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Smile and Shine

I primped and fussed in front on my vanity mirror for hours. This was a special date. When the date was special, I wore my Ďblack magicí dress, and I had it on, my face and hair shining fresh from the shower. His name was Charles and he had the biggest brown eyes Iíd ever seen. He was short, but had a good build and he was a Marine. Those were about all the characteristics I looked for at that age.

From 4:00 oíclock on I was checking the clock nervously. He was due at 6:00. Could I possibly get my hair to do the right thing by then? I brushed it vigorously again and tried to get those perfect waves to look like they were natural. I was into parting my hair in the middle then in the way Abby from the Abby and Slats comic strip did hers. Sometimes the waves came out good, sometimes they were all screwed up. They were perfect for my Senior picture, but this Saturday they were just being stubborn. My little bedside radio was softly playing "Missed The Saturday Dance....Heard They Crowded The Floor....Awfully Lonesome Without You....Donít Get Around Much Any More". A lot of the popular songs were about boyfriends gone to war.

I didnít have to deal with anything like that really. I lived near the best "liberty" town in the U.S. San Diego with itís Naval Training Center....The Marine Recruit Depot....The Destroyer Base....Camp Callan in La Jolla and the Marine Gunnery Range at Torrey Pines. I was seeing the cream of the crop at the USO every Sunday. I donít recall ever having to break up with anyone. They were just transferred elsewhere for further training. We would just continue our relationship by mail and hope to see one another after the war. I corresponded by V-Mail to over twenty guys during those years. (V-mail was a one page sheet of onion skin paper that folded up to make itís own envelope).

I touched up my light lipstick again. I was so nervous tonight...this guy was so cute it made my insides flutter. Usually I was a Ďtake it or leave ití kind, but not with Charles. He just might slip away.

At 6:00 I went to the living room to wait his arrival. At 6:10 I sat down at the piano and practiced my lesson for Tuesday. I was learning Pavanne and was having trouble with it. Mother was busy in the kitchen clearing up from dinner. I was glad, because she was not thrilled with Charles and I didnít want a lecture about him being late. "Isnít Charles coming tonight?" my mother called to me above the kitchen clatter. What did she think I was doing in my Ďblack magicí dress, I wondered. "Yes," I said hesitantly. "At 6:00 wasnít it?" This time she came into the living room. "Yes," I hissed. "Well, maybe the bus is late," she said and went back into the kitchen. Maybe, I thought. Or maybe he just up and forgot! Maybe he didnít like me.

At 6:30 I got up from the piano and went to the bathroom. I was really getting nervous now. I rinsed my face with cold water and patted it dry. What could have happened to him? I re-entered my bedroom and sat down at my vanity mirror. My black-magic dress was still doing the same thing for me. I looked good. But I sure didnít feel good.

At 7:00 my stomach began to knot up. Mother stayed out of the living room where I was waiting by the window.

At 8:00 I burst into tears and ran in my room and fell across my bed. I sobbed til I thought there were no more tears left. Then mother came in the room and sat down on the bed. I felt her hand on my hair and I knew what was coming. "Make your lips to smile, my honey, Make your eyes to shine, Life ainít always funny, Little girl of mine! "It was a poem by Miranda, a favorite poet of my motherís. But I could tell Miranda a thing or two about smiling and shining. When your heart is broken, itís impossible to do. Iíd heard the poem all my life, whenever anything disappointed me, mother would go into her Miranda song and dance. I hated that poem. I hated it the most that night.

It was the first and last time I was ever stood up! I did not give Charles another chance.

Post Script: Ironically, Charles called me fifty years later on Fatherís Day. He was giving himself a treat by touching base with the people heíd met during his war years. "Iíve always thought fondly of you." he said. My heart did not flutter. "Charles, you stood me up fifty years ago....get a life!" "I donít remember that." he said softly. I was to learn later that he talked to six or eight of our gang that day, in La Jolla and all across the country. He was suffering from early senility or alzheimerís or both. He talked to me for over an hour, many times around in circles, with me trying gracefully to get off the phone. I was tempted by the end of the call to forgive the boorish behavior of his youth. But I didnít. The memory of that night had lingered in vivid detail in the dark recesses of my mind. I did not enjoy the re-run one bit. "Well, Happy Fatherís Day, Charles." I said for the third time. Then I hung up on him. It felt good, and besides he wouldnít remember it anyway.

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