Christmas in a strange town without the family circle, stripped it of much of its magic. Even the lake lost its splendour and looked grey and dour to us as it slapped the breakwaters with slushy water. My private lessons continued throughout the holidays. Mr. Lutkin was eager to push me as fast as possible. Practically every hour with him was touched with a highlight of some sort. He had already assumed the post of personal promoter, and when application was made at the school for a pianist to leaven a meeting or play an accompaniment, he would make all arrangements, tell me what pieces I should play, set the fee and see that I was called for and returned.
The first event of importance was in a palatial home on Ridge Avenue. The university string quartette (faculty) gave a program of chamber music and I played two solos. Mrs. Boker was so elated when she heard of it that she rushed over to the Springfield Post Office to tell brother that the home-grown shoot had borne a Christmas plum.
On the last day of the year Dell Eberhard hurried over to see if Mama could give them a room. Dell had bagged Mr. Thomas when he taught in the Springfield High School. Our house was packed to the eaves but they found a cheerful spot nearby. Mr. Thomas was a graduate of Northwestern, and had secured a position as managing editor of a trade journal and Dell was to report fashions for it. We were pathetically glad to see them and get a fresh taste of home gossip. Dell was the one to dish it out too, for she had a delightful sense of humor and served prosaic bits with just the right spice. Dell had never been pretty; her nose was irregular, her complexion of dubious texture and she was somewhat drab as to coloring; yet she was one of the most charming people I have ever met, rapier-keen, witty, and warmhearted. Her husband was Dell’s antithesis with a walrus moustache and heavyset frame - kind but boring. The sort that expects to be waited upon and pouts when left on the side-lines too long.
Dell was a born mixer and we loved to have her help us trim our Christmas tree but if her “Pettie” came along he was sure to hang a book on a twig and crash it or slip on an orange and completely side-track Dell’s attentions.