Total appearances in series: 7
RS#31 – Carol answers the phone at the Schafer residence; Dawn doesn’t recognize her voice. When Jeff comes to the phone, he informs Dawn that Carol is their father’s new girlfriend, and that she’s there for dinner. She spends a lot of time at their house. Jeff doesn’t believe they’re going to get married, because Carol keeps saying, “I’ll never marry anyone” and “The last thing I want is the responsibility of a family.” Jeff feels like he’s ‘squeezed’ when she’s around, because he can’t be himself, and that Carol takes up too much emotional space (as opposed to physical space, because she’s not fat.)
RS#67 – Dawn admits that at first she didn’t like Carol, because she always tried to act young and cool even though she was at least 32. But after Stacey’s car accident [in SS#5], Dawn began to respect her for acting like an adult. Dawn is anxious to get out to California because she knows her father wants to marry Carol, and Dawn would like to get to know her better. Jeff is not too thrilled with Carol, but Dawn puts forth some effort, and speaks to her on the phone after she talks to her brother and her father.
When Dawn calls her father to tell him about how cut off she feels from her California family, Carol answers the phone:
“Hellll-lo!” sang a sweet and chipper female voice.
My stomach tied itself in a knot. It was definitely not the voice I’d expected.
“Carol?” I said.
“Yes! Who is this?”
“Uh, Dawn. Dawn Schafer.”
“Well, hello, Dawn Schafer!” Carol laughed. “Did you think I’d forgotten your last name?”
I couldn’t figure out why that was so funny. “No, I – ”
“How are you? Oh, wow. This is so cool. I was just thinking about you.”
Oh, wow? So cool? I had to shake my head. This was a thirty-two-year-old I was talking to. “Really? I’m fine. And you?”
“Great. I’m making a fancy salad – radicchio, edible flowers, sun-dried tomatoes. You should see it! Oh, your dad will be so happy to hear you called! I better give the phone to him. Besides, I have olive oil and lemon juice all over my fingers. When are we going to see you?”
“Well, I – ”
“Oops, here he is! He’s taking the phone out of my hand. Oops! Bye, Dawn!”
“ ‘Bye!” I said.
(I thought I liked Carol. Maybe I was wrong.)
RS#72 – Carol’s favorite dish is vegetable chimichangas. She also drives a red Miata. Dawn likes Carol because she’s young, tries to be hip, is full of energy, and pays lots of attention to her and Jeff – but she feels like Carol goes overboard and tries to be too much. Dawn often feels like telling her to act like an adult. Carol arrives that evening for dinner and spends most of the evening giggling, which grates on Dawn’s nerves.
Carol goes to the taping of the interview with the We ♥ Kids Club, along with the other girls’ families, and accompanies them all out to dinner. On the day of the premiere, she brings Dawn a director’s chair tied with a red ribbon: “The word DAWN was on the back, in the middle of a gold star. A pair of sunglasses and a visor hung from the arms.” Carol sits with the rest of Dawn’s family as they wait for the broadcast, and is the first one to point out Dawn when she appears on screen.
When Dawn arrives home from a baby-sitting job, she notices Carol’s car in the driveway. When she goes inside, she sees Carol, wearing a green dress, makeup (which is unusual for her) and a wild beret over her red hair, with her dad and Jeff. Dawn’s father announces that they’re engaged. When Dawn bolts out of the room, Carol is afraid that she’s angry about their engagement, and isn’t especially convinced when Dawn has the grace to return. They all sit down to an awkward dinner. Carol jumps up and starts pounding Jeff on the back after he gags on his champagne, and is embarrassed when Dawn’s father tells her to stop, joking, “I guess I have some things to learn about being a mother, huh?”
Carol chats nonstop through the dinner, telling Dawn and Jeff about the proposal and showing them the ring:
“So your dad tells me to dress up because we were going to a basketball game. Imagine! I mean, why dress up for that? So he picks me up, drives toward the stadium, and says, ‘Let’s get some coffee first.’ He pulls up to this sweet little café—and the game’s supposed to start in ten minutes. Well, little do I know he’s going to propose. And on his knees! Everyone in the café is watching, and when I say yes, they start applauding, and the waiters break into song. It was so romantic. Oh, was I blushing!”
