A Wish Your Heart Makes
Mount Hood Tales Continue
After the breathtaking end of the motorcyclist’s tale, the travelers are ready for bed, but the drama teacher, a petite, lively woman with bright brown eyes promises them a happier end to her tale, which she is saving for breakfast.
The next morning, she tells her story with grand gestures and varying inflections of voice and so much excitement that the others feel like they’re seeing a one-woman play unfold before their very eyes. Her tale, she tells them might remind them of Chaucer’s “The Clerk’s Tale,” but she assures everyone, “it’s not nearly as grisly. No need for that. It’s a perfectly good story without any gore.”
Save the Fairytales for the Books
In the evenings, I help my husband Jerome at the diner he owns on Seventy-Third Avenue. The regular waitress, Cecily Brown, is a real busy bee, but the dinner rush hour is too much for even her to handle on her own. Jerome was lucky to find such a smart, pretty, young woman to work for him. She never goofs an order and no matter how hard she’s working, whatever demands the customers are putting on her, she manages to keep her voice pleasant and she plants the each check onto every table with a smile. ,
Jerome and I often asked each other, ““How is it Cecily never has any guys showing up around here?”
One evening when we were down to two last straggling customers, I approached Cecily and couldn’t help myself. “Hey Ceci,” I blurted out, if you have a boyfriend, it’s fine with us if he waits her for you.”
She cocked her head to the side and narrowed her emerald eyes, “I haven’t got a boyfriend nor am I likely to anytime soon.”
“Oh, come on, a girl as smart and pretty as you must have someone interested in you.”
“Adele, it sounds like you believe in the happy endings of those plays you put on for the school kids. ‘Someday your prince will come’ are silly words in a song for children. They have nothing to do with real life.”
“Now, wait a minute,” I said. “Look at Jerome and me.”
Cecily scoffed and stared through the opening that lead into the kitchen where my husband was scrubbing a big steel kettle. She shook her head.
“He may not look like a prince to you,” I said, “but he treats me like a princess. That’s what counts.”
“Sorry, Adele. I didn’t mean to hurt your feeling.”
“No, no. I didn’t mean that. I just hate seeing you so cynical at your age.”
“I’m not a cynic. I’m a realist. Where the heck would I find a prince?”
“What about at school?”
“I don’t meet guys in my major.” She leaned over a table to rub a splotch of dried gravy. “Besides, Mom needs me.” She rubbed vigorously now. “I hate seeing her clean other people’s houses, what with their stained sheets and all, oh, you don’t want to know.”
“So, never any dating?”]
“You should see Mom’s face when she drags herself in the front door. It’s all I can do to leave her alone with Grandma and come to work. But if I don’t work, I can’t finish college and build a better life for us.” She was panting and almost tearful as she finished. I wished I hadn’t agitated her.
No Life for a Princess
That night Jerome whipped up Spaghetti Carbonara and a Caesar Salad for us once he closed the restaurant. It tasted heavenly, but as we ate, my thoughts were all on Cecily. “You know, honey,” I said. “It’s a cruel twist of fortune that such a beautiful girl is stuck caring for her grandma all day, waiting tables afternoon and evening, and squeezing in college classes on weekends. Her life should be filled with parties and travel and all sorts of wonderful things.”
“Eat, eat, Adele, enjoy your dinner. Don’t worry about that girl I have a good feeling about her.”
I sighed, “Her thick wavy brown hair and those impossibly long-fringed eye lashes make her look like a movie star. Her looks should guarantee her a happy ending.”
“Yep, but the guys at Oak Ridge High School weren’t exactly princes,” Jerome reminded me. “The best of the lot, as I remember, was a guy named Schmidt Tanner.”
I nodded. “I’m not sure any of those guys even went to college. Good think she didn’t marry one of them.”
“Oh, believe me, she’s always been too smart for that.”
“I see boys from her high school at the diner sometimes.”
“Like flies to sugar,” Jerome laughed. “And she bats them away just as quickly.”
Two weeks later, Cecily revealed her one outing a week had been going to church with her mom early Sunday mornings while her grandmother slept. “Last Sunday,” she said, shaking as she spoke, “Grandma woke up alone and wandered away.”
“We were lucky. The police found her by the corner drugstore where one of the clerks recognized her. So, they brought Grandma home.
“Can your Mom install locks that your Grandma can’t open,” I suggested.
“She has already, but we still can’t leave Gran alone. What if there’s a fire or she starts one, even?”
