Monday, October 26, 2015

The First Time

Remembrance number 3

My mother had arbitrary rules for everything under the sun.  It didn't matter how odd or contrived they seemed, when Mother made a rule it stood__forever!  If Mom declared there would be no supper until 7:30 during the summer, that was the rule, in stone and could not waver unless Mother herself declared it otherwise.  Then the exception took over. There will be no dinner before 7:30 pm unless The Fugitive was on and it was a re-run they had missed.  Or there would be no meals before 7:30 unless they were invited to play canasta with friends. Or there would be no dinner until 7:30 unless Dad was home early and was cooking on the grill.  In that case supper was whenever he had it cooked.

We had laws passed about everything imaginable. Remember those old rib cord bedspreads from Sears?  We had lavender ones and if the rib cords were not perfectly straight the beds had to be re-made.  Vacuuming was done in a north to south motion, because the rugs looked "funny" when the sun hit them if they had been vacuumed in an east to west order.  Silver had to be polished using the silver polishing rags, not to be confused with the dusting rags or the cleaning rags. (Understand all the rags were washed and clean but they could not be used interchangeably and God help the child who used the red flannel plaid rag to polish the silver, since that the blue flannel plaid rags job)

In addition to meals and chores, Mother also had a set timeline for major events in our lives.  We could walk by ourselves to school the third week of first grade. (Understand by ourselves meant with the neighborhood kids who all walked to school together)  We could swim 1 hour after eating and not 1 minute before. (This rule was torture during beach vacations).  We could play outside in the summer until 9 p.m. but not one minute later.

The rules continued as she applied future "ready" dates, for things we would be able to do.   11 was the predetermined age we  were allowed to stay at home by ourselves when Mother had to pick Dad up from work on the days she needed the car. (We were a one car family at the time and this was about a 15 minute round trip .)  We would be able to stay home sans parents at night when I turned 12 effectively babysitting My Beloved Sister. (She was my best bud so no bossiness was required but we could only be alone if they were not getting in late, otherwise we had to have a sitter.) I would be able to go to boy girl parties at 13 (supervised, and only if Mom knew the parents well)  I could wear makeup at 15 ( This was the one rule that Mom actually changed a little. I was one of the youngest in my class, so I started high school before my 14th birthday.  I begged and was allowed mascara and blush only midway through my freshman year.)  I could begin double dating at 15 as long as my parents knew the kids well. ( Attending a high school football game or an occasional movie ) My curfews weekend were set and  I would be able to stay out until 10:30, 11:00 and11:30 at 15, 16 and 17 respectively. All of these dates and times were scripted well in advance of them ever being an issue.

But the first milestone I looked most forward to was Easter of my sixth grade year.  In my community, that Easter was the year young girls started transitioning from children's clothing to a pre-teen look. I was going to be allowed to wear hose and heels. Now by heels I am talking about a tiny kitten heel and I am not talking about any pretty princess shoe here.  I am talking about a daintier Mary Jane with a thin strap across the foot and a 1 inch kitten heel.  And hose, real hose before panty hose were accessible to everyone. Hose that had to be held in place with that garter belt (the ones with a tiny rose in the front)  I was to be freed of the bondage and humiliation of wearing white ankle socks with lace around the edges and trading it for silky sheer leg wear.  I didn't care what you had to do to hold those suckers up.

A little back story here.  As I mentioned once before I did all of my growing very early and by the middle of the 5th grade I was as tall as I am now. (Taller possibly, because I may even be losing a little height now. )

Nothing says adorable on a 5th grade girl who looks like an Amazon among her peers than wearing black patent Mary Janes with white ankle socks.  Because I was still 10 my mother made sure I dressed like a ten year old, which was very difficult since I wore adult sized clothes.  Not only did I wear adult sized clothes, but I also wore adult sized undergarments and the females in the maternal side of the family were all very "healthy".  Again nothing says adorable like a girl who looks to the outside world like she is an older teen wearing young kid clothes. (Did I mention Mother sewed, so there was never a problem finding clothes she wanted me to wear in a size that fit me?). When I look back on pictures from that time I see My Beloved Sister with all of our friends, then me at least a full head above everyone else, standing with my shoulders hunched to try and have the appearance of a concave chest.  My Beloved Sister calls this time "The Lerch Years."

