Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
by Viola Hargadine
"It's Edith's Tupperware Party!" the invitation said. "Friday, Oct. 13, 7:30 p.m. The house with lights in the tree. Bring a friend."
I had attended one previous Tupperware Party at Edith's small 1920s cottage. Edith stalled in the 1970s, so her earth-toned home was awash in avocado, chocolate and turquoise, with a harvest gold shag carpet (you remember, the kind with iron filings embedded in it) and many, many touches of orange. Edith was permanently influenced by a personal colorist and only wears harvest tones. Orange is "her" color.
That first party had featured mood lighting so dark you couldn't fill out the order blank and a centerpiece of Edith's sewing machine, which filled most of the room. I was dubious. But our Tupperware column was heavily in the red. Leftovers were residing uneasily in plastic bags and eating applesauce from a Baggie is precarious at best.
Previous parties had been attended more and more sparsely by co-workers and Edith was now issuing invitations to unsuspecting new victims from her crafts class.
"I just couldn't bear to go again," confided Lucy, her assistant of 17 years. "I had more fun feeding my cat. It's the same thing year after year. They say the same things each time and it's been—how many years now? I'm sure they said."
Indeed, they had. Edith and Melinda, the Tupperware lady, have been friends 28 years. ("Let's see, I was pregnant with Ronnie and he's 27 now.")
Each year, on the second Friday in October, Edith holds her annual Tupperware, featuring Melinda (although her Tupperware district is 40 miles away). Each year Edith and Melinda tell the same stories about how they met, how long they have been doing this, and give each other gifts. Melinda gives Edith orange Tupperware, although Edith already has so much Tupperware, most of it, by her own admission, unused, that she could start her own service. Edith gives Melinda giraffes. Melinda likes giraffes.
After the party, Edith's husband, Bart, serves transparent slices of his apple crisp and one cup of plain tea per guest. No sugar, milk, cream or lemon are offered—"We don't use anything in our tea," Edith snapped, when I asked.
The décor had improved slightly. The sewing machine leaned against a wall and there was a hanging lamp. The gold shag had been replaced by beige un-shag.
Arlene, on my right, confided, "I haven't been to a Tupperware party in so long, I've forgotten how to behave." Then, as Edith's cats scampered out of the bedroom, she squealed and pulled back her mule-shod feet. "Your cats don't eat people's toes, do they?"
The party got off on the left foot as Melinda told us she was lucky to be there: she had had a heart attack last November 17. Although we did not know it at the time, this was to be the theme of the evening.
Next Melinda distributed presents. "I save my good presents for Mitzi's parties."
"Mitzi?" said Edith.
"I'm so sorry. I don't know why I call you Mitzi."
First, because it was Tupperware Pasta Month, we got boxes of macaroni ("I can't eat it because of my November 17 heart attack.") Then came pillbox key chains ("These come in so handy because of all the pills I have to take because of my November 17 heart attack.") Next were mysterious gadgets. I got what appeared to be a crochet hook. But no! "It's an orange peeler. Oranges are one of the few things I can still eat after my November 17 heart attack."
There were variations on the theme: Melinda went to Europe after surviving her blind date with death. While there she bought knives because, at $36 per, they were much cheaper than back home and, after all, she had realized after her November 17 heart attack during which the doctor had told her she should have died, that you can't take it with you.
"Isn't that right, Mitzi?"
Melinda had brought a whole tableful of new Tupperware, none of which looked remotely like the items I needed to replace. Any hope of getting out early evaporated when I heard Melinda pitch her first item. She demonstrated each slowly, methodically. Each had a different, special use, related, quelle surprise, to her heart attack.
"Now this cookie container—except I can't eat cookies any more since my November 17 heart attack—can also be used as a booster seat for my granddaughter. Phone books slip, but not Tupperware."
A sandwich container went with Melinda, "to all those luncheons. Of course, I can't eat the food, and it's all very expensive, but I can't eat it since my November 17 heart attack, and since it's so expensive, I just take my container along and put my luncheon it in and bring it home to my husband."
At Variation No. 15, a diversion was created when the Baker twins, Merry and Terry, arrived. Perfectly matched refugees from the ‘60s, their bottle-black hair was ratted into identical Aqua-Netted helmets. They were wearing outfits from crafts class: Chinese red pedal pushers and loose tops, patterned in metallic squares. Over the pajama tops were black quilted jackets appliquéd in green and pink chintz. On their feet were sling-back sandals.
"The only person," Lucy told me later, "who talks more than they do is their mother."
After an hour, Melinda ran out of items. I thumbed carefully through the catalogue several times. None of the items I needed were there.
Melinda told me those items had been retired, "long before my heart attack." I found something I liked in non-Edith tones of pink, lavender and teal, although they were not what I needed, and cost so much I could only afford two.
The following day, I went to Wal-Mart and bought replacements.
"You know," said the clerk as I checked out. "These little single-serving sizes are great. I've had to be much more careful about what I eat since I had a heart attack."
Viola Hargadine observes party life in Mankato, Minnesota.
Back to Flashes