Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Anastasia at This Address

By Lois Lowry. Published 1991.

Anastasia, you are looking fierce in that cow sweater
Anastasia’s looking for love, y’all. By way of the classified ads. Once Awesome Dad explains all the abbreviations, like SWM, to her, she thinks it’s cool, like a code. She decides to write to SWM, 28, boyish charm, inherited wealth, looking for tall young woman, nonsmoker, to share Caribbean vacation, reruns of Casablanca, and romance. Hell, sounds good to me. Anastasia’s not worried about the thirteen year age difference; her parents are ten years apart, after all. So she writes her letter, and signs it SWIFTY (Single White Intelligent Female: Tall Young).

To get Awesome Parents prepared for the influx of letters she’s sure will be coming, Anastasia first tells them her new nickname is Swifty. Because she’s so swift at diagramming sentences. Obviously. And she also tells them she has a pen pal, who calls her by said nickname.

Anastasia’s friend Sonya decides to give up the pursuit of men. She thinks it will give her more time, to cure cancer or something. The other girls agree to do the same. This is especially good in Crazy Daphne’s case; she’s been a freaking stalker, following her crush around, and has a list of where he is at all moments. At least she hasn’t mowed a swastika in his yard. Anastasia thinks they should change it to boys, however. That gets her off the hook for pursuing SWM, since he’s a man.

She has not heard from him yet, however, so she decides to write him again. This time, SWIFTY is Single Waiting Impatient Female: Tall Young.

At dinner, she looks at Awesome Parents and decides marriage takes up even more valuable time. So she announces she has renounced marriage. Awesome Mom only cares that she hasn’t renounced dishwashing.

Anastasia’s friend Meredith calls with super exciting news. Her sister Kirsten is getting married soon, and her fiancĂ©’s sisters who were supposed to be bridesmaids, both got pregnant and their dresses won’t fit. So Kirsten wants Meredith and her friends to be junior bridesmaids. I don’t know why getting four new dresses is better than making the original dresses to fit the pregnant women, but whatever. Awesome Mom points out Anastasia has renounced marriage. But that’s marriage, not weddings.

Anastasia writes another Swifty letter. Solitary Wistful Impatient Female: Tall Young.

But he finally does reply! Kind of. He’s written a form letter, because he got 416 replies to his ad. He enjoyed reading all the letters, including the person who wrote three times! So he would like them all to send him a picture, to help narrow them down. He does say he’s not interested in the woman who raises Siamese cats, or the woman who lives in Alaska. He is very interested in the person who has her own sloop. And his name is Septimus Smith. That reminds me of SeptimusBean. I loved the shit out of that book.

Anastasia has to ask Awesome Mom what a sloop is to find out it’s a type of boat. Sam has a toy one. Anastasia makes a deal with him. She’ll trade something he’s always wanted, one bath with no soap with Frank the goldfish, in exchange for the sloop. Sam readily agrees. So Anastasia can write back to Septimus that she also has a sloop. And she’ll send a picture with her next letter. Sloop-owner Writing Increasingly Frequently To You.

Meredith gathers the girls to discuss a moral dilemma. There are four unaddressed invitations. There will be dancing at the wedding, and no boys the girls’ age. So Meredith was wondering if they should sacrifice their principles for one day and invite the boys the girls were previously chasing. They decide it’s not exactly chasing them, and it would help out the wedding for them to have someone to dance with. They don’t want the wedding to be a flop.

Sam desperately wants his sloop back, but Anastasia says they traded fair and square. He offers to pay her, but it’s a no-go.

Anastasia read in Cosmo that you should leave your man slightly mystified at all times. One hint they suggest is to send yourself flowers, and place them somewhere conspicuous, like an occasional table. Anastasia doesn’t know what an occasional table is, but whatevs. So she writes Septimus a new letter, but tells him just to consider it as page two of her previous letter. She tells him how she will be very busy with social events the first week of May, and she thought about this while sitting at her occasional table, admiring flowers she received. Sloop-owner With Innumerable Flowers: Tall Young.

She realizes she really has to do something about the photograph problem. She goes through a bunch of her pictures, but she doesn’t look mature enough in any of them. Then she finds a picture of Awesome Mom at twenty-two.  She looks a lot like Anastasia, just older. She feels a little guilty, but realizes Septimus only asked for a photograph, not necessarily a photograph of yourself. Nice loophole. She signs this letter So: What is Forthcoming To Yours-truly?

