Mrs. Everything - Jennifer Weiner Page 0,2

help separate the white clothes from the colored ones, down in the basement, and hand her mother clothespins from the Maxwell House coffee can when her mother hung the wet wash on the rotating aluminum hanger in their backyard. On Wednesdays, Mommy would iron, and Bethie would hold the bottles of water and starch, and would sometimes be allowed to spritz the clothes. Mommy would lick the tip of her finger and touch it lightly to the iron, listening for the hiss to see if it was hot enough, but Bethie wasn’t allowed to touch the iron, not ever. The radio played in the kitchen all day long, usually big-band music and also the news on WJBK, “the sound of radio in Detroit, fifteen hundred on your dial.” Thursdays were marketing. Mommy would push a wheeled metal cart two blocks up to Rochester Avenue, where they would get a chicken or steak or chops at the kosher butchers and dish soap at the five-and-dime. Bethie would follow along, one hand on the side of the cart, watching her mommy squeeze tomatoes and sniff cantaloupes and lift up a plucked chicken’s wing to peer underneath, always with a suspicious look on her face, like the foods were trying to trick her. Everyone smiled at Bethie, and pinched her cheeks, and said what a pretty, well-behaved girl she was. Bethie would smile, and Mommy would sigh, probably thinking about Jo, who was a Trial.

Fridays were Bethie’s favorite, because Fridays were Shabbat. For breakfast on Fridays, Bethie’s mother would use a juice glass to cut out a hole in the middle of a slice of bread. “Wonder Bread builds strong bodies eight ways,” Buffalo Bob would say to the kids on The Howdy Doody Show. He’d tell them to make sure that their kitchen had the bread with the red, yellow, and blue balloons, but at Bethie’s house they ate the bread that Zayde gave them, bread that he’d baked at the bakery where he worked. Mommy would spread margarine on both sides of the slice, then put it into the frying pan, where it would sizzle. On the best days, there’d be a new package of margarine, and Bethie would be allowed to break the capsule of yellow dye and squish it all around until all the margarine was yellow-colored. She’d watch Mommy’s hands as she’d crack an egg on the side of the pan and drop it neatly into the hole in the bread. The egg would cook, the bread circle would get toasty-brown, and Sarah would shout for Jo to make her bed and wash her face and come to the table, she was already late. When Jo finally took her seat, the eggs and bread would go onto the plates, and the browned bread circle would sit on top of the egg. That was an egg with a top hat.

When breakfast was finished, and dishes and juice glasses had been washed and put in the drainer to dry, Mommy would make a lunch for Jo to take to school, and Bethie would change out of her flannel nightgown, folding it under her pillow for the coming night. She’d make her bed and get dressed, and her mommy would zip her dress and do her hair. Bethie would hold perfectly still while Sarah combed, parting her hair down the center and dividing it into pigtails, tying them with ribbons to match Bethie’s dress. She would watch her mother pull the curlers from her own hair, until rows of shiny brown ringlets hung on each side of her face, before she combed the curls into waves and sprayed them stiff. Mommy would put on a dress and clip nylon stockings to her garters. She would puff perfume out of an atomizer and step through the mist, explaining, “You never put perfume right on your skin, you just mist and step through.” Sometimes, when Sarah wasn’t watching, Bethie would run through the leftover mist of Soir de Paris, hoping to smell as good as her mommy.

At ten o’clock in the morning, Mae would come. Mae was old, probably forty, but her mother called Mae “the Girl.” Mae called her mother “ma’am.” Mae had dark skin, a golden brown that was dotted with darker brown moles, and her eyebrows were plucked to skinny arches that she darkened with black pencil. Her hair was shiny and black and lay in gleaming waves against her head and cheeks. Mae would tune the radio to WJLB