the truth, I felt shy without Marty by my side. She’d sent greetings to everyone, “Don’t forget Mr. Wilson—the cashier”—and so on. After stopping to chat with the Fifth Avenue doorman, the salesmen recognized me. What a warm welcome—even from Mr. Hyrdman! They greeted me like a celebrity, showing me the newest diamonds and priceless gems. After I’d circled the floor to greet everyone, it was difficult to break away, but I had to see Mr. T.C..
As soon as I spotted the third floor, I casually asked, “Do you carry Spode?” “Miss Marjorie!” he exclaimed. I’d surprised him and his obvious delight in seeing me, surprised me. When I asked about baby spoon, his eyes widened, “For my sister,” I stammered. He could tease, too, “Only one sniff of brandy for you this New Year’s Eve!”
Jim had written from Newport: Meet me at the Astor Hotel. I reached the tinseled lobby early, so early that I could touch-up my hair and rehearse what to say. First I’d tell Jim all about Tiffany’s and the diamonds, I’d tell him about the Town Hall recital and then about the opera, Il Tabarro (The Cloak). Meanwhile, where was he? I touched his fraternity pin, fastened right next to my Kappa key, wondering with worry, if his cherished pin still belonged to me.
It was snowing when Jim strode through the door in his officer’s hat with gold braid. I caught my breath when he enveloped me in his long Navy coat. “Gosh—you look great!” his eyes sparkled. “And you,” I answered, feeling bashful. He was a Navy ensign, distinguished and serious. I was tongue-tied as we went to catch a bus. We were silent. Everything was different. Even the city had changed since the war dim-out was over. Lights blazed, neon waterfalls gushed, the Camel man blew smoke rings. True, New York City wasn’t all Fifth Avenue and glittering Tiffany’s, but this was not how I remembered my New York. Or how I remembered Jim.
My cheeks turned red—not from the cold—and I felt awkward and miserable. It wasn’t until Jim brushed snow from my fur collar that I caught a grin. I smiled, he chuckled, and we joined in a nervous giggle that ended in a shared kind of laughter. We started laughing about nothing—nothing at all. When we arrived at Asti’s for dinner, everyone was singing opera, from the hat check girl to the waiters. Once again we were just starry eyed kids.
The next day, Jim said we were going someplace special—in Brooklyn. Brooklyn? I should not have doubted him. At the New York Naval Shipyard we boarded the USS Missouri—the Big Mo—the site of the Japanese surrender. With high-ranking officers and visitors we stood in respectful silence where the marked square on the deck indicated the table where General MacArthur and Japan’s Foreign Minister, Shigemitzu (Ziggy to the press) signed the documents. The photos were amazing: General MacArthur in military dress, Shigemitzu and the Japanese dignitaries in black suits and top hats! Leaving Brooklyn was memorable in another way. As we crossed the Brooklyn Bridge at night, the stunning skyline of Manhattan’s Christmas lights reflected over water like a dazzling Oriental carpet. Ohmygosh. Jim squeezed my hand as if we’d witnessed a miracle.
What do I remember about New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1945? The fragrant smell of the gardenia Jim pinned on my shoulder, the fur hat I fashioned for the trip and the friends who helped us celebrate over most of Manhattan. We dashed to the Madison Hotel to grab a table; we took the El to the Fraternity House at the corner of Third and Seventeenth to sing the college songs—where six of us tucked around a cozy table covered with their signature red and white checkered table cloth—and then took a bus headed for Greenwich Village to a racy nightclub. When the stage act began Jim shot me a worried look, “Let’s leave,” he said and chased down a cab, “to the Van Rensselaer.”
It was almost midnight. We were back at our favorite summer haunt, the two us, and the Irish bartender was singing the song I called “My Pretty Colleen.” We clinked glasses and laughed, spoke with wonder about the War’s end—the war that had touched every life, every family across the world—and we whispered secrets between kisses and reminisced. “Remember those creaky steps,” I whispered squeezing his hand, “that one sweltering night?” There was silence and I held my breath. Could he have forgotten? Then Jim said softly, “You mean the night we snuck onto the roof of your apartment building?” With his boyish smile, he lifted my chin. My eyes welled, and we kissed, again, and again, as the cherished moments of 1945 faded into the New Year.