"Flying Dreams" The Addie Mills Page: Addie and the War Hero

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I followed the book convention and kept Carla Mae as Addie’s best friend. But she still looks like Franny Michel. :-)


Addie's Graduation Photo COLLEGE

Linda M. Young

I’m an artist now, and I live and work in a studio near a university that’s just outside a large city. In the late winter, I always accept an invitation from the art department to speak to their students about careers in art, when the mention of the future always brings to mind the spring everyone is longing for on those final chilly days of February. I always smile to see how informally the young people dress today: both boys and girls in worn jeans and T-shirts with slogans upon them, in fleecy jackets or combinations of layered sweaters, hair touseled and sporting fantastic colors, a far cry from the sophisticated dresses and camel-hair coat I had so yearned over in my senior year of high school. It makes me think of those final months before college in the early months of 1954, and how desperately adult I wanted to be...


I looked at the girl in the tilting pier mirror and for a second I didn’t recognize it as me.

But I knew it was because behind me I could see Grandma clasp her hands together in a gesture of happiness and a beatific smile blossom upon her face.

“Glory be, you look so much like your momma in that dress,” she said warmly, and my heart ached just a little, even for someone I had never met. My mother, Helen Mills, had died just a few weeks after I was born, from pneumonia. She had cuddled me, made me toys and gifts for my first Christmas, then slowly slipped away before the new antibiotics that came out of World War II could be tried on her. For many years my dad had grieved over her, but I never knew, making relations between us so difficult, the truth coming out one Christmas when I was ten years old.

“You think so, Grandma?” I asked dubiously, twirling right and left to see the skirt swirl around me, “just like a movie star,” she had promised me. But in my mind’s eye I still saw myself as the gawky, leggy little girl of a few years earlier.

“Indeed I do,” she said decidedly, critically examining me from head to toe. I wore new saddle shoes, white ankle socks, a full tweed plaid skirt, a long-sleeved white blouse, and my hair was braided and pinned around my head. I had plans for my hair before I ever left our small town of Clear River, Nebraska, but one shock at a time was enough for Dad, so I’d put that aside for another week.

Grandma had cared for me from when I was a few months old, and together we were planning to make my college debut a good one. I had never been what was termed a “clotheshorse,” but even I was aware that I needed to look the part when I went to the city. As excited as I was, I was also afraid that my new classmates would see me as some type of “hick from hicksville.” The thought gave me the shivers. With that thought in mind, Grandma had inveigled my dad into taking us into Omaha one day in the spring and we had spent part of the afternoon hanging around the University of Nebraska campus, taking note of what the girls were wearing. Grandma was a clever seamstress and she ended up making most of my clothing, including the outfit I was wearing. For the few things she couldn’t make, she talked my dad into a trip for me to the Bond Store, where she bought me my first formal, a pink organdie, and also a deep blue traveling dress. Of course Dad barked when he saw the bill, but even he had to admit that “those city kids” would have little to make fun of when I arrived on campus in September. He was secretly proud of how I looked and would have been angry if anyone called me names because of how I dressed.

You had to know my dad. He was tall, thin, and usually wore a dour or thoughtful expression. He was in his twenties during the Depression and he’d never forgotten the short commons on which he, Grandma, and Grandpa had to live. Every dime that left his fingers squealed first, and it was always frustrating to me as a kid not to receive an extra quarter for a movie or some cheap toy I wanted from the five-and-dime. He was also the most honest person I knew; like Abe Lincoln Dad wouldn’t have ever been in debt to anyone, even for six and a quarter cents. Now that I was older I understood a lot of things about Dad, and even agreed with him on some of them.

The one thing we had never worked out was my choice of a career. Dad was a traditionalist, even as he watched me grow up as a nonconformist. Most of my fellow female classmates were already planning what they would wear at their weddings, and, though I didn’t think boys had cooties any longer, I still wasn’t ready to settle down with anyone. I’d made up my mind from when I was small that I was going to be an artist, and that got Dad’s goat, because to him artists were some type of special kind of twee people who starved in garrets in Paris.

