Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

I’ll Pass on the Salad


I started my school experience in the public school system of our fine county.  That first year was brutal.  I am not exaggerating. I had a rough time with the reading.  And the math.  I am not a stupid person, but the whole learning thing didn’t catch on with me until much later.  Why was it important to see Dick and Jane running when, by god, I could be running?  Why on earth would I ever need to know that 1+1=2?   Not anything in the near future, that was for certain!  Besides, who didn’t know that already?  If I have one marble and you give me another one I’ll have two.  Geez, even a kindergartner knows that!

ImageThen one day I came in from recess and the girl that sat in the desk next to mine was eating my Pixie Sticks.  I’d left them in my desk, now they were gone, and she was devouring them with her dirty little mitts.  What more evidence did I need than her Pixie dust encrusted lips? So I confronted her about it.  When I asked her about it she lied.  She couldn’t hide it.

So what did I do?  Why if I couldn’t enjoy them she wouldn’t either. Even though I would not now be eating them, due to the dampness that now surrounded the opened end of each and every last one of the three I had, I tried to take them from her by force.  Which ended up in fisticuffs.  By the time the teacher finally got to the room and broke it up it was obvious that I was the one who instigated this pugilism amongst five and six year-olds. For which I spent the next week with my desk in the closet.  Not that I didn’t deserve it, but the humiliation from that incident – not to mention how badly I felt about bloodying her nose – ended any thoughts I had of standing up for myself in the future.  I’m not sure that was the intended lesson but that’s the one I learned. I could hurt people.  With my bare hands!  Akkkk!  But that’s another issue for another day.

During the summer after that first year my parents decided they’d put my sister and me in a private school. There we wouldn’t be exposed to the horrors (read: black teachers).[1] It was even more horrible. I really don’t even know how they afforded it.  I’ve mentioned this before but we weren’t very, uh, well off.[2]    The other kids there had name-brand shoes and jeans and their parents drove Cadillacs and Lincolns.  The other kids were…snooty. Mean Girls would have looked like angels. I faked headaches and illnesses to get out of going to school with them.  They teased me mercilessly about my “blue-light specials” and my “dollar store” wardrobe and my parents’ Chevy Conversion van(hey, these were the 70’s).[3]  And my freckles – those damnable abominations that lay upon my face.  And my buck teeth – those chompers with which I could have eaten corn-on-the-cob through a picket fence. freckles

My mother would try to console me with this little ditty:

To no avail, I’m afraid.  But I love the saying now and I’m sure I’ll console any child I might have with it someday.

Thankfully this only lasted two school terms.  And then a reprieve; my parents came to the conclusion that I hated it and they could no longer afford it.  Relief at last.  I’d go back to public school.  Gladly.  That is until that fateful day in which my mother decided I needed a haircut before the start of school.  And for some reason my Aunt Tee was there that day.  Which was all good because my Aunt Tee was cool.  Or at least I thought she was.

My mother had cut my hair on many occasions.  I’m not even sure my hair had ever been professionally cut until this incident. She began the task, as always, by spreading a flat sheet out on the floor, placing a chair in the middle of it, and having me sit down.  She used her “good” scissors and took a snip and the long strands fell to the floor.   This was in the front so that was okay.  I wanted bangs.  But then my Aunt Tee spoke up.  “Hey, let me have a try”, she said.   These words should strike fear into the heart of any person getting their hair cut…ever. This isn’t a game of horse shoes.  This is my hair for chrissakes.

Never, and I mean never, let your aunt cut your hair.  Unless, of course, she is a hair stylist.  One who has been properly trained and probably has years of experience.  Exhibit A:


Yep, that’s me and this is after it had grown out significantly.

For some reason she thought it would be a good idea to pick up where mama started and follow the line around my face and down under my ears and meet back around to the front all in one swift action.  Before mama could stop her she’d whacked off enough that there was no going back.  So she let her finish.  It looked like she’d put a salad bowl on my head and traced the lines of it.  My aunt was dead to me.  Dead to me!

I already had issues –  I did not need this.  I was eight. And I was starting the fourth grade in a new school in about a week.  This could not be happening!  When we went to the dollar store for back-to-school shopping I picked out dresses.  Dresses! A travesty!

Reluctantly, I did go to school. Surprisingly one of the kids remembered the little boxer from the first grade.  In fact I’d done such a good job of fading in to anonymity the rest of that year that none of them remembered me at all.  I can remember hearing a boy ask the fourth grade teacher, “Why is that boy wearing a dress?”  I was ruined.  “Oh god,  They think I’m a boy!” 

