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THE LADYBUG: PART 1

In Should I Even Be Talking About This?, The 60's on August 23, 2013 at 12:15 am

     

Courtney3

 

Me and Rob. I just won the tug of war for that book.

Me and Rob. I just won the tug of war for that book. And yeah- my hairstyle-it’s the ‘Eunice Higgins’

   

 

                       THE LADYBUG: PART ONE

 

    It was a Sunday. The sun shone brightly through the sparkling clean bay window, adorned in olive- green curtains with ruffles and matching cotton ball trim. The couch upholstery (presidential heads, covered wagons and old coins) was fluffed and pristine, the braided rugs freshly vacuumed, the coffee table lemon-Pledged.

My mother, Mary Jayne, worked the kitchen, replete in her cherry print apron, making h’orderves for the company that was set to arrive at any moment. The smell of vanilla and apple wafted from the oven. My brothers and I were in the Blue room (our den, named after it’s freshly painted sky-blue walls) watching ‘Casper: The Friendly Ghost’ (who I completely identified with as he struggled to fit in, but also envied because he could fly away at will and was barely visible…diaphanous in his ‘otherness.)

 My parents were having friends over on this crisp New England day in early May. Though it was still chilly outside, my father was determined to barbecue on his round charcoal grill, which he wheeled out from the cellar, cleaned thoroughly, then hoisted (along with a bag of Kingsford lump charcoal, and a can of lighter fluid) into the back yard.

  My mother filled the dining room table with platters of food- antipasto salad, deviled eggs, hard rolls, and two Lazy Susans-one with condiments: ketchup, mustard, relish and horseradish sauce- the other with finger-foods- black olives, green olives, baby gherkins, roasted red peppers. She’d also baked a ham, spackling it with brown sugar and pinning pineapple rings and cherries to it like badges. There was potato and macaroni salad in rooster adorned glass serving bowls and a vat of Boston Baked beans in a heavy, brown earthenware jug. I could always recognize a cooking-for-company frenzy by looking at mom’s two-tier wooden spice rack, the big gaps between the jars where multiple spices had been called to duty.   

  My Dad set up the drop-leaf rolling hostess cart with all kinds of liquors and mixes. There was a shiny silver ice bucket with tongs,  and a silver slotted plate with wedges of lemon, limes, maraschino cherries and cocktail onions. There were all of the fixings needed for Whisky Sours, Tom Collins and Martinis. He also filled a big white fishing cooler with beer (Rheingold, Ballentine, Schaefer) and ice. Waiting in the fridge was a colossal tray of hamburger patties, shaped and ready to go on the grill, along with links of kielbasa plus hot dogs for the kids. There was also a massive four pound steak, marbled with fat, a big bone running through its side that my father beamed at with loving eyes. 

    I was in dress clothes against my will.  A long sleeved white cotton shirt with a red Winnie-the-Pooh insignia on it’s turtleneck, red corduroy pants, white socks and black Mary-Jane style shoes, a black leather rose on each strap. (I was very impressed that my mother had a style of shoe named after her, but I wasn’t surprised. She was a very good walker!)  

My hair was painstakingly brushed (tangles ripped out in a hurry by mom as I wailed)- and held up by cherry-colored butterfly barrettes on either side of my face.  My two younger brothers had been scrubbed and shellacked within an inch of their lives as well, and were not very happy in their Ban-Lon shirts and dress slacks, cowlicks wet down, hair combed back. Not to mention the stiff, brown dress shoes they wore with the grace of tennis racket-shaped snowshoes, their slippery black laces constantly untying.

  Rob, who was five at the time, couldn’t wait to shed these clunkers for his faithful P.F. Flyers and sulked about the humanity of being forced to wear the stiff shoes. David, who was three, was far more honest with his feelings, and repeatedly pulled his off, hiding them under the couch cushions, then sitting atop them to further the ruse. 

   The visitors began arriving shortly after noon.  Some were familiar- neighbors from Muffin Lane, along with my dad’s work associates from his Insurance Company and relatives -including both Nannys (each bearing one beautifully frosted cake, and apple cake, respectively)

  My brothers and I were introduced to all of the unfamiliar adults and did our part being polite, putting on our ‘such good kids’ show in the living room, even though we were struggling with each other like the Three Stooges in the Blue Room. Pinching, slapping and wrestling over  jacks, super-balls and the tv guide, stopping abruptly at the hint of any bystanders. Eventually Robby’s friends, Johnny and Kevin showed up, and the boys went outside to watch Kevin’s older brother pop some caps and hopefully  ‘find some snakes’

    The company spread throughout the living and dining rooms, drinks and cigarettes in hand, the murmur of chit-chat cresting and falling, punctuated by squeals of laughter. About an hour in, while Frank Sinatra sang about a very good year, the front screen door opened with a screech, and in walked a girl about my age who was everything I was not.