“I would have gone to the game,” Jeff remarked.
“Did you show them the ring?” Dad asked Carol.
She held out her hand. The diamond was surrounded by sapphires. “Isn’t it breathtaking?” she said.
I, for one, was still breathing. “Beautiful,” I replied.
Though they haven’t decided on a date for the wedding, Carol declares, “the sooner, the better!”
Dawn finds it weird that Carol eats Thai food with a fork instead of chopsticks. When Jeff accidentally spills some water, Carol races into the kitchen to grab paper towels and mops it up, for which Dawn judges her (for babying Jeff, and for using paper towels instead of a sponge). After dinner, Carol and Jack go out to celebrate their engagement, leaving Dawn and Jeff to their strawberry shortcake.
Dawn decides that, now that Carol is marrying her father, she’ll never be able to escape her influence or have her father to herself again. She decides to run away, and flies back to Connecticut without telling anybody. When she returns the next day, Jeff tells her about what had happened while she was gone:
“Dawn,” he said, his voice barely audible, “did Dad tell you about his argument with Carol?”
“No.” I sat down next to him. “What happened?”
“Well, she came over last night when Dad was screaming at Mom on the phone. So she and I played seven games of checkers, and I won five. When Dad got off the phone he told Carol what you had done. She said, ‘I’ll stay and help,’ and Dad said, ‘No, I think you’d better go home,’ and Carol got all upset. She said, ‘If I go home I’ll just worry. Please, I’m going to be part of the family, remember?’ He said, ‘Yes, I remember, but that’s not the point now. This is something important that I need to work out with Dawn and her mother.’ And she said, ‘I know, I know, there’ll always be something more important than me.’ Whoa, did Dad blow up! He called her selfish.”
That sounded familiar.
“And she cried,” Jeff went on. “And you know what else? On the way out, she threw her engagement ring on the floor.”
“So it’s off?”
Jeff looked puzzled. “Yeah, I said she threw it.”
“No, I mean the engagement.”
“Nahhh, they talked on the phone later, and it sounded like the fight was over. But Dad has to repair the ring.”
Wow. I had never seen Dad and Carol angry with one another. Maybe their relationship wasn’t perfect after all.
Carols comes over that evening and has a talk with Dawn:
I didn’t want to beat around the bush. “Carol, I’m sorry about what I did. This is supposed to be a happy time for you and Dad, and I’m spoiling it for you.”
“I was worried that—” She shifted uncomfortably. “You know, that you didn’t want us to get married.”
“Don’t worry about that, Carol. The problem has more to do with me. I really am glad you and Dad are engaged. I mean, it did come as a shock, and I didn’t exactly know what to say. Or how to act.” I looked her in the eye and tried to smile. “But I know how happy my dad is. He really loves you.”
Carol’s eyes filled. She opened her arms and we shared a hug.
The last thing she said before she left was, “Friends?”
I forced a smile. “Yeah. Friends.”
Dawn’s father and Carol are nervous and edgy around each other after Dawn’s dramatic reaction to their engagement. Carol doesn’t act young or hip anymore when she comes over; she barely even talks. It takes about two weeks for things to begin to return to normal, and then Carol and Dawn’s father have a loud fight that Dawn and Jeff overhear:
“No, of course you don’t see my point,” Dad was saying. “You’re still wrapped up in your fantasy.”
“Fantasy?” Carol sounded shocked. “Is it a fantasy to want to see a movie once in a blue moon? Is it a fantasy to want to spend a little time with the person you’re going to marry?”
“Uh-oh,” Jeff muttered.
“I think we’d better get out of the way,” I said. “Follow me.”
I ran into my bedroom, with Jeff at my heels. We shut the door softly behind us.
“Face reality, Carol.” Dad’s voice ran through the house. “I’m not a college kid. I have a family. You knew that when you met me.”
