The Inside Story

 By Mary Anne Brannon


A widowed mother and her two grown daughters are clearing out the attic in preparation for the mother's move to a smaller home. The task underscores the resentment the older daughter feels toward her sister. "Mama" doesn't understand.


I Corinthians 12; I Corinthians 13:4-7; Philippians 1:3


Attic of widowed mother's house. Boxes are piled everywhere.


Ballet shoes, prom dress, photo album, baby shoes, stuffed animals, children's toys, chairs, boxes, trunks, etc.


Mama - 65 - 70 years of age - very outspoken, always in control; has always been able to express emotion to younger daughter, but not to older daughter. It may be because they are so much alike, they clash.
Eleanor - younger daughter; about 35; very smartly dressed, even to clean the attic. She has not visited mama in about a year. Of the two girls, she is the one who always cared more about appearance, talent, social engagements, etc.
Maggie - older daughter; about 40 or so; rather plainly dressed in comparison to sophisticated younger sister. Never cared for the social scene.
Harry - Maggie's husband. Self-employed in hardware store.


(Scene opens with Mama in attic. She has clip board to take inventory and has already situated herself in a chair, ready to give orders.)

Mama: (shouts toward attic door) You girls come on up here! We gotta get started. (looks around and mutters to herself) I don't know how I'm gonna get all this done. (Looks up toward heaven and says) Ed, I still haven't forgiven you for leavin' me with this mess.

Enter sisters: Both comment on the clutter, the heat, the dust. Eleanor makes more of it than Maggie.

Mama: (sweetly) Now, Eleanor. I know you're sensitive to dust, so you just let Maggie rummage through all this stuff. I don't want you feeling poorly. The Mother-Daughter Banquet is this weekend, and it's not every year I have my sweet Eleanor to go with me.

(Maggie stares at Mama, turns away from her and smirks at Eleanor.)

Maggie: (to audience, mockingly) ". . .my sweet Eleanor."

Eleanor: (ignores Maggie, turns to Mama) Mama, you were always so cautious with my health.

Maggie: (to audience, mockingly) "You were always so cautious with my health."

Eleanor: (looks sternly at Maggie) I'll be fine. My allergist says since he understands my delicate nature, he can prescribe the right medication for me. I'm looking forward to seeing what you kept all these years. There could be some real treasures up here.

Mama: Okay, sweetie, if you're sure. Let's get started. Maggie, you take that box in the far corner. Lord knows what's in it. Eleanor, why don't you just take this one right here? (She pats Eleanor on the shoulder) And I'll take inventory.

Maggie: Mama, surely you're not going to keep all this stuff. (moves toward the corner as mama instructed). There's no room in your new house.

Mama: Of course not. That's silly. I just need to decide what to keep, 'cause one day you girls will have to decide what you want. I won't be here forever.

Eleanor: Mama, I don't want to think about that. You've already given me so many nice things. Maggie can have the rest. (Maggie looks at Eleanor, then turns to check out boxes)

Maggie: (turns toward mama and sister) Oh, would you look at this. It's my favorite stuffed animal. (can be anything, but make it very worn and rather odd looking)

Mama: I remember that one. Eleanor, weren't you allergic to it ? Something about that synthetic fur.

Maggie: (very pleased with herself) Mama, I think it was the other way around. It was allergic to Eleanor. (Mama shakes her head toward Maggie.)

Eleanor: (removes prom dress from the trunk) After all these years. (stands and holds dress as if to see how it looks on her) I remember dancing till midnight with my handsome beau. Mama, do you remember daddy running out of film just taking my picture?

Maggie: (sarcastically) All I remember is daddy running out. Ha! Ha! (laughs at her own joke. No one else does).

Mama: My, yes. Your daddy was so proud of his little princess.

Eleanor: (looks further into the trunk) Oh, look, my toe shoes! I pirouetted all the way across the stage in my first solo. Mama, do you remember? I know a very creative way to display these.

Maggie: I'll bet you do. (Mama stares at Maggie, puts her finger across her lips as if to say, "That's enough. Hush.")