As I got older I still wanted the Paris part, but I had a healthy appetite and could see where starving in garrets wasn’t all that romantic. So one night after supper I asked him if he would not go into the living room right away and instead sit and talk with me at the table. Of course, he was immediately suspicious. Actually, “What have you done now?” was his response.

Grandma said reprovingly, “Now, James...”

But I couldn’t let Grandma get me out of this one. “Grandma, why don’t you go sit down and listen to the radio? Isn’t The Evening Hour on now?”

The Evening Hour was Grandma’s favorite radio program; it starred a tenor who sang hymns and read passages from the Bible. She gave me a look, shook her head, and then left Dad and I to it. But looking at Dad’s challenging eyes almost broke my nerve.

Oh, get it out, Mills, I said to myself. “Dad, I wanted to let you know the colleges I’ve applied to,” and then I named the four, watching Dad’s glower deepening as I said each one. When I finished he pulled his cigarettes out from his shirt, looked at them angrily, then shoved them back in his pocket. He was trying to stop smoking and I was testing his resolve.

“What about the Nebraska Normal School, Addie?” he asked with an edge to his voice. “You know I’ve always wanted you to go there.”

I said very quietly, “You know I don’t want to be a teacher, Dad.”

He raised his voice, just a little. “You need to learn how to make a living, not to be some lah-de-dah..."

Over the years Dad and I had some very spectacular fights, but fighting wasn’t going to show him how mature I was trying to be about this matter. So I bit the inside of my mouth and continued in the same level voice, “I know...some lah-de-dah artist living in a garret and surviving on gruel. Dad...” I paused. “Dad, remember you told me once you didn’t really want to run a bulldozer fifty weeks a year, that you’d prefer sitting in the sun somewhere?”

That actually made him flinch, as it had been one of his most infamous outbursts, one that had truly hurt me until Grandma had explained what was behind it. “Well,” I continued quickly, “I don’t want to teach fifty weeks a year, either. I know I need to get a good job—but, honest, Dad, can you imagine me teaching little kids? Can you?”

He gave me this sideways look out of his eyes and I swear he almost laughed. “No, I guess not.” He pointed his index finger at me. “Especially if they’re all like you.”

“Okay, then hear me out, Dad. I’ve never been interested in anything but art...but I know that sometimes you can’t make a living at it right away. So...and I don’t want to do it, but here’s what I’m going to do. Along with regular art classes, I’m going to take commercial art classes, too. If I’m lucky, I won’t ever have to use them. Ever. It’s gross thinking of drawing soup cans and babies. But it would be something I could do until the real art paid off. And you won't have to worry about me because newspapers and magazines need plenty of artists to draw their advertisements.”

This wasn’t exactly true; commercial art, I’d read, was a competitive field. But I had to let Dad think I was being practical. I settled back in my chair and looked him straight in the eye, and if this was some radio story it would be the part where the organ music swelled, the father gets choked up, hugs his beloved offspring, and tells them he understands. Dad just shook his head. “Never saw such a stubborn kid as you. Do what you like,” and he got up to join Grandma in the living room.

Except, with Dad, this was a victory. He never nagged me about it again. I think he appreciated that I’d made my decision and said my piece, even if he didn’t agree with it.

The back door slammed as I was changing out of that last outfit and the quick tap-tap-tap of feet raced across our kitchen. Neither Grandma or I were surprised; it was 1954 and no one in Clear River locked their doors. It wasn’t uncommon for householders to return from grocery shopping to find scribbled notes on kitchen tables, “Mabel, my mother-in-law is coming for dinner and I ran out of eggs. I borrowed three from your icebox,” “Harve—tree came down over my garage, I took your saw,” or find a dozen cupcakes or a bag of zucchini on your countertop to pay you back for the dozen tomatoes or angel food cake you'd left on theirs. However, Grandma did exclaim “Mercy me!” as Marjorie Dillard burst into the bedroom I had for so long shared with Grandma (now I slept upstairs in a tiny room we'd once used for storage and Grandma had the nice warm room downstairs for herself, except I kept most of my clothes there still because my room was so small).