“Well, what am I? We’re getting married, Jack, so that makes me family, too! Is there, like, some rating system—kids first, divorced wife second, new wife at the bottom of the heap?”
“Carol, you couldn’t be at the bottom of any heap. You’d push yourself right to the top!”
“And what do you mean by that?”
Jeff and I were crouched near the door. “That sounds like a compliment to me,” my brother whispered.
“It’s not,” I said. “Sssshh.”
“Carol, we go out once or twice a week. And you’re over at the house just about every day. Soon you’ll be living here. What more do you want? Restaurant-hopping every night? We’re both a little too old for that.”
“Speak for yourself.”
“That wasn’t a compliment,” Jeff informed me.
SLAM! went the door to Dad’s bedroom. The argument became muffled, but if they thought they were out of earshot, they were wrong.
I heard Dad call Carol immature. I heard her call him preoccupied. Soon they were practically screaming.
Then suddenly they stopped. Jeff’s eyes widened. “Did they kill each other?”
Carol was sobbing. Dad’s voice grew soft and comforting. I breathed a sigh of relief.
Jack and Carol break up. When Dawn apologizes for running away and driving them apart, Dawn’s father reassures her that it isn’t her fault, saying, “Carol and I had problems long ago. Your trip brought some things to a head, that’s for sure. But now it’s clear to me that we’d have broken up eventually anyway. You may have even done us a favor. It would have been worse to go ahead with the wedding. You know what it’s like to break up after you’re married.”
RS#77 – Dawn runs into Carol at a carnival. Carol casually mentions that she’d seen Whitney with Clover and Daffodil, and talks about what a good job she’d done while looking after them. She tells Dawn that it was good to see her, and gives her an impulsive hug when they part. She and Jack begin dating again a few weeks later, and become engaged again soon after that. They plan for a December wedding, with Jeff as the best man, and Dawn as the maid of honor.
#88 – Jack and Carol are recently married. Dawn describes her as having true high energy (as opposed to fake perkiness) and that “deep down, she’s a sincere, genuine person.” Dawn tells Carol first that she wants to move back to California permanently. After Dawn moves back, she and Carol go shopping for new swimsuits after Carol teases her that a wardrobe of swimsuits is mandatory for a California girl.
#98 – Carol starts to cry during breakfast on the day that Dawn and Jeff are to fly back to Connecticut for their summer vacation. She gives Dawn a big hug and tells her that she thinks of her as her own daughter. She tries to hug Jeff as well, but he bolts, saying that everything’s become too mushy for him. Carol promises to write to them over the summer. Carol accompanies them to the airport along with Jack and Sunny, and gives them hugs before they step onto the plane. When Dawn slaps some color into her cheeks, she mentions that it’s a trick that Carol taught her.
#131 – Sharon calls her ex-husband in California to tell him about the house fire. She talks to Carol on the phone; Carol then wakes up Dawn and puts her on the phone.
Total appearances in series: 4
SS#4 – Jeff’s nickname for Carol is The Hair Queen because she is constantly getting her hair cut or dyed.
SS#5 – Carol is at the Schafer house and cooks dinner when the BSC arrives. She shows up again on Sunday to help Dawn’s father make brunch for the girls, but Dawn’s hackles immediately go up. Kristy can’t figure out why; she mentions that Carol loves music and knows a lot about MTV and music videos. Dawn is dismayed because Carol is their designated grown up for the first week and a half of their two week vacation. Dawn thinks Carol smiles way too much, and is not looking forward to having her cart them around town. Carol has the time because her job as a painter means she has flexible hours. Carol takes the girls to the beach in a friend’s borrowed mini van. She pulls out a sketchpad and begins sketching at the beach. She encourages Stacey to take a surfing class. She talks Claudia into introducing herself to the boy she’s been staring at since they arrived, and inviting him to their blanket for lunch. Carol just smiles when Mallory decides to dye her hair with some wash-out blonde dye. Carol takes Mallory and Jessi all the way out to Hollywood to visit the Max Factor Museum of Beauty.
