Welcome Home, Mrs. Jordon by Janet Lambert (1953)

pic from Image Cascade

When we left Tippy Parrish in Rainbow After Rain, she was working at a television studio and recovering from the loss of her beau Ken Prescott, who was killed in Korea. Steadfast, devoted Peter Jordon has been in love with her for years, but she was still grieving for Ken and unsure about her feelings for Peter. At the end of the novel, she has put away Ken's picture and is engaged to Peter.

As Welcome Home, Mrs. Jordon opens, Tippy has just returned from shopping for her trousseau and is chatting with her sister Penny about her wedding with Peter, who is stationed in Texas. Janet Lambert provides a typically graceful introduction to past events and to the Parrish/Jordon family as Tippy and Penny chat about the complications of having a wedding in an army family.

"Even Tippy saw humor in the situation and had to laugh. But she did say ruefully, 'If it hadn't taken me so long to discover I was in love with Peter, I'd have had a whole year with him by now, in Texas. I don't know why I was so stupid.'

'There was Ken Prescott,' Penny said. It seemed she was never to see the hat and dresses, so she snatched the opportunity to ask, 'You don't grieve for Ken now, do you, cherub?'

'No.' Tippy's little face was serene as she answered. 'I loved him very much, I'll always love him. Peter understands that. The world stopped for a while, when word came that he'd been killed in Korea. I hurt so terribly in my heart--I still hurt sometimes, but not when I'm with Peter.'"

Tippy is preparing to move to Germany with Peter as soon as he's stationed there (and they're married, of course.) She's all set with woolly sweaters and pants, planning on buying new skis, and has a fabulous fur on order. She's lived in Switzerland before (see Little Miss Atlas) so she's pretty prepared for her new world.

That is, until Peter calls and informs her that he's been ordered to Panama and they have two weeks to plan a wedding before he arrives and they take the transport to Panama. Cue mild panic.

"Why, she had a whole wardrobe to exchange and a wedding to plan! Goodness only knew how she could ever accomplish it all.

'I love you so much,' Peter broke into her chaotic thoughts to say, 'Good-by, childie, darling.'

Childie. What a silly nickname. Sillier even than the cherub Penny had started and Ken had picked up. But so dear, so sweet when Peter said it, for her wasn't given to extravagant endearments. He wrenched out compliments as if he were whacking a nail on the head with a hammer. So Tippy replied softly, 'Good-by, most wonderful man in the world,' and waited to be sure there would be no further sound of his voice."

Sidebar: I cannot get behind this nickname at all. How is it pronounced? Child-EE? CHILL-dee? Either way, it's such a strange nickname that it trips me up every time I read it. Not to mention, the child part is a little creepy in a way that 'cherub' isn't.

Wedding planning takes off full force as well as the much returning of clothing (even the fabulous fur, even though the lining was embroidered with Tippy's name, which apparently was something you did.) We get a reminder of the complicated Jordon family as they fly in to New York for the wedding and need to be put up all over town.

"General Jordon had managed to rear three sets of motherless children, hos own, his second wife's, the three who where theirs together, plus an orphaned nephew."

 As they get ready for the wedding, Tippy and Peter take some time out of the frantic preparations to talk about the realities of marriage. When Tippy asks if they'll quarrel, Peter thinks to himself:

He knew she had been floating on air for ten days and was searching for solid footing. Marriage was real; not just a golden cloud to rest on, drifting leisurely through a rainbow sky. It was more like a well-balanced meal that either kept you healthy or push away your plate and starve to death. Golden clouds and whipped cream sundaes couldn't hold their own against a plain blue sky and a dependable menu, savory and well-seasoned. 

Before getting married, Tippy finds time to check in on Peter's little sister Susan, now fourteen years old and in need of a little big sistering. (Her story is coming up very soon in the Jordon/Parrish rotation, so this is important.)

Finally the day of the wedding arrives, and Tippy is being driven to the church by her parents', standing up so as not to muss her dress. 

"The two dear heads were so close. By holding on and bending a little more, Tippy could put her face between theirs. 'I love you both so much,' she whispered. 'Right at this minute--and it seems awful to say it--I love you more than anyone else in the world.' 

'Not more than Peter, darling.'

'No, but I'm going to have Peter. You see,' Tippy tried to explain, 'I'll have Peter but I'll be losing you. This is a silly time to tell you how much I love you, standing up all humped over like this, but I have to. I feel as if I'll just die if you don't know it.'" 