Kirsten has been getting an insane amount of woks as wedding presents. Sam finds the word hilarious, and uses it in place of other words in mildly racist jokes, like “Why did the Chinese lady have a wedding? To wok down the aisle!” Awesome Parents join in with their own. Anastasia’s friends even start using it, then everyone does. I’m not sure how I feel about this.

Kirsten briefly, but seriously, reconsiders getting married after they apply for the license, where she learns Jeff’s middle name is Neptune.

The girls will be receiving pearl earrings as gifts from Kirsten. But they’re for pierced ears, which Anastasia doesn’t have. It’s all good, though, Awesome Mom said she can get them done. But she makes Awesome Dad laugh by telling him she’s going to get a lobotomy. She says a lobe hole is practically the same thing.

Anastasia finally hears back from Septimus! And it’s a real letter this time! He is only responding to two people, the two with the sloops. He wants to hear more about hers. He would like to know the origin of Swifty. He wonders if she’s a doctor, because of her handwriting. He likes that she lives in Boston. The other sloop lady is from California. He’ll actually be in Boston in early May, but since she’s busy then, they’ll have to meet some other time. He liked her photograph. He got three X-rated ones. He doesn’t work; it takes a lot of time to manage his portfolio. Anastasia thinks he means like an artist’s portfolio, like Awesome Mom’s. But Awesome Mom explains what he means.

Anastasia writes back, telling him her sloop is made of wood, and painted red. She is not a doctor; she is sort of a scholar. Scholar With Interesting Future: Tall Young.

Anastasia goes to the wedding rehearsal, and the usher she’s paired with to walk down the aisle is Meredith’s uncle Tim. Anastasia’s cool with it, he’s tall and handsome. He seems a bit bored with a middle-schooler, though. At the dinner, Anastasia has a revelation in how to make grown-up conversation. You just ask them something about themselves and they’ll talk about it. Very good, Anastasia. During his toast, Jeff promises never to use his middle name. Uncle Tim wonders what it is, so Anastasia tells him. They have a very serious discussion over names. Anastasia assumes his full name is Timothy, but it’s not. Tim is short for Septimus. Septimus Smith. Oh shit.

Anastasia tries to get her parents to skip the wedding; she doesn’t want Septimus recognizing her mother from the photo. Doesn’t work, though. And then she has a letter from him, telling her her address is very close to where he’ll be staying, so he invites himself over on Sunday afternoon. Pretty damn pushy there, Septimus.

Anastasia writes him a letter that night, confessing everything, but she didn’t mail it yet. Signed, Stupid Weird Idiotic Female: Too Young.

The next day, the wedding starts off perfectly. Unfortunately, the word walk is used in the ceremony quite a bit. First, Daphne can’t help but say wok under her breath. Then the bride and groom do it. Then the whole wedding party. The guests hear it, and start laughing every time walk is said.

At the reception, the boys don’t dance with Anastasia and her friends at all. Awesome Mom says she should have known that; seventh-grade boys never dance. Awesome Mom also tells her that Uncle Tim kept looking at her very knowingly, and he started to come up to her a few times, but he creeped her out, so she’d move away. But she could swear he said “I’ll see you tomorrow” on the way out.

Anastasia asks if they can go out to lunch the day, and then take Sam to the children’s museum. Awesome Parents, because they are awesome, agree. So, that crisis appears to be diverted.

On the way to bed, she stops in Sam’s room, and tells a sleepy Sam that she wants to sell him his sloop back. He doesn’t want to, but she insists. So he tells her she has to pay him to take it back.

Up in her room, Anastasia tears up the letter she hadn’t sent yet, and writes a new one. She apologizes for not being home when he came by. But she has to end their correspondence, due to after effects of a lobotomy making her realize she’s not ready for a relationship. And she has sold her sloop. Signed, Someday-When I’m Fourteen…? Thank You.

o   I love where Anastasia’s mind goes. She wonders about nuns going to art school, to learn how to draw saints and stuff. Then she imagines them going to a Life class, where there are naked people, and gets all grossed out. She thinks there must be art schools all over the country filled with unconscious nuns on stretchers.

o   Example of Awesome Dad’s awesomeness: He happily cuts Sam a square piece of roast for the caboose of a carrot train, and suggests digging through a potato for a tunnel.

o   Kirsten takes the girls to Friendly’s. Holy shit, I miss Friendly’s. Best sundaes ever.

o   Only one more Anastasia book left. Boo.

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