In eighth grade my best friend Carla Mae Carter had moved at the end of the school year when her father lost his job and they ended up moving to New Jersey of all places. We'd been crazy partners for four years and losing her really hurt. I had a few other girlfriends who were okay, like June Munson and Amy Perkins, and some who were just ick, like snooty old Tanya Smithers, but I really had no one to confide in until we made the switch from good old Clear River Grammar School to the Douglas County Regional High School. Into my life had come one wild November morning in my freshman year Marjorie Diana Dillard, standing primly in front of Miss Mountford's ninth grade homeroom class, strawberry blonde hair in a perky ponytail, dressed in a frilly green dress, looking like the last person I'd ever want to be best friends with.

I was so wrong. Marjie was just the one I needed to drag me out of my funk. She was frilly that day only because her mother wanted her to make a good impression; her tastes, like mine, ran to blue jeans and comfortable blouses or sweaters; she was artistic, only in a different way (she liked to write); and she was crazy about horses. I shared my horse Treasure with her until the terrible day last October when Doc Stebbins could do nothing about an intense case of colic and it was better that Treasure be put down. I was there when Doc did it, petting Treasure till the last, and Marjie was right at my side, holding my hand and crying just as hard as I did, and she came with me the day I took a thick long hank of Treasure's tail and mounted it next to Walter Rhenquist's gravestone so they could be back together again.

Marjie's mom became a good friend, too. She was very young, only in her early thirties, and she was better able than Grandma to give me advice about makeup and fashions, although she never did anything Grandma—or Dad!—would object to. She taught me how to put my hair up, and use rouge properly, and what colors suited my complexion, so it was sort of like having an older sister.

Now Marjie was looking at me with a big grin on her face. "Mom said you were trying on your college things and I had to come over and see. Mrs. Mills, is that one of the outfits you made? It looks super keen!"

"Well, I thank you, Miss Marjie," said Grandma with a funny, exaggerated bow.

"Addie is going to be the best dressed girl on campus, I swear!" She made me twirl around, too. "That is simply too too! I love it. I wish my mom could sew."

Grandma said mischievously, "I could teach you, Marjie."

"Oh, my gosh...me? Miss All Thumbs?"

"I know you're talented," Grandma parried. "Addie's told me about your compositions."

"But that's easy, Mrs. Mills!" Marjie protested. "Words just run out of my brain and into my hand and onto the paper. Sewing is hard."

I ended the entire conversation by bursting out laughing because Grandma and I have been having these arguments for years and she hasn't convinced me yet, either. I did one sewing project for 4H in sixth grade, a rick-rack trimmed dress that I now look at with horror, and once was enough for me. Marjie and Grandma started laughing, too, and then I got out of my rig and into real clothes—jeans and an old blouse, natch—so Marjie and I could take a walk to the dry-goods store to pick up some sewing stuff for Grandma and shoot the breeze at the same time.

She asked. "Did you tell your dad about your hair yet?"

I took a deep breath. "No."

"When are you going to spring it on him?"

"I'm not," I said decidedly, tossing my head.


"I'm going to get it cut, and out of my own money, and he won't be able to do a thing about it."

She stopped dead in the middle of the sidewalk in front of the grocery store and stared at me. "Addie, you're not serious."

"I certainly am. It's my hair, and I'm not going to do anything wild with it. I found a picture in Life magazine of some girl college students, and I picked the style I liked best, and I'm going to show the picture to Irene Davis and have it cut that way."

"Will Irene do it? Didn't you say she used to date your Dad?"

"They dated for a while a few years ago, and they still see each other once in a while at church socials. But she isn't his girlfriend, and she told me once she thought he was too old-fashioned. She'll do it."

