Grandma Gertie always said there's not a savory dish that can't be made tastier by just a touch of tarragon.

Tsunami and Me

Tsunami and Me
too big to escape now....

Monday, March 24, 2014

Still Younger than Springtime

She's afraid to come out of hiding this year. That must be why there's few signs of her...oh, maybe an isolated buttercup here and there, and a glimpse of a robin. But Old Man Winter still rules here, and in most of the country. Last night I got a note from a friend in Ohio, lamenting that more snow was on its way, and she didn't think she'd have any flowers in her yard to welcome me when I visit in a few weeks. And this afternoon another friend near St. Louis noted that it's snowing at her place. A stepson in Colorado Springs posted photos of his tulips poking out of the snow this morning.

Poor timid creature...she's been hearing us curse her for weeks wonder she's going to continue to hide. My Grandma Gertie told me you could catch more flies with honey than vinegar, and I suppose that might work with all winged creatures, including hummingbirds, butterflies and Ms. Spring, herself. Here's how I picture her, eyes downcast, waiting wistfully for us to welcome her, not admonish her. So I say we woo this shy maiden, sing her praises, coax her out of hiding. Let her know how much we love her. And, of course we do. But we need somebody with a strong, brave voice to convince her that it's safe. Somebody with tenderness and power. Somebody as young at  heart at Ms. Spring herself, who could plead on our behalf with style and grace and vigor? Oh, wait! I know who.

I saw this  man on Broadway in 1980 in Evita, and it's been true love ever since.  He could could sing spring into surfacing! It's Mandy Patinkin....with "Younger than Springtime." How can she resist?
Here he is with the London Sympathy...sounding like an angel himself. Just watch this video and you'll know exactly what I mean. Mandy, even now, for me shall always remain younger than springtime.

  Younger than Springtime

I touch your hands
And my heart grows strong,
Like a pair of birds
That burst with song.
My eyes look down
At your lovely face,
And I hold a world
In my embrace.
Younger than springtime, are you
Softer than starlight, are you,
Warmer than winds of June,    
Are the gentle lips you gave me.    
Gayer than laughter, are you,
Sweeter than music, are you,
Angel and lover, heaven and earth,
Are you to me.

And when your youth
And joy invade my arms,
And fill my heart as now they do,
Then younger than springtime, am I,
Gayer than laughter, am I,
Angel and lover, heaven and earth,
Am I with you!
And when your youth
And joy invade my arms,
And fill my heart as now they do,
Then younger than springtime, am I,
Gayer than laughter, am I,
Angel and lover, heaven and earth,
Am I with you.
--Rodgers and Hammerstein, South Pacific, 1949

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Today's Dreams

Photography by Ron Schmidt,

  "Yesterday is but today's memory, and tomorrow is today's dream"--Kahlil Gibran

Even though I've not submitted many stories recently, I still continue to dream of capturing my memories in print. I've found some unpublished stories that I'd like to see break through. While I've been revising and recasting them, I've discovered they all involve reaching deeper into my feelings.

Some days I delight in delving into the past, but not every day. Today I want to concentrate on moving forward. I'm ready to finish some projects that have been simmering quietly on my back burner. Time to stir and serve:

  • Are girlhood friendships built to last forever or are some of us doomed to get dumped?
  • Can I really let bygones be bygones, even when it appears I have no alternative choice?
  • Did I really miss out on one of life's major milestones?
  • We all may scream for ice cream, but is this always wise?
These will take up my writing time for a few tomorrows. In the meantime, here's a piece for today...the latest edition of Publishing Syndicate's free monthly newsletter with tips for writers...and I'm the guest editor, writing on how to convey emotion!

Monday, March 17, 2014

It's a Taxing Topic

I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. 

Yesterday I did more than whip up corned beef and cabbage...I kept my annual date with the IRS. This story originally was published in 2011 in Silver Boomer's The Harsh and the Heart: Celebrating the Military. Now I'm going to celebrate the vernal equinox Thursday with a lighter heart...this task can be vanquished from my to-do list for yet another year.

A Taxing Topic

As a girl I believed that “beware the Ides of March” related to figuring out income taxes. Back in the early ‘50s, when March 15 was tax deadline, for Daddy it was the worst day of the year. Why he put off his computations until the very last minute still puzzles me. Once the dreaded return actually had been dispatched, my parents positively savored their debates about how they’d spend their expected refund.

