Sunday mornings were Tulip O'Brien's favorite part of the week. She and Mom and Gran always went to church. It was the only day of the week that Gran didn't wear her blue jeans. Mom wore her usual work clothes; pants and a blouse with a sweater or jacket. She said the Good Lord didn't notice how you were dressed. But Tulie and Gran thought that He did. They wore dresses and hats. Gran wore gloves too, even during the summer. She said that she didn't care if the world's standards were slipping, she wasn't going to go along with it.
They always hurried home to eat lunch quickly since Mom had to be at Wal-Mart for the Sunday afternoon shift. So by the time the doorbell rang at one o'clock, Tulie had dried the dishes, changed her clothes and was in her usual jeans and sweatshirt. Brenda and Freddie were both standing on the front porch, just as they did every Sunday, waiting to join Tulie in whatever adventure she had planned for them.
“Hi, Tulie,” they said in unison as they came in, took off their jackets and hung them up on the funny old hat stand that stood in the front hall right next to the big grandfather clock that really had belonged to Gran's grandfather.
“Let's go up to my room, I've got something really neat to show you,” Tulie said.
“Isn't the Chinese girl coming over?” asked Freddie. “I can't wait to meet her. I've seen the movie, ÔKing and I' so many times that I'll have a lot in common with her.
“That was about Siam, Freddie, not China,” corrected Tulie. “There's no such place as Siam any more. It's called Thailand today. And besides, Winsome's from San Francisco, not China, anyway. She's very trendy.”
“Trendy?” Suddenly Brenda was even more interested in their new neighbor. “I thought you said she would be wearing a silk kimono.”
“Kimonos are Japanese, Brenda, not Chinese,” Tulie explained as she led them up the stairs. “Everybody knows that.”
“Yeah, Brenda, everybody knows that,” Freddie said with a chuckle and Brenda winked at him behind Tulie's back.
Tulie's bedroom was on the second floor at the back of the house. Two tall windows with sheer ruffled curtains looked out into the branches of the big maple tree and opened onto the roof of the back porch. Even though she wasn't allowed to do it, Tulie often climbed out onto the roof on warm summer nights and watched for shooting stars, ready to make a wish if she saw one. The bedroom furniture had belonged to Gran when she was a teen-ager. There was a pretty white vanity, bed and table trimmed with scrolls and curlicues and little stencils of roses. There was rickety desk and on it, an old portable typewriter that Tulie hoped was going to be replaced with a computer this Christmas. A bookshelf that Mom had built out of planks and orange crates was so full of books that they spilled out onto the floor. Her room had also been Mom's room when she was a teen-ager and hadn't been redecorated since. That was okay with Tulie because nobody cared that she and Freddie had painted a mural on one wall last summer. They used acrylics and created a scene with flamingoes standing in a lake that had an island in the middle. On the island was a white fairytale castle. They'd copied it from a picture of one built by Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria. Tulie was sure he was one King who had an imagination every bit as good as hers.
“Are we going to play Monopoly?” Freddie asked.
“Not if you're going to be banker and try to steal money like the last time,” warned Brenda.
“We can't play Monopoly because I lost all the hotels somewhere,” Tulie confessed. “But I've got something for us to do anyway. Something different.”
“What?” asked Freddie and Brenda at the same time.
Tulie went to the bookshelf and brought the shoebox to the center of the room where Brenda and Freddie were sitting cross-legged on the braided rug. She sat down and placed the box on the floor, but she didn't open it. Not right away. Tulie liked to make a production of everything she did.
“What do you suppose is in this box that I found in the attic?” she asked, placing her hands on the lid like a magician about to produce a rabbit out of a hat.
“Well, it's not a pair of shoes, I bet,” said Freddie.
“It could be, though,” said Brenda. “It could be a pair of antique shoes. Maybe those old fashioned high-button kind. Or it could be ballet slippers, orÉ”
“Well, it's not,” interrupted Tulie as she very, very slowly lifted the lid off the box and revealed its contents to Brenda and Freddie who leaned in for a closer look.
“Oh, they're just some old paper dolls,” said Freddie.
“Yes, they were my Gran's when she was our age. She says kids then used to call them cut-outs and collect them. At first, I thought they were dumb, but now I don't. In fact, I think they are more fun than Monopoly any old day.”
