Yeow! A thumb tack was jammed to the hilt in the bottom of my heel! Love definitely hurts! In this case it was a sharp pain that only my sister could alleviate, because I could never make myself pull out a thumb tack once it was all the way in, and no one else was around. “M-a-r-sha! Pull this ow! ow! ow! out for me-e-e-e! I can′t do it myself!″ Marsha quickly jumped down from the chair she had been standing on, while whacking gold thumb tacks with the handle of a dinner knife. The two top corners of several pictures of John, Paul, George, and Ringo were attached to the blue rose-covered wallpaper of our shared bedroom. At my plaintive call she was down off the chair like a shot! Likely suspecting that it was her fault that I had a tack in my foot, as she was the one with the tacks at that particular moment, it seemed prudent to her to try to keep the peace. We were, on that particular afternoon, in the midst of a temporary truce which seemed, of late, more and more difficult to maintain. Because we shared the room, sooner or later, no matter how mad I would get at her, she would have to cross through my side. In those tumultuous adolescent years, when being the bigger of the two of us was a thorn in my side, I would often get into a very bad mood. Unfortunately for her the door was on my side, as well as the six foot by six foot closet with it’s rack of shared clothes and wooden clothes hangers, (our occasional weapons of choice.)
Mom moved on from buying the two of us matching dresses for the first six years of our lives, when we were almost identical and were frequently mistaken for twins— something she seemed to enjoy— to buying us single dresses, which each of us was then expected to share with the other. It was a constant source of arguments. “You pig! You got mustard on this collar and it’s stained now!”
“Well, it couldn`t have been me!” I answered. “It was you! Because I hate mustard! ”
“You ripped this! Look at this tear!” …Well, in that case it was me, as I was the one who was always riding my bike as soon as I got home from school, despite the skirt flapping in the breeze, as pants were not permitted female attire for school in those years. I was always wiping out on loose gravel, and even running into fences frequently as I was extremely uncoordinated. Meanwhile prim and proper Marsha would get off the school bus and run down the steps to the basement to pound on our ancient piano for a half an hour to relieve her pent-up stress. Both of us were breaking the house rules by not changing immediately into our everyday clothes right after school at such times, but Mom somehow seemed not to notice as much as she used to. Maybe she understood that we were each struggling with the stresses and strains of growing up, and releasing some of our emotional angst in some way. It would probably lead to a much quieter evening for everyone.
It was a great shock, the day that Mom handed us each a Beatles′ fan magazine. Our Mom had never indulged that new part of our personalities before, the part where Marsha and I actually began to think about boys, (or in this case— in retrospect—men pretending to be boys, just to appeal to young girls’ fantasies.) By buying each of us our own separate magazines, jammed full of the pictures, facts, figures and gossip about our teen idols, she seemed to have understood at last that we were growing up. I was thirteen and totally infatuated with Paul, Marsha, a year older was crazy about John.
Perhaps our mother understood the blurring between reality and fantasy that happens at that age. She often tells the story of playing hooky with her two girlfriends, Mary Lou and Jenny, and how they
all saved their lunch money for several weeks when they knew that Frank Sinatra was going to be performing in a theatre in down town Pittsburgh where she grew up. She said they saved hard to get enough money together for tickets to the performance and for their bus ride there and back. In the end they even had enough money for ice cream treats. It was a great afternoon until the moment when her friends had exited the bus at earlier stops and all at once, onto the bus stepped her older sister. She was returning home from work. My Mom (Jeannie) was forced to scrunch down to get out of sight. She was in heart-pounding fear of being spotted until her sister exited, but then she had to ride on further to the next stop and then run back home at lightning speed. By then, arriving home much later than expected, she lied to her Mum by saying that she had to stay and do extra work after school. In another version that Mom has told us all in the past she actually got yanked off the bus by her much older sister Mary and then swatted all the way home. (We certainly understand that at 83 its OK to do a little revisionist history, Mom— particularly if it alleviates the guilt of some sin you never had the nerve to tell the priest in the confessional booth when you were young! Either way, the story is great Mom, — especially imagining you in a theatre full of young girls screaming and swooning over old blue eyes!)
Tacks in the foot, whacks to the butt! First love does seem to cause us a lot of pain before we grow into the real thing, the stuff that hurts a little higher up sometimes, somewhere in the vicinity of the heart. But its all so very worth it. It’s what warms us and softens out all our rough edges, so that we don′t need to whack our sisters with coat hangers anymore when they return our favourite dress to the closet with a snag.