“Fashion Policeman”

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In the spring of our senior year in high school, the principal called Mary down to the office. He told her that she was not allowed to wear sandals without stockings. She could either wear nylon stockings or socks with her sandals, but she could not have bare feet. It made no more sense then than it does today. But he was in charge and had the power to suspend her, so she capitulated.

All the girls wore stockings to school, held up by garter belts or girdles. Pantyhose had yet to be widely available. Stockings were purchased at the hosiery counter in the department store. You would ask the clerk to show you what was available. She would bring out a couple of flat boxes(such as those pictured above), remove one stocking, place her hand inside it to show you the color and see if that color satisfied. If not, she would bring out another color. After a while I recognized I liked anything named something like Sun Tan.

During the end of my high school years someone invented a “run-proof” stocking. Runs or “ladders” were the long line of detached stitches that occurred when you got a hole in a stocking. Fingernails commonly snagged causing runs. While it was true that the “run-proof” stockings didn’t run, they did develop enormous holes. I still remember one of my classmates darning those holes to make the stockings last a little longer.

I am still astonished when I see bare legged women at church wearing high heels. Apparently, while I wasn’t paying attention, wearing stockings, including panty hose, went out of style. I can’t imagine any high school girl getting sent home today over her lack of socks with sandals!

“White Glove Treatment”

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I saw an advertisement the other day for a furniture company which promised it would deliver its goods with “white glove treatment” for an extra fee. I found this an interesting anachronism for a current offering. Beyond a vague idea of what this might mean–after all it costs more so it must be special–what would a young adult make of this phrase?

When I was a little girl, white gloves had a specific function. They were what you put on your hands to go to church. I wasn’t taken to church, but my churchgoing friends filled me in on the dress code. My own first encounter with them came in Mr. Billings’ Dancing School, a rite of passage at my elementary school for all seventh and eighth graders. (As I wrote some time ago this did not apply to the Haitian girl who was the daughter of a live-in domestic. She was not invited.)

To attend dancing school, I was required to wear black shoes, fancy dresses and white gloves. The gloves were  heavy cotton and buttoned at the wrist with a little pearl.  The boys were dressed in suits, button down shirts, ties, oxfords and DARK socks. (Woe to the poor boy who forgot and wore white ones.) They did not wear gloves.

At Mr. Billings’ Dancing School we were taught proper etiquette which apparently included wearing white gloves to dances. Of course by the time I started going to dances, white gloves had bit the dust in favor of short skirts and “rock and roll.” I never did get to use my fox trot skills.

I have no idea why we were expected to wear the gloves. They did perform an important function however. They absorbed all the sweat from those extremely uncomfortable boys. We needed to wash the gloves after every Friday night class!

“Of Shoes-And Ships-And Sealing Wax”

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This quote from Lewis Carroll’s “The Walrus and The Carpenter” probably confuses a modern reader. What on earth is sealing wax? But when I was in high school I developed a love of sealing wax and metal stamps to make an impression in the wax. I wrote many letters then and throughout college, and I always used sealing wax for a dramatic touch.

The wax came in several colors, such as those displayed above. I lit the wick and let the wax slowly drip onto the flap of the envelope. When a sufficient blob had formed, I pressed into it with one of my metal stamps. I had several, including my initial, a unicorn and a free form squiggle. The wax dried very quickly into a hard form which sealed the letter. If anyone tried to read the letter the seal would break. For my friends with prying siblings, this was meant to guarantee that there would be no unauthorized snooping.

I bought my paper, envelopes, pens, ink,  sealing wax and metal stamps at another vanished retailer–the stationary store. Until last year there still was one remaining stationer in a nearby town and it was a true delight to walk through and admire all the goods. Apparently there is no longer enough demand for these things, so it closed. Even my local Hallmark store, long time source of greeting cards, now carries clothing, “gift items” and toys. Cards are consigned to a small back corner. So cards, too, have fallen out of favor.

I treasure old letters and old cards. It is hard to imagine future generations having any connections with old emails. It is the hand of the writer that I love, from my grandfather’s near illegible scrawl to my husband’s endearments when we were dating. Maybe letter writing will come back. I hope so.

“Submit In Ink”

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While I have enjoyed my ramblings of the past weeks, I am returning to posts about “the way it was.” Today I am remembering using fountain pens. The kind I used throughout high school and college is seen above. The pen was filled by sticking the nib in a bottle of ink and pumping the lever on the side of the pen to fill the container inside. This was quite modern compared to the need to constantly dip the pen into ink. In fact, the desks we had in grade school still had ink wells, a place to keep a bottle of ink.

