Saturday, November 22, 2014

Celebrating My Birthday With Eloise!

Remember reading this:
"I am Eloise. I am six. I am a city child. I live at the Plaza."

Hi.  I am Kaye.  I'm about to turn sixty-six.  I live in the North Carolina mountains.  Eloise and I are about to celebrate our birthdays.

I have always, always loved knowing I share my birthday (almost.  sorta.  close enough) with my childhood idol.  An icon, really.

We were both born in 1948. 

While it's true that the first Eloise book was published in 1955, legend has it that Kay Thompson invented Eloise to entertain friends and co-workers. 

She didn't know what she looked like, however, until Hilary Knight drew a sketch and sent it to her, and she supposedly told him she recognized the little girl immediately.

Kay Thompson's Eloise: A book for precocious grownups published on November 28, 1955 by Simon and Schuster (just missing my birthday, which is November 26).

And so began the partnership that brought us Eloise.

Let's take a look at some of the startling similarities between me and Eloise - 

* Eloise lived in the oh so posh Plaza Hotel in New York City.
* I lived in an old apartment building in downtown Cambridge, MD.

*There were expensive restaurants offering fine dining in the hotel lobby, including room service.
*There was a soda fountain in the drug store in my apartment building lobby. If we had ever called Mr. Collins requesting room service he would have laughed himself silly, and we would have been the talk of Cambridge.

*There were ritzy boutique dress shops in the hotel lobby.
*The city gas company and an insurance office were in my apartment lobby.
And one children’s clothing shop.
And a jewelry store.
I don’t remember much about the clothing shop, truth be told, but I sure do remember the jewelry store. It was owned by my buddy, Mr. Henry DeVoe. Mr. DeVoe would sometimes let me hang out with him if my dad was working and my mom had to run to the grocery store. And he let me open my very first charge account. I’ve been a little bit in love with jewelry ever since.

*There was an exclusive hair salon in the hotel lobby.
*Cecelia’s Beauty Parlor was in my apartment lobby. I would march into Cecelia’s and carry on conversations with the ladies getting their hair done on a regular basis. Leaning over them while they were having a shampoo. Knock-knocking on the hair dryers to say "Hey!" and pass the time of day. And told everyone I was going to be coming to work there as Miss Cecelia’s manicure girl when I grew up. I don't recall running this plan by Miss Cecelia, however.

*The lobby of the Plaza Hotel was sumptuous and elegant with thick carpeting and beautifully decorated conversation areas.
*The lobby of my apartment building was not.

But it did have a movie theater! With an elegant (I thought) ticket office, and a gentleman who stood outside the theater doors collecting tickets.

I spent a lot of time chatting with him too.

*I did not have a Nanny who liked to watch the fights and drink pilsner.
*My dad liked to watch football and drink beer though.

So see – my life growing up wasn’t so different from Eloise.

Well, I didn’t have a dog named Weenie who looked like a cat, nor did I have a turtle named Skipperdee who ate raisins and wore sneakers, but I did have a turtle. Several, as I remember. I never was sure what happened to one turtle before my mom would take me to Woolworth’s to the turtle tank to get a new one. They were all named Sweetie Pie. As was my parakeet. As were all the chickens we had living under the stove for a short while (that's another story for another day, however).


So, maybe there really weren't that many ways in which Eloise and I were alike. Other than being a bit free-spirited and presumptious in our misguided imaginations that everyone thought we were adorable.

So, yes, Eloise has been to Paris, and I haven't.

And, she's been to Moscow. I have not.

But!  She apparently liked Christmas a lot.   Well - me, too!

And, she took bawths.    Me, too!

Well, actually, I don't recall ever saying I was taking a bawth, but I did and still do love a bubble bath.

And she was in a dance recital or two, I think.    Guess What! 

Me, too!

I loved her when I was a kid and I still love her today.

And I'm not the only one.

