“Fannie, I’m calling to warn you about Aunt Verla,” said Eleanor whispering into the phone.
“Eleanor, why are you whispering and what’s wrong with Aunt Verla?” I asked intrigued.
“I don’t want anyone to hear me. I’m at mom and dad’s. Mom and Aunt Verla just got back from an in-home demo party,” said Eleanor.
“Okay, so what’s the big deal?” I asked whispering back.
“They bought matching wigs. And not just any wigs, they went blond and they want everyone to guess who they look like,” she whispered, snorting to suppress the laughter. “Sorry about that.”
“Fannie, why are you whispering on the phone,” asked Richard walking into the kitchen.
“I’m on the phone with El and she says mom and Aunt Verla bought matching wigs,” I said whispering.
Shaking his head, Richard said, “I really don’t want to know.”
“It’s okay El, go ahead. What’s so special about these wigs that their undies are all in a bunch?”
“They bought The Betty White. Their clues are based on Sue Ann Nivens. Dad didn’t catch on and now he’s in the dog house. I don’t remember the Mary Tyler Moore show that well and it took me over an hour to figure it out,” she whispered. “You know how they can be and I guarantee Aunt Verla is on her way to your house next.”
“So how do they look as blonds?”
“It will take some getting used to, but in a word, saucy.”
“Oh boy, are you going to call Lenora Jane or shall I?”
“I’ve got it covered, Lenora Jane and Steve are out of town. I’m sending them a quick e-mail to let them know before they get back.”
“Sounds good. How much time do we have?”
“Maybe an hour,” said Eleanor.
“Want to go in and get gift certificates for wigs styling?” I asked smiling.
“Oh, count me in. Just let me know how much.”
“Stall Aunt Verla for about 20 minutes, that should give me enough of a head start.”
“You got it.”
“I’ll call you later,” I said hanging up the phone.
Walking into the living room, I said, “Richard, mom and Aunt Verla bought matching Betty White wigs. They are very excited about them. So excited, they are making people guess who they are.”
Richard looked at me mystified.
“I know,” I said. “Anyway, Eleanor tipped us off so we wouldn’t get caught off guard. I’m going to run over to Chantilly Manor and get a couple of gift certificates for wig styling. Can you wait here for Aunt Verla in case I’m delayed?”
“Trust me, there really is such a thing. It involves lots of hairspray.”
“Okay,” said Richard sounding doubtful.
“Do you mind?” I asked.
“I don’t get it, but if it will keep harmony in the family, I’m all over it.”
“Great, I’ll be right back,” I said heading for the garage. “Just remember, she’s Betty White.”
“Betty White, got it,” said Richard rolling his eyes.
One parking space remained outside of the pink and white building with the cursive sign reading Chantilly Manor. Wigs of every description graced the display windows draped with off-white lace. Large french doors with polished brass knobs crowned the entrance.
The buzz of two dozen women filled the lobby and salon. The smell of hair spray commingled with perfume.
“Fannie darling, I haven’t seen you in years,” said Suzy in her pink and white smock from behind the counter. “Your mom and aunt I see regularly. To what do we owe this unexpected pleasure?”
“Suzy, I’m on a mission and this is top secret,” I said walking up to the counter.
“Oh, we love top secret here, don’t we ladies. This sounds juicy, spill,” said Suzy batting her over sized black lashes at me.
The salon went silent as everyone nodded.
“My aunt is on her way over to my house as we speak. Eleanor tipped me off a few minutes ago that she and my mom each bought The Betty White,” I said.
“You don’t say,” said Suzy leaning forward. “It’s about time. I’ve been trying to convince them to go blond for years. So how can I help?”
“I would like to purchase two gift certificates for six wig stylings each, it would mean the world to them,” I said reaching for my wallet.
“Fannie darling, I’ve been working on them for twenty years to go blond,” she said. “I’ll make you a deal and only charge you half.” Pulling out the pink and gold embossed gift certificates she said “I can’t wait to see what they look like. And of all the wigs, The Betty White.” She nodded her approval.
Using her famous stylized calligraphy, Suzy filled out the certificates.
“Suzy, thank you, thank you, thank you, this will mean so much to them.”
Facing the crowd I said, “remember ladies, this is top secret.”
Suzy looked into the crowd and said with authority, “Trust me, no one will breath a word, or I will refuse to do their hair. You have my word on that.”
Pulling into the garage two minutes ahead of Aunt Verla’s arrival, I sealed the envelope with her gift certificate as the door bell rang.