I hoped I sounded more confident than I was. Irene was one of the two beauticians in Clear River (Grandma went to the other, an older woman, but all the girls and younger women in town went to Irene.) After a terrible snubbing I'd given her at Valentine's Day a few years ago, we'd come to an understanding and she did my hair for school dances and junk like that. But Grandma or Dad usually knew when I was going and what I was going to do with my hair.

Well, I was a senior in high school, heading off to college in the fall. It was my hair and I'd have it done the way I wanted. And I wasn't going to be stopped. After all, it wasn't like I was going to have it cut in a Mohawk cut like the college boys I'd seen in another Life photograph, and I wasn't going to have it bleached platinum blonde like Marilyn Monroe...yuk!

So on Friday of that week, which was the last day of winter vacation, I arrived at Irene's beauty parlour with the much-folded magazine photo in my jeans' pocket. I chose early morning, because most of Irene's customers arrived later in the day, and was rewarded with an empty place and Irene just finishing sterilizing her equipment.

"Well, hiya, Addie!" she said brightly as the bell on her door tinkled.

I had sort of a lump in my throat, so gulped, "Hi, 'rene."

Irene is a bottle-blonde, but she's one of the nicest persons I've ever known After high school, she married some guy and moved to Florida, and still talks in sort of a cheesy Southern accent. But she'd known my mom in high school and, over the years, has told me a lot of things about her, including stuff Dad never mentioned: he always talked about her scholastic achievements, for instance, but he never mentioned she was a cheerleader, too. Now she just looked concerned. "Addie, honey, you okay?"

I pulled up my chin. "I decided to have the haircut."

She brightened. "Oh, good, sweetie! Did you bring the picture? I was afraid your daddy was needling you about your college choice again. Where did you say you were going again?"

The moment I told Dad I intended to study commercial art, too, he had immediately assumed I would go to the Omaha School of Commercial Arts. With great difficulty, both Grandma and I (and my high school art teacher Miss Babcock) convinced him that was unsuitable, that it was a second-rate school and no college at all. Dad may have been cheap, but he knew the value of a real diploma. Miss Babcock and I put a list of four colleges together, ones particularly to give me another experience besides just learning art. I crossed out the New York school as really too expensive, the California school because I just didn't want to (except to see the ocean). The Chicago school was pretty tempting, but it was directly on Lake Michigan and as far as I was concerned the winters were cold enough in Nebraska.

"It's the French University of Arts," I reminded Irene as I handed the magazine photo to her, with the girl whose hairstyle I liked.

"The one in Massachusetts," she said happily. "Now I remember! And it's named after a famous sculptor—did I get that right?"

"Yep," I said with a grin. "Daniel Chester French. He's the man who sculpted the big statue of President Lincoln in Washington, DC."

"I've seen pictures of that," Irene said (with her accent it sounded more like "pitchers'). "Real talented man. Addie, hon, this is pretty!"

"Are you sure it will suit me?" I'd been in braids most of my life. Changing my hair personally terrified me, but the last thing I wanted to do was end up looking like a country rube in a place so close to Boston, which to me was just as exotic as New York or London. I was going to New York someday, to actually practice my art, but I thought I'd take it in steps.

"Oh, honey, yes. All these nice soft waves will flatter your face. You have an oval face, you know, and it's a little narrow. This will fill it out beautifully. Where do these girls go to school?"

"It's Barnard, the womens' college that's partnered with Columbia University."

"Why's there a separate girls' college?" Irene asked as she directed me to one of the chairs. "I thought most colleges were co-educational now, except for those toney private women's colleges. Don't they all teach the same things?"

"Yes, but there's still some men on the university boards of directors that don't think women should attend the same schools. It's really dumb. Women are just as smart as men."

"Well, I just don't get it." That was Irene's last word on the college situation. Soon she got down to business while I sat there watching bits of my hair fall away with trepidation. I knew Dad would pitch a fit, but what if Grandma didn't like it?