As you might imagine, this method of pen filling was quite messy. It required a “pen wipe,” a soft cloth specifically tailored to cleaning up the nib after the refill. It also helped to have a blotter on your desk for the inevitable spills. Sometimes black ink was required, sometimes blue. I had a bottle of each in my desk.

Towards the end of my college years, I encountered the new(to me anyway) invention of ink cartridges. These fit into the barrel of the pen, were punctured open by the bottom end of the nib, and allowed ink to flow into the nib. They were convenient since you could easily tell how much ink you had left, something not possible with the lever pen. However, of course, the cartridges cost more than a bottle of ink and didn’t last nearly as long.

Ball point pens were considered gauche and I never used them in school. Fountain pens, simply called pens, were all I knew. Ink stained fingers, ink marks on my nose from those ink stained fingers, blotches of ink on books I was consulting, drips of ink on my rug, all these marked my time with “submit in ink.”

“TLC”

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Over the past two months I have been through two fairly unpleasant hospital procedures. In June, the doctor biopsied a suspicious area seen on a mammogram. Yesterday, the colorectal surgeon put me through a colonoscopy. Both procedures had good outcomes. The biopsy revealed no cancer. The colonscopy revealed no polyps.

What impressed me the most in both situations was the change in medical personnel from the time I was young. My first experiences of doctors were ones between authorities(the doctors) and the supposedly ignorant(the patients.) Accordingly, the doctors did what they thought they needed to do without explanation. Shots were ordered and given. The most I ever heard was “this is going to hurt.” Not a sentence to calm the anxious.

But change has come to the medical profession, as least as far as my recent experiences reveal. Everyone seemed to understand that I was anxious. Everyone went out of their way to tell me what was going to happen or was happening. One even said, “We don’t want there to be any surprises.” What a concept. I was told that the iv fluid would feel cold, that the biopsy needle made strange noises, that the beeping in the operating room meant things were fine, and that the oxygen mask smelled funny because of the plastic used to make it. I was asked if I was cold and needed a blanket. When I had to hold my arm in a weird position, they offered a rolled up towel for support. When I had to hold one arm over my head, they handed me a rubber ball to squeeze “so your arm won’t go to sleep because that feels weird.”

Some people may miss the all knowing doctor. I am reassured by this new approach. I am seen as the anxious patient I am. They are concerned and seek to minimize the stress. As for me, my blood pressure stayed low throughout and my heart beat steadily and calmly. Thanks everyone.

“Say What?”

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This Wednesday morning I am having a colonoscopy. It is the fourth one I have had, since they found a polyp the first time around and a wonky appendix last time. I have adjusted to the protocol although it is unpleasant because I value the screening. I won’t go into all the details, but the day before you can only have clear liquids. A friend teased me that vodka is a clear liquid, by the way!

But in this new, revised and “better for you”  instructions I received this time around, I was told that for three days before the procedure I was not to have whole grains, brown rice, nuts, popcorn, beans, fruits or vegetables. That list comprises about 95% of my regular diet with a little meat now and then. I have had to eat things I haven’t had in years including white bread, plain bagels and macaroni and cheese. In fact, if you look at the illustration above, I was to eat just the left side and not the right side.

I feel lousy. Everything they say about eating this way is true. It is not good for you. I find it hard to believe that this makes the preparation easier. For me it has simply extended the ordeal to four days instead of one. Who came up with this one? If you are a gastroenterologist, please respond ASAP.

“July 21, 1973”

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I have been married to my husband for thirty years, but forty five years ago I married the father of my daughter. Although that marriage lasted only four years, our lives have been linked because of our child.

People with children who divorce have real choices about how they will conduct their post divorce relationship. Some spend it attacking the other parent at every chance they get, both in front of the children and among friends. They may refuse to even talk to the other parent and insist on all communications going through lawyers. We consciously chose a different route. At first it was just to be civil to one another and to never demean the other in front of our daughter.

As time went on, we found we were able to be cordial to one another, not just civil. We began to attend school events together. While my daughter primarily lived with me, her father saw her frequently, taking her on camping trips, to family reunions and just over to his house.

Thirty years ago we each remarried and remain in those marriages. Somewhere along the line we went from cordial to friendly. All four adults have gone to graduations, weddings, concerts and other events together. Our grandchildren benefit from four grandparents on their mother’s side.

It required a great deal of maturity to live this way, and it was a stretch for sure. But all these years later, it is my first husband who knew my sisters as children, knew my parents, knew me as a young adult. In fact, he has known me longer than any other person in my life. He lives far away and we see each other rarely. But we were faithful to our commitment to our daughter and we have been richly rewarded.