When I “created” my dolls Linda and Susan to be friends with Molly and Emily, I knew it was important to me that they have “meet” story to go along with them like all of the other best friend characters made by AG. I have finished writing Linda’s and am excited to share it with my readers! It is called “Linda’s Family Tree” and I will be posting it one chapter at a time to avoid a long, overwhelming post.
Disclaimer: this is purely a work of fan fiction, written for my own enjoyment. It is based on characters and events portrayed in Molly’s book series. These were written by Valerie Tripp and are copyrighted property of American Girl.
Linda’s Family Tree
Linda Rinaldi sat cross legged beneath the shade of a tree in the McIntire’s backyard. She watched, frowning slightly, as her two best friends Molly and Susan sprayed each other with the hose as they ran through the grass in their bathing suits. Linda felt a twinge of jealousy that she could not join her friends, since the late-summer afternoon was hot and steamy, making hose-running an ideal activity. Playing with the hose was a rare treat that had been granted by Mrs. Gilford, the McIntire’s housekeeper, and it was hard to say when that might happen again. Mrs. Gilford had grudgingly agreed that they could play with the hose under the conditions that A) they stop after ten minutes so as to not waste water and B) they stay behind the garage to avoid making a spectacle in front of the entire neighborhood.
Linda looked up just in time to see Molly playfully flick the hose in her direction, sending a speckle of water droplets over her blouse and jumper. “Ahh! No! I told you I can’t spoil my clothes today!” Linda exclaimed as she jumped up.
“Oh, sorry,” said Molly sounding taken aback at Linda’s cross reaction. “It will dry fast, here, let’s go sit in the sun. Our ten minutes are up anyway.” Molly led the way to the back steps and Susan and Linda followed.
“You still haven’t really told us Linda, what are you doing this afternoon? You are wearing school clothes and you are awfully grumpy,” said Susan, making an honest but fair assessment.
Linda sighed, “This afternoon my mother is getting off work early so we can go to the train station to pick up my grandmother. She is coming to stay with us.”
“That’s great!” exclaimed Molly. “I would love it if Gran and Grandpa would come visit me more often.”
“No, it’s not really like that. She’s my grandmother, well we call her Nonna, who lives in New York City. She’s actually from Italy, and moved to the United States when she was a young woman. I haven’t seen her since I was really little, and I barely remember her. I just know that her English is kind of hard to understand and that she’s really grouchy.” Linda explained.
“Well, you will get along with her great, then,” teased Susan as Molly laughed.
Linda managed a weak smile. “Well, remember how my grandfather died earlier this summer? I mean, I didn’t really know him either, but my family has been really sad, and of course especially Nonna. Mom wrote to Dad overseas and asked what he thought about inviting Nonna to come stay with us, since she’s his mother. They decided that it would be good for her and good for us since Mom works so much at the factory and gets home so late.” She stood up knowing it was time for her to start walking home.
“It won’t be so bad! You and your Nonna might get along great!” Susan said cheerfully, this time not teasing, as she towelled off her still-damp hair.
“Yeah, don’t worry about it,” added Molly. “What kinds of thing does your Nonna do? I bet you’ll find something you have in common with her.”
“Well…” Linda began as she started to giggle. “She’s an opera singer! That’s actually why she came from Italy to the United States when she was young, was to sing opera in New York City! She has retired from performing, but up until my grandfather died she taught lessons.” The girls fell into fits of giggles as they each did their best opera voice impression. Molly ended on an especially high note as Susan ran inside to change into her dry clothes she so could walk home with Linda.
Feeling slightly cheered, Linda grinned at Molly. “Maybe you and Susan can come and sing for Nonna. That will give her something to focus on besides telling me to stand up straight or tuck in my shirt.”
“Oh Linda, you are so gloomy! I bet she’s nothing like that anymore. You haven’t seen her since you’ve been really little.” Susan said as she came through screen door, stuffing her wet bathing suit in her school bag.
“You’re probably right. Maybe she can give me piano lessons. Or maybe she’ll teach me to speak Italian!” said Linda, this thought occurring to her for the first time.
“Or maybe she’ll make us lots and lots of pizza!” added Molly with enthusiastic agreement from Susan. The girls had tried pizza for the first time a few months ago from an Italian neighbor and were eager to try it again.
