Monday, April 12, 2010

The Secret Lives of Little Girls, Part One: A Shout Out to the Ladies

My bike was yellow with a rainbow seat. I set off in the morning.

Mrs. Green kept an ashtray on the coffee table with coins on it for her kids to take the bus, except all of her kids were grown and off and married. When did you have to pay to ride the school bus? If I got there before Mr. Greene left for work, I could see them french kiss.

Mrs. Stratton, who let me call her "Carol", took me many summer mornings to her beauty shop. I swept up hair, voiced my opinions on colors and perms, ate cheese nips, drank Coke, got hooked on Young and the Restless, and never let her cut my hair. We usually stopped by her mother's house on the way home. We sat and kept her company, sometimes picked up freshly canned beans or tomatoes. Mrs. Stratton really wanted children of her own, especially a little girl.

Mrs. Jennings worked all day. She loved it that I came to tend to Penny, her super-old dog. Off and on I would stop by to pet her and check her for ticks. If there were any, I would grab the vaseline from the utility room and I would smother the tick and then pull him off and take him home (only two doors down) for my brother to burn.

Mrs. Jones was always busy with piano lessons. I would sit on the stairs and wait for her to come out between lessons. She made me bread with butter, and homemade applesauce when I was sick. She taught me how to cross-stitch and refinish furniture.

Mrs. Fuller taught my brother in the second grade. She always let me go to the grocery store with her as long as I tried to call home first. I rode in the front seat.

Mrs. Baker raised golden retrievers on the side and was rumored to overfeed her children, but she always bought anything I was selling from wrapping paper to greeting cards. She struggled with her health.

I could not get to Mrs. Walker because she ran a deli with her huband and her sons loved to jump out and scare me.

Mrs. Rogers scrubbed the face paint off my cheek when I showed up to church to sing in the choir. That's the way it was and Thank God somebody told me. She organized weddings and walked every evening with her daughter.

Mrs. Henderson also had wicked teenage boys, but the first cordless phone, so sometimes I HAD to stop by to call home.

I folded laundry at every house.

Everybody had at least one or two tomato plants.

If they got tired of me and sent me home, they did it nicely.

I wasn't raised by wolves; I was raised by women.