Nils Peterson: Talk in the Reading Room
About Nils Peterson

 The Reading Room
 Xmas Eve at the Big House 
 Christmas Mysteries 
Summers in Long Island 
 Father Arrives in the    Triumphal Car 
 Yankee Stadium Gone 
 A Thing of Beauty 
 Learning From My Father 
 Learning From My Mother 
The Bus


 Next Stop 
 Going to College
 My Lecture on Romanticism 
 A Story 
 Go Way From My Window 
• Singing in the Rain 
 On the Nature of Exposition 
 A Latin Class
 A Hero's Life
 Letter to Paul Cantrell
• Homecoming 
 The Moon and the Bulldozer



They’ve made me wear a sport jacket, I don’t think a tie, but I am neat. I go down the stairs from the chauffeur’s flat on top of the garage, across the driveway to the path leading to the big house — crunch of gravel, full moon shining between tree branches, lingering smell of burnt leaves, feel of tended grass — to the kitchen door where Marie, the cook, my father’s cousin, and my Godmother, waits to let me in. Anet is there, the downstairs maid, and Martha, the upstairs maid. They are “the girls,” all Swedish like my father, mother and me, though I am not quite as Swedish, since I was born in Plainfield, New Jersey.

Anet escorts me through her pantry with its jars of exquisite, thin cookies ready to be set out for the Lady’s tea, past the dining room where the great table lies polished and waiting, past the tall gilt panel, taller than my father, with its shining picture of the Chinaman, stoop-shouldered, with a staff, yet looking ever so wise through his fading paint. Now through the hall where the great clock stands beneath the stair with the moving moon and a ship going up and down with the waves of time. Now past the office where in the day Mrs. DeForest’s secretary deals with her correspondence. On the right, the entrances to the great living room and the conservatory with the grand piano on which Mrs. DeForest plays something tuneless called Bach.

 Anet leads me to the front hall, to the little alcove before the main door. There is a chair for me and something for the trick-or-treaters. I can’t remember what. Maybe apples from the trees on the property, perhaps some candy, but if so, not the regular kind wrapped in bright papers and bought at the five-and-dime. I am to sit there and answer the door and give whatever was to be given.

In truth there aren’t many calls. None from Lake Street where the blacks live. Hillside Avenue is not a good street for trick-or-treating, too few houses, too much street. Yet, I longed to be out costumed and carrying a paper bag, my big father walking behind me, or maybe mother, who, if we could have gone to the right neighborhood, would have been in costume too and have her own paper bag.

When it seems sure there would be no more visitors, Anet will bring me back to the kitchen where Marie will give me cookies and a glass of bright papaya soda brought up from the cellar where all the interesting food and drink is kept. Then back along the path, across the driveway, and up the stairs to the flat where mother and father will be listening to the radio, maybe Lannie Ross crooning “Moonlight and Roses” or the fast talking man saying:



  © 2014, Nils Peterson

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