It probably didn’t help that I was a bit of tomboy.  I eschewed dolls and hopscotch in favor of playing in the dirt and playing fort. I still am, really.  I much prefer playing with power tools and adventure to, say, manis and pedis and dress-up. And I still like to play in the dirt.  Thank the gods the years have been kind to me.  My freckles have faded and I grew into my teeth.  And the older I get the less important anything name-brand seems to be.  I wish I could go back and tell little me that big me had a knuckle sandwich for her whiny little butt.


[1] My dad had many fine qualities but tolerance for other races wasn’t one of them.  I try to remember he was raised in a different time (yeah, I probably am rationalizing).

[2] Being well off is a matter of of perspective, even financially.  Imagine my surprise when, in high school, my friends all thought we were rich because we lived in a real house without wheels.

[3] I miss that van.  It had a built-in dining table and banquette, a bar sink, and orange shag carpet.  How friggin’ cool was that?


9 thoughts on “I’ll Pass on the Salad

  1. I’m still stalked by the “boy” comment. 😦 And yes I was a tom boy. I’d rather play in the dirt too. 🙂 Going into my first year at high school I decided to cut my long hair to shoulder length . . . still long right? No, not. I show up for swim lessons and the guy I had an off-again on-again crush on said to me “only boys have short hair!” I was mortified! Same thing happened in my early 30’s. Having short hair again and the senior pastor preaching about “short hair” (while his wife at the shortest hair of all) . . . and I was convicted and grew my hair long again. *sigh*

    You’ve got dimples. I always wanted dimples. I was reminded often that I did not have them because my sister had them and apparently they were all the rage. 😆

    I had freckles too. Now I have age spots. :mrgreen:

    So many stories we have eh? I remember asking mom to give me a perm when I was 10 years old. I never asked her to do that again! 😯


    • …I decided to cut my long hair to shoulder length . . . still long right? No, not. I show up for swim lessons and the guy I had an off-again on-again crush on said to me “only boys have short hair!”


      I pretty much keep my hair at shoulder length or shorter. I say pretty much because I have a love/hate relationship with long hair. I love it, I think it’s gorgeous, and I covet it. All those women with their long, shiny mane all done up in barrel curls. I’m green with envy. Alas, my hair is baby fine and the longer it gets the flatter, and stringier it gets. I wind up pulling it all up in a clippie or a pony tail. And then what’s the point of the long hair?

      Also, fortunately for me, the “boy” question didn’t last forever. That would kinda suck. I was a late bloomer, but when I did bloom…well…let’s just say there wasn’t a question of my gender anymore.

      I do have dimples, but you know, I think we always want what it is we don’t have. I’ve never given much thought to them. But I have always wanted to be tanned and toned and to not have this cellulite that lives around my derriere – to have long, lean, dancer’s legs. I don’t have any of that – nor the long hair. Finally, though, and I won’t say in any small part owing to The Tour Guide(because it’s in a great, big, humungous part), I’m learning to embrace what I do have and just go with it.

      Ohmigod, the perm! Been there, done that, had the severely burned hair to prove it.


  2. Very cute story! Especially liked that last knuckle sandwich.


    • Thanks, Sabio. I don’t know how my parents put up with me when I was a kid. I was convinced from about the ages of seven to ten that I was surely adopted. Everyone else seemed so talented, so good at everything. And then there was me. Whiny, little twerp. It took me a long time to figure out that the reason I wasn’t good at anything then was precisely because I was little. I hadn’t had time to be good at anything yet.


  3. Oh man did I have a lot of bad hair cuts and perms. My grandma used to give us perms and I remember one time looking like a complete poodle. Maybe that’s why I’m scared to do much with my hair anymore.


    • I’ve had plenty of bad dos since then, trust me. I’m not particularly afraid of trying something new. A lady I worked with (she was an old lady who basically only had set ‘n curl every Saturday) convinced me her hair dresser was great. His name was B Cress. What could possibly go wrong with that?

      I walked in sat down in the chair and said, “Do what you think.” Who does that?!? What can I say? I was young and dumb.

      When I went in I had nearly waist-length hair in a very 1990’s spiral perm. This was in the 90’s btw. When I walked out I looked like Florence Henderson in a Wesson Commercial. I think I was, like, twenty. Not.Good.

      Does that deter me? Not a chance. I did learn that you have to get to know your hair stylist. Not a hair dresser. A stylist. Then you can say, “Do what you think.”


  4. I have the same issue with long hair going flat, so I’ve whacked it off again. I have to say that if your little you could seethe big you she’d be impressed by how beautiful you are. I’m blown away by your wedding photos.


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