Failing at Marie Kondo
Oh, my Lord. What is this? My diary that goes back to when I was age nine.
My father gave it to me for my 9th birthday. He said, “Some people need to write everything down. I’m like that. This doesn’t mean you are going to become a famous writer. Maybe you will. But it helps to get things off your chest.” I was as emotional as Dad. So I decided to put that book to use.
The diary was small, brown and came with a lock long since gone due to my brother’s endless breaking & entering, then reading aloud passages which sounded So stupid in his manly boy voice: “Today I talked to a boy! He has black hair and is nice! He plays coronet in the band. He fixed my tie and said ‘that’s better’.”
“Give that back! Mooom! Make him give it!” Bob would do a ballet-twirl, holding the diary aloft, just out of reach, even though we were the same height & weight until Bob hit nearly six feet at age twelve. I was dying to be six feet tall or more but growing stopped me at five nine & three quarters.
When I was twelve, we moved from Sanford, Florida up to Waycross/Hoboken Georgia. Our house was right on the border. It was a ranch style brick house with sliding glass doors and a “Florida Room,” which was just the thing back in those Mad Men days.
Unlike at other schools, I’d been fairly popular in the 6th grade. We lived for the first half of the school year in Bryson City, North Carolina. Then we’d moved to Endicott New York so Dad could map upstate. Then back to Bryson City and all of a sudden, my boyfriend Billy (who had given me a silver ring and swore to love me until the End of Time) was walking around with a beautiful girl who had the right style (bubble hair-do, tight skirt, cashmere sweater & she had gotten bosoms!) O Woe Is Me!
Then we moved to Sanford, Florida. I was in the seventh grade. We lived on Silver Lake near a huge expanse of orange groves. The bus ride was an hour long. I hated Sanford from minute one. Except for band. On a Spring trip to the state band competitions, Doug fixed my tie, then looked deep into my eyes and said, “that’s better.” All the girls hated me because Doug Button had pledged his troth with those words.
I knew for sure that I would Never get bosoms. So that last part of the 6th grade in North Carolina & all of the 7th grade was tragic. Some of the North Carolina girls tried to cheer me up but a lot of my old pals had gone over to the Bubble Hair Do girl’s side. They all loved Billy Davis who once loved me because I could draw XKEs.
To make boys like me, I would draw their picture sitting behind the wheel of a silver XKE. Then, during class, I’d send it, folded up, with the boy’s name on front. They’d mouth, “WOW!” and later tell me, “You’re a good drawer.” But it was Billy I loved and would marry someday, I wrote into my diary.
Now here we were in Georgia. Not a scary state, since Uncle Jack, Aunt Inez & our southern cousins lived not too far away in Hinesville. The school in Hoboken was small. Grades One through Twelve all in the same complex. There were about 30 kids in the 8th grade and they all were friendly to me right off the bat.
Helen rode my bus, as did Mack. He was the handsomest boy in school. Or should I say man? He had a five o’clock shadow by Noon and beautiful black hair with sapphire eyes. Marilyn, I would find out, was his girlfriend.
Deloyce came right up to me in homeroom, extended her hand and said “Hey there, what’s your name?” When I said, “Dixie” everyone laughed. Johnny Tallevast & his best friend began a resounding rendition of “I wish I was in Dixie!” which I had heard ten thousand times. The joke was stale. I gave them the evil eye.
Lynelle, a lovely redhead, sat down by me in the cafeteria that day at lunch time. Or rather, as southerners call it, dinner. I was in 7th Heaven. The lunch ladies cooked from scratch!! Collard greens with ham hocks, field peas, bisquits covered in red gravy. Oh my Lord!!! Darlene joined us, as did Helen and Deloyce. Marilyn had something to do in the ladies’ room but she came along fairly soon. “Got my friend,” she groaned. “What friend?” I asked, completely clueless. “You know, Dixie–the curse!” I’d never heard any of those terms but, afraid to appear dim, I said “Aah, yes. The curse.”
Claude, Danny, Johnny, Mack and other boys kept parading past our table, like as if we were going to shout out “I bid on that one!” while an auctioneer chanted out “Heybuddabudda, hey ya’ll; who wants that guy with th’ black hair? Heybuddabudda, yeah he’s fourteen, nearly six foot tall, budda budda. Sold! To the highest bidder!”