   Her name was Melody, and she took my breath away. She had long, silky, white- blond hair that fell almost to her waist and big blue eyes, like puddles of turquoise. Her nose was small and upturned, her lips bowed. She wore a sky-blue velveteen dress, with long white puffy sleeves, lace ruffles and coordinating ribbon stitched into the wrist and bib, along with white frilly socks, and patent leather Mary Janes.

Her skin was golden, like she’d been kissed by the sun just so. When she smiled, I noted perfectly straight, white Chicklets, and cute dimples. Naturally, she was petite, like a fairy princess who slept in a walnut shell, using a flower petal as a blanket. To ratchet up the envy I was already feeling,  she was carrying a blue Kiddle Kase, swinging it from it’s white strap. 

Kiddle-Time!

Kiddle-Time!

   It wasn’t just me that was taken with her. It seemed like the whole room erupted in ‘oohs’ and ‘aaahs’ and the words ‘beautiful’, ‘doll’ and ‘precious’ were volleyed across the adoring crowd. I had only gotten a lukewarm response from all of them I now realized. Melody looked down as she was being fawned over- flattered, but obviously used to it, batting her eyes like Bambi and feigning shy. To me, the only thing missing from the reception was the offering of a sash and a crown.

  Melody was the daughter of one of my father’s business associates and it  didn’t take long before my father was fawning over her, too- congratulating her parents on such a beauty, complimenting her dress, curious about her Kiddle Kase and what was in it. (Never once had he asked me about my Kiddles or any ensemble I wore)

   If only I’d been born looking like her, I thought. How happy my father would be! There’s be no more ‘moo’s’, no more mean limericks, everyone would like me -my life would be perfect! 

  Could it be that this girl was the daughter my Dad had wanted instead of me? All of my dolls, all of the girls in my storybooks were pretty. Only the mean ones were imperfect. It reached beyond my family, beyond Muffin Lane and across the world. If life was a deck of cards, beauty was an ace. I wasn’t even a picture card.

  After several minutes the crowd reluctantly dispersed from around Melody. People did need to refill their drinks after all. Her father let her down  and she continued to be complimented, her head stroked here and there as she worked the room like a golden retriever. In truth, she didn’t really ‘work’ anything. All she did was walk by and exist. People were just drawn to her.  

  Meanwhile, my father had a grill to attend to, and in turn, men with open beers followed him out of the room like he was the pied piper leading them to the promised land.

  My curiosity got the best of me, and I approached Melody, asking to see her Kiddles. She sweetly agreed, and we sat at the bottom step of the stairs, where she struggled a bit to open the case. The zipper was caught, but after a good yank, it burst open. Kiddles sprung out,  falling onto the steps and the floor, where I quickly jumped to collect them. She had five- all good ones: Liddle Diddle, Greta Griddle, Bunson Bernie, Lola Liddle and Calamity Jane. They all looked new. But Melody didn’t seem concerned with the dolls, she was too busy petting a metal Lady-Bug, winding it up by spinning its wheels backwards, then placing it on the floor, where it flew into the living room, sparks flying. Melody giggled and chased behind it.

“This is Lu-Lu!” Melody announced when she got back, holding ‘Lu-Lu’ within inches of my eyes. I was busy admiring her Liddle  Kiddles, but  placated her by saying “Hi Lu-Lu!”in a monotone voice.

  This cracked Melody up a lot more than it should have. She stood up and again put the bug on the wood floor near the front door, aimed it towards the living room, and rolled it several times backwards with all of her might.

  She let it go, and Lu-Lu whizzed and sparked, careening into the living room, right through a set of panty-hosed ankles and pumps, and straight ahead where it hit the edge of the braided rug, flipped into air and rolled like a car in a cop show.

  Mrs. Phillips- whose legs had almost been clipped, jerked her head around to see who the culprit was, an annoyed look on her face. It also caught the attention of  my mother, who was standing by and looked at me  sternly.  But when  Melody scrambled over to pick up LuLu, she was being ‘oohed’ and ‘aaah’d again, Mrs. Phillips stroking her blond hair. 

“What have you got there?” she asked, sounding completely enthralled, and taking another puff off of her cigarette “Can I see it?!”