Finally she was done with the scissors and worked with the comb. Another wave of panic came over me. What if this was one of those hairstyles you had to work at a half hour to make it look decent? You can just braid hair fast and get it out of the way. I didn't want to be like Tanya Smithers and spend my time in front of a mirror.

"You know, Addie," Irene said, just as I was about to panic, "I can tell just what you're thinking. About now you're saying, 'What have I got myself into? I don't have time to play with my hair. I got classes to get to.'" She laughed in her funny way, then spun me around to look in the mirror.

Like looking at myself in Grandma's tilted mirror earlier that week, I could hardly believe it was me. There were soft curls at the top of my head and spilling down my head to fall just between my shoulder blades. "I did it this way special, hon. You just need to get it trimmed every six months, and you should take that photo with you to show the lady who does your hair. I can write you out some instructions on it, too. I fixed it so you just wash it and comb it out." She lowered her voice to a whisper. "Don't tell your daddy, but you should probably use a little hair spray on it, especially on windy days. Don't lacquer it up like Mrs. Smithers, does, though, okay? It’s bad for your hair and it makes it look plastic. You got pretty hair and ought to keep it that way."

I was still staring at myself in the big mirror. Wow.

I had told Grandma I had a bunch of things I had to do that day, and to not be surprised if I didn't come home for lunch. She must have known I was up to something as I spent the rest of the day pretty much avoiding going home. I went to the five-and-ten to buy some little things (including clandestine hair spray and a new drawing pad), had lunch with Marjie at her house, where she and her mom made a big fuss over my hair, and then the two of us went to the drugstore to get ice cream sodas. Everyone knows everyone in Clear River, so I could hardly sip my soda without someone coming by, from Mrs. Coyne from the café to old Mrs. Perkins to Mr. Walsh, and saying something about my hair, usually, “It looks very grown up.”

Finally Marjie’s eyes got really big, which I understood as her warning that something momentous was about to happen, and sure enough I heard Billy Wild say “Hi, Marjie,” behind me, and then “Addie? Is that you?”

Billy and I have been friends since we made mudpies together, and then we went through that whole thing where the opposite sex had cooties. I’d stick my tongue out at him and he’d make faces at me, but secretly all the time we had a little crush on each other. He bought me a heart locket as a Christmas exchange gift one year, hich mortified me, but I still had it, put away in a keepsake box. We double-dated a few times in our junior year, then figured it was more fun being friends.

Anyway, by now all the comments about my appearance had me feeling a little silly, so I tossed my newly fluffed hair, which felt light and unnatural after all those years in heavy braids. “Who’d you think it was, dodo?”

He looked so uncomfortable that Marjie asked, “What’s wrong, Billy? Don’t you like Addie’s new hairdo?”

“It’s Bill,” he said. “Billy’s for kids.”

I repeated, “Don’t you like it, Billllllll?” drawing out the Ls for effect.

“It’s nice,” he said, but not very convincingly. “You just look different, that’s all.”

“That’s the whole point,” I argued. “I want to look more sophisticated for college. Bad enough when they find out I’m from some little town in Nebraska.”

“What’s wrong with Clear River?” Billy—I mean Bill—defended.

“Nothing,” I said patiently. “But you’re going to the agricultural school in the fall. No one will say anything to you because you’ll all be farmers together or majoring in horticulture or forestry or something like that.”

“Why do you want to go somewhere where they might not like you because of where you’re from?” he asked.

“Because I want to be an artist, and that’s what I have to do. Besides,” I said loftily, with more bravado than I felt, “I’ll make them like me.”

Billy snorted. “I bet you will.”

I put an end to his quizzing by motioning to the seat next to me. “Want to have a soda with us?”

He had a sundae instead and while we switched the subject to the last few months of school and passing our final exams, I could see him flicking his eyes up at me every so often. The one time he caught me doing it he suddenly smiled, and I guess he’d gotten used to the “new me” and liked it. I just hoped by the time I got home I did.