Linda and Susan, who lived just two houses from each other, headed down the street, still trying to outdo each other’s best opera note and imagining the delicious Italian food that they were going to eat. My friends are right, Linda thought. There is nothing to worry about.
Linda may have been wrong about this though. The train station was busy, mostly with soldiers and their families. She stood with Mom and her brother, Joey, near the wall where a poster read, “Is your trip necessary? Unnecessary travel is unpatriotic!” Linda’s felt as though something cold and hard were gripping her insides as she remembered the last time they had been at the train station: Dad had been leaving, heading towards the east coast so he could board a ship and travel to Europe. Linda’s dad was an electrician and had an important job working on radios and other equipment for the Army. She was so proud of him, but guiltily realized that she avoided talking about him and sometimes even thinking about him. She knew her friend Molly felt many of the same things, but they didn’t discuss it much. Linda felt cold and shaky every time the subject came up.
Linda was snapped from her reverie when she noticed a stream of passengers coming down the platform from a newly arrived train. She glanced at Mom, who was nervously smoothing her skirt and straightening her hat. She realized that Mom must be nervous about this new arrangement, too. After all, she hadn’t seen her mother-in-law for years either. “Joey!” Mom said suddenly. “Go help Nonna with her bags!”
Joey looked at Mom with an uncomfortable combination of embarrassment and despair. “But…Mom…I don’t remember exactly what she looks like. How will I know it’s her?”
Mom sighed, and a look similar to Joey’s crossed her face. She opened her mouth and began to walk forward, but it was too late. A straight-backed woman with thick gray hair and a long dark blue dress was walking swiftly forward, a baggage-laden porter staggering in her wake.
“Ah. Yes. Good. Well here they are. I suppose I will not need to hire a ride and find my own way after all,” were Nonna’s first words.
Mom seemed to be temporarily dumbstruck before quickly smiley broadly. “Madre! Accoglienza! Welcome to Illinois!” Linda wondered if she had looked up a few Italian words earlier that day for Nonna’s benefit.
“Hrumph,” was Nonna’s reply as she glanced around. Feeling suddenly shy, Linda edged closer to Mom, who pushed her forward.
“Look, madre, Linda and Joey have come to welcome you, too!” said Mom, still wearing a strained smile.
“How do you do, ma’am,” said Joey in his most grown-up sounding voice, extending his hand. Nonna’s face softened a bit as she pulled each of her grandchildren into a hug.
“Too long! Too long it’s been! It is unnatural for family to live so far apart. It’s not right! No good!” Nonna put her arm around Linda and began to lead her out of the station. Mom scampered quickly ahead to lead them to the car while Joey grabbed the bags the porter had abandoned quickly when Nonna wasn’t looking. “Three grown sons I have and all three are fighting overseas! And my only grandchildren, halfway across the country! No good!” she repeated.
They reached the Rinaldi’s car, which had hardly been used in several years due to fuel and tire rationing. Linda helped to load Nonna’s luggage, then slid into the backseat where she finally spoke for the first time. “I am glad you are here Nonna, I’ve missed you.”
Nonna glanced back over her shoulder and smiled a small smile. “And I’ve missed you, dear. Now sit up straight.”
Once home, Linda lead Nonna through the backdoor nervously. She had spent most of the week helping Mom clean the house, a chore they both hated. She thought it looked pretty good, though, and had even managed to make her room presentable. Linda was not a huge fan of the arrangement, but it had been agreed the Nonna would stay in Linda’s room and Linda would sleep with Mom. Joey took Nonna’s luggage upstairs and Mom went to the kitchen to pour some iced tea. Unsure what to talk to Nonna about, Linda scooped up her kitten who was hiding part of the way under the couch.
“Look Nonna, this is Mittens! Mom let us get her when Dad left. She’s so cute and soft and she loves to purr and fall asleep in our laps. I am sure she will like you, too.”
“Ah, no,” frowned Nonna pulling back from the outstretched kitten. “No cats! No animals! I will sneeze. I cannot sing if I sneeze. No. That will have to go outside.”
“But…Mittens is an inside cat. She sleeps in my bed,” began Linda, but stopped with Nonna’s intense gaze. She knew it was no good to argue. “Yes ma’am,” she said softly.
“Good. I must go rest. I have been traveling. Show me to my room,” Nonna replied, the topic now closed. Linda tried to smile as she climbed the stairs, Mittens still clutched to her chest.