Carol and Claudia talk about her date with Terry. When Claudia bemoans that she’s not good enough for him, Carol tries to give her some advice, but Dawn interrupts them and declares Carol stupid. Carol drives Kristy, Dawn, Jeff and Mal to the mall in her own car instead of the mini van. They go ice skating and play video games, and Carol treats them to lunch at a health food restaurant. She allows Mallory to rush off to the makeup counters by herself.
Carol drops the girls off at the beach and takes Jeff to Burbank for the NBC Television Tour. She does not go with everyone to Universal Studios, but she does allow Dawn’s father to borrow her friend’s mini van for the trip.
When Stacey calls the Schafers’ after she’s in the car accident with her surfing buddies, Carol answers the phone. Stacey thinks that Carol will be cool about it, and asks her to pick her up at the hospital. Carol and Dawn arrive to pick her up, give her big hugs, and then Carol announces that she’ll have to tell Dawn’s father what happened, which surprises both Stacey and Dawn. They sit down with Jack and tell him what happened, and he tells Stacey that she’ll have to call her parents and tell them what happened. When Stacey balks, Carol steps in again:
And Carol spoke up then. “I really think we have to,” she said to Stacey. “Your parents have a right to know. Besides, you aren’t hurt and you won’t see those friends again. If you want, Dawn’s dad and I can talk to them first, and then you can get on the phone to prove to them that you’re okay.”
I looked at Carol with some respect. And with even more respect when she went on to say, “I do hope you’ve learned something from this, Stacey.”
Stacey reddened. But she said, “Yeah. I have.” Although she didn’t say what.
So my father asked, “What have you learned?”
And Carol replied for Stacey. “I don’t think she had to tell us. She knows what she’s learned. Don’t you, Stacey?”
“Yeah,” said Stacey, still red in the face.
When Dawn asks her father point-blank if he’s planning to marry Carol, he tells her that he loves her, but that he’s not ready to “jump into” another marriage, especially since neither Dawn nor Jeff seem to like her. Dawn admits that Carol’s handling of Stacey’s car accident made her respect her more, and she gives her father her blessing if he decides to marry her.
Carol accompanies the BSC, Jeff, and Dawn’s father to Magic Mountain. Dawn decides that “that Carol was a kid and an adult at the same time, and that was nice. She would do kooky thing with us, but she knew when to open her mouth and when not to.” Dawn has a really nice time with Carol when the group heads for dinner at Medieval Times; they cheer for the same knight in the jousting contest, and Carol gives Dawn her soup at dinner. When they arrive home, Dawn gives Carol a letter that she’d written, and Carol tells her how much it means to her to have received it, but she doesn’t make a big scene about it. She and Dawn hug.
Dawn asks Jeff to be nicer to Carol, and to give her a chance. Carol accompanies the group when they head for the airport. Dawn writes to Carol after she returns to Stoneybrook, and asks that Carol write to her. Carol does, and tells her that she’s looking forward to talking to Dawn on the phone sometime.
SS#12 – Dawn describes Carol, her father’s fiancée, as “a little flakey.” She recounts their huge fight [from RS#72] and thinks that it doesn’t bode well for their future, even if they say they’ve worked things out. Carol and Jack marry on December 17. They marry in a cozy beach-side ceremony, and have a reception at the Schafer house afterwards. It’s an outdoor party with a tent. Jeff is not looking forward to Carol’s furniture coming into their house; he thinks her lava lamps and posters are weird, and her framed Mickey Mouse pictures are babyish. When Jeff mentions this to his father and Carol, they begin arguing over what they should give away and what they should keep; Carol has had her entertainment unit since college and is loath to part with it.
Carol brings over takeout from Body-Soul Joy, a macrobiotic restaurant.