“It’s a long way to Tipperary, it’s a long way to go. . .” sang Aunt Verla as I opened the door.
“Well if it isn’t Betty White in the flesh,” I said smiling. “Aunt Verla you look marvelous. Come in.”
Aunt Verla’s smile glowed like a neon light. She floated into the house.
“You know, Fannie, Betty White is my all time favorite actress. She’s an absolute renaissance woman and so saucy. I love her. When your mother and I went to Bessie’s wig party today, we had no idea she would have such a gem. You know Suzy at Chantilly Manor has been trying to turn us blond for years. Being blond is just so liberating. Imagine Suzy’s surprise when she finds out your mom and I each bought one,” said Aunt Verla pausing long enough to draw a breath. “Did your mom call you yet?”
“I haven’t talked to her since last night.”
“Excellent, I made her promise to wait until you saw me first,” said Aunt Verla. “You know, it took Eleanor over an hour to figure out who we were. I won’t even mention your father.”
“Imagine that.” I said, “you know it’s funny you should drop by because Eleanor and I got you and mom each a gift.” I handed her one of the envelopes. “We were going to save this for the next family party,” I said crossing my fingers behind my back, “but I think this occasion calls for it.”
Aunt Verla ripped open the envelope. Her lip quivered as she read the certificate and a tear rolled down her cheek. Hugging me she said, “Fannie, this is so marvelous, you have no idea what this means to your mother and me. Suzy is such an artist. We don’t know what we will do when she retires.”
“Well, based on how busy her salon is, I’m guessing it won’t be any time soon,” I said.
“Well, I’m on my way home, I can’t wait for your uncle to see me in this,” she said winking at me. “I’m going to call you mother after I get home so please don’t tie up the line to long,” she said walking out the door.
“I promise I won’t,” I said before closing the door. Running into the kitchen, I grabbed the phone and dialed Uncle Carl.
“Uncle Carl, it’s Fannie, I’m calling to warn you Aunt Verla bought The Betty White at Bessie’s party today. You will only get one shot to get it right.”
“Oh really,” said Uncle Carl sounding interested. “How does she look as a blond?”
“In a word, saucy,” I said smiling.
“Thanks for the letting me know.”
Hanging up with Uncle Carl, I dialed my mother.
“Fannie, I assume your aunt just left you,” said my mother.
“Yes, she did and she looks amazing. She practically floated in here.”
“I was dying to call you but Verla made me promise to wait for your call,” she said. “You know Eleanor was here when we got home. I’m sure Verla told you it took her over an hour to figure who we were.”
“Yes she did,” I said laughing.
“So how long did it take you to figure it out?”
“Come on, she sang, ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’, when I opened the door. How much more of a clue do I need?” I asked lying through my teeth and silently thanking Eleanor for the tip. “Mom I also want to let you know, Eleanor and I got you and Aunt Verla each a gift certificate from Chantilly Manor for six wig stylings. We were going to give them to you and Aunt Verla at the next party, but seeing as how you are both styling with Ms. White, I will drop it by when I’m over next. I gave Aunt Verla hers before she left.”
I could hear a choked sob through the phone.
“Mom, are you all right?”
“Fannie, you girls are so thoughtful. Thank you. I bet Suzy will be shocked when we come in next,” she said laughing. “She’s been trying to get us to go blond for almost twenty years. Well, I shouldn’t keep you on the phone, I can practically feel Verla burning through the phone line to call me with the news.”
The phone contacted the base unit and rang.
“Fannie, it’s Eleanor, I’m outside mom and dad’s how did it go with Aunt Verla? I’m dying to know.”
“If you hadn’t called me, it would have taken me a long time to figure it out. Besides the shock of seeing her as a blond without warning would have thrown me off my game.”
“I know. So how did the gift certificate go over?” asked Eleanor.
“They both cried. I told them we bought the certificates to give to them at the next family party. The best part is, Suzy was so thrilled they bought The Betty White, she threw in three free stylings for each of them. She also promised not to rat us out.”
“And she threatened to stop working on anyone who might spill the beans to mom and Aunt Verla.”
“Whoa,” said Eleanor in disbelief.
“I also tipped off Uncle Carl so he wouldn’t end up in the dog house like dad.”
“What did he think about it?” asked Eleanor.
“I got the impression he was pretty thrilled.”
“Don’t say another word or I’ll have to stick my fingers in my ears,” she said laughing. “I don’t want that image in my head.”
“You’re the one who said they looked saucy.”