Study Guide

A Year Down Yonder Chapter 5

By Richard Peck

Chapter 5

Hearts and Flour

  • One day, Mrs. Weidenbach, the banker's wife, comes over to ask Grandma Dowdel for a favor. It turns out that the woman who was supposed to make cherry tarts for the George Washington's Birthday tea is suffering terribly from menopause.
  • She begs Grandma to bake the tarts this year, flattering her with kind words about her pumpkin and pecan pies. But Grandma Dowdel is unmoved and doesn't commit to anything.
  • At school, the girls are all talking about whether or not there will be a Valentine's Day exchange this year. Mary Alice is a bit surprised by this—they're not little kids anymore, after all. They're in high school.
  • But then the principal, Mr. Fluke, comes into the classroom with a new boy. He's a hottie, and all the other students go silent as Mr. Fluke introduces him as Royce McNabb.
  • Carleen immediately turns to all the other girls and tells them that he's hers. No crushing allowed.
  • When Mary Alice gets home, she casually mentions the new boy to her grandmother, who immediately picks up on the subtext and asks Mary Alice if she's starting to show romantic interest in boys.
  • Mary Alice asks, "Who, me?" and is saved from having to answer further by the arrival of Mrs. Weidenbach, who shakes a newspaper in front of Grandma Dowdel. Apparently, the local paper is publishing anonymous poems on how there won't be any cherry tarts for George Washington's Birthday tea.
  • Grandma Dowdel says that she will agree to bake those tarts, but only on one condition: the tea has to be held at her house. Mrs. Weidenbach tries to protest, but in the end she has to cave.
  • At school on Valentine's Day, all of the girls go to check their valentines. Carleen is miffed because she only has one—from Miss Butler, their teacher.
  • When Ina-Rae checks her box, though, she's got all sorts of valentines sent by different boys. She even has one from Royce, the new boy.
  • Carleen is watching all of this unfold and simply cannot take it. She calls Ina-Rae a "trashy little squirt" (scandalous!) and promptly gets punished by the teacher.
  • At lunchtime, the girls go to the basketball court to watch Royce play. Ina-Rae thanks Mary Alice for writing all of those fake valentines; they were both in on the prank to drive Carleen crazy with jealousy.
  • On George Washington's birthday, Grandma Dowdel comes downstairs and shocks Mary Alice with her appearance. She's all dressed up—and Mary Alice finds herself tearing up as she tells Grandma how beautiful she looks.
  • It's not just the usual ladies who show up to Mrs. Weidenbach's events who are there, though. Grandma's friend Effie Wilcox has arrived, as well as an old lady named Aunt Mae who looks absolutely ancient.
  • When all of the ladies arrive for the tea, they discuss how proud they are to be able to trace their ancestors back to the American Revolution.
  • Aunt Mae takes one look at Mrs. Weidenbach and calls her a liar—saying that Mrs. Weidenbach was actually a Burdick, which is why she has one green and one blue eye (just like the baby in the manger).
  • She says that two of the Burdicks were taken away and put in separate foster homes—and that one of them was Mrs. Weidenbach, and the other was Effie Wilcox. Effie gets all excited to call Mrs. Weidenbach her long-lost sister.
  • Following that revelation, all the ladies get drunk. Mrs. Weidenbach bursts into tears and refuses to talk to Effie, as do the rest of the DAR ladies. Eventually, they all leave, none of them able to walk in a straight line.
  • On her way out the door, Effie wonders aloud if Mrs. Weidenbach is just too overcome with emotion at having discovered her long-lost sister, and Grandma Dowdel says that must be the case.
  • Then Grandma, Aunt Mae, and Mary Alice finish off all the cherry tarts. And Mary Alice goes to write a little news story for the local paper about the tea. She's been their anonymous new reporter all along.