Cecily turned away to stack plates out from the dishwasher. “I wish I had a sister, to help out with Gran.”
“It must be hard being the only child,” I said, grateful for my sisters.
“Don’t get me wrong. I loved it when I was a little girl. I had my own bedroom when all my other friends complained about sharing theirs. And Gran spoiled me rotten.”
A smile replace the grim look on her face, and then she sighed. “Now, it’s so heartbreaking. There’s so little she can do for herself.”
A simple snowfall, by most people’s standards is no blizzard, but, here in Portland it brings a halt to all normal routines. Jerome, having been born and raised in Minnesota, kept the Day-by-Day open just as usual. I went in with him. At four o’clock, bundled into her parka, boots, hat and gloves, Cecily stumbled through the door. She looked at Jerome furtively as if he’d scold her for being late.
“No problem,” he assured her. “I get it. Three or four flakes and all Portland traffic, including buses, gets tied in knots. What a crazy place!”
“I am sorry, Jer,” Cecily apologized. “Mom was late getting home. I dashed out to the bus stop and got there just as the bus pulled away.”
“My gosh, honey,” I said “I’m surprised you caught another one? They’re running hours apart.”
“I didn’t. I started to walk.”
“Oh, no, it’s freezing out. The sidewalks are so slick I had to clutch Jerome’s arm to stay upright.”
Cecily ducked her head and spun to hang her coat on a hook near the back door. “I, uh, didn’t have to walk the whole way.”
Her voice was just a whisper. “Oh?” I said.
“I heard a beep, beep, beeping. When I looked, it came from this small blue car I didn’t recognize. So I just kept walking.”
“It inched toward the sidewalk. Like a ninny I didn’t move. Then, the passenger window rolled down. ‘Cecily?’ Without getting any closer I bent down and peered at Schmidt Tanner.”
“Schmidt Tanner! I haven’t seen or heard from him since he graduated high school. And I keep pretty good track of my former students.”
“It was him.”
“I remember him, though. A nice guy who just got by, not studying any harder than he had to. Even Jerome remembers him as a nice kid. Mentioned him the other night.”
“Yeh. It was kind of a surprise that he graduated.”
“So what did you do?”
“At first, I said ‘Hi and started walking to work. But he rolled slowly forward with the window still down and called, ‘Let me give you a lift.’”
She grabbed her apron and headed for the kitchen. “So that’s how you got here?”
“Made more sense than freezing and being even later for work.” She was trying very hard to keep her voice flippant and then she started giggling. “When I told him where I was going, he asked if he could join me for breakfast. I explained I was work here.”
She shook her head, smiling as she remembered. “Then he had the arrogance to be surprised I was waiting tables. Said he thought I’d be in college.”
“Well, you are.”
“Exactly and when I told him and he said he meant ‘real college’ like Washington University.
Cecily banged a set of silverware on the counter. “Sorry. It’s just he went on and on about thinking that I’d gotten a scholarship.”
“Well, you did. A full-tuition scholarship Stanford.”
“Right, and it didn’t cover room and board. Kind of made it useless.”
“It’s interesting that he remembered that about you.”
“Maybe, but I brushed him off as soon as we got here. Enough said.” She walked to the nearest booth order book and pencil poised.
Another fairytale down the drain I thought feeling my heart crack for that sweet but tough girl.
The following Monday, Jerome came home and made a big show of announcing this to me, “Guess who came into the restaurant shortly before closing and slipped quietly into a back booth?”
“Schmidt Tanner?” I said, hopeful for my young college friend.
Enter Prince Charming???
Schmidt showed up the next evening, slipped into a booth, and caught Cecily’s eye while she took a customer’s order. What was Schmidt doing here? She turned away to focus on the order. “That’s one meatloaf special and one chef’s salad, right?” The couple nodded but looked at her oddly. The woman twisted her neck to see what had caught Cecily’s gaze. She smiled knowingly.
Oh. Sheeesh! That’s all she needed. She ignored Schmidt’s signal and put the order in. He waved at her again. She picked up a rag to wipe the counter.
Jerome hissed, “Get to that customer.” He meant Schmidt. So, Cecily had no choice.
“What do you want?” she asked him.
“When do you get off work and in the meantime, I’ll have a burger and fries.”
“I can do the burger,” she replied, “but I have to get straight home after work. I’m here until eleven.”