Carol wears makeup and “a long, flowing Indian-print dress that shimmered in the breeze” for the wedding. She and Jack walk down the aisle together, holding hands all the while, and Carol cries as she clutches her bouquet to her chest. At the reception, Carol gets up in front of the band and sings a song called “What are You Doing for the Rest of Your Life” to her new husband. Their wedding cake is carrot cake. After the reception is over, the family heads inside and finds the wedding presents piled under a Christmas tree. Carol and Jack begin to open gifts. Carol coos over the demitasse, and laughs at the strange clown statue that someone has given them. They also receive lots of bowls and other kitchen things. As they are opening presents, they receive a phone call and learn that all of Carol’s furniture was stolen. Carol just starts laughing, telling Jack that she didn’t really like any of her old stuff, but that she fought with him about it because of the principle – she didn’t want him making decisions for her. Carol gives Dawn a little last-minute tutoring before her final exams. For Christmas, she and Jack take Dawn and Jeff out to a Japanese restaurant with tatami rooms, and they come back to open presents. Carol has the largest gift under the tree, so she opens it first. It’s a gigantic lava lamp, which she laughingly declares “horrible!” She gives Dawn a pair of dangly earrings made of birds of paradise feathers and lapis.
Carol and Jack honeymoon after Christmas in Porta Vallarta, Mexico.
SS#14 – Carol can’t accompany Jack, Dawn, and Jeff on the cross-country RV trip because of her job. She and Mrs. Bruen throw a surprise welcome home party for everyone when they arrive back in Palo City. She manages to keep the party plans a secret the entire time they are away; she jokes that it was because Mrs. Bruen was standing beside her with a broomstick every time she talked to Jack on the phone. When Jeff dips is fingers into the hummus, Carol yelps at him to stop and chases him when he runs off.
Total appearances in series: 2
M#12 – Carol is described as “young and pretty and drives a little red sportscar, and she likes MTV. She’s cool, in other words. Which is fine for a regular person, but not really so fine for a woman my father might be serious about.” But, Dawn finds Carol easy to get along with lately. Carol arrives to accompany Jack and Jeff to the beach to watch Dawn’s performance in the surfing contest. She hands Dawn a bagel from the breakfast table, telling her that she can’t compete well on an empty stomach. They all head to the beach for the surfing contest and are joined by Sunny. After the contest, they all cluster around the judges’ table with Dawn to hear the results.
M#17 – Dawn admits that she was jealous of Carol when she first started dating Dawn’s father: “Carol really isn’t a motherly type. In fact, even though she’s a grown-up, I think she may be cooler than me. She has cool clothes and a cool haircut and she drives a cool red sports car, and she knows all about the coolest new groups, since she loves to watch MTV.
At first I wasn’t thrilled by my dad’s hip girlfriend. I think I felt a little jealous of Carol. Okay, I felt a lot jealous.” Carol is “a regular at Casa Schafer,” stopping by for dinner at least four nights out of the week. She helps with the cooking. She helps Dawn experiment with funky hairstyles. She’s already claimed a spot on the green sofa in the TV room, next to Dawn’s father.
Carol really enjoys singing along with the car radio, and really gets into it, banging the steering wheel in rhythm with the music as she drives down the highway. A typical Carol outfit includes neon-orange framed sunglasses, ripped shorts, and MTV-logo t-shirts. Carol and Dawn runs errands before dinner – Dawn goes to the drug store and party supply store while Carol stops by the Kopy Kwik shop and Sam’s Deli, to pick up the pickles that Dawn’s dad likes. Dawn witnesses a robbery when she approaches Carol’s car, and when Carol returns, she hugs the shaken Dawn close. She takes Dawn to the police station to give her witness statement, waiting out in the lobby and calling Dawn’s father to let him know what’s going on. When they get to Dawn’s house, Carol helps Dawn’s father convince Jeff that the robbery wasn’t “totally awesome,” like something out of a TV cop show.
Carol suggests the We ♥ Kids Club use perciatelli for the cold, slimy worms in their haunted house, and helps put together the scary sounds tape they use. She imitates shrieks with a friend’s violin, and edits the tape to slow down the sound effects, making them even spookier. Carol also picks up the Halloween candy for the Schafer house, something gooey and chocolate, which meets with Jeff’s approval. Carol helps Dawn put together her last-minute Halloween costume – Pippi Longstocking.
