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February 11, 1913

Cracker Jacks

I was a silly little girl when it came to Daniel. As I pressed his most recent letter to my chest, I just couldn’t keep my joy inside.

“He’ll be here in three weeks, Molly. Three weeks!”

Molly lips worked to keep in her smile, but her eyes gave away her pleasure in my good news. “I’m sure we’ll all be relieved when he’s arrived safely, Miss Hartigan.” 

“I think I’m going to burst with happiness,” I said. “I can’t contain it. You know what this means, Molly?”

“I should get my coat?”

“Yes!  We must go shopping. I can’t have Daniel see me in this old thing.” 

Molly’s eyes rolled slightly as she took in my long sleeved, one-piece, blue silk dress with a tiny waist and lots of lace trim. It wasn’t old by any stretch of the imagination, but a girl must shop when a girl must shop!

Even though Molly was my maid, I preferred taking her shopping as opposed to calling up a friend. With a friend, there was always an unspoken competition—who will find the most exquisite dress or hat first, and more importantly, who will look the best in it. I didn’t have to face those stresses with Molly. She, of course, never tried anything on, and her dress searches were purely for my benefit. Reading this over I see how conceited this sounds. Molly not only comes with no strings attached, she’s also great company. And I think she enjoys the outing, so there is some benefit to her as well.

I announced my news to Father and he just shook his head with a grin. “One might freeze to death in pursuit of the perfect frock.” His English accent was like a warm honey to my ears. I could easily slip into the English accent and back to an American one, depending on whose company I kept. It could be confusing to people though, so I chose to stick with the local accent. And as they say, when in Rome. . .

“Oh, Father! It's cold, but not so cold to keep us indoors.”

Father instructed our new driver, a Mr. McDoogle recently of Ireland, to bring around a carriage and to kindly heat it up with a bucket of hot coals beforehand. 

“Where to miss?” McDoogle asked with thick rolling of the ‘r’.  He was a rotund man with ruddy red cheeks partially covered with dark mutton chops sideburns. He wore a bowler hat, scarf and wool coat along with tall boots. He offered a gloved-hand and helped me and Molly climb in.

“Filenes on Washington Street, please.”

I gave McDoogle instructions to pick us up again at the very same spot in two hours, then grabbed Molly by the arm. Our breath came out in white bursts and we hurried inside the store.

“You must be my objective observer,” I said, once we were safely out of the bitter weather. “The store clerks only tell you what they think you want to hear in order to make a sale.”

“I’ll do my best, Miss Hartigan, however, as you know, I’m not up on what’s fashionable.”

“But you have good instincts,” I insisted. “Anyway, you know me and what I like.”

“Thank you, miss.”

It was very difficult to decide and I actually got tired of trying things on. In the end I did find a spectacular wide-brim hat trimmed with a broad white silk ribbon, and the glimmer of approval in Molly’s eye confirmed I’d made the right choice.

Outside on the sidewalk, tucked in a small alcove, was a boy bundled up against the cold and selling candy.

“Oh, look, Molly,” I said. “Cracker Jacks. Baseball fans adore them. Have you ever had a box?” I pointed to the colourful package with the image of a small boy in a sailor’s outfit with his little dog.

“No, Miss Hartigan. I haven’t had the pleasure.” 

“It’s popcorn and peanuts coated in caramel,” I explained. “They started putting prizes in them now, instead of coupons.” I dug through the popcorn until I found the small toy. “It’s a cat charm. How sweet. Louisa will love it. Oh, I better buy a box for her, or she’ll never forgive me.”

Molly ate as politely as a person could while eating sticky popcorn. “It’s very good, Miss Hartigan,” she said. “The name of it is in that tune they play on the radio.” 

Like school girls we broke out in song:

Take me out to the ball game,

Take me out with the crowd;

Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack,

I don't care if I never get back.

Let me root, root, root for the home team,

If they don't win, it's a shame.

For it's one, two, three strikes, you're out,

At the old ball game.

“Oh Molly,” I said after a fit of laughter. “It reminds me of Daniel and the time we went to the ball game at Fenway park!”

Molly smiled with a look of sympathy in her eyes. “It’s going to be a very long three weeks for you, isn’t it Miss Hartigan?”

“I do believe you’re right, Molly,” I said with a sigh. 

McDoogle arrived on time and I handed him my large hat box before accepting his help to climb in the carriage.

I was right about Louisa. She went mad, as Father would say, when I presented the box of Cracker Jacks.

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