#2413: Willa Cather to Mary Virginia Boak Cather, [December 30, 1916]

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My Dearest Mother1;

The napkins are simply lovely—much the nicest ones I have, and I thank you so much for remembering Isabelle3. She was so pleased. She is going to use hers as do table-doylies, as she always has her little table set with doylies and without a table-cloth. It is less work for her and better suited to studio dinners. Isn't it funny; Isabelle, who always lived in such a substantial, well-ordered house with such solidity and regularity about it, really likes this studio sort of life. And I, who had to knock about for so long, love to run my apartment as me methodically and regularly as a well kept-house. It really means "success in life" to me to be able to do that. If I had to live in a studio apartment and eat in my parlor, it would just mean failure and wretchedness to me. Isabelle is poor this winter—Jan4 has lost his grand job tutoring the millionaire's children, for the children have been put in schools—so perhaps Isabelle pretends to like living in three rooms better than she does. Of course they are lovely rooms, with lovely things in them, and beautifully kept.

I took her napkins up to her on Xmas eve, as I was dining there. She had me and my friend Pitts Sanborn5 the musical critic, and Mr. Goehghan6 of Pittsburgh7, Jack's8 favorite teacher, you remember. She had cooked all the dinner herself right there in the tiny closet-kitchen opening off the parlor, and it was delicious; real tarrapin soup, a leg of mutton beautifully cooked, plain boiled potatoes in their skins, grapefruit salad, good wine, and for desert a chocolate cake bought 3at an excellent bakery. Very little, but everything the best of it's kind. After dinner she looked so tired that my heart ached for her.

She and Jan were here at the dinner we gave for Fremstad9, also Mr Mr. Sanborn. There was a blizzard that night, all the guests were late, and we[?] I had to carry coal all day and stoke the fires to get the house warm. I almost never had such a nice party. I got the flowers for the table fixed just right—one can't always get them just right—pale yellow roses and white nar narcissus in a white Japanese bowl. Your long table-cloth did service again. We had oysters on the half shell, soup, roast turkey and cranberries and canned pear, salad, and caramel ice-cream with freshly-made maringues. for[illegible]y Everybody was so gay and jolly. Fremstad insisted on singing a little although I have no piano. If I had a piano here, what wonderful music I could have sometimes!

Both last Friday and yesterday we had lots of people for tea—all we could make comfortable. So many old Pittsburgh friends are in town for the holidays. I have had a rushing week of it—have really neglected my work in a way that I don't often do. But The Hambourgs and Jack's professor and Sanborn are to dine here New Year's eve. The first of this week Edith10 had a dinner for some of her friends, and she was feeling so badly I had to manage it, and help Josephine11 with the table, and do the marketing. I always do the marketing and all the housekeeping when I am here. I like it, but it does take time, and now I've got behind with my book12 and and am getting nervous. I'm going to cut out parties for 5[?]the first two months of the New year.

Now, mother dear I must stop. But don't discourage Father13 in his Red Cross and Home Guards14, mother. Such work is very good for him and wakens him up. He won't be rash with contributions. If he is more interested than his sons15 it is to his credit, not to theirs, I am sure. But Jack is not interested in anything but the war, and I think Ross16 would be full of it if he were not kept pegging away pretty hard by his little family17. But it is a splendid thing for father, and I'd be awfully ashamed if he did not help all he can.

Goodbye now, dear mother. The struggle to get coal and sugar here now is awful. I spend whole afternoons trying to get a few bushels of coal. I hope you are warm and comfy down there, and that you get some comfort out of all your children18, for they all love you very dearly, and I know we grow closer together as we grow older, and will understand each other better every year. I send you a heartful of love, dear mother, and I am so pleased with the napkins.

Willie

This is a piece of the new dinner dress I am having made.

Mother and I send our best love to all of you. Please write soon.

Elsie Margaret.