Saturday, February 6, 2010

Beautiful Plumage – Part 1

If I have only one life to live, let me live it as a blonde!

What do you mean, ‘if’?
Isn’t that a given? (unless you believe in reincarnation, of course).

That ‘curly-haired moppet’, Shirley Temple, was a lingering icon in our childhood, influencing countless mothers to reinvent the beloved captainette of the “Good Ship Lollipop” in their own homes. Besides the rigorous dance training, there were stories of mothers actually bleaching their daughters’ tresses the same honey blonde that cascaded from Shirley’s crown in luxurious ringlets.

Our mother didn’t have to go quite so far. My sister and I were still natural blondes, in those days, but there definitely was room for improvement. My hair hung in irregular, stringy waves and my sister’s locks were completely out of control, a veritable frenzy of frizz surrounded her tiny face like a halo on a cherub in a medieval painting. For some reason, it was decided that the only way to whip us into shape for an upcoming dance recital was to give us matching Tonette home permanents. The logic of this escaped me then and even to this day. I cannot fathom why anyone in her right mind would think that adding an supplemental layer of curls to my sister’s head would be an improvement. It only illustrates the seductive power of advertising, even way back then.

I am not saying this foray into fashion created long-lasting problems, but let’s just say that it probably formed the basis of chronic PTSD in each of us. (If you don’t know what that is by now, google it! Have you been living in a cave? Have you never had teenage daughters?)

My sister and I had joined the local chorus line and spent our Saturdays at Mrs. Ospenskaya’s, an ex-chorine who gave ballet and tap lessons in her remodeled garage. (The name has been changed to protect the woman, who is probably shaking the blues away in her blue heaven, by now. As everyone knows, the real Mrs. Ospenskaya, to whom I pay tribute, is the witchy ballet mistress who drummed poor Vivien Leigh out of the corps de ballet for dating, forcing her into a life of prostitution and despair, in one of my favorite tearjerkers, “Waterloo Bridge”). But I digress. As usual.

We hoofed and pirouetted in that converted studio with all the little girls in the ‘hood. Although none of us progressed far enough to give Shirley any concerns, we were quite adorable, if memory serves me. Even at our present advanced age, when called upon to liven up parties, which isn’t often, my baby sister and I can still offer a passable time step to ‘East Side, West Side, All Around the Town’.
(We are also known to shuffle off to Buffalo, although lately, it’s more likely to be in the direction of the Outlet Mall).

The pictures of us, from that event, show lines of little girls in series of stunning costumes, handmade by our devoted and talented mothers: little swans with arms aloft wearing white satin tutus edged in silver sequins, gypsy-girls shaking ribbonned tambourines, spinning around in circular tarantella skirts, and, my favorite, a chorus of hoofers in red satin-pleated skorts and white tee shirts with perky scarves tied around our necks. Hot-cha!

Although we usually danced beside each other, in all these shots, my sister poses at one end of the line and I am placed at the other end. I assume this change became necessary when our ‘Tonettes’ produced, not the sausage ringlets of Miss Temple, but rather three explosive poufs of fluff, one pom-pom on the top of each of our heads and another over each of our ears, leaving us to resemble a pair of finalists in the Westminster Dog show (poodle division).

So I guess this new arrangement balanced the on-stage visual symmetry.

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