Total appearances in series: 1
Dawn's Book – Carol greets Dawn when she comes down for breakfast. She’s eating granola and yogurt. She asks Dawn if she’s seen her Rollerblades. Dawn tells Carol that if she can’t find them, she’s welcome to borrow hers.
Total appearances in series: 6
DAWN DIARY I – Carol is anxious to drive her husband to the airport by herself when he announces that he’s going on a ten-day business trip, but he lets the kids come along, as he sees no reason not to. Carol tries to cheer Dawn and Jeff up after the announcement, promising to take them out to dinner one night, and to the beach on Saturday, even going along with Jeff’s suggestion to see the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.
When Dawn asks Carol what “sterile” means, she starts to giggle, which just serves makes Dawn mad, and to feel as if she can’t confide in her. They have snippy fights with each other throughout the book about homework
Carol works at an office. She comes home early in order to take her husband to the airport for his business trip. She seems really nervous about something, and is unhappy when Jack tells her to bring the kids along so they can all say goodbye at the gate, but she doesn’t acknowledge it.
Carols decides that Jeff needs new school clothes and takes him shopping. Their trip doesn’t last long, however – in less than an hour they’re back, with only a pair of socks in hand.
Dawn eavesdrops on a phone call from Dr. Barnat, Carol’s new gynecologist, who confirms that she’s three weeks pregnant. Dawn immediately confesses to a stunned Carol, only for her to swear Dawn to secrecy, because she wants to tell Jack herself, in person.
Carol drives Dawn and Sunny to Jill’s in her red convertible for the ill-fated sleepover, and then takes Jeff out to dinner (Mexican food) and to King Hotshot to play miniature golf. Later, Carol enjoys an ice cream cone while wearing tennis whites. Dawn wonders if there’s something wrong with her pregnancy because she does not seem enthused about it at all.
Carol’s clock radio alarm is loud enough to wake Dawn from down the hall.
Dawn tells Jill about Carol’s pregnancy. The next day, Jill blurts out the secret, rushing over to her to take a fax machine box away from her when Carol enters the kitchen and interrupts Dawn and Jill’s cookie-baking. Carol is furious with Dawn for blabbing her secret after she promised not to. The two apologize tersely to each other. Later that evening, when her husband calls from his business trip, Dawn urges her to tell him about the pregnancy, which she rather reluctantly does.
SUNNY DIARY I – Carol and Jack bring a gourmet lunch over for Mrs. Winslow when she comes home from the hospital.
SUNNY DIARY II – Carol has “a big old pregnant belly” (she’s 7 months along) but still acts “32 going on 15.” She invites Sunny to have a midnight snack and chatters about her pregnancy and crazy appetite and cravings. She’s eating tuna fish covered in chocolate. Sunny gives Carol her mother’s old Jane Fonda pregnancy workout video, which she “goes nuts over” and begins to exercise with. Sunny makes sure to fast-forward to the late pregnancy workout and is hesitant to leave Carol by herself as she goes at it.
Sunny stops by the Schafers’ after visiting her mother in the hospital and starts to confide in Carol about the visit, but clams up when the rest of the Schafer clan arrives and starts asking questions. Carol lets Sunny feel the baby kicking one morning. Sunny sings Maggie’s song “Hey Down There” to Carol’s belly, and the baby kicks her, which makes Carol laugh. She’s convinced her baby will grow up to be a soccer player. When Sunny observes that Carol has that pregnancy glow, Dawn fires back that she’s always glowing, because she has oily skin.
