You manage to see your best friend even though you have been forbidden to by your mother and your grandparents.
She fixes you cups of jasmine tea in the house that her mother bought after the divorce.
You sip it in dainty cups — pottery cups that are all that are left of her old life.
She teaches you about eye make-up. You share her “Shy Brown” standing in the bathroom where her mother is about to let the two of you go off into the night to the Bluebird.
This is where you go after school too, for the rustic granola bars and more kinds of tea, that you share, laughing, in a little booth with the strains of bluegrass music hovering.
“He’s so cute, look at him,” she says.
It’s the saxophone player that she likes — his long curls tumbling over his forehead in waves.
So you dressed up as if you were older and you snuck across the bridge that led to downtown and you got yourselves inside just so you could hear the band.
The bass player is a friend of your mother’s too. He’s 21. He’s taking you for rides up in the canyons on his motorcyle in the afternoons.
“Kith me,” he mumbles in babytalk.
But, you don’t really want to.
Everybody your age is too young. Too young for you, anyway, with your dreams of design and Parisian cafes. The Bluebird is full of hippies in those days. Full of health and granola bars and the scent of berry pies baking on windows and everyone older is going off to live in some kind of commune in their Volkswagon vans, someplace.
You collect Victorian vintage petticoats and you wear these like skirts, the lace dropping against your ankles. The two of you walk by the sea collecting shells that you string into necklaces.
She says, “One day we will walk along this beach pushing our kids in strollers, won’t we?”
The song’s lyrics make you dream about what it will be like, someday.
The day you really fall in love.
She fixes the tea in the kitchen where she has baked some whole wheat bread and a pumpkin pie. They are rustic, and cooling.
The light slants in through the high windows and you think about that hope chest your grandmother has built. The hope chest you are supposed to assume except no one has given you any lessons.
These are the years that everything falls apart.
The two of you will be on your own trying to decipher what to do, because her mother is gone, and your mother is gone — not really gone, but off elsewhere with preoccupations — so they leave the two of you alone and you float down the street like dandelion puffs on the breeze trying to be grown up.
“I do mine like this,” she says. “Look how I do the crease with darker brown.”
You see your faces in the mirror — like the faces you make when you climb into the photobooth together — camping it up for the filmstrip. It’s instant, those black and white clips that fall into your hands.
You strap on brown suede wedgies — platform shoes so you will be tallest, and you are. Anklestraps and antique lace goes walking after midnight and nothing bad was ever going to happen to the two of you then.
That’s what you believed gathering shells.
The first true love breaks her heart by the time you are both 19.
White lace reminds you. White lace curtains with crocheted edges. White on white embroidery.
These were the cottages the two of you planned to inhabit with the men you were going to love forever and ever and there would be strains of music like blues and bluegrass and pies always cooling because you would have time to bake them.
But that wasn’t what happened…
“Bluebirds” — copyright 2009 by Valentine Bonnaire — all rights reserved.
*author’s note on this — these songs and music were very popular in those times:
I recently encountered the term “lipstick feminism” — well, I suppose that heterosexual feminism that emerged from the Second Wave would be that? It describes women in my gen who were and are hetero.
I have to run to a class so this was short, — applying some lipstick for that….!