At the wedding, both her mother and father give her away, just as they did at Penny's wedding, and suddenly it's all over. Tippy is in an utter daze through the entire event, which Lambert depicts so beautifully. Although Tippy and Peter are staying at the Waldorf, Tippy longs for her family so they stay at the Parrishes with all of the bustling family chaos. These family scenes are a great peek into the giant family Jordon/Parrish family, with supercilious Gwenn, sweet Alice, beautiful Carrol, and children Davy, Lang and Bitsy, who grow up to have their own stories.

And with that, Peter and Tippy are off to his posting in Panama. Packed up and bringing their two dogs, Rollo and Switzy, they head for their transport. 

"They had reached the crowded city of Brooklyn. The Army Base loomed ahead of them, and beyond it, hidden by the gray block of buildings and shut off from the civilian world by a high wire fence, was the port. There ships waited to carry soldiers and cargo, tanks, plans, and guns, to all parts of the world."

Can't you just see it? After a tearful good-bye to her family, Tippy sails off with Peter. Although the sea is rocky at first, she settles in and makes friends with some of the other couples. They stop off in Guantanamo, San Juan, and Trinidad before arriving in hot and humid. Tippy explores with the dogs then meets up with Peter to find their new house.

"'Funny how high the houses are built up,' Tippy said, looking. They seem to be standing on stilts, and some of them have cars parked underneath and part of the space made into an outdoor room. See the tables and chairs under this one? And a regular laundry, and clotheslines.'"

They settle into their little house with tile floors and no window screens, but they have the standard old army furniture so familiar to Tippy. She decorates their new home and cleans and cooks and impresses Peter and some of the older army wives with her housekeeping. She plans a party and all is going well until the dogs wreak havoc, she forgets to put the roast in the oven, and has just calmed down when "a familiar, choking odor reached her." The DDT truck is coming by to spray and Tippy races around to close up whatever she can, but:

"Insecticide was already pouring in in a cloud. The rooms reeked of it, and the welcome odor of sizzling meat was lost in its choking stench."

 'I'll take mosquitoes and window screens,' she coughed, unrolling waxed paper and covering her long array of plates on the work counter."

The party goes off about as well as it starts. Long, awkward pauses, everything tastes like DDT, and Tippy forgot to open the window louvers so everyone is sweating hot. And then the lights go off. Somehow, the guests begin to enjoy themselves and the newlyweds head off to bed, exhausted. 

Peter is happy with his army work, house and wife, but although Tippy tries to make the best of her new life, she is terribly homesick and lonely. She doesn't share her loneliness with him, and Peter wonders if she's regretting marrying him and still pining for Ken Prescott. She pours out her heart to her mother and sister Penny in tear-stained letters, and the Parrish women confer and do their best to help via letters, but to no avail.

It takes a visit from an unhappy Gwenn, fighting with her movie star husband Bill, and counseling her, for Tippy to appreciate her life with Peter. She tries to make the best of it and gets closer to the other army wives, who previously bored her with their stories of children and domestic life. In the final chapter, Tippy and Peter talk about their troubles. 

"...she said slowly, 'When we talked about married, before we were married, we planned about quarreling. We decided just how we'd handle everything when we quarreled, but we didn't talk about what we'd do if we didn't pull together.'"

Tippy tells him about how she hasn't been able to bring out her family photos because she's been so homesick, and realizes that he thought her memories of Ken were part of their problems. She reassures him:

"'Any other love I've ever had was small, compared to the love I have for you. I can look back now and see why I never could put you out of my mind and why I always turned to you when I needed help or advice. Romance is one thing, Peter; and deep, true love that's mixed with romance, and tenderness, and adoration, is another. That's what I have for you. Please believe that.'"

And with that, Tippy puts out the family photographs and Peter invites her outside so he can scoop her up and carry her over the threshold into their new, more happily settled life.

Janet Lambert writes homesickness and loneliness so well. I feel for Tippy, a young bride all alone in a new, unfamiliar country so far from her beloved family. Lambert beautifully evokes Peter and Tippy's relationship as they get to know each other and married life. It's complex and full of heart. If I'm being honest, Peter doesn't do much for me as a Lambert hero. He does seem a little dull and that 'childie' nickname gives me a creepy feeling. But it's a marvelous story and I loved reading Tippy's journey as a newly married army wife.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my gosh, you hit the nail on the head with your take on "Childie". It creeps me out!