Mama: (changes the subject) I just know there has to be a photo album up here somewhere. Eleanor, look under that table. I remember throwing it through the attic door, just before your daddy threatened to nail it shut if I didn't quit puttin' so much stuff up here.

Eleanor: You're right, as usual (she smiles at Mama). Here it is. (Sits down by Mama, opens book) I haven't seen this one before. How old are these pictures?

Mama: Well, they're sure older than you girls are. These are of me and your daddy in our courtin' days. Would you just look at that car? Oh, and look at them dresses. We was hot stuff!

Maggie: (comes up behind Mama and Ellen, leans down and points to picture) Who's that person there? She's rather plain looking. I don't remember seeing her before.

Mama: That's your great aunt Margaret. She's the one we named you after. She never went in for "fluff." (Maggie cowers a little bit)

Eleanor: Is there a picture of cousin Eleanor. I really liked her. She always went to my piano recitals. She brought me a dozen roses, I remember.

Mama: (turns to another page) She's right here. Isn't she beautiful? Just like the little girl named for her. ( Mama hugs Eleanor, Maggie still standing behind them sighs deeply and rolls her eyes)

Maggie: (moves toward another box, changes the subject from the photo album and finds something that is really hers.) Mama, here's the poem I wrote for you when I was in third grade. This was so special to me because Mrs. Cannon, my teacher, asked me to read it for the whole class. It even made her cry a little. I didn't know you kept it all these years.

Mama: Well, you were (accentuate this word) such a sweet child, when you wanted to be. I guess I was a little touched by it, too. You were a quiet child, never wantin' to go places. I suppose your real talent must have been in writin'. (Maggie smiles at hearing mama compliment her, then) Too bad, you didn't keep it up.

Maggie: Mama, why didn't you encourage me? You praised Eleanor for everything &endash; even when it wasn't as perfect as she thought it was. I needed that encouragement, too. Why didn't I get it? (Mama starts to answer but is interrupted)

Eleanor: Maggie, you're just jealous because I am talented, beautiful, and sophisticated. A - n - d because I didn't have to live with Mama until I was 40 years old!

Maggie: (gets in Eleanor's face) You always tried to take attention away from everybody but yourself. Why, even daddy had to compete against you. He upped and died, and you moved away. I couldn't leave mama alone in this big house.

Mama: Girls! Stop it this instant! (But they continue to bicker)

Eleanor: You know that's not so, just didn't marry well.

They both begin pointing fingers at each other and muttering Mama goes to attic door and calls for Harry, Maggie's husband.

They are still shouting at each other, as he steps between them. He pushes them apart and says:

Harry: Maggie I knew this would happen. I told you not to stir up the pot, but NO. You still behave like you did when we got married 20 years ago. You can't be like Eleanor. And why would you want to be? (Maggie stares at him; Eleanor frowns at him). Oh, I can see I'm wasting my breath on you. Come on downstairs and calm down, both of you!

(Harry leads the women down the stairs.)

Harry: We're all different, Maggie. Thank the Lord, we're all different. You two should be closer now than ever before. (sighs).

All exit except Mama. She picks up the poem that Maggie left behind. Sits down and reads it to herself. Pulls out a tissue and dots her eyes, puts the poem in her apron pocket. Then she says:

Mama: I guess Maggie forgot the times I asked her to help me write thank you notes and messages in Christmas cards. She just seemed to have the right word for everything. (smiles a little) Must have been all those crossword puzzles she did, and she was always readin', always readin'. I knew she could do anything she wanted to with her writin'. All God's children have special gifts and graces, but Maggie was just too busy comparing herself to Eleanor to know what hers were. She's a good person. Eleanor wouldn't have taken the neighbor's cat to the vet; Eleanor wouldn't have sat with Grandpa, listening to his war stories without going crazy. It's what's on the inside that matters. That's where God lives. He loves her and I do too. I need to tell her that.


© Mary Anne Brannon 1999
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This play may be performed free of charge, on the condition that copies are not sold for profit in any medium, nor any entrance fee charged.
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