Eloise has a lot of fans. A lot of them still stop by The Plaza to see her portrait which was painted by Hilary Knight. The original portrait disappeared after a party. A fraternity party - - or so the story goes. Sometime after that happened, supposedly, Princess Grace visited the hotel with her children and was sad to learn the portrait was gone, which moved Mr. Knight to paint a new one.

Now, I have never had my portrait painted with a disinterested pup at my feet (or a disinterested turtle).  And certainly not one painted of me swanning about at The Plaza in New York City.

But I have had my picture taken with a disinterested pup while leaning against our house in Boone, North Carolina.

The Plaza threw an anniversary party when Eloise turned 40. Simon and Schuster published a special anniversary edition of the book.

To celebrate turning 66, I think we'll just wear funny hats, drink coffee and eat cupcakes.  Or maybe a pizza!

But, truthfully?

What I would really love to do?

Go to New York City, have a weekend at The Plaza, snuggled up in the Eloise Suite.

A girl can dream, can't she??

'Cause one of these days - ONE of these days, I plan to at least peek into the Eloise Suite and visit the Eloise Shop in The Plaza.   I haven't been to New York in years and years and years, and I'm wanting a trip back pretty badly, truth be told.  I want to be the complete tourist.  I want to wear my most comfy clothes, shoes and a hat.  I want to see the most touristy things NYC has to offer - camera in hand.  I want to sing on the ferry to Staten Island, go to the top of the Empire State Building, gawk at diners at The Russian Tea Room, have my picture taken with the Eloise portrait, see a Broadway play, go to The Cloisters, prowl around The Dakota (can you do that?), I want a day at MoMA, a Bronx tour, a Brooklyn tour, a sail around Manhattan, a Coney Island tour, a Food on Foot tour.  sigh.  Well, some of those things anyway . . . . and when I meet people I will introduce myself as Eloise.

And The Plaza continues keeping Eloise alive today. This from their webpage - "Guests who skibble in may relax in the stylish living room, and plan their (mis)adventures with the concierge, just like a certain young lady. In the Fashion Room there is absolutely nothing but costumes for dress up, so mini-Eloises can model their favorite looks from the podium. Sklonking off to the Library Room, guests may enjoy “park views” and watch their favorite Eloise movie clips, play on the computer stations or enjoy story time with their mostly companion. Of course, fans can’t leave without a visit to the Tea Room where family and friends can come together for tea and birthday parties and other celebrations. A visit to the Beauty Salon rounds out a day of living like Eloise, and in Summer 2010, tea and birthday parties, beauty salon service and etiquette classes will be available too, thank you very much."

In the meantime, I've got my own little Eloise right here in Boone with me.  She is much loved.

She sits on the bookcase in our bedroom and keeps an eye on us while we're sleeping.  Me, Donald and Harley.  Donald does swear though that she gets into mischief during the night and sometimes wakes him up.  I believe that.  Sometimes when I hear Harley grumbling during the night I feel sure it's because Eloise is up to no good.

And during this time of the year, she and I sing Happy Birthday to one another.  Very, Very, Loudly.

There are people who touch our lives. Sadly, we're not often given an opportunity to let them know just how very much they enriched our lives. Kay Thompson died in Manhattan on July 7, 1998. She was either 92 or 95. When she takes a break from all the entertaining I feel sure she's doing up there in heaven (she was a singer, a dancer, a choreographer and a comedienne in addition to writing the Eloise books), l hope she checks in with me here through Meanderings and Muses.  I'd like to say "Thank you, Ms. Thompson for giving me Eloise."  (and thanks to Sam Irvin for writing this terrific book about her!  If you're a fan of Eloise and Kay Thompson you'll want to read this if you haven't already).

It was, after all, through Kay Thompson and Eloise that I learned =

"An egg cup makes a very good hat"

(note: If all this looks kinda familiar,  an earlier version of this was posted by me at The Jungle Red blog a couple years ago)

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