Our new home was large, commodious and somewhat graceless but open rooms are fine for romping children and uncarved staircases produce fewer bumps. Grownups and children alike, we each of us was on the run with a fulltime job. Dinner was our gayest moment, for then each recounted the day’s experience in pungent form.
Mayne usually carried off the brown derby. He was a born mimic and his imitations of girls were as full of laughs as a comic strip. Once a business friend gently forced him into attending a student recital and he had dragged me along with him.
During the program a homely but animated girl had dashed out on the stage singing, “I am a dai-a-ay” – the "dai” being high then retreating with a gentle jerk at the “ai.” It was very comic. No teacher would have allowed such a thing nor composer to have written it and our self-control was at the breaking point.
From that day, at any dull moment, Mayne was likely to skip “up”, “out”, or “in” with a towel or scarf draped over his solar plexus, singing in falsetto, “I am a dai-a-ay!” while we held our sides and the children howled with delight.
Lilly’s little boys had quickly become the center of interest round which our family revolved. Each of us felt that no matter how much we might do, we could never make up to them for the loss of their mother. For years Howie showed the effect of the strain by taking somnambulistic walks in the middle of the night. Someone would hustle out of bed to find him shivering on the stairs with icy feet and staring eyes, and tuck him in bed again. “Searching for his mama,” was the doctor’s comment.
At the children’s request, Mary and I joined the school Mother’s Club, quoted their bright sayings and bragged like real blood mothers about “our children.” Our conversation was so interlarded with “the little boys” or “the children” that at Mayne’s office no one was aware that they were not his own and the business heads were aghast to learn years after that they had placed a bachelor in charge of four hundred girls. The idea had not in the least disturbed him. He was born with an appreciation of female pulchritude and often commented that if he were able to embellish business to his taste, he would just surround himself with one bouquet. The management, however, had a point, for Mayne was not without drawing power.
The year before, when we had rooms at Miss Jones’ house, a friend had stayed with us for a few days. She had been a supervisor of teachers in Springfield, a brilliant and charming woman who had often been in Lilly’s home. She and Mayne shared many tastes and we women had hoped he would fall in love with her, but he had not. I can still hear her voice at breakfast that summer as she drank her coffee in our crude breakfast room.
“O Maynard, you could have been President of the United States if you had wanted to.” Then, in a steadier tone, “…and somehow I always hoped you would care for me, but you didn’t,” and she set her cup down and smiled.
She had spoken with such complete honesty and unselfconsciousness that we were caught unaware, and I know my heart skipped a beat before we went on from there.
When Spring shook out her first daffodils and lake winds turned inland and grew bland, the Rich Young Man was moved to inquire whether I liked bicycling. His mother had agreed to buy him a man’s tandem (no female machinations for her) and he asked Brother if he had any objections to my riding a diamond frame. Maynard thought the men’s frame safer than the female form so Del Eberhard and I went wholesaling and picked up a divided skirt that was a model of neatness and femininity. After that, when the temperature was friendly, the Rich Young Man and I followed a path that led along Lake Michigan’s shore for a brief ride and home in time for dinner.