When Sunny decides to run away to Nevada, she makes it all the way to the bus stop before realizing she’s left her wallet at Dawn’s. She slips inside to get it, but runs into Carol sitting in the kitchen, knitting “an ugly argyle tube sock.” She asks Carol if its for Dawn, but Carol tells her it’s a baby bootie. Sunny cracks an orangutan joke that makes Carol “practically [fall] off her chair laughing.” Sunny notes how much she enjoys Carol’s laugh, and sees nothing but pure unadulterated joy in Carol’s expression, which makes her re-think her plans. When Carol props her feet up, displaying her swollen ankles from fluid retention, Sunny offers to massage them for her. The massage reminds Sunny too much of her mother, and she starts to cry. Carol simply puts an arm around Sunny’s shoulders and lets her unload all of her angst about her mother’s declining condition and her father’s neglectful treatment. Carol offers her some wise advice:
I expected an adult answer. I figured she’d defend Dad, the way all adults defend each other.
But the first thing she said was, “That’s not fair.”
“He’s such a liar!” I blurted out. “How can he do that to Mom?”
“No.” Carol shook her head. “That’s not the important question. He wants to soothe her, Sunny. I would do the same thing. It’s you he needs to think about.” She raised an eyebrow at me. “Don’t you ever tell your dad I said that.”
I told her I didn’t tell him anything anyway. I promised not to start.
“I don’t quite know how to say this,” Carol went on. “What your dad’s facing is a little like what Jack faced when he divorced Dawn’s mother.”
“My mom is not — ”
“I know. I know. But what I mean is, his reality is changing, Sunny. And so’s yours. It’s scary. You feel like your life is spinning out of control. Well, your dad feels that too. you don’t know what ‘normal’ is anymore. He doesn’t either. But it’s going to take a long time. And a lot of work.”
“Normal? How can we ever be normal, Carol? When Mom’s in the hospital and Dad’s in the store, and I’m over here all the time, freeloading off you.”
Carol smiled and gave me a big hug. “No, you’re not freeloading. We love having you. And don’t worry, sweetie. This won’t last forever. You’ll see. It’ll never be the same as it was, but it’ll be good again. Just give it time.”
Dawn is so lucky.
Carol is the coolest.
Carol brings Sunny along with her (without Dawn) to Vista Hills Mall to go maternity shopping. Carol faints in the dressing room, freaking out another shopper. Sunny takes command of the situation, calling 911 and ordering the sales clerks around. She’s surprised when she hears someone refer to her as Carol’s daughter; she looks around as if expecting to see Dawn instead. Sunny calls Mr. Schafer and Mrs. Bruen and rides with Carol in the ambulance to the emergency room. Carol receives IV resuscitation. The ER doc, Dr. Rymond, prescribes confinement until the baby is born:
“We’re f-f-f-fine!” Carol blurted out.
“Mama and baby both pulled through with flying colors,” Dr. Rymond agreed. “That’s the good news.”
Mr. Schafer turned warily. “Is there bad news?”
Dr. Rymond smiled. “If you consider total rest and relaxation bad news. I’m prescribing confinement to bed until the baby is born. No getting up at all.”
“But that’s two months!” Mr. Schafer replied.
Dr. Rymond explained that she’d better do what he said if she wanted to keep the baby. Well, he didn’t use those exact words, but that was the meaning.
Mr. Schafer clasped Carol’s hand and asked how she felt about this.
She smiled. She said she would finally have time to read all her magazines. “Besides,” she went on, “I love meals in bed and long foot rubs.”
She winked at me. I winked back.
God, I hope I’m like her when I grow up.
Carol stays overnight in the hospital, and comes home in a wheelchair. They all celebrate her return with Thai food. Mr. Schafer eats dinner with her in their master bedroom, occasionally joined by Sunny. Sunny notes: “I can’t believe I actually used to resent Carol. I never wanted to talk to her. I guess I was siding with Dawn. But that seems like ages ago.”
Carol develops a hearty distaste for eggs, rejecting Sunny’s cheese omelette one morning for breakfast. Otherwise, she is fine, working her way through the LA Times’s bestseller list. She continues to be Sunny’s warm shoulder and listens patiently to her drama with her father and Dawn. She suggests that Sunny get one of “her many boyfriends” a job at Winslow Books.
