I looked slowly down at my dress. Do I look fancy enough? I wondered. My dress was red satin with a black satin sash, but still I wondered if it was grand enough. I was going to a party at the Hampton House, an elaborate home in the middle of town that was owned by my Papa’s boss. He and his family were having a party to celebrate summer, and they had invited our family.
I was a shy girl of fourteen, who did not have much self confidence at the time. My good mother had tried to teach me to have some more faith in myself, but I was still unsure of myself. “Mama, do I look okay?” I asked.
“Yes, dear, you look lovely,” Mama said, looking fondly at me.
My identical twin Alisina, who had been fixing her hair at the mirror, walked toward us. Even though we are identical, our personalities were quite different. Alisina was always cheery, with a big smile on her face, but I was very shy and rarely showed my timid smile. “Oh, I am so excited!” Alisina called. “Are you excited, Marina?”
“Yes,” I said, quietly as always, but inside I was not so sure about this party. I knew that Mr. and Mrs. Richards, the owners of the Hampton House, had invited many people, and I did not like crowds.
Then we heard Papa call, “Get in the wagon, children!” We hurried down the stairs and to the wagon. Our other siblings, eleven-year-old Josiah and nine-year-old Clara, were already in the wagon.
“You all look so wonderful,” said Mama as she eyed our outfits of blue, pink, and red. Every strand of hair and every curl was combed and tamed. Mama was pleased. We drove away to the Hampton House. We are the only people with a wagon now, I thought as I saw all the cars driving through the streets of Savannah, Georgia, our city. But then I counted three other wagons on the short ride. Dust blew from the streets as the cars drove by. I tried to keep my dress clean. I was still very nervous that I would not be fancy enough for the party.
“Alisina, make sure you don’t get dust on your dress!” I called above the roar of the cars.
“I will just brush it off when we arrive,” Alisina replied. Alisina is so carefree, I thought. I don’t want to be seen in a dusty dress.
We soon arrived at the Hampton House. Alisina brushed the dust off her dress quickly and ran, her brown waves flying, to the Richards’ dog Nannie. I chewed nervously on my brown braid as I stood hesitantly on the brick front porch. A butler greeted us and let us in. Alisina ran to join us.
We stepped into a grand tile foyer. Strains of music came from the parlor. A beautiful wooden staircase climbed to an open hallway above. Mr. Richards and sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Richards came from the parlor just beyond the foyer. I was so amazed by the house that my face was aglow like Alisina’s. “Alisina!” Elizabeth called, giving me a hug. I blushed slightly.
“Good day, Elizabeth,” I muttered.
“Elizabeth!” Alisina called, as her eyes caught sight of her friend. Then Elizabeth realized she had mistaken me for Alisina. I was too shy to be acquainted with Elizabeth previously.
“Forgive me, Marina,” Elizabeth said sincerely. I nodded politely as Mrs. Richards walked over.
“Greetings,” Mrs. Richards said. “Don’t you look pretty?” she continued as she looked at us children.
“Thank you, ma’am,” we all said in unison.
“Now which one is Alisina and which one is Marina?” she asked.
“I am Alisina, she is Marina,” Alisina answered.
“You two look so alike. Come along to the drawing room,” Mrs. Richards said, leading us through a beautiful dining room with a globe in the corner and beautiful curtains, then through double doors into a drawing room with windows all around. There on the couch was Grace, who was the youngest Richards at nine years of age. She was wearing a pretty pink dress that looked lovely with her blonde hair. She stood up to greet us. She and Clara were friends, since they were the same age. Then we greeted the Richards boys, Walker and Oliver, but soon all of the Richards family left to greet more guests.
I sat shyly on the settee while Alisina looked happily out the window at the guests who were arriving. “Alisina, you don’t want them to see you,” I said, not wanting to draw attention.
“Why not?” Alisina demanded, her brown eyes laughing. I shrugged. Elizabeth came and led us back to the tile foyer to meet the other guests.
I shyly greeted the guests. Many of the older ladies had stylish dresses with chiffon overlays. Their large-brimmed hats were decorated with flowers or feathers. But the young ladies had simple dresses like mine. I don’t look too bad, I thought hesitantly.
Alisina was very outgoing, speaking to the other guests with Elizabeth and Clara. Josiah and Grace joined a group of children who were playing cards at the dining room table. I sat down to watch the game as the dealer started to pass out cards. He dealt to me, thinking I wanted to play. My heart raced. I did not want to play cards, but yet, I did not want to be rude. Then a boy came over and said, “I want to play!”
“You can take my place. I do not know how to play,” I said bravely.
“Okay,” he said and sat down in my place. I sighed and watched while standing at the side of the polished oak table. Then I looked and saw Alisina spinning the globe.
“Alisina, be careful,” I said quietly.
“Why?” Alisina said. “Be careful for what?”
“Be careful that you do not damage the globe,” I replied.
“You are silly, Marina, to worry so much,” Alisina said quietly.
Then Elizabeth came over and said, “We are going to play croquet!” The young people headed outside to play. I slowly followed at a distance, so as not to be confused with the people who wanted to play. I stepped out onto the brick back porch and then onto the stone pathway around a beautiful fish pond. Alisina followed me. She started stepping on the rocks around the pond.
“Stop, Alisina,” I said. “You might fall in the pond.”
“Do not worry,” Alisina replied. “These rocks are large.” And she continued into the garden, balancing on the rocks there. I walked around the path and stood watching the game. Alisina went to play croquet. Soon it was time for supper. Mr. Richards said the blessing. I took my plate inside. I was not interested in being outside with all the other people. I was also concerned that my manners were not refined enough. I sat at a table by the kitchen where the Richards family ate when they had no guests. As I finished my meal, I could see the young people coming inside to the parlor. Some of the young ladies took turns playing the piano. When I entered the parlor, Alisina turned to me and said, “Marina, you should play the piano.”
“No, Alisina,” I gasped.
“Because I am shy,” I whispered.
“You play the piano?” a girl asked.
“Please do play,” another girl said.
“Marina James, please do play,” said a lady.
“Play, Marina!” called Clara.
“Yes!” Alisina called, looking at me with an encouraging smile. I tried to feel confident, but I was still shy. I blushed brightly. Then I realized it would actually save me embarrassment by playing the piano, so I played my best song. My fingers knew what to do, and I did not make one mistake! I was so happy!
“Take a bow, Marina!” Alisina called, so I took a bow. I was so thrilled.
“That was really good,” Elizabeth said, smiling.
“Thank you,” I replied. I felt like I was walking on a cloud. The compliments boosted my morale. I played more songs on the piano later in the evening, and I even joined others to play games. It was such a wonderful time. For the rest of the night I did not think of my dress, my shyness, or my worries. I was just enjoying myself. For once I felt like Alisina, carefree and joyful. That was one of the loveliest nights of my life.
Now I am happy. I try not to worry, and I try not to be abashed. I am gaining confidence to use the talents that God has given me. I do not want to hide my talents like the man in the parable did. I want to be brave and bold as I share God’s blessings.