Smell of Success

blogThe nights are feeling a bit chillier now and I pull the old quilt up a little more to warm my body before I climb out of bed.  The mornings are cool, but as the day goes on, the sun warms it enough so we are still going barefoot and have a swim in the afternoon.

There are still some summer people in their cottages, which means Rex, Curt and I are still performing a ritual twice a week. We wait in the hot sun at the end of our driveway on Tuesdays and Thursdays and look up the “flat” for the milkman to come. I hold the glass bottle from the last visit, all washed and shiny and we buy a quart of ice-cold milk to drink. Will it be strawberry or chocolate? Both of the boys like chocolate, but my favorite is strawberry, both for the color and the flavor.  This day is chocolate day as we take turns.  At last, we see him coming and before he stops his truck, we see his smile. His name is Ace, or at least that is what he tells us.  I wonder what he thinks when he sees the three of us, barefooted and this morning’s play dirt on us standing and waiting.  He takes the shiny, empty bottle and says, what will it be today?  Rex tells him we want chocolate and hands him the 35 cents.  Because we give him back the bottle, I think we get it cheaper. I don’t know; I just want to start drinking it. We thank him and he says I will see you next time and drives to the next cottage. I carry it to the house, my hand making an imprint on the frosty bottle. We sit at the table, each with our white enameled cup with the blue rim and divide it up equally and drink until it is gone. Ma is pleased that we spend our work money on milk and sometimes she will give us a few cents to make up the difference if we are a little short.  I think next week is the last week that Ace will be coming because most of the summer people will be gone.

But today is Saturday and Ma has a visitor.  She works at the mill, so doesn’t have time to have many, so we can see she is pleased. Her friend, Winnie Hanscom, walked over from Rowe Hill early this morning and Ma is going to give her a home permanent.  It is a Toni and Ma has the pink curlers and the end papers all laid out.  The waving stuff does smell awful and before Winnie came, Dad said he was going off for the day so he wouldn’t have to live in that stink. Ma said that suited her just fine. I know she wants to be able to visit as she says “woman to woman.” Winnie brought a cake to thank Ma for doing the perm and we kids are pleased to see that!! On Ma’s birthday, Winnie always bakes a cake and Johnny Howe, our mailman, picks it up at Winnie’s and drives it right up to the door and delivers it on his mail route. Now isn’t that something!  Johnny is really good, because if I want to send away for something and I don’t have a stamp, I just put three pennies in the mailbox and he takes them and puts the stamp on for me.

Winnie is sitting in the kitchen chair and hands Ma an end paper each time she gets some hair ready to be curled.  The kitchen is getting kind of smelly and Ma will be rinsing Winnie’s hair and all, so I think it is best if Curt and I just mosey outside and maybe go fishing. Rex has already gone because the smell got to him, he said.

Curt and I decide to just walk down the road a bit and see what is going on. We go by Grace and Charlie Day’s place. They are very nice people and sometimes take us to a show at the Locke Mills town hall. Once we saw Ken McKenzie and another time Lone Pine Mountaineer.  I loved that and sang the songs all week long.  One day I was walking by and Grace called for me to come and visit. We talked for awhile and she invited me to stay for lunch as Charlie would be coming home at noon. She was cooking something called Welsh Rarebit. I wondered if we were going to have a real rabbit. But no, it was really good with lots of cheese and stuff mixed together. Today their car is gone, so Curt and I stop by some rocks and I cast out my line to see if I can catch a perch. Dad says do not keep yellow perch in August as they are wormy.  Well I never catch anything else it seems, but it is fun to see the line tug and ripples around it.

Curt is a little worried as this will be his second year in school and he is always a little afraid and nervous. Ma has been to Brown’s Variety in Bethel and picked up some new socks for all of us and some pencils. She went to J.J. Newberry’s in Norway and got us each a pencil box. Mine is blue and it has a little snap on front. When I open it, there are the pencils, a pink eraser, a little ruler and a protractor. I don’t know why they stick that silvery thing in there because I never use one and don’t even know how to use it. But there is a little notch for it so it must be good for something.  I like the smell of the inside of the pencil box. Curt says he does too, but Rex says we are both crazy.

We have new shoes to last all school  year until we can go barefoot next summer. I hope our feet don’t grow too fast. The boys have new sneakers and mine are brown leather or something that looks like leather and they lace up. Rex calls them “girl’s shoes” and sniffs.

I haven’t had a tug on my fish line, so probably I’ve lost the worm off the hook. Curt is getting hungry and we’ve been gone quite awhile so maybe we should start home.

There is Winnie, looking very pretty with her hair all curled up. Ma is looking very satisfied that she has done such a good job.  I see a pile of wet towels and know Ma will be scrubbing them on her scrub board tomorrow with her Fels-Naptha brown soap and hanging them on her clothesline that runs from tree to tree.

The smell is mostly gone from the kitchen. Ma hands us the bread, peanut butter and jelly and tells us to help ourselves.  I plaster one together for Curt and one for me and we head outside to eat on the rocks.  That way Ma and Winnie can still talk “woman to woman” and enjoy whatever smell is left.


One thought on “Smell of Success

  1. Thanks Sharon for sharing your memories. I, too, was the victim of many a home perm and the smell was sooo bad. I laughed at your description of the outcome of yours. it could not have been that bad. I do remember how sometimes it frizzed up and my hair looked like a fur ball out of control and there was NO way to get it untangled without using a bucket of water and my fingers. My hair was very fine all my life; it is the same now, but less of it!!!


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