outlook for her age, and an incredibly forgiving nature, given the childhood experiences she'd had. She rarely if ever talked about it, but Olympia knew from Harry how terrifying and devastating it was for her, losing her entire family, and living through the torture in the camps. She had had nightmares for years, and had very wisely undergone therapy. Her attitude was extraordinary, and Olympia had nothing but the profoundest affection and respect for her. She felt blessed to be related to her.
“I don't think you can help, Frieda. They'll all settle down. It's a long, silly story. The girls were invited to make their debut at the ball where I came out years ago. It's an archaic tradition, but a nice one for the girls who want to participate. There are fools like Chauncey who try to make it a prerequisite for real life, which it isn't. It's just a very pretty, superficial, but lovely Cinderella night. As far as I can see, it doesn't do anyone any harm. I guess it's elitist, but Harry thinks it's a neo-Nazi event. Veronica thinks I'm a fascist. Chauncey thinks we're Communists, and says he won't pay the girls' college tuition if they don't both come out, which is unfair. Veronica hasn't heard that piece of it yet, but as of this morning, she was refusing to do it, and threatening to move in with you, since my values are so terrible. And Ginny is desperate to do it. Harry says he won't come, and acts like he's going to divorce me. Charlie is mad at Veronica. The girls are at each other's throats, and everyone hates me. The only sane one left in the family is Max, who says this coming-out thing is such a mess that the girls better stay in.” They both laughed at Max's sensible advice. “I don't know what to do. It's not worth all this turmoil, but out of pure nostalgia and a sense of tradition, I'd love them to do it. I never thought it would turn out to be such a big deal to everyone. I'm beginning to feel like a monster for asking them to do it. And Harry is furious with me.” She sounded profoundly unhappy as she explained it all to Frieda.
“Tell them all to take a hike,” the older woman said sanely. “Go shopping for a dress with Ginny, and buy one for Veronica. Tell my son to get over himself. The Nazis are setting fire to synagogues in Germany, they don't have time for white-tie events, or even black-tie ones.” She had said exactly that to him herself. “Don't pay any attention to them. Veronica needs to let off steam. She'll do it in the end. What are you going to wear?” Frieda asked with a tone of interest, and Olympia laughed. It was the most sensible question she could have asked.
“A straitjacket if they don't all calm down.” And then she thought of something, and wondered how her mother-in-law would react, given what Harry had said. “Frieda, would you like to come?”
“Are you serious?” She sounded stunned. From what Harry had said, she had assumed that wouldn't be possible, if the event was in fact anti-Semitic, and she would never have asked to come, nor expected it. Even operating under that assumption, she still thought the twins should come out, whether or not she was there. She was extremely generous about never forcing herself on her daughter-in-law, her son, or their children. She was incredibly discreet, and had been wonderful to Olympia from the first, unlike her first mother-in-law, who had been a beast, and the biggest snob on earth, just like her son. The apple hadn't fallen far from the tree, in either case.
“Of course I'm serious,” Olympia reassured her, grateful for her support.
“I thought Jews and blacks weren't allowed,” she said cautiously. It was what Harry had said over lunch, and one of the reasons why he was so upset.
“They didn't print it on the invitation, for heaven's sake,” although admittedly, in the old days, there had been unspoken rules of exclusion. But she assumed all that had changed. She hadn't been to a deb ball in years. The Arches was the