© James J. Doyle, Jr.
Seven sisters and a farm form a setting for serious fun. If one imagination knows no bounds, seven imaginations are truly boundless. Centuries of observation by countless folks confirm that the cosmos cannot contain the creative energies of seven young girls. All that is needed to ignite a reaction and start the activity is a single spark, one new thought.
* * *
Seven-year-old Mary woke with an idea.
The third of the seven sisters stretched and sat upright in her bed.
“Today is Mary the Machine day,” she announced. “I will make things.”
Jumping from the bed, young Mary threw on her clothes, ran through the house, grabbed a slice of fresh bread from the kitchen table and flashed out the screen door which slammed shut with a loud bang.
Her sisters nodded and smiled.
Something was up.
* * *
In the backyard, Mary looked at the spot. It was perfect, in the shape of a bowl, at the edge of the garden and with plenty of fresh dirt. She scanned the terrain. A good strong stick stood next to the wood pile, an old flat board leaned against the building and a bucket sat next to the hose. Yes, yes and yes, they would all work.
Mary carried the bucket in both hands, careful not to slosh. Pouring water into the shallow depression, she stirred the mud with the big stick until it was real thick. Carefully, she placed the board just the right working distance away. On her hands and knees, Mary formed the dough into a lump, slapped it onto the board and spread it with her fingers. Using a small pointed stick, she drew designs. Tiny pebbles and small flowers decorated the top and sides. A dusting with sugar sand finished the first mud pie.
A sister looked over her shoulder.
“What are you doing?”
“I am Mary the Machine and I am making a wedding reception.”
“Can we help?” asked another sister, holding the smallest, a toddler, in her arms.
The six watched and waited. This happened often. They knew to observe first. If the idea was a good one, they would feel it. Grinning and nodding at each other, a tingle of excitement and anticipation tickled their necks.
Kneading another lump, Mary felt the shiver, too. She loved her idea. It was her idea, but she understood that if it was another sister, she would be waiting with them to hear the response.
“It is a big wedding reception,” Mary sighed, “and I will need help.”
Mary sat back on her heels, took a deep breath and pointed to one and then another of her sisters.
“You and the baby can help me with the pies. You two find the other food. You two gather the old clothes and don’t forget the hats and rings.”
* * *
Preparing a wedding reception is a production and someone has to be in charge.
Mary was everywhere supervising, lending a helping hand and adding the finishing touches to the pies, her specialty.
Finally, the bite-sized wooden appetizers were tastefully placed, the dinner buffet of delectable rock courses was arranged in impeccable order and the mud pies were prominently displayed for the guests to see and appreciate.
It was time to dress.
Sharing the hose, the sisters cleaned and scrubbed. Passing the brush and comb, they twisted and twirled each other’s hair into place. Selecting from the wardrobe, the girls tossed, turned and settled a dress onto each young figure. Parading around, they pulled, tucked, snipped and added to the outfits until the consensus nods deemed the effect complete. In the reflection of the storm door, final adjustments were made and cheeks pinched, like they’d seen their mother and aunts do, not quite sure why but knowing it was important.
As the primping and preening built to a crescendo, the anticipation was almost more than the siblings could stand.
* * *
Finally, at the arranged signal, the majestic make-believe doors of the banquet hall slowly opened and the invited celebrities began the promenade.
One at a time, a sister entered and made the walk.
Flash bulbs exploded and movie reels rolled, as the starlet casually brushed a strand of hair aside and feigned distain in the glow of her imagination.
Appareled in a long designer dress of the most expensive, faded, slightly ripped and pinned fabrics, the wearer glided, dipped and tripped on the uneven lawn.
A stunningly frumped and floppy hat rode elegantly atop the coiffed head, defying gravity as its occupant turned and twisted to the delight of the admiring crowd who whistled and clapped with abandon.
Rings of every size, shape and glued material dangled, slipped and fell to the grass as each debutante bridesmaid modeled and posed for her adoring fans.
Unquestionably, it was the event of the season, a star-studded spectacle of legendary backyard proportions.
* * *
As the ladies gathered in a circle admiring the food and each other, the oldest sister signaled for quiet and stepped forward.
“Fellow guests,” she said with refined diction. “This is a joyous occasion. The wedding was wonderful, this reception is just riveting and the mud pies are marvelous. I think I can say with certainty those pies are masterpieces of culinary confection.”
The guests nodded as the speaker took a breath. They were impressed that their sister knew all those words.
“I thank each of you for your hard work, but I would be remiss. . . .”
Opening their eyes wider, the younger sisters wondered what “remiss” meant.
“I would be remiss,” the elder sister repeated, “if I did not recognize one of our number for special attention.”
The senior sister turned to Mary and said, with a lump in her throat, “I love you, Mary the Machine.”
At that, all the guests shouted, “We love you, too, Mary the Machine!”
Signaling for quiet again, the older sister continued “Now, sister luminaries, in honor of Mary and her triumph, let us sing the theme song for this very special wedding reception.”
And this is the song the sisters sang. You can join in, too, if you like.
As the song quietly faded away, the older sister nodded around the circle. “Ladies, remove your hats.” She took hers in a hand and held it out.
“Get ready,” she said, moving the hat up and down and watching that the others were doing the same.
“One . . . Two . . . Three, Now Throw!”
On cue, the hats flew high in the air as the assembled sisters waved their hands, grabbed arms and danced in circles chanting “Hooray for Mary! Hooray for Mary!” over and over and over again.
* * *
Recognizing that the hour was late and it was time to help Mom with supper, the acclaimed young misses gathered their hats and lined up for the formal farewell.
One by one, the glittering socialites approached their hostess.
Each curtsied, almost fell, corrected, stood and wished Mary a warm “Good bye.”
After administering an affectionate hug to Mary’s cheek, each young starlet stepped back and proffered a polite handshake with a heart-felt “Thank you for a delightful day in the backyard.”
With a royal wave, the demur debutante made her final exit calling back in her loudest and least lady-like holler: “Those were the best mud pies ever!”
And, they were.