“Maybe it’s time for an automatic washer,” Mama would suggest at supper, ladling cream gravy over Daddy’s favorite chicken-fried steak. Or maybe she’d hint that we all needed new shoes.

“No, no. The Chevy needs a new carburetor,” Daddy would respond, smearing margarine on his corn. Or perhaps he’d complain that his mower blades were so worn out that they left our lawn corrugated.

Daddy enjoyed helping me with my algebra homework, so it couldn’t have been toting up the columns of figures that irritated him so. Nonetheless, on tax day he always acted peeved.

At the last possible minute, he would sprawl at the kitchen table, glare at his W-2 form, flip through the pages of his booklet, and gnaw at his yellow Ticonderoga No. 2 pencil. Mama plopped a plate of oatmeal cookies, fresh from the oven, at his elbow, and hovered with a coffee pot.

“Dang government robs a man blind,” he’d growl an hour or two later, slipping his completed forms into an envelope. He’d grudgingly affix a three cent stamp, glance at the clock, and then toss the packet to me. Daddy would never waste gas driving to the post office when he had a preteen daughter lingering nearby, eager for a chance to be helpful.

“Don’t just shove it in the mailbox! The Slauson office only stays open until six. Be sure to get the envelope postmarked or they’ll subtract interest for a late filing!”

“Don’t worry, Daddy. I’ll ride my bike.” And I’d fly down West 59th Place, pigtails flapping in the breeze, musing on Daddy’s baffling attitude.

In my social studies class I’d studied how income taxes originally were levied in the United States to fund the Civil War, and later, World War I. During the Great Depression, taxes began to support programs to put the country back on its feet. In Sunday School I learned that even Joseph and Mary had traveled to Bethlehem to pay taxes. It was clear to me that Daddy, by dutifully filing his taxes on time, despite the furrowed brows and scowls, ensured that our family could hold up our heads with pride. We were solid, albeit somewhat reluctant, citizens!

Later, as a newlywed, I witnessed my husband duplicate Daddy’s antics, practically frothing in panic come income tax day, now April 15. Though Bob had a whole month more to fume and fidget, like Daddy he still waited until the deadline was nigh. Then he’d slouch on the couch, sigh, and then slowly hunch over the coffee table to spend the next several hours scratching away with his Eversharp.

Though I brewed coffee, I didn’t bother baking cookies. By now I’d studied enough anthropology to wonder if this income tax angst simply was a crisis of manhood, some secret long-standing initiation rite handed down from father to son, akin to thrusting a hand into a glove filled with bullet ants or hurtling from a 100-foot tower while land diving in Vanuatu.

“You know, I’d be glad to do the taxes. I can add and subtract,” I offered. Bob had clutched his papers and forms to his chest, mouth agape, staring at me as if I’d proposed he trade his gray flannel suit for my bolero-sleeved dress with its pencil thin tubular skirt.

“I’m the head of the household,” he blustered. “This is a man’s job.”

Scrupulously honest, Bob fretted about tax cheats, and never claimed a dishonest or questionable deduction. Still, he treated me to heated diatribes over the legality and immorality of the 16th Amendment, outlining most of what the IRS and the federal courts now term “frivolous arguments.”

Years later, single once more, I finally filed my own taxes. I’d prepared for the worst, laying in a supply of chamomile tea and peppermint lozenges. To my astonishment, the process proved relatively pain-free. Weeks before the deadline I simply sat down, toted up the figures on my hand-held calculator, twice to ensure accuracy, and sent off the completed form.

To celebrate, I phoned my father.

“Guess what? I just filed my taxes and I’m getting enough on my refund to take a trip to the Bahamas.”

“What did you have to pay the preparer?”

“Not a cent, Daddy. I did it myself.”

At least a minute elapsed before he replied. “You probably made a lot of mistakes. Don’t be surprised when the IRS knocks at your door.”

Eventually I learned that it’s not male or female outlooks, per se, that causes anxiety. Rather it’s more a matter of basic attitude. My second husband had no qualms about delegating me to handle the paperwork in our household. Nor did Ken ever fret about parting with a buck, if he felt that it was well spent. I always paid our bills, so it felt natural to fill out our joint taxes. He’d gladly barbecue a ribeye for me on tax preparation day, and serve it up with a glass of a peppery red Shiraz.

“How’d we do this year?”

“We did just fine. We paid enough to keep the nation’s highways paved and to ensure that hospitals will remain open for our veterans. We’re not getting much back, but we don’t have to send any more in, either.”