Sometimes, my mind would drift and then suddenly, I’d hear the person talking. “Dixie, where are you from? You talk like a Yankee.” Oh, I knew that was Fatal. You had to fit in, wherever you lived. So I quickly told them, “NO! My Daddy was born in Damascus and raised up all over Georgia. He gave me this name. My Mama’s from Wyoming. That’s how come I talk like this.” Which was a Lie.
Dad hated southern accents. He thought they were uncultured and ignorant, even if the person had gone to Harvard. He demanded that us kids never, ever pick up an accent Down South. And to be fair, he also hated the Bronx accent, Brooklyn yawl and numerous other ways of talking. My father had odd prejudices. We were taught to respect people of every “race, color & creed” but talking Southern was verboten!
Funnily, my brother chose in Waycross/Hoboken to steep himself in the beautiful Southern style of speaking. He never lost that accent. My sister Kathi & I stuck with our mish-mash of words from where we’d lived all over the USA. People would often ask us, “Are you from Michigan! You say ‘beg’ for ‘bag’?” And we’d have to set them straight Just as we told people who thought we might be from Maine or Boston (since we said “wicked cool”) or Chicago, “No–sorry–we just move around a lot due to Dad’s job.”
That Hoboken school year was wild. I had never gone to so many events. Greased pig race. I purposely flopped myself down in the mud, so as to evoke laughter from the crowd (but also to spare that poor pig the indignity of being captured by a skinny twelve-year old.) There were fairs and carnivals. Going to the tourist shop to buy penny candy and a Co-Cola after school.
Walking was our favorite thing to do, and we girls walked for miles & miles every day after doing our homework & chores. We’d talk and talk about which band was better, the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. I chose Buddy Holly & the Crickets. We talked about our strict parents, boys we loved, which student had been sent to the principal’s office and how many whacks with the paddle he got. It was always boys misbehaving enough to get paddled.
We discussed our teachers. Hub was nice and he taught History real well. But Lordie that hateful old lady who taught English! When she taught. Mostly, it was hollering: “Ya’ll shut up! Ya’ll sit still!” as if a room full of twelve, thirteen and fourteen year old boys & girls could sit still! That mean old woman once duct taped a boy for “being fidgety.” She wrapped him from forehead to waist, securing him to a chair.
The boy closest to the door dashed out & ran to get Hub, while the rest of us were whispering: “That ain’t right” and “Ma’m, you are cruel.” When Mr. Hubert got to the classroom, he ripped that tape off while shouting, “Miz Anderson, you discipline these children too hard. They are My home room. If you get problems, you come fetch me! I don’t want to ever hear about any such of a hateful treatment again!” Mrs. Anderson glared at him but she never duct taped anybody again, no matter how wild we all got.
Gym class was fun. Our gym teacher played 45 records like Stevie Wonder’s “I was made to love her” and “Do Wah Diddy, talk about the boy from New York City.”
(page from my diary, last day of school. Helen & I were moving. Me to the D.C. area
Helen was far more popular than I was. She’d lived there forever. But all us girls
were sobbing about her & my moving. (Bessie is Mrs. Anderson, the mean teacher.)
(Reverse of inserted first page from my diary. About moving from Georgia to DC area.)
I was all in love with Johnny Tallevast from Day One at Hoboken High. He had auburn hair, freckles and a great big smile most of the time. Just like Huck Finn. His best friend was taller, with black hair and brown eyes. On the playground, they would both throw acorns at us girls as we swung in the swings. Primitive form of flirting. We girls would shout “Stop it, ya’ll!!” and “We’ll tell Hub!” They’d just laugh and run away.
I’d never had a birthday party in my life. But for my 13th, Mom said I could invite all the girls from the 8th grade. That was so Wild. I was terrified they’d all say no. Two respectfully declined the invitation but the others were excited about my party. I could not believe this. A real party with 45 records, dancing!! No boys but lots of great food. I told all the girls to bring their favorite 45s. We’d go swimming in the swamp, then get cleaned up, first being sprayed off with the hose (brother Bob would do that job, dressed up as Bond, James Bond with his red swim trunks, sunglasses and silver tooth.) Then have dinner and cake.
