Spring of 1971. My sister was fourteen and I was nineteen. I’d been taking classes at NOVA community college. Kathie was in the last stretch of her sophomore year at Langley High school.
She was Obsessed with Helen Reddy’s new hit “I Am Woman.” Marching around the two storey house, she sang at the top of her lungs:
“I am Woman hear me Roar!”
With long, thick dark blonde hair, and glittering hazel eyes, Kathi looked like a lion.
“In numbers too big to ignore!!”
I flung open my bedroom door.
“Could you shut up for One minute! Or go outside and sing. I’m studying for history finals!”
Kathi’s answer was loud, “And I come back Even Stronger!”
“AAAHH!” It was hard for me to read and listen to music at the same time but I turned my radio on full blast. The DJ at WHFS announced “The Wind Cries Mary.”
I lay down on my bed and tried to make sense of Lenin’s Manifesto of the Workers’ Duma.
Kathi opened my door “I’m still an Embryo, with a Long Long way to GO!”
“An Embryo? That is the weirdest song lyric I’ve ever heard.” I laughed, imagining embryos marching in the streets of America’s cities.
I read aloud at the top of my lungs, in the tune of Reddy’s song:
“The proletariat has proven
Its ability to Fight!
Now it musters might
to launch a determined struggle!”
We both burst out laughing. “Your song is more fun than this crud.”
Kathi got one of her brain storms. “Let’s burn our bras!!”
“What a radical idea! The peasantry shall Rise!”
We both flung off our t-shirts, ripped off our brassieres, put our t-shirts back on and ran downstairs.
Kathi dashed to Dad’s ultra-neat workbench and grabbed a tin of starter fluid. I found the charcoal where it always was, items stored in alphabetical order on a shelf.
We ran out into the back yard, removed the cooking grate. I dumped charcoal into the grill and Kathi squirted out lighter fluid.
“Wait! We need matches.”
“I got it covered,” my sister said.
Kathi had convinced Mom and Dad to give up smoking that year. She’d put up signs all over the house “smoking kills” and “Live to see your grandchildren!” Then she, always a study in contradiction, took up the habit. My sister was never without a pack of Kools and a box of matches.
Whomp! The briquettes began to flame. We threw our butterfly and flower-patterned bras onto the fire. Following Kathi’s lead, I marched—knees high—to the Womens’ Battle Song.
“YES! I AM WISE
BUT IT’S WISDOM FROM THE PAIN!!
YES, I’VE PAID THE PRICE!
BUT LOOK HOW MUCH I’VE GAINED!”
Mom opened the back door and stepped out onto the redwood deck my brother and father had built the previous summer.
“What on Earth are you two up to?”
Kathi and I raised our fists high. “Women’s Lib! Sufferage!” We yelled.
“We’re Free, Mom, Free from the tyranny of bourgeoisie brassieres!” I shouted.
My sister and I fell into the soft, green grass and rolled around with uncontrollable laughter.
Mother raced down the stairs and unsucessfully tried to pluck our bras out of the charred mess with her bare hands. “Dammit to hellfire!”
“You two will go to Sears This Minute. You will use your own money. You will buy new bras and get home to clean the bathrooms. As Per!”
Mom’s admonition “as per” always cracked us up.
“As per the Czarina, we shall henceforth repair ourselves to the Peasants’ Marketplace.” I gasped out between guffaws.
At Sears, we picked out the wildest bras we could find. Mine was a violent fuschia with lace over it. Kathi’s was a black push-up affair.
When we got home, we went into Kathi’s bedroom, laughing at our revolutionary plot.
Mom was in the kitchen, preparing dinner. We entered, bras prominently displayed over our t-shirts, and saluted her.
“As Per!” we both shouted, then ran to our chosen bathrooms, locked the doors and began scrubbing with Comet and toothbrushes, penance for our anarchistic acts.