I somehow survived the fifth grade, the sixth grade fall, and winter wearing my "little girl" clothes,socks and shoes. Spring was coming with the promise of hose and heels.  Easter Sunday arrived and I woke early to dress for church.   I put on my first ever hose and heels, fixed my hair a million times, slipped on the blue linen dress with it's matching blue check coat then went to the dining room for the annual Easter picture before church.  I had never felt so cute in my entire life.  I had entered the new realm without the trappings of my little girl socks and little girl shoes.  The world was mine, it was a new day and a new beginning.  I felt fantastic until Dad had the pictures developed.   Then, My. Ego. Shattered.

You know how we can all be a little delusional sometimes.  I was so taken aback with my new footwear freedom and not looking like a little kid that I had not realized the visible peril of hose and heels combined with one of Mom's written in cement arbitrary rules: Thou (Anne) shalt not shave thou legs until thou art in the 7th grade.  And that is what my Beloved Sister called "The Gorilla Year".

p.s. Hell will freeze over before I post that picture!


  1. I had to follow many rules similar to those you followed, though because I was Daughter #5, my mom got tired and dropped some rules by the time I hit fifteen or so. However, she came up with some new rules especially for me because I was the only kid left so she had more time to focus on me. I'll never forget the other kids asking me, Why do you do such and such? My answer always was, Because my mother makes me.

    Socks with sandals. Weird looking lacy tights. So ugly. Wearing this thing that wasn't a bra but wasn't a camisole. I remember my mom calling it a petty top, but I don't know if I have the word petty right. I might have misunderstood her(it was a petty rule; I was the only girl with such a garment under her shirt). I think not swimming after meals was pretty universal.

    She told me not to sit in the front yard and kiss "that boy," but she wasn't harsh about it because she loved it when I dated. If I turned down a boy, she did not like it. If I had told her the boy was a drug dealer or had tried to rape me, she wouldn't have cared. She would have said it wasn't true.


    I'm glad I was the perfect parent.


    1. Glad to know I was not the only one. I have a few friends who had arbitrary rules also and occasionally we still talk about them. My favorite was the no pierced ears rule. I wore clip on earrings until I was in my early 20's then got my ears pierced. Funny thing though after all those years of not allowing it, Mom went and had hers done the next month.

  2. I think we all rules like those one way or another. But I don't know how that can be because everyone else didn't have rules like I did. :) I wasn't supposed to go past a certain crack on the sidewalk--gave me boundaries to stay in the neighborhood. Had to come in every night when the street light turned on and could shave my legs until 8th grade. And the list goes on.

  3. I had the physical boundaries also but rather than cracks it was people's houses. We could not go beyond the Cagle's to the left or the Simonetti's to the right. We could go as far as the Lumpkin's behind us and the Miller's in front of us. All of those were either visible or within hollering range. When we played out at night we were never allowed to go into anyone's house so everyone could hear whatever parent was calling for their child. ( We did have insane games of Kick the Can and Capture the Flag. There were probably 25 kids in the neighborhood and we all played) Times were different then though and if I was doing something I shouldn't have been any Motherin the neighborhood would correct me

  4. I think those rules with age limits are healthy. That way, a girl does not assume she can do something when she decides to. Knowing early what is going to happen is a good way to keep the peace. It cuts down on the wailing and begging.

  5. Maybe, but the Easter photos from that year make a strong argument for arbitrary rule adjustments.

  6. I love, love, love this post. Your sister is a hoot. You have been so blessed with parents that cared about you and your sister. What a wonderful life.

  7. My Beloved Sister is fantastic! We actually mark time by creating identifying names for things that happen. i.e.we call her 4th birthday party The Dead Birthday because she was going to have heart surgery (it was not done on kids at that time) and they thought she was going to die. She had the biggest party ever second only to Michael Corleone's son's party in Godfather ll. Or the baton summer (which should conjure thoughts of marching bands but it is a very different tale) and The Shero party. I am lucky I grew up with someone as disturbed as I am who will share my brain without condemning me

    1. You have such great memories. And the dead birthday is a bit of a creepy one but I'm so glad that she is still with you.