Me: Brian Clarey was right. As soon as the Fourth of July is over, so is summer.
David: It’s not even Labor Day yet.
Me: And Labor Day means time to close the stabbin’ cabin, winter is coming and the golden hour is over.
As summer comes to a slow, screen-door scream of a close I think back on mosquito-dark-thirty when it was time come in for supper. I see freckles alighting on the noses of my fair-haired friends during sunlit games of kickball. I smell coconut tan elixir and iodine-spiked baby oil, freshly cut lemons and the burnt-flesh scent of Sun-In as we girls lined up in formation on towel strewn, freshly mown grass. Summer in Carolina was a blonde’s paradise. I, however, was not blonde.
Growing up Greekish in a small Southern town meant three things. One, I never experienced sunburn. Two, people often thought I was mixed race. And three, I wanted to be blonde like most of my Scots-Irish friends. So to remedy this, I invented an alter ego named Cindy Deaver. She had strawberry blonde hair, freckles, gangly limbs like my friend Janna Myers, wore braids like my friend Sarah Sheppard’s cool big sister Beth and — most admirable of all — she wasn’t afraid of Tweetsie Railroad.
Mother: Oh my god. Enough with the Tweetsie Railroad trauma. You’d think we’d had you bound and gagged and scalped.
Me: Mother. Indians attacked us. On a train. It was freaking terrifying.
Mother: They were fit, tan college boys in buckskin pants and loincloths. I quite enjoyed it.
Me: Well that’s just fine and dandy for your mid-life crisis but for a 5-year-old it was pretty scary.
Mother: I thought you were enjoying it. You made up your own narrative.
Me: I had to do something to keep my mind off impending slaughter.
Mother: Remember you renamed the law man Sheriff McCocky. Your dad thought that was hilarious.
Me: And the old lady knitting on the porch was Granny Hogurt. Do you think I got that from yogurt? Because it’s aged and cultured?
Mother: You weren’t that clever.
Me: Did you know that I know one of those former Indians? My friend the writer. Michael Parker. He said when he was at Appalachian the characters from Tweetsie Railroad would party with the characters from the Land of Oz after work — in costume. I believe he mentioned dropping acid though I doubt I would have needed it if I had seen that coupling.
Mother: So, you think if you’d been strawberry blond with freckles it would have protected you.
Me: It worked for Ginger on “Gilligan’s Island” and she survived it all wearing an evening gown and heels.
Mother: Suddenly, so many things make sense now.
Suffice it to say, Cindy Deaver got me through the tough times. She was the inner Betty to my outer Veronica. She had the genetic grit of potato famine survival and the will of Gaelic winds. Her fridge was filled with white bread, bologna, Duke’s Mayonnaise, sweet tea and pie — not the olive oil, feta cheese, homemade brown bread, yogurt and lamb that made my friends turn up their noses.
It wasn’t until I discovered Wonder Woman that I thought brunettes could even be the good guys. It was a black hat/white hat world then and in many ways it still is, but we’ve come a long way baby.
Mother: At least the highlights are better.
Me: Yes, at least we have that.