Finally with nothing else left to do Marjie and I stopped at the library. We ran into Tanya Smithers and her little troop of ballet enthusiasts and I have to confess that I was inwardly triumphant when Tanya first saw me and turned positively green with envy because her mother still kept her in the curly haircut she'd had all through grade school. Of course she covered it all with barely polite catty remarks, which Marjie and I giggled over later.

But eventually Marjie had to get home, and so did I. I opened the front door, braced myself, and just happened to find Grandma in the living room, twiddling the radio dial. She said "Well, it's about time you got here," then really looked at me, stopped stock still with eyes wide, gave a little gasp, and exclaimed, "My glory!" putting her right hand up to her heart.

That scared me. Even though I promised myself I wouldn't, I rushed to her side, and the question came out like a little girl's: "Are you all right, Grandma? It is okay, isn't it? It's a real college girl hairdo. I saw it in a magazine."

There was something on Grandma's face I couldn't read, but her eyes were shining, too, as she pivoted this way and that, looking at my hair. Then she gave a quick, decisive nod. "It suits you, Addie."

"Really?" I paused. "Do you think Dad will think so?"

She considered. "Well, you know him. He doesn't like change. But it's pretty and becoming, so he'll just have to get used to it." Her voice went from grave to brisk when she added, "Can't expect you to stay a little girl in braids forever, now can he?" and she sounded like she was trying to convince herself as well. She spared a glance to the electric clock on the wall. "It's almost time for the five o'clock whistle. Come help me with supper."

This, I knew, was her not-so-subtle way of keeping my mind off that clock. So I wrapped myself in an apron and pretended to be absorbed in peeling and cutting up potatoes and putting them on to boil, while she finished the pot roast that had been simmering all afternoon. Next I fixed some leftover carrots, and dinner was just done when the slam of the truck door came from outside. A minute or two later Dad, bundled in his old work jacket and a fur hat, his lunchbox under his arm, walked in the door.

"Good evening, Mother," he said, as always, putting his lunchbox down on the Hoosier cabinet. I'd long stopped raiding his lunchbox for the cupcake or treat he always left for me, but he still always turned to me with an expectant look.

And then he went very still.

"Hi, Dad," I said, straightening up and trying not to gulp.

We were there so long in this little tableau that it chilled me. I don't know what I was expecting, but Dad was given to emotional explosions, not silence. Maybe he'd get angry at me like he had about our first Christmas tree. Or he'd start complaining about how much it must have cost me. But his face was just...still, and finally after a moment he said very quietly, "Hello, Addie," turned away from me to hang up his coat and hat, then walked across the kitchen and went upstairs, one even tread at a time.

I gave Grandma a mute look, but she held up her hand and placed the pot roast to the back of the stove to keep warm. Then she turned back to the stove and calmly started to beat some butter into the now-soft potatoes, as if totally absorbed in the task. I reacted accordingly, taking out first the dishes, then the napkins, then the silverware and carefully setting them on the kitchen table as if it were for Thanksgiving dinner. Then I checked the carrots. Then I went to the refrigerator to pour myself a glass of milk.

As I worked my eyes were filling up with what were hated tears; I shouldn't even be getting emotional over this. I was leaving for college in September. I was an adult and adults didn't cry. Finally I said in a very Grandma voice, "Dad's worked hard all day, and he needs to eat his dinner. Maybe you ought to ask him to come downstairs. I'll eat in my room if he doesn't want to look at me."

"No," Grandma said, and I should have expected it—no one was ever allowed to procrastinate in the Mills household, "maybe you should."

I think I walked as slowly upstairs as he had, not turning on the light, but welcoming the gloom. His bedroom door was closed, but when I knocked on it, he grunted, which I took as a "come in." He was expecting Grandma, too, I could tell.

So I put both feet in, the way I always did. I was always like him, in so many ways. "So, I guess you don't like it, huh?"