“But you said that Monopoly was more fun than anything, including watching TV,” Freddie reminded her. Tulie gave Freddie the narrow-eyed look that reminded him she did not like to be reminded of some things.
“Can we play with them?” asked Brenda.
“I'll show them to you,” said Tulie, reaching into the box and picking up a little cardboard figure. She put a paper dress on it by folding the tabs over the shoulders. “Look at this beautiful dress trimmed with flowers.”
“That is gorgeous!” declared Brenda, and Tulie knew her show-and-tell was over as her friend began rummaging in the box herself. “Here's a Hawaiian outfit with a grass skirt.”
Freddie just watched. Tulie could tell he wanted to look more closely but was embarrassed because boys weren't supposed to be interested in dolls, paper or otherwise.
The doorbell rang. They knew it had to be Winsome Lee arriving and listened to the front door opening and the murmur of voices as Gran greeted her.
“Tulie! Winsome is here,” shouted Gran from the bottom of the stairs.
“Wait here, I'll bring her right up,” Tulie said as she jumped up and ran down the stairs. She wanted to make an entrance with her at her new friend at her side.
When Tulie came back upstairs with Winsome, she could see Brenda and Freddie were very surprised. No wonder. Nobody in Garfield, Ohio looked like that. It wasn't just that there weren't any Chinese people in Garfield. It was that there wasn't anybody who dressed like that. Winsome was wearing a pink suede mini-skirt trimmed with fringe, a pale pink blouse with ruffles all down the sleeves, a vest embroidered with mirrors, dark pink tights and a pair of very fancy cowgirl boots that were pink, too.
“Like, hi. I'm Winsome,” she said with a bright smile and a tilt of her head. “You must be Brenda and Freddie. Tulie told me all about you yesterday. It's way cool to meet you. I know we're going to have fun just hanging. I'm like, so happy to have friends before school starts tomorrow. I'm so, like, totally lucky to live in the same house as Tulie. She must be the most popular girl in the whole school! Of course, it will be fun to meet all your cool friends. I can't wait Ôtil tomorrow. I just totally love school, don't you?”
Brenda and Freddie looked at Tulie for help.
Tulie just smiled. “I've told Winsome I'll be taking good care of her tomorrow and make sure that her first day at James Thurber Middle goes smoothly.”
Winsome looked around the room. “This house is so cool. It's like, really old. Tulie told me Queen Victoria or somebody practically lived here. In San Francisco we lived in a condo in a new building, but I think this is going to be much more fun. I'm totally thrilled with my room. Tulie told me she picked out the color just for me. How did she know I'm crazy about pink? Like, I wear it all the time! I'm like, the Diva of Pink, can't you tell? Hello? ”
Tulie pretended she hadn't heard and also pretended she didn't notice the looks Brenda and Freddie exchanged.
Then Winsome noticed the box on the floor and the paper dolls strewn around it. “Oh, you guys were like, playing with paper dolls? Can I see them?” She kneeled down and began to inspect the little figures and their clothes.
Tulie, Freddie and Brenda joined her on the floor and soon they were all dressing, undressing and redressing the paper dolls, talking non-stop all the while.
“Did you ever see any stage shows when you lived in San Francisco, Winsome?” Freddie asked.
“Like, sure. I saw ÔPhantom of the Opera ' on stage twice.”
“Are there lots of trendy shops there?” Brenda asked.
”Awesome shops, totally awesome. I don't like shopping in the big stores, do
you? I think it's like, way cooler to find things in street markets and kind of put yourself together in your own totally personal style, don't you, Brenda?”
Tulie could see that Brenda would just go on talking about fashion all
day and it looked like Winsome would do the same. “Well, she doesn't live in San Francisco now,” Tulie said to Brenda and Freddie. “I'm sure Winsome would rather hear about Garfield.”
“What's so great about Garfield?” asked Brenda.
“Well, it's very historical for one thing. Why, before there was even a town here, Johnny Appleseed walked barefoot through our valley and planted lots of those trees of his. And Garfield has the best Fourth of July parade of any town around here, that's for sure. And I'm certain the pizza in California isn't as good as Mrs. Mancini makes down at the ÔPizza Oven.' Why, I bet Winsome has never done anything as exciting as riding an innertube down Minnewawa Creek!”
Tulie knew she could go on and on talking about all kinds of stuff. She also knew she was not going to talk about being one of the most popular kids in school. Or the color pink, either.