Will Enid's life ever be the same?
It occurred to Enid that although she and her mother were bending over backward to be nice, her grandmother wasn’t even trying to meet them halfway. She was picky, demanding, crotchety…
Do you remember the first entry ever written here in the Diaries? It began, "As an introduction, Double Love sets one thing straight: Jessica Wakefield is a bitch." Well, as a book, Hard Choices sets another thing straight: Enid's grandma is a bitch.
I realize that's a pretty harsh description to assign to an old lady, but this book is clearly trying to prove little else. I mean, why else make this elderly woman, Mrs. Langevin, alias Nana, the catalyst for all of the problems in the book? She's breaking up Enid and her out-of town boyfriend Hugh (who I'd totally forgotten about), she won't let Enid or her mother (who has a sexy name: Adele) go anywhere without giving them a hard time about it, and she's keeping Enid from being involved in this week's B-Story. She sucks.
But let me back up a little bit. At the end of #42, we knew how thrilled Enid was that her grandmother would be moving in with her and her mother. Nana had been living alone in Chicago since her husband died, and Enid was sure that her grandmother would be much happier in Sweet Valley with the Rollins gals, and why not? Alone in a ghosty old house here in Chicago (it's sleeting here now), or with caring family in sunny California? Seems like a no brainer. (I may or may be bitter because of that whole winter thing.)
The beginning of Hard Choices finds us on the cusp of Nana's arrival. As soon as Nana gets out of the car after being picked up at the airport, Enid can tell something's wrong; grandma seems so...old! Enid's memories of Nana were of someone a little less frail. And way less plaintiff. This woman constantly mentions that she "doesn't want to be a bother" and yet manages to bother everyone at every turn. She doesn't feel comfortable driving in strange town, but she doesn't try to work her grocery shopping or senior center activities around that of Enid and her mom. Enid makes tea for her once, and now Nana expect it every day. She even convinces Enid that her mom's boyfriend is a dick, and to then convince Adele that Enid's boyfriend is no good.
Of course, all of this is frustrating to the reader as well as the characters. It's clear early on that grandma needs a stern talking to, but the younger women just can't help but treat her with constant (and increasingly resentful) deference. Poor Adele actually gets proposed to by her boyfriend, Richard, but can't bring herself to say use because things with her mother are so "complicated!"
Enid has a similar type of problem. Her boyfriend Hugh goes to nearby Big Mesa, and the two have been having trouble finding time to spend together. Enid is really excited when he invites her on this group camping trip, as it will be an extended period of togetherness on neutral ground. Mrs. Rollins, however, has been soured on Hugh by suspicious talk from Nana, and decides at the last minute that Enid can't go on the trip! She can't even get the message to Hugh before he arrives to pick her up, and he is, of course, pissed. Enid is, too, but she can’t really do anything about it.
As if things weren’t bad enough, Enid has been totally unavailable to work on this movie project that Elizabeth cooked (B Story) up because she’s constantly keeping her grandmother company. This is making Liz et al (but mostly Liz) rather worried about Enid, but Enid’s keeping any ill feelings toward Nana to herself, for the most part. That is, until Nana pulls some serious shenanigans. Despite not really being a part of the movie project, Enid is still looking forward to making things up to Hugh by attending the film’s premiere (at the Wakefields’ house) with him. Meanwhile, Adele is trying to make things right with her own boyfriend by attending a special awards dinner with him. Do you smell a problem yet? Well, Adele has actually foreseen the problem of leaving grandma alone for the evening (it’s not that she can’t fend for herself, it’s just that she doesn’t want to) and called a friend to stop by and hang out with grams. But Nana protests! “Don’t bother sending a stranger over here” she says. Adele says fine, and cancels, and after doing so, Nana drops the bombshell: “You’ll have to stay home now, Adele. I can’t be here alone. I might get sick.” (p. 130)
Why, at this point, doesn’t Adele say “that’s bullshit, Mom. You’re a grown woman, and you knew we had plans. Your choice was to have my friend come over and stay with you OR to be alone. You made that choice a minute ago and now you’re out of options” ? WHY?! I suppose it’s because such a reaction would have ended the book a chapter or two too early. Instead, Adele says “I’m sorry Enid, this is the last time” and rushed off to her date. Hugh arrives shortly after and is furious that Enid has broken yet another date. He storms off, and now Enid is furious with her obviously scheming grandmother and yells at her for being such a jerk. She even tells her she hates her! Then she, too storms out and sneaks into the Wakefields’ living room for the end of the movie. But she can only fume for a while before worrying that her unkind words have done some irreparable harm to Nana. She darts back home before Liz can stop her.
When Enid gets home, she finds her grandmother in fine spirits. She’s baking, in fact. The two make up, and then Hugh stops by to apologize for getting so angry. Enid’s mom is shocked to come home and find them happily munching away around the dining room table, but she rolls with it. And Nana announces that she’s sorry she was acting so strangely, that she was feeling sorry for her poor old widow self, and that she is now ready to face life again...back in Chicago. She’s leaving, just as things started to get not-awful.
All in all, this book was kind of a place-holder. Like, “We need to write about something this month, but we can’t have another kidnapping just yet.” And that’s okay, because I needed something tame to prepare myself for the insanity of Sweet Valley Confidential, which I promise to write about very soon. Perhaps it won’t surprise you to learn that Mrs. Langevin, a.k.a. Nana, did NOT make an appearance in that volume, so get your fill of conniving old lady now while you still can, people. It’s all sex and confusing relationships next time.