Mom asked what food I wanted and I made a list: fried chicken, mashed potatoes, collards, iced tea, soda pop (a rarity in our home), ice cream in three flavors and a cake! Chocolate and big enough for all the girls, Mom, Dad, Bob, Kathi and me. October 8 could not come soon enough.
We danced the twist to 20 different records. Laughed our fool heads off. Swam in the Okeefenokee. I dared Helen and the other perfect teased-up, hair-do girls and they jumped right in with my tomboy self! The food was delicious and we got real messy eating chocolate cake out on the back porch.
Bob kept strolling by, saying “Bond, James Bond. Shaken, not stirred.” We laughed at him. He was only eleven and thought he was Mr. Cool.
All that year, I had so much fun with those 8th grade girls. And some of the boys. One boy asked me at Helen’s going away party to teach him how to kiss because he had to practice up for his first kiss with his true love. I told him, “Gary, I have never kissed a boy! Try it out on your girlfriend!” He begged & begged. I suspected this was a trick but went on ahead. I was sitting on a split rail fence and he bent down for the big event, kissed my nose, then slid down to my chin and we both broke up laughing.
Oh, no. There stood Johnny Tallevast! He’d seen me kissing Gary. The song: “But I love him (there’s not another thing that you can do! Foolish Little Girl” was playing. And then “It’s Judy’s turn to cry!”) I jumped off the fence & ran over to Tally. “That didn’t mean anything. Nothing.” He glared at me & went inside. I followed, trying to get my point across. But he kept his back to me like an angry cat. My friends circled around me as I burst into tears, asking what had happened.
All I could do was sob, “Gary……Tally.” They hugged me, not understanding but being the sympathetic Southern sisters they were, love was always freely given.
In May, when Dad made the dreaded announcement “I got my orders,” Kathi, Bob & I all shouted: “NO!” We Loved Waycross/Hoboken. Riding donkeys, balancing on a barrell, easy classes, swimming in the swamp. Poling our boat through cypress knees, shaking cottonmouths off with our oars. Shooting down mistletoe with our bows and arrows, getting wild honey from a swamp log. I played badly on our basketball team. We had gone To State and lost to Ludowici.
I had read Gone with the Wind in three days. I read regional books wherever we lived. What better place to read that one than in Georgia?
Dad told us, “Tell your friends that when the school year is over, we’re leaving for the Washington, D.C. area.”
Not that danged place! Uncle Jack always said “There’s more swamp up in D.C. than anywhere in the South” and “Them Yankees can’t run this country. They are as ignorant as possums.” I imagined Pogo as President. Why not?
I went to the school library and read up on Washington D.C. They had cherry blossom festivals. All the monuments. The White House where LBJ reigned supreme. A big library, The Library of Congress and anybody could go there to read books. That was a positive. The Potomac River. I wondered if you could swim in it.
Reading about a new location always helped me adjust. When I told my girlfriends about the upcoming move, they already knew Helen was leaving due to her father’s job. We wrapped our arms around each other in a big circle and cried like howling wolf cubs.
The boys walked around, helpless, saying “Ya’ll gonna be alright. Ya’ll write us now. Don’t you forget Hoboken High.” I did write everyone for two years. Gary, Sharon Prescott, Deloyce, Lynell. Even Johnny Tallevast. He never did write me back but Gary, Sharon and Lynell did. Then the letters fizzed out as I got used to the Great Falls Virginia, Langley High School ways.
Mom bought me a beautiful woolen light blue pantsuit to wear when Sharon came to visit. She and her mother had come up to see some relatives, so they stopped by our house one Autumn afternoon. When she saw me, Sharon said, “Dixie, you have changed. It’s in the Bible that women shall not wear the clothes of men.” I said, “Well, Dad won’t let me read the Bible. And anyway, Mom bought me this in a Ladies‘ clothing shop.”
We sat there in my parents’ fancy living room, trying to think of things to talk about. Music, boys, classes in the ninth grade. Hating math. But I had gone Yankee. There was no going back to my happy times at Hoboken High.
(Note: thanks to Facebook, I have reconnected with three of the “girls” who were at my 13th birthday party. They keep me up-to-date on other folks I knew and it’s always a joy to hear from them.)
(left to right: not sure who, Lynelle, me, Sharon Prescott, not sure, Deloyce,
“Shorty,” Helen, (not sure) )