“I’ll drink to that,” he’d say, tilting his glass before digging in to his steak.

Widowed last spring, I poured through my tax forms last week and learned I’d be able to file a joint return, claiming my late husband in figuring the standard deduction. I didn’t have to prorate.

“How generous,” I thought, electing the simple 1040A, rather than itemizing.

Even so, because of earnings from my freelance writing and editing, I had to enclose a check for the U.S. Treasury. Fortunately, I’d allowed one of my tiny annuities to accumulate in a savings account all year to cover this anticipated bite.

I stuck the envelope in my roadside mailbox, and flicked up the red metal flag so the carrier would be certain to stop and collect it. Then I strolled back to my house, reflecting on how curiously comforting figuring my taxes always has proved for me.

I just consider myself blessed, I guess. I spent a decade abroad, working in developing countries. I’m grateful that I roamed the world, from Mongolia to Mauritius, protected by my American passport. I’m grateful that when I retired I drove from Washington DC to Washington State on relatively well-maintained highways. I’m grateful I don’t live in a dictatorship. I’m grateful I can continue to support my country, even on income tax collection day.

For poet T. S. Eliot and reluctant taxpayers, April indeed may be the cruelest month. Me, I welcome those April showers. I just keep on looking for a bluebird and listening for his song.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Razzle Dazzle

Ready For The Big Parade, 1949

 A few years ago this story was published under the title "Buttons and "Bows" in Yesterday's Magazette, an online 'zine of the good old days. Shortly thereafter I was contacted by a biographer who was researching Chuckles the Clown, and had learned that the Carpenterettes used to be regulars on that early Los Angeles daytime television show. He asked it I'd been on the show...I hadn't...but he put me in touch with another Carpenterette, Lora Hudson, one of the "big girls" we younger dancers, acrobats and twirlers, looked up to. The two of us still correspond and exchange tidbits about the troupe. Not long ago she located a 1940 census record for our teacher, Bebe Carpenter, who had come to this country from Belgium and opened the studio on Slauson near Vermont in Los Angeles back in the late '30s. I studied there from 1948 to 1950. 

"I wouldn’t walk across the street to see a parade,” Daddy announced that chilly morning in l949, the day before Thanksgiving. He never held with what he termed “razzle-dazzle.” I shot Mama a panicky glance, and then stared down at my corn flakes.

All autumn I had practiced my walkovers and finger twirls as one of three acrobatic majorettes in The Carpenterettes. Though the other girls rolled down parade routes on skates, those of us in the center row thought ourselves the stars. At parade breaks we twisted, twirled, and cavorted for the crowds like a pack of seals, outdoing one another with our twelve-year-old ingenuity, tossing batons as high as the telephone lines, turning quick flips before catching them.

For weeks every evening Mama sewed gold sequins onto the lapels of my aqua satin costume. We’d outgrown last summer’s purple velvets, so would debut new attire for the Santa Claus Lane Parade, second only to the Rose Parade in local fame. The two events bracketed the holidays like bookends.

“Don’t do this, Paul.” Mama said in a rare assertive tone, “Terri has to leave for school and I don’t want her worrying all day.” She handed me a slice of raisin toast with a reassuring smile.

Daddy sighed heavily, but nodded. “All right, we’ll leave at five,” he agreed. “But I’m not driving to Hollywood ever again, Hope or no Bob Hope.”

I breathed in the pungent cinnamon scent of my toast. I’d be too nervous to eat my lunch, and if we left at five, we’d have to postpone supper until we got back home. I took a greedy bite.

Hollywood, though just nine miles from our working class West 59th Place home, to us seventh graders often seemed a million miles away, as far as the moon or Mars or Andromeda, a beckoning, shimmering symbol of glamour.

Star struck, my classmates and I marveled at how sultry Lana Turner had been discovered as a teen, sipping a soda at the very Schwabs Drug Store on Sunset where they were shooting the new movie, Sunset Boulevard. We poured over photos of the filming in the Herald Express.

We whispered about how the sororities at Manual Arts High, the Scians, the Debs, the Vals, took new initiates to the exotic corner of Hollywood and Vine to scrub the sidewalks with toothbrushes on initiation night.

Every year we tried to guess who would be Grand Marshall. Just a few years ago it had been Gene Autry, who memorialized his experience by penning one of our favorite new Christmas ditties, “Here Comes Santa Claus.”