His blue eyes twinkled, “Another night, then?”
“I work every night.”
“Seven nights a week?”
“Monday through Friday. Listen I’ve got to get your order in.” While she served other customers and waited for Schmidt’s meal; to come up, she tried to ignore him, but her mind kept assessing the man she’d known as a boy. About three inches taller than her, he had broad shoulders and muscled forearms suggesting he worked construction. His face was a ruddy tan. In December, windburn? When Joann, her co-worker, poured him a coffee, the grin he gave her lit up his whole face. What is my problem Cecily wondered? I’m forever whining about having no social life. Here’s a good-looking guy and it seems like he wants to go out with me. And what do I do? I try to brush him off. Why?
Because the timing is all off. That’s why. There’s no room in my life for dating. When I finish college, when (and she felt so awful thinking this) Gran dies, my life will be mine again. Then I can find someone. But not now.
With this resolution firmly in mind, she picked up his burger and headed to the booth?
“What about Saturday? I see the diner closes at three on Saturdays.”
“Sorry, Saturdays are my mom’s night out with her girlfriends.”
“Why does that mean you can’t go out?”
“My grandmother can’t be left alone.”
Schmidt surprised her by rather than arguing. He gave her a millionaire-dollar smile.
not your usual Fairy Godmothers
On Saturday night, Gran was asleep by nine o’clock. Mom arrived home not to long after to find her bent over the kitchen table, piled high with books and papers. She had almost finished a first draft of a research paper for her American History class.
Mom leaned against a kitchen chair. “It seems unfair,” she said. “I shouldn’t be the one going out on Saturdays. It should be you.”
“Mom, you need a break every bit as much as I do. I could have had a date tonight, but I needed to study.”
“What do you mean? Don’t tell me you turned down a date so I could go out.”
“It was just Schmidt Tanner. You remember him from high school.”
Mom’s brows wrinkled over her forehead. “Sort of. But, honey, you should have said ‘yes.’ I could have my friends over to play cards or something.”
“Mom, don’t startup. Romance isn’t in the cards for me.”
In the morning over breakfast, Mom’s eyes twinkled as she poured Gran’s coffee. “I think that Ceci’s got a suitor,” she said.
Gran’s wrinkles fanned out as she grinned. “Why, haven’t you told me this, honey.”
Cecily glared at her mother. “It’s no big deal, Gran. Just a guy I knew in high school. Asked me to go out with him.”
“So, when are you going?”
“I’m not. I don’t have time for dating.”
Gran shook her head and her grey hair fanned out like a halo. “That plain ridiculous. A pretty young woman always has time for a man in her life.”
Cecily gave her grandmother a small smile. “Maybe in your day. But I work full-time and go to school full-time, and …”
“And you’re helping your mom take care of me. Go ahead and say it. It’s still no excuse.”
“That’s sweet, Gran, and I know you don’t want to feel like a burden. Believe me you aren’t. I need the evenings to study.”
“I’m not listening to any more of this nonsense,” Gran retorted, but she was smiling. “If that fellow asks you out again, I want you to promise you’ll say ‘yes.’”
“It’s an easy promise to make. He’s not likely to ask again with the brush off I gave him.”
“Well, just in case,” Mom said. “This Saturday night I’m asking my friends to come over and play cards.”
his lucky star
As the Monday dinner hour wore on, Cecily found herself caught between relief and despair that Schmidt didn’t turn up. She was just hanging up her apron and Jerome was about to turn off the lights when they both turned startled by a loud pounding on the front door. It was Schmidt. Jerome smirked and walked over, undid the three latches on the door, and let him in. “You’re a little late for dinner.”
Schmidt hang his head and then turned that million-dollar smile on the older man. “Sorry. I have to work late every night this week and I need to talk to Cecily.”
Jerome backed up and swept his arm toward the counter. “Be my guest,” he said.
Cecily stood there rigid with embarrassment. Schmidt leaned over the counter. “I need to know if you are, by any chance, ever free for dinner on Saturday nights?”
It seemed like destiny – her mom promising to stay home and now the invitation. One night couldn’t hurt, could it? “Well,” she said. “My mother is staying home this Saturday.”
“Great. I knew I should come tonight. I felt my lucky stars shining. See you Saturday.”
“You don’t know where I live.”
“Right.” He grinned and pulled out his phone, “Can I have your phone number please?”
“You, dummkopf,” Jerome butted in. “Just ask to give her a ride home.”