  Of course, Melody was only too happy to show off her bug, and soon a small crowd was again focused on the little girl with the sugar-spun hair. My mother made a pass by the stairs, where I sat with Melody’s Liddle Kiddles, examining them for flaws, of which there were none. Mom looked especially pretty in her light yellow pastel shell, a single strand of pearls, white pumps and for the first time all weekend- no apron. Her dark blonde hair was in a bun, her pretty face complimented by the style.

“You’d better be behaving yourself, missy!” she said.

  I squinted my eyes at her, scrunching up my face. What the heck did I do? Was it possible that Melody could break the rules and get me in trouble? Evidently it was: She ran Lu-Lu all over the house, and rather than getting reprimanded, everyone was delighted.

  Mrs. Jenkins, who lived on Sunlit Drive and sometimes yelled at kids to get off her lawn and away from her precious petunia beds, almost tripped on Lu-Lu as she navigated the living room. I saw her startle,  the familiar dark clouds moving across her eyes, and expected Melody would get her just do. Mrs. Jenkins could yell almost as good as my dad. But moments later-miraculously- Mrs. Jenkins was hugging Melody, and petting Lu-Lu.

   When she came back by the staircase I asked Melody if she wanted to go play in my room, but she said no, completely uninterested. I  was insulted. I told her I had 16 Barbies and a real Christmas manger hidden under my vanity (my mom would kill me if she knew, but the family crawlspace was through a door in my room, and stuffed to the brim with holiday fare. Last week I’d made several of my Barbies sparkly boas with silver garland for their imaginary trip to Las Vegas)

  I asked again a few minutes later and Melody still said no. I couldn’t admit to myself that even if she’d said yes, I was probably going to stick her with Tressy, and the old Barbie whose hair I’d cut with safety scissors, the one who had a wire coming out of her wrist inside a circle of green mold. 

Trust me-my Tressy could only aspire to look as nice as this one!

   It was right around this time that Melody’s mother insisted that Melody ‘eat a little something’. Of course, Melody was the kind of child who didn’t like to eat and had to be monitored lest she starve herself-perhaps wasting away on a tiny tufted satin fainting couch.

  A few minutes later,  my father had brought in a platter of hot-dogs for the kids, and we all gathered around, grabbing for them hungrily. Melody didn’t want hers, even after my father mentioned he cooked it ‘special’ for her. I checked mine to be sure it hadn’t fallen off the grill,  rolled in the grass or been nibbled on by a squirrel.  Because, obviously mine wasn’t cooked ‘special’.

You Can Do It, Honey!

You Can Do It, Honey!

   A few ladies lured Melody to eat with a tiny plate of choices:  two  olives on tiny plastic swords, a saltine, a petite orange melon ball and some left-over garnish. A crowd gathered around the dining room table to watch.

  It was an eating play-off of sorts between the plate and Melody. I decided to go get some tutti-fruity ginger-ale from the kitchen, and cut through the hall in order to avoid the clusters of company sitting and standing by, coaxing Melody, poor thing, to eat.

  That’s when I spotted her. Lu-Lu. Sitting by herself in the corner at the end of the hall.  Lifeless and unsupervised. Vulnerable. I looked behind me, and seeing no one in the hall, I approached the black-dotted  bug. I reached down and picked her up with what I thought was the intention of returning her to  Melody. I heard the phrase “what a good girl you are,  Melody!”and a spattering of claps (no one clapped when I ate an olive! Heck- I could eat like seven of those bad boys!) And just like that I put Lu-Lu face down in my front pocket and felt as she dropped down  to the bottom, out of sight.

Girlie6

    

  1. I wish there were other options to tick besides “like,” because this deserves something else. An “I understand,” or a “Yeah!” or something. I remember being the little girl you were…I wrote something about that idea of humiliation (http://starvingactivist.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/story-a-day-may-3-charlie/). I have to say that the bit about the hot dog possibly getting bitten by the squirrel made me laugh out loud. I can so see me in the same situation. I was an 8lb and some change baby, but I was never a Melody. Still am not. I look forward to part 2…
    *hugs*

    Like

    • Oh, and I’ll someday need to write about the 3rd grad mechanical pencil debacle–your story here reminded me of it…

      Like

    • Thank you! I hope to put real pictures into the story as soon as I can sort them out. I have an affinity for those vintage pics! I’ve written part 2 (and it’s a really ‘defining’ moment for sure) but it needs major edits, blah blah- I’m leaving on a trip right NOW!…blah blah…be back next week. I plan on diving into your helpful blog links then. I can’t wait!

      Like

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