Why does Leigh's mom refer to them as "lonely hearts" in Beverly Cleary's Dear Mr. Henshaw?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Beverly Cleary's Dear Mr. Henshaw, Katy, the woman Leigh's mother works for, invites Leigh and his mother over for Christmas dinner, along with some other women they work with. After the dinner, Leigh's mom remarks how nice it was and comments to Leigh that "it was a lovely dinner for lonely hearts" ("Monday, December 25"). In speaking of "lonely hearts," Leigh's mom is referring to her son's loneliness as well as her own. Not only is Leigh's mom lonely because she has just divorced Leigh's father, Leigh is himself lonely because he misses his father and is often left alone in the new cottage Leigh and his mother moved to.

Leigh especially feels lonely because he does not hear from his father that Christmas. In Leigh's late December diary entries, starting with December 23rd, the beginning of Christmas vacation, we learn Leigh eagerly expects a Christmas present to arrive in the mail from his father. When nothing arrives in the mail, he hopes his father will bring the gift in person and asks his mother if his father might come; his mother disappoints him by saying, "We're divorced. Remember?" ("Saturday, December 23").

It is not until Christmas Eve that a strange man, who is also a trucker, comes to the house to deliver a package to Leigh, saying his father asked him to "play Santa." Leigh is very excited about the gift of a down jacket but still very sad he hasn't actually heard from his father that Christmas. After seeing her son so sad about not hearing from his father during Christmas, Leigh's mom refers to them both as "lonely hearts."