This year featured Bob Hope. While my parents still joked about Hope and Bing Crosby vying for the favors of Dorothy Lamour in the earlier Road movies, at Bebe Carpenter Studio we tapped and twirled to “Buttons and Bows,” an Academy Award winning tune Hope had introduced in l948 in The Pale Face.

That afternoon as Mama pinned my cap securely to my topknot so it wouldn’t fall off when I turned cartwheels, I wondered which troupe would lead the float carrying Grand Marshall Hope. I suspected our group would be fronting an American Legion Post color guard or a drum and bugle corps.

Mama applied mascara to my lashes, then rouged my cheeks. She handed me her tube of Tangee Pink Queen so I could put on my own lipstick. This past year Joan Blondell appeared in ads in Movieland and Photoplay, extolling the virtues of this new shade. Getting made up was one of the most thrilling parts of preparing for a performance.

As it neared five, Mama handed me my new baton and boots. They had been an early Christmas present and I had wondered how Mama had managed to buy them from her grocery allowance.

As our old Chevy headed north, I wondered if the magnificent Meglin Kiddies would appear. The Meglin Dance Studio had produced such young stars of the performing arts as Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Shirley Temple. Though we wished we could see them as our arch-rivals, in truth we Carpenterettes were second cousins twice-removed. We only aspired, while they already had attained.

When we reached the participant drop-off point, my parents promised to pick me up after by Grauman’s Chinese Theater at Hollywood and Orange. I looked around for my troop, and we soon connected. Our director, Bebe Carpenter herself, nodded her approval at our sparkling new outfits. Our sequins reflected the rays of the thousands of fairy lights decorating Santa Claus Lane.

“Good news, girls,” she said. We hushed our chatter. “You’ve been chosen to escort the Grand Marshall.”  Our gleeful squeals probably could be heard all the way to Highland. We quickly assembled in front of the Cadillac convertible carrying Hope. He sat regally on the backseat, waving to the throngs lining the streets. We didn’t think he had noticed us at all.

Since this was the second year the parade had been televised, we knew that when we passed the booth with the cameramen and radio personality Bill Welsh, we were expected to turn and give a baton salute. Welsh would announce our name, a matter of great importance to Bebe.

Though November nights can be chilly, even in balmy Los Angeles, the exertion of performing soon warmed me up, so along the route I welcomed the occasional pauses to swipe at my forehead. At last we neared Welsh’s booth. Welsh seemed beside himself with excitement, leaping from the booth, carrying his hand mic out to Hope.

We couldn’t hear their exchange, but Welsh soon hurried back to us. “Hope wants to give one of you his autograph,” he said, grabbing my shoulder, as the cameramen positioned themselves to record this historic moment. “How about you, young lady?”  He propelled me to the Caddy.

Hope leaned over, extending a hand with a pen at the ready. “Good evening, dear,” Hope said, in that familiar voice, “Where’s your paper?”  I blinked, bewildered.

“I don’t have any,” I said. Then I tugged off my left boot, “Could you sign this?”  Hope beamed, reaching for my tasseled footgear. He scrawled his name in letters big enough for the camera to catch.

On Thanksgiving the Herald Express came early. There I was on the front page, smiling up at Hope, as he autographed my boot. Mama clipped out the photo and framed it. “You’ll be a star,” she predicted.

My father never again attended another parade, nor did he venture north to Hollywood. A couple of years later I returned to scrub the sidewalks for Scians. I had my own Tangee Pink Queen by then.

In 2007 the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, which had staged this Tinseltown treat each year, announced that the 75th in ’06 had been the last. When I heard this I hummed a few bittersweet bars of “Buttons and Bows,” recalling that holiday season when Mama and I had been full of hope…and Hope.

Los Angeles revived the parade, though, renaming it the Hollywood Santa Parade. Daddy, who didn’t hold with razzle-dazzle, wouldn’t cross the street to see it. But if I could get to LA, I sure would. And Mama’d be with me in spirit.
Our Belgian dance teacher Bebe Carpenter on the far left.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Beautiful Ohio!

Stonehenge, March, 1980

 Beautiful Ohio, in dreams again I see Visions of what used to be. --Ballard McDonald

Yesterday I began sorting through old photographs that I've stuffed into a duffel bag for decades. All afternoon I sprawled on the living room floor, tossing them into piles: childhood, school days, my son, years with my first husband, Peace Corps travels, and friends. And into a wastebasket go those that are so blurry or faded that I can no longer identify what, where or who they feature. I'm packaging the decent ones in semi-transparent plastic carry-bags filched from WalMart on my last shopping run.

