Rise and Shine by Anna Quindlen

By Anna Quindlen

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The truth is that behavior here is as codified as the Latin Mass. The dinner party the night before had been no exception. The dining room walls glazed red, the tone-on-tone tablecloths, the low centerpiece of roses and some strange carnivorous-looking tulips. The single man on one side of me. “I hear you’re a social worker,” he said as we both lifted our napkins and placed them on our laps, as so many had said before him. That was best case, of course. At the home of one donor to the women’s shelter where I work, two men who were equity traders spent an entire dinner talking to each other about the market within spitting distance—literally—of my face, bent so close above my dinner that I couldn’t reach my bread plate.

I asked. “Aunt Maureen had as many pieces of Tupperware as she had photo albums. ” By home Meghan means the big gray house with the white shutters, the house where we lived until our parents died. We moved to the smaller Cape with Aunt Maureen and Uncle Jack when we were six and ten. Meghan lifted the lid off a large bowl, then put it back and let the air out. “It would have looked like I was a moron if I’d messed this up,” she said, but she practiced three or four times more. The last time she burped the Tupperware and looked straight ahead, her head tilted slightly to one side.

Oh, my God,” she said, hugging me, and then the elevator was back, emptying directly into her foyer as the elevators of the wealthy do, so that no one will be subjected to the shared space of the hallway, the smells of strange cooking, the sight of strangers with their keys in the locks. Six other guests tumbled from the mahogany-paneled car, laughing and handing over coats and proffering wine. I found myself stuck in the foyer with a real estate agent who was making the sale of a duplex on Park Avenue sound like curing cancer.

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