He was sitting at the edge of his bed, on the wedding-ring pattern quilt Grandma had made for him and my mother long ago, his elbows on his knees, and until he looked up when I came into the room he had been resting his head in his hands. Now he was looking up with thoughtful eyes and after a moment said, “Your hair looks fine, Addie." He paused. "But, seeing you standing there, looking more like one of the secretaries in the front office than that pigtailed little terror with the Roy Rogers obsession—well, once your grandmother told me that some day you were going to grow up and leave me. And it turns out that pretty soon she'll be right."

I sat down in the straight-backed old wicker-seated chair that he kept in his room, to lay his clothes out on, and then shrugged. "You always say I'm in your hair, anyway. So soon I'll be out of it."

He glowered at me from under his eyebrows. "Yeah, but once you leave who will I have to argue with? Your grandmother just nods and says 'hm-hmn.'"

I had to bite back a smile, because of this being Dad I knew he was telling me in his awkward way that he did care and he was going to miss me. His eyes seemed to look past me now, and he had a funny half-smile on his face.

"I remember your mother used to wear her hair a little like that, back when she was at the high school," he said reflectively. "Sort of fluffy. But they wore these big satin bows at the back. This was long before we'd be formally introduced, after she graduated school and we met at a church social. I was with your Uncle Will one day—he was a buddy of mine, already sweet on your Aunt Nora, even then. So that day Nora came sashaying up," and I did have to giggle when he said that, because Aunt Nora has always been a little portly, "and she had her little tagalong sister with her. Of course I'd seen her before, walking to school, picking up something from the store for her mother, but she was just a kid then and I didn't talk to her. Every time I saw her, she had a book in her hand. She practically lived at the library. So that day for I teased her. Called her a bookworm."

"Oh, Dad! What did she say?"

"She told me she'd rather be a bookworm than an ignoramus." There was almost a light of mischief in his eye. "I had to go home later and look that up in a dictionary!" He snorted. "I was full of myself that day. I'd just gotten promoted, and old man Smithers had actually complimented me on my work. Thought I was the smartest, cleverest machine operator in the whole world. So, there I was, the wise oracle, and I told her that too much studying would make her a sad apple."

"A what?" I almost shrieked with laughter. "A 'sad apple'?"

"What?" he retorted sarcastically. "Do you kids today think you have the market cornered on stupid slang? Guys didn't date sad apples back then. I thought I was saving her from a fate worse than death."

"And then later on you met her again at the church social," I added thoughtfully. "I guess you didn't mind that she was a bookworm then."

"Better than an ignoramus," he said loftily, and now he really was smiling, just a little.

"Grandma's pot roast is getting cold." I said, after we'd been silent for a minute.

"Nothing worse than cold pot roast," he agreed, rising.

"Maybe Grandma will bake some sad apples for dessert," I said, still giggling, following him out the door.

"You'll never let me hear the end of that, will you?" was his exasperated response.

Before he could put a foot on the top step, I said, "Dad?"

"What now?"

"There's a whole world out there I want to see. But I'll always come back to visit—so long as you want me to."

Even in the dim light of the staircase I saw his shoulders relax, but his voice was still skeptical, "Even after you've seen the bright lights of the big city?"

"Even after I've seen Paree," I promised.


A few weeks before I left Clear River, Grandma made an appointment with the town photographer. With her in her best Sunday dress, me protestingly in my blue “going-away” suit, and Dad even more protestingly in what he called, to my chagrin, his “burying suit,” we went to Mr. Lawson’s studio one Saturday morning and spent long hours having photographs taken. One was of me alone, with Mr. Lawson exhorting me to “look out to the future,” and prints later found their way to relatives, to Carla Mae all the way out there in New Jersey, to classmates like June and Amy and Billy Wild, and even to my “worst friend in 12th grade,” Tanya Smithers. The other photograph was a portrait of the three of us, and when I left from the Burlington Station in Omaha for South Station in Boston by way of New York City one crisp September morning, a copy was in my suitcase. It stayed on my wall throughout my college years, in Paris, and then to New York, and when I look up at it now, in my art studio, I remember my family, and their love, and that time of change back in 1954.


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