Sunny is supposed to take care of Carol for an hour or so but totally blows it, forcing Carol to get up out of bed to see what was keeping her, and to ask if she needs to call the fire department when their dinner burns on the stove. Sunny can’t lie to Carol, so she confesses what she was doing. Carol is anxious and upset, and tells her to bring the phone so that she can call the doctor. Sunny sticks around long enough to learn that Carol and the baby are okay before beating a hasty retreat. She eventually returns and hashes everything out with Carol, Mr. Schafer, and Mrs. Bruen. Carol tells her that she’s lost her trust in Sunny, but that it can be re-earned.
DAWN DIARY II – Carol can’t even get out of bed to use the bathroom, she has to use a bedpan. She has a little bell on her bedside table that she uses to indicate when she needs something. Everyone, even Jeff, is pitching in to help while she’s in confinement. Jeff is fascinated by the baby; he calls it “The Pod.” Jack is very attentive, always oohing and aahing and laying his hands on her belly. Carol misses the beach and the ocean and can’t wait to get back to surfing. Carol doesn’t want to know the sex of her baby. Dawn buys books and magazines for Carol at Mr. Winslow’s bookstore. Carol has two topics of conversation: what to name the baby, and what she’s going to do once she’s “back on her feet.” She requests the summer class schedule at the local gym, and a copy of Rollerblade magazine. The nursery is across the hall from Carol’s bedroom.
Carol goes into labor and is taken to the hospital by ambulance. Only Jack goes back with her into the delivery room. She gives birth to an eight lb, two oz baby girl:
Finally, my father came bursting into the waiting room. He was beaming. “It’s—a girl!” he said in a choked voice. His eyes gleamed. I’ve never seen him look so happy. “She’s beautiful. She’s fine. Carol too. They came through with flying colors.” Tears spilled down his cheeks. I have never seen my father so happy that he cried. Never. Not even the day he and Carol were married.
Dawn brings Carol her Discman and her favorite CDs; Mrs. Breun brings flowers from the garden; Jeff brings the baby-name book so they can pick out a name. They decide on Elizabeth Grace. Carol stays at the hospital a few extra days before coming home. She is amused when Jeff gives Gracie a poster of Michael Jordan.
DAWN DIARY III – Carol is breastfeeding. She goes all out for Valentine’s Day, decorating the kitchen with little hearts and buying everyone gifts. She gives Dawn silver heart-shaped earrings and red heart-shaped soap. Carol has taken off a lot of time from work to be at home with Gracie. Carol likes Dawn’s black high-heeled sneakers with the three inch soles. She waits up when her husband goes to pick up Dawn and her friends from the club, and makes tea for them when they get home. Carol has a theory about Sunny’s acting out: if Sunny pushes everyone away from her first, then they can’t leave her as her mother seems to be leaving her by dying. Carol breaks the news to Dawn that Mrs. Winslow has come home to die. She urges Dawn to call Sunny:
And then I realized why Sunny had cut school.
“God, poor Sunny,” I said. “She wasn’t in school today, Carol. She must have known this was going to happen. I bet she stayed at home to be with her mother.” Either that or she was somewhere else so she wouldn’t have to be with her mother.
“Maybe you should call Sunny,” Carol suggested.
For some reason that brought on a fresh wave of tears. When I calmed down I said, “It’s no good. I’ve tried talking to her.”
“But maybe she’ll talk now. This is different.”
“You mean she really needs her friends?” I said. Carol nodded. “But she really needed us before. Why should this be different?”
“Because now it’s real,” Carol replied.
SUNNY DIARY III – Carol volunteers to help at the Winslows’. She arrives early from work; she answers the phone and cleans up the kitchen, putting away the food that everyone’s been bringing by. She agrees to take home a complete dinner someone has sent over, and goes in to see Mrs. Winslow. She’s crying before she even gets in the door, and looks pretty bad when she comes out. She and Jack hug Mr. Winslow before leaving. Carol returns the next day to field calls and answer the door. She makes lunch for the Winslows as they sit vigil over Sunny’s mom. Sunny runs straight to Carol when her mother finally dies, and Carol comforts her – then, and later, before the funeral. She gives Dawn permission to sit with Sunny at the funeral.