Mim had so recently recovered from her struggle with anxiety that I dreaded another downturn when I told her about her father’s illness. At first she said nothing. Then she started to pace the room, an old habit of hers.
Finally she turned and faced me. “Why didn’t my mother tell me sooner? I would have come with you,” she said. “Florrie, is he really at death’s door?”
“I honestly don’t know,” I told her.
Mim called her Uncle Hermann in Portland. Hermann was Julius’s younger brother and the partner in the print shop, so that made good sense. I don’t know what her advised her, but the situation changed the next day, when Mim got a belated birthday card from her parents. In 1925, the mail from Paris took forever to arrive, since there was no transatlantic air mail service then.
The birthday card included a lengthy letter from Lillian describing Julius’s condition. Her parents were leaving Paris for the south of France, where the climate would be better, and the spas at Amélie les Bains were reputed to help with respiratory ailments. They promised to write with a permanent address once they got settled.
Mim’s father added this postscript in cramped and shaky handwriting:
Do not trouble your heart, my dear Miss Marmalade. I think of you with great fondness. Kiss your children for me, as I kissed you, with a parent’s love.
Mim bit her lip and reached for a handkerchief. “Miss Marmalade. I haven’t heard that nickname in years.” She resolved to send her parents a letter every week instead of once a month. And then she took me by the shoulders and announced that we had to visit Portland that year.
It was a lovely thought, then reality set in. Months flew by. Julius and Lillian had taken up residence at a hotel near a spa, and Julius seemed to rally. Ephraim and I surprised Mim the following Valentine’s Day with arrangements for the whole family and me to visit Portland in June. I did help financially. Well, I was practically an aunt to Rachel and Paul, and I wanted them to see where Mim was born.
Mim’s Uncle Hermann and Aunt Sophie insisted that we stay with them in Mim’s old house. Ephraim’s two grown nephews were in Seattlethey’d set up a clothing business thereand his niece, Bella, shared her bedroom with me. She was about 19 then, with a good head on her shoulders. I think she went into journalism later. Mim’s cousin Albert was away at the University of Oregon in Eugene, and Albert’s younger brother, Nathan, attended Lincoln High School. Neither boy had any interest in the printing business.
Mim announced to the family that she was pregnant again, due this time about New Year’s Eve. I had guessed as much. She had that look. I worried that she’d miscarry again, but I never told her that. Her uncle inquired about a family heirloom.
“I still have that prayer shawl,” she told him. And everything I told you about what happened to me in 1912, really did happen.”
He shook his head and smiled.
Portland was delightful. The children adored the Rose Festival parade despite the rain. We visited the art museum and walked along the south Park blocks. We admired the granite staircase in the new library that had been built right after we left, and the new Burnside Bridge that had just opened. Mim showed me the millinery shop where she’d met the Osborne sisters, who got her involved with the woman suffrage campaign. The new owner told us that they had moved to Montana.
On the way home, Mim said, “I wonder what I’d be doing now if I’d never printed the vote for justice card and argued with Papa.”
I asked her if she regretted losing her wealthy lifestyle and whatever financial interest she might have had in her father’s print shop.
She straightened the brim of her hat. “Not for one minute, Florrie,” she told me. “Not for one single minute.”
The day before we left, Mim and I went to the Beth Israel cemetery. We visited my parents’ graves and then found the headstone for her brother Danny.
She asked me if I remembered the story of the love between the steadfast tin soldier and the ballerina.
“Of course,” I said. “Danny was always pretending to be that soldier, off on adventures.”
“Then you’ll understand,” she said. She took a paper ballerina from her purse and showed me what she’d written on the doll. She put a smooth round stone as a remembrance on Danny’s grave, and placed the ballerina under the stone.
The note on the ballerina read:
I will love you always.