Schmidt smacked himself in the forehead and laughed. He slipped an arm around her waist and they were out the door.
For the rest of the winter, Cecily alternated Saturday nights with her mom. She became entranced by Schmidt’s creativity in thinking up fun things to do that weren’t expensive. One night they entertained themselves for fifteen dollars, five each to view the film at the arts theater Belmont and then playing $2.50 in nickels in the old-fashioned games in the lobby. They topped the evening off by sharing a sundae at a drugstore that he knew still had a soda fountain. Another time the picked up a “Hunt the Woodstock Murals” game from a grocery in that southeast neighborhood, stopped at Oscar’s cart for a bratwurst, and while they ate their sausages, they traipsed up and down Woodstock Boulevard. They located every mural on the chart and turn in their game at the New Seasons Market. For a prize, each got to pick a favorite piece of fruit. Those evenings, so different than her day-to-day, felt magical to Cecily.
However she still backed off when Schmidt tried to kiss her good night.
Once he murmured as they held hands walking through the rose garden, “I feel we were meant for each other.”
Cecily immediately counted with, “Roses do that to anybody.”
One especially magical evening the day before Easter, Schmidt splurged. He took her to a German restaurant where the menu items all looked foreign to her. Fascinated by the way he smoothly ordered for the, she kept up her part, discussing the wide-eyed Keane paintings and prints arranged that filled the room. She and Schmidt made up stories for the children and the women they saw, each outdoing the other’s level of outrageousness.
After dinner, they the beat of a jazz quartet lured them into the adjoining bar for the rest of the evening.
By midnight when he pulled up to her front door. He continued his gallantry and open ed her passenger door for her. She stepped out and before she could take a breath, he pulled her into his arms, bent his head and kissed her.
Cecily felt his soft mouth and gentle manner, surprised that it set off an electric storm throughout her body. She thought his eyes were full of questions, which she could only answer by reaching up and touching his cheek before she hurried inside.
the glass slipper shatters
Cecily floated through her front door and up the stairs to find her elation dissipate instantly. Mom was down on the floor by Gran, who was flat on her back, eyes staring ahead and drooling spilling from her lips. The wail of an ambulance siren made it impossible to ask what had happened.
Much of it was all a blur, until Cecily was able to sort out the facts for Schmidt’s first visit to the hospital, flowers in hand.
“I heard,” he said, “that she had a stroke.”
Cecily reluctantly told him how Gran needed diapers, had no health insurance, could maybe get by in a nursing, not a good one like in the ads, but one where she’d be unhappy.
“Your flowers cheer me up,” she said. “I wish Gran could enjoy them.”
She took leave from the diner for one week, but Jerome couldn’t keep substituting for her and she went back. She dropped her classes at Portland Community, but the tuition there was so reasonable that the savings wouldn’t cover the costs for Gran’s care. On the Saturday before Gran’s discharge, Schmidt arrived looking distracted and anxious.
“Is something wrong?” Cecily asked.
“Not wrong exactly. I’m just a little nervous about something,” he replied.
“Can I help?” she asked.
He smiled. “You can, yes. Will you? I don’t know.”
His words mystified her.
“Mrs. Brown,” he turned to her mother. “I need to take Cecily out of the hospital for a little while, but I want to make sure you’re okay with that.”
Mom nodded looking as puzzled as Cecily felt. “I’m fine. I have the doctors and nurses here if anything happens.”
“Thanks,” he murmured and took Cecily’s green parka off the coat rack and helped her slip into it.”
They got into his car in the parking garage and drove in silence. Cecily didn’t know what to say because she couldn’t imagine what was on his mind. Besides by night these days, she was too tired to talk. The car wound west away from Providence Hospital and started to climb up the winding street of the Almeda Ridge. At the top of the ridge, Schmidt pulled up in front of a huge stucco Dutch colonial style home. He came around and opened her door, “There’s something I want you to see.”
They walked alongside the house and into an expansive yard at the back. Cecily looked nervously over her shoulder at the lighted windows of the house. What if the owners saw them? But then Schmidt took her hand, and whispered, “Look,” as he pointed across the lawn. There Portland lay sparkling in front of them spread out on both sides of the Willamette River.
“It’s breathtaking. Thank you, Schmidt. You were so right. I needed to get away from that hospital and out into the open air. Can we just stand here for a little while?”
“You can stand here as long as you like,” he said.
