"I been through some junk. It ain't all been peaches and cream." —Timbaland
Mary Sue’s princess training began back in the Sixties when Heloise was the self-anointed Kitchen Queen, the Dr. Oz of housewifery. While Mary Sue read and recited Heloise to anyone with ears including her cockatoo, I tried to memorize Peg Bracken’s book, I Hate to Housekeep Book. Heloise wrote about bake day bliss; Peg’s chapters included: Dinner Will Be Ready As Soon As I Figure Out What to Cook. Peg was my kind of woman.
Mary Sue quoted Heloise’s every syllable. No matter how ridiculous the hint, Mary Sue’s excitement morphed into a human version of Secretariat, snorting and stomping at the kitchen door with foam gathering around the spoon bit in her mouth.
“I just learned about pants creasers. Do you know about them?” She was so worked up I thought maybe she’d just discovered the multiple orgasm.
“FYI, Mary Sue. My pants don’t need help getting creased,” I said.
She reached across the kitchen table and brushed S’mores crumbs from the front of my coffee-stained T-shirt. She sighed. “Oh girlfriend, you’ve just gotta buy you some. I’ll even remind you to run the pants in the dryer for ten minutes before putting them on the creasers.”
I rolled my eyes. “And I should do that because?”
“Becaauseee … it removes wrinkles so you won’t have to iron the pants, you silly thing.”
“Give me a freakin’ break, Mary Sue. Babe would sooner spread his pants down on hot pavement and run over them with the car than trust me with a hot iron.”
Her fascination with Heloise kept her off the streets and for that, her husband Earle was grateful. He was patient all the while she spouted daily hints as though quoting scripture.
“Thou hamburger patties shall have no frayed edges,” she told me once. “If thou uses a number two and a half can to pull them into shape. Amen.”
I got up and began to search inside closets and under beds for the candid camera.
Mary Sue’s dedication eventually took on a devotion more suited to a monk. Mantovani background music played as she read her housekeeping Bible. She would open the book at random and whichever hint her finger landed became her personal message.
“Save those peach pits,” the Kitchen Queen proclaimed to her one morning. “When placed under pillows, your guests will enjoy sweet smelling dreams.”
Mary Sue felt as though she had hit the jackpot, the loving cup, the mother lode. She dashed to the Piggly-Wiggly, bought four-bushel baskets of peaches and proceeded to go peach pit crazy. What her family didn’t eat, she froze. Ten years later, she served spiked punch at her daughter’s wedding reception, fermented from those leftover peaches. It wasn’t half bad as I recall.
Grinning like Julia Roberts, she announced, “I put a hundred peach pits under my pillows.”
I seriously wondered how long her coffee had been laced with peach schnapps.
“Mary Sue, if I put peach pits under my pillows as you suggest, will it remove Plantar's warts and nose hair? Help me out, here. Give me one good reason to think that you and your peach pits are not tooling down a squirrelly highway on your way to the Cracker Factory.
“Heloise says it’s the best method of freshening pillows.”
“Uh, Mary Sue? You don’t have a hundred pillows in your house, do you””
She leaned toward me, her eyes dancing like Peter Pan on crack. As if she were about to impart the meaning of life, she said, “I like being prepared.”
Mary Sue’s peach pits eventually lounged forgotten under the guest room pillows, abandoned that is, until Earle’s boss, the honcho of honchos, showed up from NYC for an overnight visit.
Mary Sue and Earle wined and dined him royally. She cooked one of Heloise’s best recipes and even shamed the Yankee boss into eating okra.
After dinner, Blotto Boss staggered upstairs and turned down the covers. When he began to fluff his pillow, a nest of forgotten peach pits began to rock and roll. Being from the North, he naturally assumed that they were cockroaches and he freaked. Reeling backwards, he stumbled into an heirloom lamp. The light sputtered and crashed, further terrifying the man.
Earle and Mary Sue rushed upstairs and found him huddled in a dark corner sucking his thumb and crying for his mama.
Mary Sue wrote a nasty letter to Heloise blaming her harebrained peach pit idea, not only for the entire incident but also for Earle’s subsequent unemployment. She didn’t mention his need for long-term therapy.
Ever creatively gracious, Heloise replied. “Life is the pits, Toots. Get over it and move on.”