Why this sudden rush to organization? It's a way to distract myself from sad thoughts of missing both Tsunami and my sister. Plus it's going to be easier the next time I want to locate a certain photo and don't want to devote an entire morning to find it, as I did yesterday. I'd started out looking for one or two pictures that I was certain I still had. After my delirious Aha! moment when they finally surfaced, I carefully set them the adjacent side table. I'd started heaping the photos back into the bag and then glanced at the table. One of the two had gone missing. Harpo, the male marmalade cat perched on the table, grinning his Cheshire grin.

Oh, no! He's swatted it back into the pile I'd already stuffed into the bag. And I had to start pawing through all over again. Never again, I decided. This time I'll get organized. I'm only halfway through, but the rest shall get sorted in due time. Everything's shoved up against a chair, an unsightly reminder that the task still awaits.

But this wasn't exactly an onerous task. I time traveled a bit, recalling the chill wind at Stonehenge, when I finally visited that mysterious prehistoric monument. I found the photos of the sun traveling down the side of the pyramid of Kulkulkan, when I trekked to the ruins of the pre-Columbian city of Chichen Itza for the vernal equinox in 1982 with a group of astronomers from Griffith Park observatory. With my mind's eye I once again marveled at the total eclipse of the sun on the Baltic Sea in Bulgaria with the Opa! group of folk dancers from San Diego.

For the past several years I've been associated with Publishing Syndicate, a small press in Orangevale, California. Through them, this past year I finally got my name on the cover of a book...Not Your Mother's Book...On Travel. Publishers Ken and Dahlynn McKowen, avid travelers themselves, listened patiently to my pitch, and finally broke down and awarded me the honor of gathering and editing the stories for this anthology, fourth in the fantastic new Not Your Mother's Book series.

Dahlynn will be a featured presenter at the upcoming Erma Bombeck Writers Workshop, April 10-12, in Dayton, Ohio. I'm pleased to attend this conference, a first for me at the Erma confab, which is limited to 325 enrollees annually. Billed as "the workshop for humor writing, human interest writing, networking and getting published," I intend to mingle, mix and savor the ambiance of being surrounded by like-minded writers.

In the meantime, tomorrow I'll be writing a piece for the informative Wow Principles newsletter on how to inject emotion into anthology pieces. The archives of this free newsletter can be found on the Publishing Syndicate website...just click on the link below the PS logo.

P.S. Keynote speaker at the Erma workshop will be Phil Donahue, the creator and host of The Phil Donahue Show, a daytime talk show that enjoyed a 29-year run on national television after its beginnings in Dayton, Ohio, where Phil lived on the same street as Erma Bombeck.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Crowning Glory

R.I.P., Patricia Luella French Pappas, 7/2/1936 - 2/28/2014

Patti, age 1, 1937

When I heard this morning that my sister died early yesterday, I tracked down her daughters on Facebook and saw the wonderful photo they'd posted of her, looking gloriously glamorous. I hadn't seen her in a long time, but she's just as I've always remembered her, framed with her crowning glory.

Only three weeks ago I revised an old story about how I grew up envying my sister's glorious mane. I'm sorry I didn't mail it to her when I finished it. 

Crowning Glory

“It’s always bothered me. Just look,” I squawked, envy oozing from every shrill syllable.

I pawed through my paisley duffel bag, plucked out a faded photo, glanced at the date Grandma had written on its back, 1941, and waved it under my husband’s nose.

“Even Lady Godiva and Rapunzel would have been jealous. When we were kids, people walking down the street would stop dead in their tracks to admire my sister’s hair.” 

Ken glanced down at the faded photo. My big sister, Patti, and I stood side by side on a stone-pillared front porch. Grandma had dressed us in rickrack-trimmed polka-dotted pinafores. We clutched miniature mandolins to our chests and sported sombreros as big as dish tubs. Patti’s hair mushroomed out from under hers. I could just as well have been bald beneath mine. Patti beamed. I frowned.
Grandma's Porch, c. 1942

“Hair today, gone tomorrow,” Ken said, his tired joke about men going bald. I didn’t answer his tentative smile. He sighed. He had heard my laments before, but had never seen the photos. And though we had been married for eight years, he had yet to meet my sister. “Well, it’s true. She does indeed have plenty of curls.” 