“But won’t the owners mind strangers standing in their yard just to admire the view?” she asked.
“They would if we were strangers, but we’re not.”
What was he talking about? He reached for her hand and led her toward French doors that lead out onto the lawn, and they walked into a beautifully furnished great room.
“Do you know the people that live here?”
“I am ‘the people’ who live here,” he said.
“You’re saying this is your house?” She couldn’t take it in.
“Yes, and it could be your house too.”
“Schmidt, no, you can’t possibly think this a suitable time to propose!”
“Listen, I know it’s a terrible time, but let me show you one more thing.” He grabbed her hand and moved out of the room toward the front of the house and through a square hallway and off to the left into a large spacious bedroom. Still moving, he took her through the bedroom and into a bathroom, equipped for a person with physical challenges, and into a smaller bedroom.
Stunned, she asked, “What is this?”
“It was my grandfather’s room. He lived with us when I was growing up. He always had an assistant to live-in and help him. This could be your grandmother’s room.”
“You can’t think I’d marry you just to solve the problem of my grandmother’s care.”
He held her shoulders and looked right into her eyes. “No, I want you to marry me because I cannot imagine life without you, and I’m fairly sure that over the course of these last few weeks you’ve begun to feel the same way. I love you, Cecily. Can you honestly say you don’t love me?”
She shook her head, “No, I do love you Schmidt. But the timing …”
His square hand captured and lifted her chin. His lips met and lingered over hers. “Don’t say yes or no right now. Give yourself the time you need. I’m not going anywhere.”
She felt instantly lighter, more hopeful. “Thank you, Darling.” Whoops. Did she just call him “darling?” His wonderful smile lit up his face. Yep, she must have said just that.
The next morning the ambulance transported Gran back home. She was physically much stronger than right after the stroke, but she could no longer feed herself or walk more than four or five feet. She could, thankfully, still manage the bathroom on her own if someone stayed right outside the door, but Cecily or Mom had to get in the shower with her. Cecily oversaw this on weekdays and Mom took over on the weekends. Schmidt came every evening. He dropped Cecily at work. He had wanted her to quit, but she refused. She was still sorting out just what she should do.
In the evening, while Cecily worked, Schmidt fixed a meal for Mom and Gran and spent the evening with them. It comforted Cecily to hear how well everyone was even when she wasn’t home. Schmidt arranged his work schedule so he never had to be away from Portland overnight. He said he didn’t want to take a chance that Cecily would forget him. She couldn’t imagine forgetting him, but committing to him with all her baggage, no matter how willing he was, eluded her.
Then, one Tuesday morning when Cecily came down to the kitchen, she was surprised to see Mom sitting calmly drinking tea at the tiny kitchen table.
“Are you sick, Mom?”
“No, I feel fine.”
“Then why aren’t you at work. You didn’t lose your job, did you?”
Mom set her cup down. “Pour yourself some tea, I need to talk with you.”
Cecily’s stomach churned. Her hands shook as she poured the hot liquid. Mom never missed work. Something must be terribly wrong.
As she sat, she blurted out, “Mom what’s wrong, please, tell me.”
Her mother looked straight into her eyes, “You. You’re wrong.”
“What?” Cecily stammered.
“You love Schmidt with all your heart. He’s a fine and decent man who is well able to take care of a family. He is crazy about you and waits every day to hear you finally say you’ll marry him. Stop this dilly-dallying. Tell him ‘Yes’”
“Mom, I can’t marry someone just so he can save me from poverty,” her daughter protested, gripping her hands so tightly around the mug, that she heard her knuckles crack.
“I agree, honey. I wouldn’t want that either. But ask yourself if Schmidt had never taken you to his house if you didn’t know how wealthy he was if all you knew about him were his kindness, his intelligence, his sense of humor, his good looks, and all the other wonderful things about him but were convinced he was poor as a church mouse and would never have money would you still love him?”
“Oh, Mom, of course, I would.”
“And you’d marry him, too, right?”
Cecily started to giggle. “Yes, you’re right.”
“Good. Tonight, it’s your turn to propose.”
“I can’t do that.”
“You can and you will because otherwise you’ll ruin your life and his for no good reason.” Her mother picked up her cup and swallowed the rest of her tea. Putting it back on the saucer, she finished, “That’s all I have to say – oh, and I called the diner and told them you wouldn’t be there today.”
“My god, Mom, what did Jerome say?”
“He said, “Give her my best wishes.”