“What an understatement!” I fished out yet another photo. By now we were ten and eleven, clutching our baskets on Easter morning. Patti’s hair floated in clouds around her shoulders. I huddled next to her, forcing myself to smile. “Grandma had put my hair up on rag rollers,” I explained. “But those long spiral ringlets barely held their curl long enough to take this picture. By the time we’d hiked down the hill to church in the morning fog, the curls had vanished, and Grandma had to tie my hair back into a ponytail.”  It was my turn to sigh.
Easter, 1947

“I’ve never forgotten the minister’s sermon that Easter,” I continued. “He just happened to pick a verse about sound hearts giving life to the body while envy rots the bones. I felt as if he could stare directly into my jealous little heart and I could almost feel my bones rotting away.”

 “There’s nothing wrong with your heart,” Ken said. “Nor your hair. It’s baby fine. So what?”

“So what?” I shrilled. “Look at this!”  I shoved yet another photo into his hand. In high school both Patti and I had adopted fashionable poodle cuts. But where her curls spiraled out from her scalp like a fluffy lamb’s, mine, despite the combined efforts of a Toni home permanent, overnight pin curls and a drenching with the newly-available hair spray, hung limp and sparse.

“It was always torture, my hair, my cross to bear. And Patti could wear any style at all, a flip, a wedge, a pixie, or a shag. All effortlessly. I longed for curly hair, hoped for it, even prayed for it. All for naught.”

Ken shook his head. “Now you’ll whine that it wasn’t fair,” he predicted, setting aside the photo. “You didn’t have it so bad. You at least had hair and you still do.”  He patted his own bald spot. “You could have suffered from that condition that makes your hair fall out, alopecia. I knew a woman once who woke up one morning and found huge hunks of hair on her pillow. And lots of women in chemotherapy lose their hair, too.”

Terri, Joel and Patti with Uncle Joe, c.1948
“I know,” I said. “I know I’ve been foolish, but to me it HAS always seemed so unfair. You wouldn’t believe what I tried in order to get my hair to look thick and curly. It would have been hair-raising…except that it didn’t. Raise any hair, that is”

“Try me,” Ken said. “What wouldn’t I believe?”

“Well, Grandma convinced me that eating carrots would make my hair curly and I gobbled so many that I turned orange from consuming so much carotene.”

Ken raised an eyebrow. “Orange?”

“Yes! Halloween orange,” I said, shaking my head as I remembered all those puzzled glances in my direction.  “And then Aunt Betty told me that mineral oil would make my hair thicker. It took me a week of twice-a-day shampoos to wash it all out. And in the ‘70’s when wigs came into fashion, I spent a fortune on falls, wiglets, clip-on buns. Finally, 20 years ago, I gave up and decided I’d just accept my own straight hair. I might not like it, but I had better things to do with my time than fuss with my hair.”

My husband patiently brushed my bangs to the side and leaned over to kiss my forehead. “I’d never thought of you as being envious before.”

“Oh, yes. Of course it was worse while I was growing up,” I said. “But even now, whenever I look at these old childhood photographs, I can feel the irritation come creeping back.”

I zipped up the duffel and carted it out to the garage where I paused to look around for a padded envelope. When Ken mentioned the chemo patients I’d remembered something I’d been meaning to do since the previous winter. I’d fallen down the stairs and fractured my shoulder right before Christmas. I’d had to have my hair cut short since with my left arm confined to a sling I no longer could raise both hands to coil my long straggly mane into a French twist.
Patti, c. 1948

I took the envelope upstairs and found the plastic bag that held my severed ponytail. I’d mail it to Locks of Love, a group that supplies hairpieces to children who have lost their hair.

Even though fine, my hair, transformed into a wig, could help restore a little girl’s self esteem. It might become that child’s crowning glory, so people wouldn’t stop dead in their tracks to stare. It might even give her hope for a brighter future.

“I’m off to the post office,” I shouted to Ken as I headed out the door. The afternoon breeze ruffled through my short straight hair. My poor sister probably had no idea of the grudge I’d nurtured simply because she was born blessed with thick natural curls. I blushed, realizing I probably owed her an apology. I decided I’d put my confession in story form. If it got published, I’d mail it to her.

My future looked brighter, too. I’d finally gotten envy out of my hair!

Coconut Grove, 6/28/1953, my 16th birthday, Patti is the middle girl, I'm on the right

Patti and her family, 2013